Women’s Rights

By Sean Finnegan

Deuteronomy 21:10-14   A woman of a village captured in war was particularly vulnerable in the ancient Near East. Tragically, rape and enslavement were the norms. However, God restricted Israelite soldiers from acting immediately, instead providing the woman with a month to mourn and adjust to the new reality. Even then, he could not use her as a slave, but had to marry her, inducting her into his household as a person of status and into the wider covenant community of God’s people. (See also Leviticus 19:18, 34.)

Deuteronomy 21:15-17   In a polygamous marriage, a husband sometimes favored one wife above another. This law offers protection for the unloved wife in the case that she bore the firstborn son in the family.

Deuteronomy 22:13-21   This elaborate scenario provides a threat to a cheating wife as well as to a malicious husband. It protects a wife from her husband lying about her virginity and metes out severe and public punishments to such a man.

Deuteronomy 22:22   Both the man and the woman are equally held accountable in an adulterous affair. This equality of punishment reflects an understanding of equality in the act itself.

Deuteronomy 22:23-27   Having an affair with someone who was betrothed was tantamount to adultery. However, if the act wasn’t consensual, then the law favored the woman’s innocence.

Deuteronomy 25:5-10   Levirate marriage was an institution designed to prevent families from losing property as well as provide widows with care, support, and protection. This law promised public humiliation and enduring shame to the man who would not take care of his brother’s widow.

God cares about how women are treated. He doesn’t want to see abuse. Even in the harsh world of the ancient Near East, He provided protections against abuses endemic to their patriarchal system.

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Women's Rights
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