LESSON 73.

THE MOSAIC STATUTES AND WOMEN.

(Concluded.)

581.     We must not thoughtlessly throw the coloring of our modern customs about the incidents of the far past, but must weight their sense by their own surroundings. In the case of the injured wife, treated of in our last, it may be natural to assume that the husband is allowed to exact a penalty of the injurer of his wife, as regarding it an injury to his own property (Exodus 21:22). But the context does not support this view. The husband testifies, as the principal witness, as to how his wife was injured, and to what extent. This part naturally follows, because, it being a strife between himself and another man which led to the hurt, he was sure to have seen it, and, most likely, was the only witness besides the accused. He brings a suit, naming the amount upon which the conviction should be secured, while the accused "shall pay as the judges determine.” Nothing is said as to money being paid to the husband,¾similar to the expressions in verses 32 and 34 of this chapter.

582.     So again in the case of a seduced girl. At the present time, the father is considered the injured party, before the law, because of her temporary disablement, if she becomes a mother. The Mosaic legislation bears an external resemblance to this, but on close examination, proves to be far more radical. The unmarried man who committed an open breach of the 7th commandment, whether issue followed or not, was compelled to marry the young woman without the right of subsequent divorce,¾unless the father of the girl thought the man unsuitable for her husband, in which case he was obliged to pay a heavy dowry. Deuteronomy 22:29 shows that the money was given the father, but even so, this was no compensation to the father because of the loss of his daughter's services (as with our law), but it was paid on behalf of the girl; and she may not have suffered in the least as to interruption of service, since motherhood did not enter into the case as a factor, Exodus 22: 16,17.

583.      Furthermore, if a man enticed a young woman betrothed to another, the offense ranked as adultery (in our sense of the word), and both were stoned, if there was ground to think her guilty as well as the man (Deuteronomy 22:23-24). Scarcely any room was left, under the Mosaic statutes, for the problem of illegitimacy to arise at all. We must note here the difference made in the case of these offenses, whether committed by young men or young women. No punishment for the offense followed in her case, unless it was an instance in which the evidence was strong that she was wilfully implicated in the offense, and was at the same time betrothed to another. In his case, marriage was compulsory, whether there was issue or not, or, if not marriage because the father rejected him, then a heavy fine. Moses was no sentimentalist, to listen to pleas on the man’s part, that he was an “innocent victim” of seduction. He was more scientific than in our day, when the fact is so frequently overlooked that the male offender cannot be an offender excepting wilfully; whereas there is often room for doubt as to the wilfulness of the young woman, when, at the same time she has no means of establishing her innocence.

584.      Deuteronomy 22:13-21 has given rise to much perplexity among women, and if the 'tokens' were really such as they are generally thought to be,¾natural tokens,¾then the statute must be cruel, since no proof, either of innocence or guilt, can be established on such evidence [I speak now confidently, from the standpoint of a member of the medical profession]. Whiston's note on this passage, in his translation of Josephus (Antiquities, Book IV: CH. VIII), is illuminating, and we will quote it in part: "These tokens . . . seem to be very different from what our later interpreters suppose. They appear to have been such close linen garments as were never put off virgins, after a certain age, till they were married, but before witnesses (2 Samuel 13:18)."

585.     But there are certain statutes of Moses, which show that the "cart" had made slow progress up the hill, judging by the spot at which the "brake" was placed. One of these is the Trial of Jealousy, in the 5th chapter of Numbers. We are better able to comprehend the reason for this jealous espionage of their wives by husbands, from our knowledge of the tyrannical means by which the matriarchy had been supplanted by a later patriarchy, which prevailed in Moses' time. Moses' age was much closer to that transition period between matriarchy and patriarchy than our own, for we have frequent signs, in the Bible, not only of the matriarchal period but of the transition stage. Here is a remnant of that transition stage. Moses was compelled to recognize this jealousy, for men considered it right, even when there was no evidence upon which it was based.

586.      Perhaps it is not in place to say that there could be no result from drinking "holy water" mixed with dust of the Tabernacle floor. But this much we can confidently say: No woman could be punished by this method short of a divine miracle of judgment. The procedure was calculated, (1) To extort, by fright, a confession of guilt, if the woman were really guilty. (2) To frighten women from the offense of committing adultery. (3) To compel a husband to cease his cruel jealousy; for if the wife passed successfully through the ordeal, humiliation would be his part, and odium would fall upon him if he continued to be jealous; whereas, if no means had been provided for terminating his suspicions, his wife might have suffered for an indefinite period of time. Vastly superior to this was the decree of Jesus Christ, which declared that the man must first be able to declare his own innocence before proceeding to condemn a woman for the sin of unchastity (John 8:7). And Moses' Trial of Jealousy, as we have shown (Lesson 68, Additional Note), was vastly superior to Hammurabi's Law.

587.      Another statute has mournful interest to women. The first wars were waged for the capture of women. Sociologists so declare, and the fourth and sixth chapters of Genesis are calculated to confirm this view. In entering the Promised Land, the Children of Israel were positively forbidden to intermarry with certain tribes, Deuteronomy 7:3. But there was an exception: in other cases the warrior could make a wife of a female captive (Deuteronomy 21:10-14). But the historical setting will enable us to understand that Moses might not have been able to put the ideal any higher than this, without the revolt of his warriors, because men warriors, from early times, had been accustomed to reckon women as booty (Judges 5:30). Moses softens the lot of the captive woman as much as he can. She shall have a month, before marriage, "to bewail her father and her mother," well provided for, under the roof of her captor. And afterwards, if he divorces her, he shall emancipate her, as well; he may not reduce her to slavery. The picture is dark enough, at best.

588.     The scribes and Pharisees, of Christ's time congratulated themselves if they lived up to the precepts of Moses. Is it any wonder Christ said: "Except your righteousness exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 5:20)? Their school of ethics allowed one a diploma of graduation at the point at which Pharisees ought only to have allowed one to matriculate. Let us take this warning to ourselves. Old Testament morality will not meet the requirements of Jesus Christ for our day.

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