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Biblical Safeguards for Women

By Andrea G. Schwartz
June 14, 2018

Looking at the headlines, and with the rise of the #MeToo movement, you would think that sexual abuse is new to our society. However, sexual abuse has occurred throughout history. Often it occurs without any recourse available for the victim. In our day, very little attention is given to provisions in God’s law that are meant to protect women. Moreover, there is practically no discussion or study of the rationale behind these provisions.  

James 1:17 tells us, 

 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.

 It is time to re-examine God’s laws that offer protection for women and their families. 

Why Women Need Protection

The Bible calls women the weaker vessel (1Pet. 3:7). Women are very vulnerable at certain times in their lives especially when pregnant, immediately post-partum, and when they are nursing and nurturing children. Because women are often physically smaller and weaker than men, they are also vulnerable to rape and other crimes committed against them by sinful men. This vulnerability has absolutely nothing to do with inferiority (Gal. 3:28).

 A detailed look into God’s law demonstrates the protections God provides for women.  These include provisions prior to marriage, during the marriage, and upon the death of her husband. I hope that this discussion will pave the way for more study and insight as to how these protections are to be applied today.

 It is important to underscore the high value God’s Word puts on faithfulness, chastity, loyalty, integrity, and responsibility. While they may be given lip service, our culture does not value these traits today, as the accepted relativism holds to the idea that so long as a woman consents to sexual intercourse, the act itself is permissible. This is Genesis 3:5 codified into our modern views of sexuality.

 Today young women do not value their virginity and, in many cases, in order to be “acceptable” to a sinful culture and peers, seek to lose it as quickly as possible. No doubt, the subtle and not so subtle attitude of film, novels, and television transforms something that God's law esteems (virginity, purity, and chastity) into a status to be demeaned and ridiculed.   Instead of fornication showing a defect of character, today’s group think attempts to make it a sign of maturity and independence.

 Thus, a woman who violates God’s law in terms of consensual fornication expects all to be horrified when a man forces himself on her without her consent. In each case, God’s law is being ignored or deliberately violated. The only difference is that her personal definition of right and wrong includes her consent as the determining factor. This is not to say that rape is in any way acceptable.  It is merely to point out that women make themselves more, not less, vulnerable to having their testimony ignored, with their relativistic behavior.

 We need to return to the full counsel of God when it comes to honoring God with our sexuality. This involves the family as the primary and most essential institution when it comes to teaching children about sex, marriage, and the protection of women.  Thus, marriage must be taught as the only place where intimacy occurs, and only where the intent is godly dominion. Today other considerations take priority over God’s command (and the intent of that command) to be fruitful and multiply. Personal satisfaction, curbing lusts, or financial benefits often supersede the priority of raising up godly children in the furtherance of the Kingdom of God.[1]

Protections before Marriage

Instruction

God’s law assumes a fallen world and provides means by which women can be protected. This involves a close-knit family where all members are taught to know and apply God’s norms for sexuality. Going through the book of Proverbs is an excellent way to demonstrate the application of God’s law in practical situations. Some argue that topics that are discussed in Proverbs are inappropriate for children. I heartily disagree. First, you teach what is normative and then you can demonstrate deviations and transgressions of the God-ordained standards.

 I remember talking with my granddaughter who told me that when she grew up she was going to marry her daddy. This did not surprise me because she loved her daddy and experienced his love and care for her. I pointed out that according to Scripture, a daughter would never marry her father. Her father helps her be ready for marriage and guides her to find a man who would love her as much as he does. I additionally pointed out the exclusivity of marriage and that her daddy and mommy had a relationship that was reserved for just the two of them. It proved to be a good time to let her know that she was never to have such a special relationship with anyone but her future husband.

 What’s more, by stressing the exclusivity of marriage, discussions about fornication, rape, and seduction can also take place—all within the context of God’s design for the family and His provision for that design. In addition to the parents’ role, pastors and elders need to address the necessity of following God’s law. After all, God issued commandments not suggestions. Christian families need the support of their pastors and elders as they contend for the faith and fight to keep the permissiveness of the world from entering into the lives of their children. 

Pre-marital Protections

The law of God makes it necessary for a prospective husband to demonstrate to the father of a potential bride that he has a calling, is responsible in his calling, is able to provide for himself and for her and any children they may have. Additionally, the girl’s parents must play a pivotal role in assessing the candidate’s spiritual qualifications and his suitability to lead his family on a godly basis. 

[T]he Hebrew word for bridegroom means “the circumcised,” the Hebrew word for father-in-law means he who performed the operation of circumcision, and the Hebrew word for mother-in-law is similar. This obviously had no reference to the actual physical rite, since Hebrew males were circumcised on the eighth day. What it meant was that the father-in-law ensured the fact of spiritual circumcision, as did the mother-in-law, by making sure of the covenantal status of the groom. It was their duty to prevent a mixed marriage. A man could marry their daughter, and become a bridegroom, only when clearly a man under God.[2]

Built into the law is the requirement of a dowry, a down payment given to demonstrate his future faithfulness. Although the amount is not mandated, it was, according to R.J. Rushdoony, about three year’s earnings. This was given to the woman and kept in safekeeping by her father. The woman described in Proverbs 31 was an endowed wife. In Biblical times, any woman without a dowry was considered a concubine.[3] A concubine’s children did not have the same status or ability to inherit as the children of a wife. Nor did the woman have the same protections in terms of slander and defamation.

 The law also had provision for the dowry for virgins [4] that was considerably more than for a woman who was not a virgin.[5] Thus, in the negotiation of a dowry, the woman’s reputation was something that her father would have to attest. In accepting a dowry for virgins, he was placing his own reputation on the line regarding his daughter. (More about this later).

 The practice of a father walking his daughter down the aisle at her wedding reflects the change of authority in her life. By his consent to the marriage, the father is indicating that he is turning over the protection and covering of his daughter to a man who will love, cherish, and care for her. With all the prerequisites in place, this would make a wedding a joyous occasion indeed.

​ Protections after Marriage

Rather than have the bride and groom dash off after the ceremony and the wedding feast, an additional step had to be followed. At the consummation of their marriage, a woman’s tokens of virginity were to be given to her father for safekeeping. This was the proof that was only possible after intimacy to demonstrate to the groom that he had not been defrauded. Thus, we see that chastity holds a high status in a Biblical culture.

 While some might roll their eyes at such a practice, let me demonstrate using the law why this is so vital. Deuteronomy 22:13–21 (ESV) reads: 

“If any man takes a wife and goes in to her and then hates her and accuses her of misconduct and brings a bad name upon her, saying, ‘I took this woman, and when I came near her, I did not find in her evidence of virginity,’ And the father of the young woman shall say to the elders, ‘I gave my daughter to this man to marry, and he hates her; and behold, he has accused her of misconduct, saying, “I did not find in your daughter evidence of virginity.” And yet this is the evidence of my daughter's virginity.’ And they shall spread the cloak before the elders of the city. But if the thing is true, that evidence of virginity was not found in the young woman, then they shall bring out the young woman to the door of her father's house, and the men of her city shall stone her to death with stones, because she has done an outrageous thing in Israel by whoring in her father's house. So you shall purge the evil from your midst.”

 This is a clear case of false witness (one way or the other), and the Scripture here stresses that it is not permissible in marriage. Rushdoony notes,

 Biblical law forbids slander within marriage, i.e., slander by husband or wife with respect to their spouse … 
Before analyzing the implications of this law for its bearing on false witness, it should be noted that this is a most unusual law from the legal perspective. First, in every trial under this law, a conviction inevitably follows. Either the wife is found guilty, or the husband is found guilty, for having brought false charges against her. When a marriage reaches this point, an inner penalty is inescapable; the public penalty is also inescapable when the matter reaches trial.[6]

Thus, chastity is no small matter when it comes to entering into marriage. The evidence (the tokens) kept in trust by her father protects her from future slander. Not only would the wife be slandered, but her entire family as well. This carries such high importance that,

 Second, this law is also unusual in that it seems to reverse all normal procedure in court cases. In all other kinds of trials, the accused is innocent until proven guilty, and it is the duty of the witnesses to prosecute the case by providing evidence of guilt.  As the Talmud gives evidence, witnesses to prosecute were still necessary, and a normal part of the proceedings in such cases. All the same, however, the wife must clearly prove her innocence. The reason for this unusual aspect of such a case is that the case is in reality a double prosecution. The husband has accused his wife of coming to the marriage with a background of unchastity. The father of the bride initiates the prosecution; he prosecutes the husband in order to silence the slander of his daughter, and, as prosecutor, he must produce evidence and witnesses, evidence of his daughter’s virginity, and witnesses to the slander. The husband must produce evidence of unchastity or pay a very heavy penalty.[7]

It should be evident why the practice of presenting the tokens is so vital. The tokens are the evidence that prove the accusations from her husband are false. It also points to the fact that a woman is responsible to keep herself chaste before marriage, as it not only reflects on her, but her entire family as well.

Rushdoony notes that the fine was a hefty one for a husband in the face of the evidence of his wife’s chastity before marriage. The monetary fine was a hefty one, and he was never able to divorce his wife. This meant that he would have to continue to support her, but because of the fine, she would not be beholden to him.

Some might consider the loss of life for the wife to be extreme. Even more reason for women to receive the covering and protection family life allows. She would be the one who would know conclusively if she entered into a marriage under false pretenses. Thus, having been instructed of this law from her childhood years would “encourage” her to value her virginity.

This summary merely skims the surface, and I highly recommend a more detailed examination of these laws.[8]

Conclusion

The cultural objectification of women in movies and music results in at atmosphere fertile for abuse and harassment. As Biblical foundations and safeguards are learned, applied, and reinstated, we can expect a shift away from the unrighteousness of our day.  This Biblical perspective reaffirms the centrality of the family and its interest in the propagation of a godly posterity. Upholding Biblical standards would go far in preventing abuse in marriage in addition to curtailing the rampant divorce rate. Couples entering into marriage, governed by God’s law-word, would benefit from the built-in protections for all parties involved.  

The road to righteousness will involve a new orientation and paradigm shift. As these provisions are reinstated, the blessings of God will surely follow.

[1] It is understood, that it is antithetical to the Bible to entertain same sex marriage.

[2] R. J. Rushdoony, The Institutes of Biblical Law, vol. 1(n.p., The Craig Press), p. 344.

[3] This area must be considered as parents prepare their daughters for marriage. 

[4] The practice of the dowry is evidenced in the account of Abraham sending his servant to procure a wife (Rebekah) for his son Isaac.  Jacob’s dowry was his fourteen years of service for Leah and Rachel.

[5] It should be noted that should the father refuse the marriage of his daughter who was seduced, the man would still have to pay the dowry for virgins.  This would cause a man to think twice before such behavior, as he would be forfeiting a significant sum of money. Some would argue that the woman benefits in this case.  This would only be true if the stigma of the loss of her virginity was absent. Even today, while not acknowledged openly, a woman who has “been around” is not viewed as highly by potential husbands, not to mention not receiving a dowry of any kind. In other words, a culture would have to value chastity before marriage for this provision to have “any teeth.”

[6] R. J. Rushdoony, Institutes of Biblical Law, vol. 1, p. 590.

[7] ibid.

[9] See, Institutes of Biblical Law, vol. 1, Ninth commandment, section 11 “Slander within Marriage,” as well as a discussion of this in Rushdoony’s commentary on Deuteronomy. Also, R.J. Rushdoony, “Trial of Jealousy,” Numbers (Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books, 2006), p. 39–44.


Topics: Biblical Commentary, Biblical Law, Culture , Education, Family & Marriage, Justice, Media / Arts, Old Testament History, Theology

Andrea G. Schwartz

Andrea Schwartz has been active as a home educator since 1983, successfully educating her three children through high school. She has authored eight books, writes the Kingdom-Driven Family blog, and oversees the Chalcedon Teacher Training Institute, a mentoring/study program for Christian women. She is available for consultations, speaking engagements, and promoting Christian education.

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