57. Says Prof. Robertson Smith of Cambridge: "In Genesis, marriage is (defined as implying that a man leaves his father and mother and cleaves to his wife and they become one flesh. This is quite in accordance with what we find in other parts of the patriarchal story. Mr. McLennan has cited the marriages of Jacob, in which Laban plainly has the law on his side in saying that Jacob had no right to carry off his wives and their children; and also the fact that when Abraham seeks a 'wife for Isaac, his servant thinks that the condition will probably be that Isaac shall come and settle with her people." [In this case, Abraham would not consent, because God had expressly called him away from their idolatry]. "Joseph's children by his Egyptian wife became Israelites only by adoption: and so in Judges 15, Samson's Philistine wife remains with her people and he visits her there. All these things illustrate what is presented in Genesis 2:24 as the primitive type of marriage." And we might ask, what does that primitive form of language mean,--"cleave to his wife; and they shall become one flesh," but that he shall become of the same kin as his wife?  The same writer says: "Mother kinship is the type of kinship, common motherhood the type of kindred unity, which dominates all Semitic speech." J. P. Peters, D.D., writing of this same passage in Genesis says: "In the relation which man is here represented as holding towards woman, we have, apparently, another of those incidental evidences of the great antiquity of this story. It is not the woman who leaves father and mother, and cleaves to the man, but the man who leaves father and mother, and cleaves to his wife. It would seem as though we had a survival of the old matriarchate, that relation of marriage of which we have an example in the Samson story, where the woman remains with her tribe, or clan, or family, and is visited by the man. The offspring in such a case belongs to the woman's family, not the man's" (Early Hebrew Story, p. 223).

58. Prof. Flinders Petrie, the great archaeologist, has also written interestingly on this topic, and we linger to quote rather lengthily from him,—our object in giving these quotations being to show that we are not straining a point. He says: "We have become so accustomed to the idea that women were always dependent in the East—as they are now under Mohammedanism—that we need to open our eyes to a very different system which is shown us in the early history of the patriarchal age. Broadly, it may be said that our present system is the entire mixture of men and women in society, while men retain all the rights and property. The early ideal in the East was separate worlds of men and women, while women retained their own rights and all the property."

59. To continue: "The first woman [aside from Eve] that appears as a personality in the O. T.[7] is Sarah, the ‘chieftainess,' as her name implies. Sar is the regular old terms for a chief, still kept up in the East. . . . Her independent position is seen by her living in the palace of Pharaoh, or in the court of Abimelech, quite irrespective of Abraham. The attempt at explaining this away by later writers will not at all account for this independence, which was ignored in after ages.

"Sarah had her independent residence at Mamre, and lived there, while Abraham lived at Beersheba; and it is said that he came to mourn for her and to bury her. Her position, therefore, during her wanderings and in later life was not by any means that of secluded dependence, but rather that of an independent head of the tribe, or 'tribal mother.'

60. "As Sarah had no daughter it was needful to get one of the family to head the tribe, and Rebekah was brought over from the old home. Sarah's state tent was removed by Isaac three or four days' journey from Mamre down to Beer-lahai-roi, and as soon as Rebekah came, she was installed in the tent. Then after that, Isaac married her; and she appears quite as independent as Sarah. Rebekah, having no daughter to succeed her, Jacob needed to marry Leah, the eldest in succession, and could not have Rachel until Leah's position was thus assured.

61. "On coming to the descent into Egypt, there is only one daughter named along with eleven sons, and that is Dinah, 'the female judge,' [as the meaning is], daughter of the chieftainess Leah. On her marrying a Hivite[8] her brothers were furious, because she would thus subject her judgeship to another race; and only the incorporation of the Hivites with the Israelite race by circumcision could remedy the position (Genesis 34:1-24). Still later we can trace this descent in the name of the only woman of the next generation that is named, Serah (Genesis 46:17), a form of Sarah, 'the chieftainess.' As Dinah seems to have no children, the next thing was to take a descendant of Zilpah, Leah's handmaid. So Asher, over whom Leah has specially rejoiced, supplied the next chieftainess in his daughter Serah."

62. Something of this early dignity of woman can be traced throughout the Scripture story, notably in the "queen mother," next in power to the king, who is spoken of as late as the time of Jeremiah 13:18 (here the word is wrongly translated "queen"), 600 B.C. These will be considered again later.

Before Hebrew, were the Akkadian and Sumerian languages; and Prof. Sayce tells us that the translators of ancient Sumerian hymns into the Semitic, changed "female and male," to "male and female," and introduced other such changes, to give the male pre-eminence. Sumeria, Akkadia, Babylonia, Arabia, Phoenicia and Egypt,—all these most ancient civilizations were characterized by features of the matriarchy. Sir Wm. Ramsay tells us the same as to Asia Minor. Female kinship can also be traced in early Greece,—the Spartan woman being the last to lose her dignity. As late as B. C. 450, Herodotus wrote, of the Lycians: "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." It was formerly supposed that this was due to the father having more than one wife; but it is now strongly asserted that such is not the proper explanation. The very word "brother" in Greek (adelphos) defines a relation through the mother, not through the father.

63. We have got so far away from God's law, that today, in British law, the mother is not a parent. During the reign of Edward VI, the civil and ecclesiastical courts united in declaring that the Duchess of Suffolk was no kin to the son she had borne. The English Church is severe against divorce. Yet, read the Lord's ruling as to divorce, in Matthew 19, and we discover that the conclusion, "Therefore what God hath joined together, let not man put asunder," rests upon the premises, "A man shall leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife, and they twain shall become [R. V.] one flesh." The Church will never effectually enforce the conclusion of that statute, while it defies the premises upon which it rests.

64. Our Hebrew grammars and lexicons call attention to the fact that nearly all collective nouns referring to peoples, and the names of cities and towns, are feminine in form. How did this come about, for it is simply impossible to think of men coining a word of feminine gender to describe such a crowd as Christ fed, in His day? The account states that He fed "four thousand men, besides women and children." And on another occasion He fed "five thousand men, besides women and children." Again, Peter, Stephen, and Paul on sundry occasions, all address crowds, in The Acts, as "Men brethren," not even mentioning women at all. When the male holds the first place almost exclusively, his sex alone is specified in a crowd. But we can readily see that when a nation of one blood, or a community of one blood was mentioned, in the days when blood was reckoned through women, then nations, cities, communities and crowds would acquire appellations in the feminine gender. These collective words for cities, towns, etc. came to be feminine because such places were composed of clusters of dwellings owned by women, and from which those women seldom removed. The very word for towns in Numbers 21 :25, Joshua 15:45, etc. is "daughters." For the same reason "inhabitant of Zion" stands in the original "inhabitress of Zion" in Isaiah 12:6, and similar instances are very frequent in the O. T.


[7] Because of the length of the words, “Old Testament and New Testament,” hereafter throughout these lessons O. T. will stand for the first, and N. T. for the second expression, while the capital letter M will refer the student to the marginal reading of a verse in either.

[8] Hamor’s treatment of Dinah, among those primitive Hivites really meant marriage. That Jacob had other daughters we know from Genesis 46:7.

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