LESSON 72.

THE MOSAIC STATUTES AND WOMEN.

572.     We have said that the Mosaic statutes, though designed for a people just emerging from slavery (and women are more degraded than men, usually under such conditions), were at some points in advance of our own legislation. For instance, Leviticus 20:10: The penalty for adultery was precisely the same for both sexes, and was not looked upon as a mere "accident" in a man (to use the language of Sir John Bigham, until recently head of Britain's divorce court). And that penalty was so severe that it must have solved the "illegitimacy" problem,being death. The usual manner of putting to death was by stoning.

573.      Leviticus 12th chapter: A mother was in isolation 40 days with a new-born son, but 80 days with a new-born daughter. Three things are to be noted particularly here: (1) The actual term of "uncleanness" was only, respectively 7 and 14 days. According to the earlier covenant arrangement with Abraham, every male must be circumcised on the 8th day (Genesis 17:12). This religious ceremony would cut short the "uncleanness" in the male child. (2) The offerings made at the end of the full term were precisely the same for either sex, showing that one was rated as high as the other. (3) According to the Levitical law it was not in order to make the burnt offering, which was self-dedicatory, before the sin offering, which was expiatory (Leviticus 8:14-18); but here is a remarkable exception; after childbirth the sin offering comes last, and even for the richest, was the smallest offering ever prescribed, a pigeon. Now what may we deduct from these facts?

574.     Firstly: From the expression, "their purification" (Luke 2:22, R. V., the A.V. being incorrect), used of the Virgin and her Child Jesus, this term of recovery by a process of purification, which followed upon childbirth, belonged to both mother and child; but as the 14 days' period of "uncleanness" itself was cut in half by another purification ceremony (circumcision), in the case of the male child, so would be the period of recovery, the six-and-sixty days. Secondly: Commentators have sometimes claimed the greater sinfulness of the female sex, because of the prolonged period of isolation after the birth of a female child. This is disproved by the fact that the offerings at the end of the period were the same in both cases. Thirdly: The mere fact of childbirth required no expiatory offering, or else it would certainly have come first. In other words, the mother could not have had access to God, to dedicate herself and child to Him, had there been any known sinfulness in her state, until first she had repented and made expiation by a suitable offering for it. But at once she has access, and that in an exceptional sense, after childbirth, to God. Following upon this, a small sin offering is made, merely as a formal restoration, as it were, to her place among the worshippers, from whom she had been separated (not having enjoyed the privileges of the sanctuary), during her period of confinement.

575.     Now having explained this matter, in accordance with the teaching of some excellent expositors, let us add: Even if the worst could be proved, i.e., that Moses taught it was far more wicked, or more unclean, to bring a female than a male child into this world, the process was very salutary for the female. By this time, in the world's history, women were being cheapened more and more. This statute of Moses was calculated to strengthen the tie between mother and female child, by their long isolation togetherthat tie which the patriarchy was doing so much to destroy. And the constant devotion to the child by its own mother, not a nurse, must have had a beneficial effect in starting girls with good constitutions, for the battle of life.

576.      Leviticus 15:16-18: (Please consult your Bibles). This statute regulated the ordinary habits of married life. Lange remarks: "The law must have operated as an important check upon sensual passions. Combine with this some further regulations of marriage, and we can readily see how carefully the health of Jewish women was guarded. Read Leviticus.15:19-24, relating to unintentional defilement, and then Leviticus 20:18, relating to deliberate disobedience. The latter incurred probably the death penalty, though some dispute whether "cutting off" means death; other equally learned scholars declare such to be its proper sense. These combined Mosaic statutes make it certain that Genesis 3:16 could never have meant, as interpreted in our day, that God placed the wife in such relations to her husband that his sensual demands must be her law.

577.      Exodus 21:22-25: This makes considerate provisions for the protection of a woman who is about to become a mother, from the unintentioned, but nevertheless careless roughness of men. The woman, perhaps of unusual nervousness, might rush to help, in the case of an attack upon her husband. At once they must recognize her state and terminate the fight. If the fight caused evil consequences, the case came under the law for redress; if the woman was injured, precisely the same injury must be inflicted upon the man. An eye, to a woman, Moses declares, is worth as much as an eye to a man; her tooth is as valuable as his tooth, etc., etc. Here is an express provision that the value of woman's life shall not be rated lower than the value of man's life; nor her health less than his health. What hurt a man inflicted on a woman's body, that same hurt man must feel in his own body. Would that English and American women were as well protected in some regards as the Israelitish women of Moses' day!

578.      Leviticus 27:1-8. It is well for us to consider this passage next. In these days it is customary for the higher critics to set out two passages like the foregoing and this one, as contradictory,written by two short-sighted men, who unwittingly contradicted each other's testimony as to the law; and the whole edited by a yet more stupid person who could not see the disparity. We have no sympathy with explaining the Bible as a mass of contradictions.

579.     These "vowed" persons, who were "redeemed" from the actual expenditure of their time in the Tabernacle service, would naturally be "redeemed" on the basis of the value of their services to the Tabernacle. The chief occupation there was the slaughtering and offering of animals, and, while in the Wilderness, moving the Tabernacle from place to place. Old men, women and children would not be in much demand for such work. A boy would grow up to be of more use than a girl, in Tabernacle service. Anyway, the service would be very limited, after excepting what no one was allowed to do save a Levite. Hence the estimation was according to service or financial ability (v. 8) and had nothing to do with the value of life itself, or value in the sight of God, Who is "no respecter of persons."

580.     These are the laws, in part, concerning which Jesus Christ said: "Think not that I am come to destroy the law . . . I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil . . . Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven. These commandments indicate the lowest level, not the highest, for the foundation of character. It was Christ's part, in the fullness of time, to build on these foundations, by the Sermon on the Mount, loftier edifices than Moses could in his day; and also to strengthen the foundations for these greater structures.

(To be continued.)

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