God the sexist?



Numbers 5:11 The LORD spoke to Moses, saying: 12 Speak to the Israelites and say to them: If any man’s wife goes astray and is unfaithful to him… or if a spirit of jealousy comes on him, and he is jealous of his wife, though she has not defiled herself; 15 then the man shall bring his wife to the priest… 16 Then the priest shall bring her near, and set her before the LORD; 17 the priest shall take holy water in an earthen vessel, and take some of the dust that is on the floor of the tabernacle and put it into the water. 18 The priest shall set the woman before the LORD, dishevel the woman’s hair,…the priest shall have the water of bitterness that brings the curse…24 He shall make the woman drink the water of bitterness that brings the curse, and the water that brings the curse shall enter her and cause bitter pain… and her womb shall discharge, her uterus drop, and the woman shall become an execration among her people. 28 But if the woman has not defiled herself and is clean, then she shall be immune and be able to conceive children.

I’ve edited out a lot of this passage because it’s so long, but you get the gist. This is the ritual prescribed should a man accuse his wife of adultery without evidence or witnesses to substantiate her guilt. He could simply be jealous, but she would still have to endure this potentially painful and humiliating ritual.

I understand that allowing the guilt to remain with the woman could result in guilt upon the entire community – which could be disastrous since God could withdraw favor and protection. That said, I’m struck by the apparent lack of standing from the wife. She is, in essence, treated as her husband’s property. I can also imagine a husband manipulating his wife with the simple threat of accusation. Awful.

There are other places in the bible where women appear to me to be treated unfairly, at least by modern cultural standards. The teachings of the apostle Paul in the New Testament come to mind. But Paul was a man of his time and, in many ways, was simply reflecting the cultural realities of his day. Our passage for today is different.

V.11-12 clearly state that God was prescribing this ritual to the people via Moses. God doesn’t abide by cultural norms, God creates culture. God could have shaped this scenario in any way that pleased, so why this? A female pastor colleague said to me, “This is why I believe God is a man.” She said this tongue-in-cheek, but her point is made. There is such gender bias favoring men here, how could it be otherwise?

This morning I’m left with the conflict between the ritual here prescribed and the character of the God I think I know. Lord, have mercy. Amen.


One thought on “God the sexist?

  1. joshua

    The priest is something of a doctor for the soul and a teacher of the mind while the Tabernacle is the wholly of wholly where G-d resides and the unclean shall never enter. That a women may enter with the high priest should be testament to the place women held. It should also be noted that the prescription above is not a public affair. The view that women were ever property is a modern creation brought about by the commodification of everything. In ancient times work was back breaking. Most people don’t understand this because they’ve never worked on a farm. Farming and manual labor were the primary jobs available to support a family and because they were excruciating they were done by men. Women, gifted with the ability to give birth and nurse were not owned but protected. Protected not just from other men but from work that was excruciating and that most human beings prefer not to do. Below is a link to the oxford research encyclopedia. There you’ll read that neither the man nor the women had a choice in marriage. It was arranged by the parents; a truth often forgotten, again because we view things with a modern lens. We all need to remember that the time we live in is significantly safer and easier than the time of the ancients.


    The bible clearly states why women was created and it should be remembered that one is Jewish through maternal descent not paternal descent. When a man and a women are married they become one flesh. What father or mother views there child as property? Likewise do you look at your arm as you look at your phone? Do you misplace your legs and throw away your eyes? We protect our bodies from the elements by clothing because our bodies our precious. Because we desire not to be burnt by the sun or sickened by the cold. Likewise man goes into the field not to torture himself but to provide sustenance for that which is most important to him: his family.

    “18 And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a help meet for him.” ~ Genesis 2:18
    “24 Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.” ~ Genesis 2:24

    As to manipulating ones wife with the threat of accusation the penalty of bearing false witness is one of only six things the lord hates. We should remember that the ancients took G-d seriously in a physical way. For example to give an oath was similar to having a sharpened knife held at your jugular. To tell a lie was serious business.

    “16 These six things doth the Lord hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him: 17 A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, 18 An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief, 19 A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren.” ~ Proverbs 6 16:19

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