THE EARLY DIGNITY OF WOMAN.
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.
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
"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
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
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
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
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.
 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.
 Hamor’s treatment of Dinah, among those primitive Hivites really meant marriage. That Jacob had other daughters we know from Genesis 46:7.