Did God use David’s wives as pawns? Does God hate women?

Monday Musings for December 16, 2019

Good morning, Musers,

Although the world has not changed at its core, much of today’s world would not be recognizable to a guy like King David. Take the women’s movement for example. Women have been fighting to be seen as equal to men — and in the Western world, they are achieving that goal. What this means for King David is, that the things he did to protect women, could be seen as hampering women in their march towards an egalitarian society.

You should know that I support the women’s fight for equality — under the law and everywhere else... because I understand that they are, in essence, equal to men. It was their role as nursing mothers that placed them — and quite naturally — under the protection of the larger and more aggressive males for most of human history. But note this well: this was a functional subordination, not an ontological one.

The problem, however, is that this had been a sensible arrangement, too — and for millennia — so it’s really embedded in every culture. But American women no longer have to nurse children, nor do they have to stay at home to be their primary daytime caregivers, so they are free to pursue their dreams out there in the world.

But this is a very new world... and this is a very new experience... and I think that, when we read the Bible, we tend to forget this. So, here’s what’s at issue: if the women living in David’s time were given the same freedoms that women have in today’s America — and the responsibilities that go with those freedoms — that would be a death sentence for them... unless they were royalty.

So, in today’s discussion, let’s be careful to note that issues of women in society will be apples or oranges depending on the time and place... and that the primary audience of the Bible was people living under the traditional family economy... and that these were people who had no view of what the developed Western world would look like 3000 years later.

Now — and with all those qualifications in place — let me float today’s question by you. Was God treating these women — women who were naturally subordinated at that point in history — as sub-human when he used them to punish their husbands? How about when they were swept up and destroyed as a result of the sins of their husbands?

That’s a tough question to look at through contemporary Western eyes. So I’ll ask my readers to remember that the Bible was written — by, for and about — people of the Ancient Near East. In that time and place, events like those that befell David’s wives — although still traumatic — would have been seen as normal enough so that the people of that day would not cry, “Foul!”

Note also that feminism is a recent movement. So, any appeals to a violation of feminist sensibilities back in 1000 BCE would be anachronistic. Therefore, such appeals are not binding in these discussions.

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