LESSON 60.

MORE ABOUT WOMAN IN THE EARLIEST AGES.

465.      Whether the waters of the Flood covered the entire earth’s surface, so that no inhabitant of the earth survived, will always probably be a matter of dispute, and we need not enter into it. Suffice it to say that the account in Genesis does not require this view, for the expression “the whole earth,” or “land,” often means only as we use the expression¾the entire region under consideration. It is said “all countries” came to Joseph for corn; but that does not mean that they came from far-distant China or Japan; and that at the time Christ was born the king commanded “all the world” to be enrolled,¾but it is certain that the Chinese were then in existence, and did not come.

466.     It is enough, for our purpose, for us to follow those eight souls who alone escaped of all those who were visited by the greatest flood this world ever saw,¾Noah, his three sons, and the wives of the four men. And we notice that no name is given of any of these women. Owing to the wars for the capture of women, by force of circumstances women and girls must be concealed (as was the case in India, after the Mohammedan invasion), and fall out of notice, and take necessarily a subordinate relation to their menfolk. Nothing is said against them; nothing is said in their favor. Women, as men’s subordinates are nonentities; they cannot be reckoned as good or bad, because morality and immorality both alike have their origin in free choice. When a master robs a subordinate (as every master does, in fact) of free choice, the virtues or vices, as they may seem, in the subordinate, are the virtues or vices of the master. So a God of justice must ever reckon them. Woman in control of another is a moral cipher,¾unless she chooses to renounce her will for another’s; then she is base by choice.

467.     Japhet, after the flood, lived most remotely from the home of the Hebrews, occupying the “isles,” or “coast-lines,” “of the Gentiles.” This means the coastlines of the Mediterranean towards Asia Minor and Europe. His name is mentioned last, not because he was youngest, but more remote. Ham was next in age, and maintained a closer affinity to the Hebrews, his sons peopling Northern Africa and Canaan. Shem was the youngest son, though named first in Scripture. In reading the 10th chapter of Genesis it is difficult to discern when actual “sons”¾descendants of Noah are meant, and when geographical regions or nations, named from these sons, are referred to. This is an interesting point for us to remember.

468.     We may draw an instructive comparison here between the use of the word “son” for a region and “daughter” elsewhere in much the same sense. “Cush” is another name for Ethiopia; “Mizraim,” a name for Egypt, and “Canaan” merges into the land of Canaan. If we turn to Joshua 15:45, 47; 17:11; Judges 1:27; etc., we will find “daughter” used for “town.” Elsewhere we will find “daughter” used for “city” and for the people of a country,¾see, Isaiah 1:8; 23:10. But these expressions do not refer to regions or cities in any other sense than primarily to their inhabitants. Throughout the Old Testament the custom is far more frequent of addressing the inhabitants of a place collectively as “daughters” than “sons.” In other words, whatever is addressed primarily to the inhabitants in the feminine gender cannot by any kind of truthful logic be said to be meant for men exclusively, or principally. The observance of this simple rule of interpretation, in reading the Scriptures, would lead to remarkable revisions in the commonly accepted ideas of woman’s “sphere.” This Scriptural practice of addressing whole cities and nations of people is not a mere meaningless human “custom” observed by the Holy Spirit who inspired the Word; it is a divine maintenance of the usage which naturally follows upon the law which God originally established, of reckoning kinship through females (see paragraph 64).

469.      Canaan is called the “son” of Ham. We explain this as meaning that descendants of Ham settled in that land to which, later, Abraham of the Semites came from Chaldea. Here, among the Phoenicians McLennan has traced the system of female kinship also. Now glancing back over the ground we have covered, it will be seen to be precisely those portions of the globe peopled by the descendants of Noah. In all these regions we can trace the matriarchate,¾in Babylonia, Assyria, Arabia, Egypt, and Canaan. Also we have traced it among the inhabitants of Asia Minor to which Japhet migrated,¾and it can be traced in many European countries.

470.     As another line of evidence of an original female kinship, take the very common word for “brother” (adelphos) and “sister” (adelphe), used scores of times in the Greek Testament, and translated, in its collective and plural form, “brethren.” It applies to the “Seed of the Woman,” in the sense of the mystical body of Christ; the seed of the One who was born of woman. The word means literally, “from one womb.” In profane Greek literature it dates from kinship through women. There is no related term in Greek answering to adelphos and implying kinship through men. At Athens, in early times, a man could marry a daughter of his father, but not of his mother,¾just as Abraham did, Genesis 20:12; and for the reason that she was not his adelphe, nor he her adelphos.

471.      McLennan cites many passages in Homer indicating that kinship was reckoned through females among the early Greeks, and that woman held a place of real dignity. The gradual decline of woman’s place can be traced, until, in Solon’s time, the next of kin on the father’s side to the fourth degree succeeded to an inheritance before any kin on the mother’s side. Mr. Gladstone who was a great student of the Homeric poems, and other Greek literature, says: “In truth it would seem not only as if before Christianity appeared, notwithstanding the advance of civilization, the idea and place of women were below what they should have been, but actually as if, with respect to all that was most essential, they sank with the lapse of time.”

472.     The Spartan women retained their dignity longer than other races of the Greeks. And of the Lycians, Herodotus, the historian, who wrote about 459 B.C., says: “If anyone asks his neighbor who he is, he will declare himself born of such a mother, and will reckon up the ancestors of his mother.” Referring to the gradual decline in the position of Grecian women, McLennan utters these words (and let women learn their lesson): “We see that no causes [the italics are ours] could well have produced it, so long as relationships through women preserved their old importance. On the other hand, we can discern a sufficient cause for that degradation in the gradually increasing preponderance of male kinship, and in the changes in the marriage system . . . which made possible that preponderance.” To this conclusion most modern writers on sociology would agree,¾viz., that the status of womanhood will rise or fall, and her social elevation or degradation be determined, by no other matter so much as by whether or not the relationship between mother and child has its rightful recognition in law and custom.

473.     Far from the regions which the three sons of Noah inhabited, female kinship can also be traced. Among the Aboriginals of Australia children take the family name of the mother. The same is true of American Indians, of certain hill tribes in India, and it was true of the Celts of ancient Britain. Among the Limboos, an Indian tribe near Darjeeling, the boys only become the property of their fathers by the latter paying a small purchase price to their mothers. It is quite possible that some of these practices associate themselves with polyandry. But we know that God’s primal social law which dissociated the husband from his kin, not the wife from her kin, since it was concomitant with pure monogamy, was a far more potent weapon for the defense of woman’s dignity. And as to the descendants of Noah, we have every reason for assuming that among them female kinship would be the direct outcome of an effort to obey God’s own law of marriage.

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