Woman: Man's Equal Part 2

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Woman: Man’s Equal is a Webnovel created by Thomas Webster.
This lightnovel is currently completed.

In almost all the nations of antiquity, who had any marriage ceremony at all, a woman’s wedding-day was one of splendor and apparent honor, the only day in which any of her wishes were deferred to during her whole lifetime. Light was soon lost in darkness–antic.i.p.ated pleasure in disappointment, degradation, and despair. The day of her death was the first day of her freedom.


The s.e.xes Equal at Creation.

From the arguments brought forward by the advocates of woman’s inferiority, it might be inferred that she was designed, from the very dawn of creation, for man’s servant, not for his companion; and, indeed, it is not only inferred by the great ma.s.s of mankind, but broadly a.s.serted to be the fact by very many who, from their knowledge of the history of creation, ought to know better.

Those who have striven to establish this doctrine have contrived to bring the Scriptures to their aid by wresting them to suit their own particular view of the question, and in this manner have endeavored to silence any controversy respecting their dogma. The result has been–and it is the legitimate result of such a pernicious course–that this wresting of the Scriptures, and its having been allowed for a length of time to go unchallenged by the Christian world, has produced scores of infidels, who, not having examined the Word of G.o.d critically for themselves, have accepted as true expositions of the doctrines contained therein the statements of men, apparently supported by isolated texts, separated from their contexts; and thus, having been led to believe that the Scriptures sanctioned, if they did not enforce, manifest injustice, they have repudiated the whole as unworthy of belief. A deplorable conclusion, truly! Then, though responsible for this infidelity through their perversion of Scripture, these same writers, or those of a kindred spirit, denounce every argument or movement in favor of the equal rights and privileges of women as evil, and only evil, and necessarily evil, because among the advocates of measures according these rights there are found some men and women who are skeptics.

But what say the Scriptures upon the subject? In the history of the creation, there given, we search in vain for any evidence of the Divine appointment, at that time, of masculine domination.

“And G.o.d said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.

“So G.o.d created man in his own image, in the image of G.o.d created he him; male and female created he them.

“And G.o.d blessed them, and G.o.d said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.”[F]

This dominion of the human race over the inferior creation seems to have been the only dominion inst.i.tuted at the time of the creation; nor is there any indication that it was to be confined to the male portion of the race. As between the human pair, there is not here the slightest intimation given of the subjection of the one to the other. The Great Infinite in wisdom, who created “them,” and who could not be mistaken in their capacities, appears to have placed “_them_” on a perfect equality, committing to them conjointly the dominion over the earth and all that it contained.

In the second chapter of Genesis we find a brief recapitulation of the events narrated in the first, the sacred historian entering more fully into the creation of the woman. G.o.d, in his wisdom, saw that Adam was not sufficient alone to sway the mighty scepter over the vast domain about to be intrusted to him; therefore he created for him “an helpmeet,” and gave “_them_” a joint authority over the rest of creation. “And the Lord G.o.d said, It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him an helpmeet for him…. And the Lord G.o.d caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept; and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh thereof; and the rib, which the Lord G.o.d had taken from the man, made he a woman, and brought her to the man.”[G]

“This implies,” says a distinguished commentator upon Holy Writ, “that the woman was a perfect resemblance of the man, possessing neither inferiority nor superiority, but being in all things like and equal to himself.”

Thus it was in the beginning. But, in process of time, men, glorying in the physical strength in which they excelled women, refused to recognize as its equivalent the peculiar qualities and faculties possessed by women which were lacking in themselves. And overlooking the importance of the duties which the mothers of mankind were discharging, they plumed themselves upon their own prowess, and concluded that women and all else were made only to minister to their pleasures. Reason and justice were obliged to succ.u.mb to the strong arm, and women were forced into a subordinate position.

If the Creator, in the arrangements of his plans, designed that women should be inferior to men in intellect and freedom of action, then, in regard to one-half of the human family, G.o.d worked by the law of retrogression, producing Eve, an inferior, from Adam, a superior being; which is clearly contrary to the law of progression, and contrary to the general plan of his creation; and, if this be true, the laws of progression and retrogression were to alternate perpetually. Is this supposition of inferiority in the case of woman consistent with what we know of G.o.d’s method of working, as given in the history of the creation? Let us recapitulate the whole briefly, and see.

1. He created inanimate matter. 2. He brought vegetable life into existence. 3. The inhabitants of the waters were created. 4. “The cattle after their kind.” Still ascending, G.o.d said: “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. So G.o.d created man in his own image, in the image of G.o.d created he him; male and female created he them.” Here, then, we see that G.o.d created man from a portion of inanimate earth; but that he produced the woman from a perfect portion of the perfect man, plainly appears from the twenty-first and twenty-second verses of the second chapter of Genesis, which, though quoted recently, necessarily come in, in this place. “And the Lord G.o.d caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept; and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh thereof; and the rib, which the Lord G.o.d had taken from the man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man. And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called woman, because she was taken out of man.”[H]

Prior to the fall, then, it is quite evident that woman was equal to man in every respect. Did Eve, then, because she was first in the transgression, forfeit her right of equality with Adam, who just as flagrantly transgressed the Divine command; or was the penalty inflicted in consequence of her disobedience another matter altogether?

Genesis iii, 16, is usually brought forward to prove that, if woman was not inferior before the fall, she became so absolutely and unconditionally then. A disinterested reader–could such be found–would scarcely so render it. “Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children, and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.” Upon the latter clause of this verse, separating it from all connection with the former part of the sentence, with which, however, it is connected in the Sacred Word, is based the dogma of the continued, unchangeable curse of inferiority of all the daughters of Eve, and their obligation to serve and implicitly obey their husbands. And yet if a wife, in obedience to the command of her husband, violates the law, either of G.o.d or man, she is the party held responsible. If she is not possessed of sufficient mental capacity to judge for herself in all things, how can she know when she should obey or when disobey? If implicit obedience is her duty, is there any justice, then, in punishing her for obeying the order of him whom she is bound to obey? Those who construe this and other portions of the Word of G.o.d to suit themselves, would protest loudly enough against the “manifest injustice” if it were meted out to them. But we know there is no unrighteousness with G.o.d. The Bible expressly declares that “G.o.d is no respecter of persons,” and that “his ways are true and righteous altogether.”

If then we examine this text (Gen. iii, 16) candidly, even taking the generally accepted translation, and construe it with the same fairness with which we would construe a sentence the meaning of which was not in dispute, the conclusion arrived at would be very different from what it usually is; and it would be apparent that the words, “And thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee,” has reference to the subject of generation, of which the entire pa.s.sage treats. There are, however, some commentators who incline to the opinion that the words “and he shall rule over thee,” might with equal propriety be rendered, “He shall _have power with thee_.” We know that at this very time the promise of the Messiah–the seed that was to bruise the serpent’s head–was given to the woman. “He,” thy husband, “shall have power with thee,” would not then be an inappropriate termination to the sentence relating to generation. Raschi, a celebrated Hebrew writer and rabbi, who flourished in the twelfth century, supports this reading, “He shall have power with thee;” but the majority of commentators and the Talmud are against such a rendering. It is to be borne in mind, however, that the Talmud is not the Pentateuch, and that learned and sincerely pious commentators have differed, and do so still, as widely as the poles, upon pa.s.sages quite as easily understood as the one now under discussion. There is no more proof in this verse that a woman is bound to serve and obey her husband, in the common acceptation of the term, than that a man is obligated to serve and obey his wife, or worship her with his body–whatever that may mean–as he solemnly vows to do in certain marriage services. The endowment with worldly goods and the worship promised, were perhaps put in as an offset to the pledge of service and obedience. Certainly the man’s vow to worship his wife is no more inconsistent than is the woman’s to obey implicitly; and her obedience, if it is not implicit, is not obedience at all, but is merely acceding to the wishes of her husband when they accord with her own judgment.

Infidels, in seeking to disparage the Word of G.o.d, quote this pa.s.sage and kindred ones, and, accepting the commonly received idea of their meaning, endeavor to subvert the faith of the ma.s.ses. With those who do not carefully examine the matter for themselves, they often succeed. It has been a.s.serted, too, by those who would wish the teachings of the Koran to take precedence over those of the Bible, that the position accorded to women by the Mosaic law was quite as degrading as that accorded to them by Mohammed; but a careful reading of the Scripture warrants no such conclusion. Many matters are spoken of, both in the law and the prophets, as having been practised and tolerated, and even rules given for their regulation, which were by no means of Divine appointment. This distinction should always be carefully marked in regard to the sacred text; and in addition to this it should be remembered that the Word of G.o.d is not responsible for the erroneous opinions of mankind. When the Almighty placed human beings upon the earth, he created _one_ man and _one_ woman, destining them to be the progenitors of the entire race, thereby indicating that monogamy was of Divine appointment. But original purity was soon departed from; lawless pa.s.sion was allowed to mar the beautiful completeness and concord of the marriage relation as inst.i.tuted by G.o.d; and, in time, many even of those who were nominal worshipers of the true G.o.d, fell into polygamy. The true idea and design of marriage, and the rights of woman, with the respect due to her, was lost sight of, and the requirements of the Divine law set at nought. Men became the slaves of their own l.u.s.ts. G.o.d was not in all their thoughts. Iniquity prevailed to such a frightful extent that “it repented the Lord that he had made man upon the earth, and it grieved him at his heart.”[I]

At this time of general apostasy, Noah–and, it would seem, he alone–was seen righteous before G.o.d. Him, therefore, with his family, the Almighty preserved in the ark, when in his fierce wrath he caused the deluge to sweep away the corrupt inhabitants from the face of the earth they had polluted. Notwithstanding the wide-spread corruption of the times, it does not appear that either Noah or his sons were polygamists. Certainly, if any one of them had been such prior to the building of the ark, he was not permitted to bring his harem into it for protection from the fearful storm. Only “eight persons,” we are informed, were preserved alive; namely, Noah and his wife, with his three sons and their wives. Then, at what may be termed the second starting-point of the human race, there was again an equal number of men and women upon the earth; clearly pointing out that the design of the Almighty in this matter was the marriage of _one_ man with _one_ woman.

G.o.d made no provision for the marriage of either man or woman after the obtaining of a divorce.

It might have been supposed that so fearful a display of the wrath of G.o.d would have made a lasting impression upon the descendants of Noah; but as is the case with perverse mankind now, so it was then; the lessons of the past were lost upon them. No very great period of time elapses till we find the posterity of this good man, Noah, impiously and daringly conceiving the idea of measuring strength with the Almighty by attempting to build a tower so high that it could not possibly be overflowed should a subsequent deluge occur. The dispersion of mankind, and the consequent division into tribes, or races, was the result of such presumption. The desperately wicked heart of man began to devise new mischiefs, and revive old ones. Monogamy, the great conservator of moral purity, was disregarded, and one corruption viler than another followed in rapid succession. Before the calling of Abraham, mankind, as a whole, appear to have lapsed, if not into absolute heathenism, at least into something very near it. The knowledge and worship of the true G.o.d seems to have been retained only in isolated families, and even there to have been but partially observed, being marred and dishonored by human inventions and subst.i.tutions.

That Abraham might be delivered from the pernicious example of his neighbors, and that his mind might be prepared for the reception of the grand manifestations of the Divine character which G.o.d designed to impart to him, he was commanded to break off all a.s.sociation with them; and, the more completely to effect this, he was desired to leave his kindred and his country, and become a stranger in a strange land. Yet somewhat of the contamination of early a.s.sociation seems to have clung both to him and Sarah, as is evidenced in the matter of Hagar. In something very like doubt of G.o.d’s power to fulfill his own promise, Abraham yielded to Sarah’s suggestion, and thus was partially drawn into the evil current, though he does not appear to have been a willful polygamist. It is a.s.serted by Jonathan Ben Uzziel, the Jerusalem Targum, and other learned authorities, that Hagar and Keturah are the same person; but if this be a mistake, there is still no evidence that Abraham took Keturah till after the death of Sarah. Polygamists, both in the Jewish nation and elsewhere, have not failed to plead Abraham’s example in defense of their conduct. Early a.s.sociation had somewhat obscured his moral perceptions of right and wrong. Had he waited for the Divine command before carrying out Sarah’s suggestion, no incident in his life would have given countenance to the demoralizing practice.

Isaac was a monogamist, though Jacob, through the artifice of Laban, became a polygamist. That Laban’s family were tinctured with idolatry is unquestionable; and with idolatry came many other vices. When Jacob with his household took his departure from Laban, Rachel stole certain images which were her father’s, the character of which was unmistakably indicated by Laban when he demanded, “Wherefore have ye stolen my G.o.ds?”

Yet such was the general apostasy of the times, that this family was so much in advance of any other, that it was to it that Abraham was obliged to send, a generation previous, for a suitable wife for the amiable and meditative Isaac. What wonder then that many practices prevailed among the descendants of Jacob that were not in accordance with either the will or the word of G.o.d!

Though plurality of wives was customary both before and after the giving of the Law, it was by no means ordained by it. A man had no more right, in carrying out the designs of the Almighty, to have two or more wives living at the same time, than a woman had to have two or more husbands living at the same time. Wherever the Bible speaks of the duty of husbands to wives, or of wives to husbands, the singular form is invariably used, as husband and wife. For instance, when G.o.d brought the woman he had made to Adam, he (Adam) says: “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave to his wife”–not wives–“and they shall be one flesh.” And again, “They twain shall be one flesh.” What G.o.d has directly commanded, and what he merely suffers men to do without imposing insuperable restraints upon them, are two very different things.

It is a.s.serted that the Mosaic Law makes a very great and decidedly partial distinction between men-servants and maid-servants, greatly to the disadvantage of the latter, particularly in their release from servitude. These same texts–some of them, at least–have been quoted in defense of African slavery. The term, selling a Jewish servant, in the Scripture, is simply the same as binding out a child under English law.

A Jewish father could only “sell,” or in other words bind out, his daughter for six years, and that before she was of a suitable age to be married.[J] At the expiration of six years her apprenticeship ceased, and the maid-servant was free, unless she voluntarily perpetuated her own servitude.

There were two cla.s.ses of servants among the Jews. The first, those who were taken from among themselves; the second, those obtained of the strange nations by which they were surrounded, or who were taken captive in battle. This second cla.s.s of servants were called bondmen and bondwomen. The former cla.s.s were denominated servants. The practice authorized by law, regarding those who were the lineal descendants of Abraham, placed men and women in the very same relation to the master, who was bound to reward them alike when the period of service should terminate. This is evident from Deuteronomy xv, 12-17: “And if thy brother, a Hebrew man, or a Hebrew woman, be sold unto thee, and serve thee six years; then in the seventh year thou shalt let him go free from thee. And when thou sendest him out free from thee, thou shalt not let him go away empty: thou shalt furnish him liberally out of thy flock, and out of thy winepress: of that wherewith the Lord thy G.o.d hath blessed thee thou shalt give unto him. … And it shall be, if he say unto thee, I will not go away from thee; because he loveth thee and thine house, because he is well with thee; then thou shalt take an awl, and thrust it through his ear into the door, and he shall be thy servant forever. And also unto thy maid-servant thou shalt do likewise.”

Those who declare that the law of Moses makes a distinction in the matter of release from servitude, between men-servants and maid-servants, to the disadvantage of the latter, in confirmation of their a.s.sertion quote Exodus xxi, 7; but if they read also, in connection with it, the eighth, ninth, tenth, and eleventh verses of the same chapter, a careful consideration of the entire pa.s.sage will, we think, clearly show that the reference therein contained is not to the ordinary maid-servant, but to one whose master had betrothed her to himself, or to his son. In the case of betrothal to himself, if the girl failed to please her master, he was not to return her to her former position of a servant, but to let her be redeemed. He must not sell her, or otherwise dispose of her services during the unexpired period of her servitude, because “he had dealt deceitfully with her.” In case of betrothal to his son, as in the other, she was not to be reduced to her former rank as a menial, but to be treated in every respect as a daughter. Even when the affection of the man to whom she was betrothed waned, he was to yield to her all the rights and privileges which belonged to her as his wife; and, if any of these were withheld, she was at liberty to go forth a free woman.

The circ.u.mstance of Jacob serving Laban fourteen years for Rachel, is by some deemed a parallel case with the prevailing custom of purchasing wives among the people of the East; but the cases are not at all similar. Jacob and Rachel had met at the well where she usually watered her father’s flock. He had introduced himself to the maiden, and won her regard, before he proposed to her father for her, having spent a whole month in the house of Laban prior to his doing so. There is no reason whatever to doubt that he had Rachel’s full consent to the arrangement. It was not Jacob’s fault that, through the stratagem of Laban, he became the husband of Leah. The plurality of wives in this instance was not so much the choice of Jacob as the fault of the wily, semi-idolatrous Laban.

Shechem offered dowry to Jacob and his sons if they would consent to his taking Dinah to wife; but it is evident he did so in order to conciliate the outraged brothers of the girl whom he had so basely humbled, and whom he really desired to retain.

It is very clear, from the testimony of sacred history, that women, in the families of the patriarchs, and in the Hebrew nation generally, for several generations after the delivery of the Mosaic Law, occupied a position very much superior to those of the neighboring nations. A woman taken captive in war, whom a Jew chose to marry, could not be sold by her husband, should he afterward take a dislike to her so great that he might put her away. Even though a heathen, she was permitted to go out free.

Boaz is said to have bought Ruth when he purchased the possession of Naomi; and this circ.u.mstance is referred to by those who would bring the Bible into contempt, to prove that Ruth was bought according to Jewish law, as though she were a chattel. The facts, as given in the sacred narrative, do not, however, warrant any such interpretation.

Elimelech, with his wife and two sons, Mahlon and Chilion, left Bethlehem-Judah in consequence of a severe famine, and removed to Moab.

At the time of their emigration, they were obliged to leave all their possessions, not portable, behind them; and were in consequence in straitened circ.u.mstances. While in Moab, both his sons married Moabitish women; and, in process of time, Elimelech and his sons all three died, leaving their respective widows dest.i.tute. Under these circ.u.mstances, the famine being now over in Judah, Naomi determined to return thither, and advised her daughters-in-law to return each to the house of her father. After some persuasion, the widow of Chilion did so; but Ruth, Mahlon’s widow, expressed her determination to cling to the fortunes of her mother-in-law in the following touching strain:

“Entreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee; for whither thou goest I will go, and where thou lodgest I will lodge; thy people shall be my people, and thy G.o.d my G.o.d; where thou diest will I die, and there will I be buried.”

Naomi, having such proof of her attachment to her, expostulated with her no further; and, disconsolate and weary, the poor women made their way to Naomi’s old home. During the absence of the family, the parcel of land which had been possessed by Elimelech had pa.s.sed into the hands of strangers. Naomi naturally desired that it might be redeemed, as both herself and Ruth would be greatly benefited if it were. Boaz, though not the nearest kinsman, on being made acquainted with the circ.u.mstances of the case by Ruth, generously took up the cause; and the nearest of kin having relinquished his claim, he redeemed the property with it; and, with Ruth’s own free consent, took her to be his wife. Her individual concurrence is apparent throughout the whole transaction. No one had any right to sell at all, or otherwise to dispose of her, except by her own wish.

The rape of the Benjamites is sometimes referred to in terms expressive of the desire to cast opprobium upon the teachings of the Bible.

Unfortunate as was the condition of the Benjamites on this occasion, they had no more sanction for what they did from the law of Moses, than had Ahab for destroying the prophets of the Lord. Neither was the order of the Jewish elders for the ma.s.sacre of men and elderly women, and the saving of the four hundred young women to make up the deficiency of wives still existing in this tribe, in any sense chargeable to the Divine law.

We might with as much propriety hold the Gospel responsible for the Ma.s.sacre of St. Bartholomew, as to hold the law of Moses responsible for the acts of the Israelites. The Mosaic precepts concerning adultery and divorce might at first sight appear to give more lat.i.tude to men than to women, and therefore to be partial; but when we accept the interpretation given by our Lord, the apparent partiality vanishes. The Savior’s testimony on the subject is very explicit. Matthew xix, 3-10, we read: “The Pharisees also came to him, tempting him, and saying unto him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause? And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, and said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore G.o.d hath joined together, let not man put asunder. They say unto him, Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away? He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so. And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.”

That in this matter of divorce Christ recognized the right of women to be equal to that of men, is apparent from Mark x, 2-12, the eleventh and twelfth verses of which we here quote:

“And he saith unto them, Whosoever shall put away his wife and marry another, committeth adultery against her. And if a woman shall put away her husband, and be married to another, she committeth adultery.” It is manifest that the design of G.o.d was, that there should be an equal fidelity on the part of both man and wife.

But, as ages rolled on, the depraved appet.i.tes of sinful mankind desired a different ordering of the affairs of life. In the Jewish Commonwealth, the rabbis became less and less favorable to the just rights of women, especially after their people began to intermix more freely with their idolatrous neighbors; their precepts were a.s.similated more fully to those of the heathen; and for doctrines, the commandments of men were taught instead of the pure law of G.o.d.

History proves that woman sometimes took a very prominent part in the public affairs of the Jewish nation. But, while not attempting to disprove the statements which are therein recorded, there are many who make light of any mention of the public labors of these women.

Sometimes, indeed, the talents and usefulness of these women, and of the earnest women of our own day, are admitted after a fashion; but it is done in such a way as, in reality, to belittle the s.e.x as much as possible. They are considered as occupying the same relation to men that the moon does to the sun, and all that is desired of them is to reflect a borrowed light. If she be unable to reflect a light when there is none to borrow, what then? Even in religious matters, she is judged to be incapable of taking any public part, though she may be ever so well informed and pious, and those of the opposite s.e.x in her vicinity ever so deplorably ignorant and wicked. A few distinguished writers will, however, allow her–as a favor, it may be supposed–to go out in public to collect money for charitable or Church purposes. What a wonder the funds so collected are not defiled by pa.s.sing through “female” fingers!

Some of the religious denominations who gladly accept of the fruit of women’s labor, either in collecting from others or in giving themselves, would yet not suffer a woman to pray or speak in public, though G.o.d has endowed her with more than ordinary talent. She may not even give advice as to how the money she has collected or given is to be expended. In the choir, women may sing of salvation; but it is fearful presumption for her to speak of it in the body of the Church, or let her voice be heard there imploring salvation for herself or others. This might defile the sanctuary or tempt her to “usurp authority over the man.” Occasionally there is to be found a denomination which will allow a woman to pray in public, or to relate her Christian experience; but even in some of these the practice does not receive a very large amount of encouragement, and her right to exhort or teach publicly is seriously questioned, most frequently denied.

What was Scripture usage? From Exodus xv, 20, we learn that Miriam was a prophetess, and, in the verse following, it appears that not only she, but the women of her company, took a prominent part in the celebration of Israel’s triumphant pa.s.sage of the Red Sea. Not only was Miriam a prophetess, but a joint leader with Moses and Aaron of that great host which went up to possess the promised land, as is seen by reference to Micah vi, 4: “For I brought thee up out of the land of Egypt, and redeemed thee out of the land of servants, and I sent before thee Moses, Aaron, and Miriam.” Thus did G.o.d, in the very beginning of the Jewish Church and nation, a.s.sociate a woman with men, giving her an equally responsible position with her brothers. Moses was the lawgiver, Aaron the priest, and Miriam the seer. This threefold office was fulfilled in Christ; and therefore Miriam, as well as Moses and Aaron, was a type of the Messiah.

If the Almighty had not designed women to occupy prominent positions, both civilly and ecclesiastically, he certainly would not have qualified them to fill such places with honor; and history proves that he did both qualify and employ them. Deborah was both a prophetess and a judge, and at one time was the chief ruler in Israel, even leading on the hosts of the living G.o.d; for timorous Barak would not go without her. Huldah, wife of Shallum, a prophetess who flourished in the reign of Josiah, was consulted by him on matters of vital importance to his kingdom, although both Jeremiah and Zephaniah were then alive. Josiah evidently considered her fully equal to either of them, or he would not have consulted her, or at her dictation set about reforming the abuses which were prevalent at the time. He could not have set to work more earnestly in this good cause if Jeremiah had spoken to him. There have been learned men–and there are those still–who think it exceedingly strange that Josiah should have condescended to send the messengers to Huldah to inquire of the Lord, when he might have consulted either Jeremiah or one of the brother prophets. Is it not equally strange that the Lord should have answered him by her mouth? or rather should not his having done so, forever silence such questioning?

Other women have been emphatically the “called,” according to “G.o.d’s purpose,” to combat evil in countries even where women were treated with greater indignities than in Israel. We do not make any distinction between prophets and prophetesses. Men and women were alike called to the prophetic office, as G.o.d pleased, and kings and princes acknowledged their authority. Many women became noted for their active service rendered to the Jewish Church and nation.

Women have proved themselves to be skillful diplomatists, and to be possessed of an equal amount of courage and perseverance with men; but these capabilities have not always been employed aright. There have been distinguished statesmen who have been frightfully wicked men; and, unhappily, there have been clever women who have been fully their equals in wickedness. In nothing is the mental equality of women with men more clearly indicated than in the manner in which both pursue a career of sin.

Jezebel appears to have been a stronger-minded person than Ahab, and to have excelled him in subtlety and wickedness. She was as active as he in pushing the persecution against the people of G.o.d; indeed, more active and determined than her weak and wicked husband. At the time the life of Elijah was threatened, she would seem not only to have been the more determined of the two, but to have exercised greater authority over the realm. Athaliah, the daughter of Jezebel, was no whit behind her mother in atrocious wickedness. Indeed, where women are brought up in wickedness, they differ nothing in the depth of their depravity from men educated in like manner.

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