271.     In our last lesson, St. Paul says, "Of a wife the husband is a head," to translate the words exactly. What does he mean? Precisely what we should mean if we said, "The husband is a head of his wife." He does not say in what respect he is a head; he does not say that he always will be a head; and St. Paul no more creates or ordains that headship of the husband, than he ordains or creates the headship of God over Christ, by saying, "The head of Christ is God" (1 Corinthians 11:3). And though he says this latter of Christ, it cannot therefore be lawfully inferred that Christ remains less than God since His ascension, or was inferior to God before His birth.

272.     Now we must proceed slowly to study O. T. "headship." Look at the O. T. reference in the margin (the only O. T. reference cited), where these words occur regarding the headship of the husband--Genesis 3:16. The only other place where the husband is said to be the head of the wife, Ephesians 5:23, refers in the margin also to Genesis 3:16 only. No other word can be found throughout the O. T. which seems to support the interpretation that men are to govern their wives. But we have already shown (par. 198) that at Corinth the church used the Septuagint Greek version and would read Genesis 3:16, "Thou art turning away to thy husband, and he will rule over thee,"--the same is true of those addressed in the Epistle to the Ephesians, for Paul's quotations are also from the Septuagint in this letter. 

273.     Now had we always read, as we should have read, "He will rule over thee," instead of "He shall rule over thee" (pars. 124, 127; all ancient versions testify that the verb is a simple future), ignorant, careless, or dishonest interpreters would not have thought to show that this "rule" was God-ordained. We remember seeing in a religious periodical, when a discussion of enlarging woman's activities in the Church was on, an editorial in opposition, which ended by quoting Genesis 3:16,--"’He shall rule over thee,' Remember, women,--shall, shall, SHALL!"[5]

274.     Prof. J. H. Moulton, in his Grammar of N. T. Greek, says: "The use of shall where prophecy is dealing with future time is often particularly unfortunate. I have heard of an intelligent child who struggled for years under perplexity because of the words, ‘Thou shalt deny me thrice.’ It could not therefore be Peter's fault, if Jesus had commanded him! The child’s determinism is probably shared more widely than we think; and a modernized version of many passages like Mark 14:30--e.g., 'you will be renouncing Me three times'--would relieve not a few half-conscious difficulties.” How different women would have felt if, from the beginning, they had read, "he will rule over thee!"

275.     We question, then, the correctness of interpreting the words, "But of a wife the husband is a head," as meaning, "Of the wife the husband is the ruler." Genesis 3:16 proves nothing of the sort; it only prophesies what has been only too true,--that ever since Adam fell, his male progeny has sought to subjugate woman: and it is further demonstrable that to the extent that grace works in the heart of the male he loses the love of the pre-eminence and the desire to rule over his wife. In general, Christian husbands do not seek to govern their wives, any more than Christian wives seek to govern their husbands. Then why should fossilized theologians be allowed to drag their antiquated notions across the pages of every Biblical commentary which is published for the use of Christians? 

276.     We inquire the meaning of the Hebrew word “head” (rosh). It often means "first in order." 1 Chronicles 12:9 renders the word "rosh" as 'first'; and in this sense, at least, man is the head of woman as having been elaborated as a sex first. "Head" is rendered "first" 6 times in the O. T. It is rendered "beginning” 16 times; "chief” 97 times; “company" and "band" 16 times; "captain" 10 times; and "ruler" twice only--in Isaiah 29:10 and Deuteronomy 1:13. As to the first case, no particular reason appears for rendering the word, “rulers," so the Revisers change to "heads." This case, then, we put on one side. The other occurrence of the word is perhaps properly translated "rulers," although the Revisers change to "heads" here also. We will come to a consideration of this latter instance by way of a historical review: 

277.     When God separated Abraham and Sarah, his half-sister and wife, from their idolatrous relatives (Joshua 24:2-3), and sent them forth with the express object of founding a theocracy through them and their descendants, He virtually ordained Sarah after matriarchal custom, the ruling head of the tribe.[6]

God changed the name of Abram to Abraham because he was to be a father of multitudes (Genesis 17:5). He said the same of Sarah also, ("She shall be a mother of nations"); but He said, additionally, "Rulers of people shall be of her;" and because of this fact her name should be, no longer Sarai, but the locally understood title of a female prince,--Sarah (Genesis 17:15,16). Moreover, in the case of a family dispute, God expressly revealed to Abraham that he was to obey Sarah, in the strong language,  "In all that Sarah saith unto thee, hearken unto her voice" (Genesis 21:12, R. V.). Abraham was given no name indicating that he was a prince, therefore Sarah's title was not a reflection from Abraham's glory. Of Abraham God said: "I know that he will command his children and his house after him," but this is the rule of a father, not of a husband over his wife. 

278.      Furthermore, Prof. Robertson Smith claims that Sarah's name, according to matriarchal custom was handed down to her children as their family name in the word "Israel.” The stem of the word is the same as the sar of Sarah's name. Jacob’s victory when he wrestled with the angel, fulfilled in part the prediction that rulers should come out of Sarah. The Septuagint Greek and the Latin Vulgate read the angels words as, "Thou hast had power with God, and thou shalt prevail with men" (see Genesis 32:28 margin of R. V.), and the original Hebrew words would bear this rendering. Jacob's name was changed to one which means, "prince of God," and what was Sarah but a "prince" of God's own appointment? (pars. 58-60). 

279.     But later the Israelites became slaves in Egypt, and all, both men and women, subordinates. But woman sinks lower than man under enslavement, the reasons being two, at least: (1) The handicap of children, making her ever easily her husband’s subordinate, if he should take advantage of it for the purpose, acts even more terribly as a means of leveling down her status in slavery. (2) Her moral character suffers violence by the sensuality of masters. We see, then, how God started His theocracy with Sarah in high honor, as the head of the tribe, but when the Israelites emerged from four hundred years of slavery, the women would hold a different relation to their men,--they would be, for the most part, inferior to them. And each added captivity would hamper the progress of the women more than of the men; and Israel passed through many captivities. 

280.     When Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt, with the aid of Aaron and Miriam (Micah 6:4), he appointed men who were head and shoulders above their fellow men, in wisdom and ability to share his rule over them. This his father-in-law had advised him to do (Exodus 18:21-26). The word used of "men" in this connection might have included women, but it is not at all likely that any beside Miriam would have been equal to the responsibility; and we believe that she already held a higher position than these appointed by Moses.

281.     Now we come to the verse we wish to explain: Moses, reciting this incident says: "I took the chief [Hebrews "heads"] of your tribes, wise men, and known, and made them heads [same word, again] over you, captains [that word sar] over thousands," Deuteronomy 1:15. They were ahead already, in ability, and therefore Moses made them "heads," captains in government. So referring to this same incident, Moses says, Deuteronomy 1:13, "I will make them heads," and the word is rendered in the A.V., rulers. This is that single instance in the O. T. where the word  "head" necessarily implies ruler, and is therefore so translated. And why were men, at this time made "rulers," over women? For the simple reason that, owing to the ruin of woman's character by slavery, men were ahead of women.


[5] “I think that the author is right in frequently calling attention to the fact the  future tense in Hebrew is erroneously rendered in the English by ‘shall’ instead of ‘will.’ The future tense, or aorist, never implies in the Semitic languages a sense of obligation. This remark highly befits the sentence ‘He shall rule over thee’ to which in par. 273 the writer is taking particular exception.”—Dr. A. Mingana.

[6] There is strong textual authority, which some scholars claim amounts to positive proof, for reading, at Genesis 20:13, instead of "God caused me [Abraham] to wander," the more striking sentence, "God caused her [Sarah]to wander," see par. 56, and comments on this verse in "The  Samaritan Pentateuch and Modern Criticism," by the Rev. J. Iverach Munro, M.A

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