457.     To continue the record as to old Babylonia: In the History of Sumer and Akkad, by L. W. King, of the British Museum, we read: “Tablets dating from the close of Ur-Nina’s dynasty [B.C.3,000] show the important part which women played in the social and official life of the early Sumerians.” He describes a plaque which has been found, among others, on which Lidda, daughter of the king Ur-Nina, stands in the first place of honor, facing the king, while the crown-prince is represented as attending his sister.

458.     Now let us turn from this part of the world to Asia Minor. Here, on the testimony of the investigator Prof. Wm. M. Ramsay, are abundant evidences of an early “matriarchate,”¾so called. But again we say, we must not misunderstand the real import of this word. Men are apt to name anything which savours of an equality of the sexes, in these days, a “petticoat government.” The matriarchate does not convey to our minds the idea of a rule of women over men; it merely implies the absence of an exclusive government by men,¾the existence of that saner, righteous state, in which the governing privilege is invested in the competent, without regard to sex.

459.     In Prof. Ramsay’s Church in the Roman Empire we read: “The honors and influence which belonged to women in the cities of Asia Minor, form one of the most remarkable features in the history of the country. In all periods the evidence runs on the same lines. The best authenticated cases of mutterrect [the matriarchate] belong to Asia Minor. Under the Roman Empire [in Asia Minor] we find women magistrates, presidents at games, and loaded with honors. The custom of the country influenced even the Jews, who in at least one case appointed a woman at Smyrna to the position of archisynagogos” [chief of the synagogue]. We could quote much more, and from Prof. Ramsay’s other books,¾especially his Phrygia, but this is sufficient for illustration; it puts the whole case in a nutshell.

460.     Next we turn again to Prof. W. Robertson Smith (see par. 415). Here we learn facts concerning the Semitic races, to which the O. T. Hebrews belong. In his preface to Kingship and Marriage in Early Arabia, he says, “The object of the present volume is to collect and discuss the available evidence as to the genesis of the system of male kinship, with the corresponding laws of marriage and tribal organization, which prevailed in Arabia at the time of Mohammed; the general result is that male kinship had been preceded by kinship through women only, and that all that can still be gathered as to the steps of the social evolution in which the change of kinship law is the central feature corresponds in the most striking manner with the general theory propounded . . . in the late J. F. McLennan’s book on Primitive Marriage.”

461.      Elsewhere he says: “Mother-kinship is the type of kinship, common motherhood the type of kindred unity, which dominate all Semitic speech.” Now, how was that mother-kinship secured? All these writers whom we have quoted propound the evolution theory that it arose out of polyandry, in which state fatherhood cannot be certainly determined. But let us repeat: We are not driven to a theory to account for mother-kinship; the Bible tells us it was of God’s own ordinance,¾“Therefore shall a man [“husband” is the precise word used] leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife.” Prof. Smith says:  “The common old Arabic phrase for the consummation of marriage is. . . ‘he built [a tent] over his wife.’ This is synonymous with ‘he went in unto her,’ and is explained by the native authorities by saying that the husband erected and furnished a new tent for his wife. . . . Though the wife of a nomad has not usually a separate tent to live in, a special hut or tent is still erected for her on the first night of marriage. In northern Arabia this is now the man’s tent, and the woman is brought to him. But it was related to me . . . as a peculiarity of Yemen [a southern tribe] that there the ‘going in’ takes place in the bride’s house, and that the bridegroom if home-born must stay some nights in the bride’s house, or if a foreigner must settle with them. This Yemenite custom . . . must once have been universal among all Semites, otherwise we should not find that alike in Arabic, Syriac and Hebrew the husband is said to ‘go in’ to the bride, when as a matter of fact she is brought in to him” (p. 198).

462.     He continues: “As the ceremony of the tent is common to all the Semites, the kind of marriage to which it points must have begun very early and with this it agrees that among the Hebrews, as Mr. McLennan has pointed out, there are many relics not only of female kinship but of an established usage of beena marriage. In Genesis 2:24 marriage is defined as implying that a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife and they become one flesh. These expressions seem to imply that the husband is conceived as adopted into his wife’s kin¾at any rate he goes to live with her people. This is quite in accord with what we find in other parts of the patriarchal story. Mr. McLennan has cited the beena marriage of Jacob, in which Laban plainly has law on his side in saying that Jacob had no right to carry off his wives and their children” (p. 207).

463.     We will leave Prof. Smith for a moment, and pause to review the very interesting arguments by means of which Jacob’s wives justify their forsaking the parental roof,¾Genesis 31:14-15.  First:  They had no inheritance in their father’s house. This was contrary to the custom under beena marriage, with which was associated not only female kinship, but also the rights of inheritance through females; but the covetous Laban was keeping all the property as his own, to the exclusion of his daughters’ rights. Second: Under beena or sadica marriage, the bridegroom made his gift to the bride, for the privilege of marrying her; but under ba’al marriage the bridegroom purchases his wife. These women complain of their father Laban, “He hath sold us, and quite devored the price paid for us” (R. V.) In other words, they claimed that the entire wages of Jacob’s fourteen years of service to obtain his wives belonged to them,¾not to Jacob, and certainly not to their father Laban. Their argument for leaving their mother’s roof (as doubtless it would have been called in those days), was not at all what one hears in these days.¾“He is my husband; I must follow him.” Rather, they argue that since their own father will not give them an inheritance, they will be better off to forsake him for Jacob. They in no wise recognize it as a duty to follow a husband away from the parental roof (see par. 56). It is a quarrel about ba’al marriage being substituted for sadica marriage by a covetous father.

464.      McLennan calls attention to the following interesting sidelights on woman’s position among the ancient Hebrews: “When Abraham seeks a wife for Isaac, his servant thinks that the condition will probably be made that Isaac shall come and settle with her people,” Genesis 24:5.[5] Upon this Prof. Robertson Smith remarks: “He might have added other things of the same kind; the Shechemites must be circumcised, i.e., Hebraised, before they can marry the daughters of Israel; Joseph’s sons by his Egyptian wife become 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; but perhaps a still more convincing proof that the passage (Genesis 2: 24) is based on a doctrine of beena marriage and mother-kinship lies in the very name Eve,¾The mother of all living.’” To this we add the further strong warning which God gave to Eve: “Thou art turning to [to follow] thy husband, and he will rule over thee.”


5] But in this particular instance Abraham, having been himself called out from among these idolatrous relatives, will not permit Isaac’s return to them¾Genesis 24:6.

Lesson 60            Home