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Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible


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1. In OT ( ’ishshâh , ‘woman,’ ‘wife’; nÄ•qçbâh [ Leviticus 15:33 , Numbers 31:15 , Jeremiah 31:22 ], ‘female’) woman’s position is one of inferiority and subjection to man ( Genesis 3:13 ); and yet, in keeping with the view that ideally she is his companion and ‘help meet’ ( Genesis 2:18-24 ), she never sinks into a mere drudge or plaything. In patriarchal times, Sarah, Rebekah, and Rachel stand side by side with their husbands. In the era of the deliverance from Egypt, Miriam is ranked with Moses and Aaron (cf. Micah 6:4 ). In the days of the judges, Deborah is not only a prophetess (wh. see), as other women in Israel were, but is herself a judge ( Judges 4:4 ). Under the monarchy, Jezebel in the Northern Kingdom and Athaliah in the Southern, afford illustrations of the political power and influence that a woman might wield. In religious matters, we find women attending the Feasts along with men ( 1 Samuel 1:1 ff. etc.), taking part with them in acts of sacrifice ( Judges 13:20; Judges 13:23 etc.), combined with them in the choral service of the Temple ( Ezra 2:65 etc.). And though in the Deut. code woman’s position is one of complete subordination, her rights are recognized and safeguarded in a way that prepares the soil for the growth of those higher conceptions which find utterance in Malachi’s declaration that divorce is hateful to Jehovah ( Ezra 2:16 ), and in the picture of the virtuous wife with which the Book of Proverbs concludes (ch. 31). See, further, Family, Marriage.

2. In NT ( gynç , ‘woman,’ ‘wife’; thçleia [ Romans 1:26-27 ], ‘female’; gynaikarion [dimin. fr. gynç , 2 Timothy 3:6 ], EV [Note: English Version.] ‘silly women’). Owing to the influence of Rabbinism, Jewish women had lost some of their earlier freedom (ct. [Note: t. contrast.] with the scene at the well of Haran [ Genesis 24:10 ff.] the surprise of the disciples by the well of Sychar when they found Jesus ‘speaking with a woman’ [ John 4:27 ]). But Jesus wrought a wonderful change. He did this not only by His teaching about adultery ( Matthew 5:27 f.) and marriage and divorce ( Matthew 5:31 f., Matthew 19:3 ff.), but still more by His personal attitude to women, whether good and pure like His own mother (there is nothing harsh or discourteous in the ‘Woman’ of John 2:4; cf. John 19:26 ) and the sisters of Bethany, or sinful and outcast as some women of the Gospels were ( Luke 7:37 ff; Luke 8:2 , John 4:1-54 ). The work of emancipation was continued in the Apostolic Church. Women formed an integral part of the earliest Christian community ( Acts 1:14 ), shared in the gifts of Pentecost ( Acts 2:1 ff., cf. Acts 2:17 ), engaged in tasks of unofficial ministry ( Romans 16:1 f., Philippians 4:2 f.), and by and by appear ( 1 Timothy 3:11 ) as holding the office of the deaconess (wh. see), and possibly ( 1 Timothy 5:3 ) that of the ‘ widow ’ (wh. see, and cf. Timothy [Epp. to], § 5 ). St. Paul’s conception of woman and of man’s relation to her is difficult ( 1 Corinthians 7:1-40 ), but may be explained partly by his expectation of the Parousia ( 1 Corinthians 7:29-31 ), and partly by the exigencies of an era of persecution ( 1 Corinthians 7:26 ). In a later Pauline Epistle marriage becomes a type of the union between Christ and the Church ( Ephesians 5:22-33 ). And if by his injunction as to the silence of women in the Church ( 1 Corinthians 14:34 ff.) the Apostle appears to limit the prophetic freedom of the first Christian days ( Acts 2:4; Acts 2:17 ), we must remember that he is writing to a Church set in the midst of a dissolute Greek city, where Christian women had special reasons for caution in the exercise of their new privileges. Elsewhere he announces the far-reaching principle that in Christ Jesus ‘there can be no male and female’ ( Galatians 3:28 ).

J. C. Lambert.

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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Woman'. Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible. 1909.

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