July 23, 2024

Education and Authority – Marriage from the Israelite Law – Part 2

This entry is part 4 of 4 in the series Biblical Marriage

Why is the wife listed among the possessions not to covet?

“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.” – Exodus 20:17

The term husband actually carries multiple meanings in Hebrew and Greek.  According to Strongs, the word “husband” has the following possible definitions:

husband, Lord, lord, lord’s, lords, master, master’s, masters, owner.

We covered this with Abraham and Sarah.  She belongs to him because she is one flesh with him. In the last post, marriage was shown to be, in Bible times, partly a financial transaction. The husband paid the bride price to the wife’s family in exchange for her. This means that he had paid a financial price and had a financial obligation to her, but it would be wrong to infer that this is an indication of status as an object. While she is listed with the possessions, you can also interpret this to mean “you shouldn’t covet anything that is your neighbor’s,” just like when you are introduced you say “This is my husband” or “This is my wife.” While she may be in an inferior or subordinate position, she is not a possession.

You could easily reword this into the positive by saying, be content or grateful with what you have instead of wanting what someone else has or the common phrase, “the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence” which implies the same.

Why is Adultery one of the 10 Commandments, when every extramarital sin is still a sin?

You shall not commit adultery. – Exodus 20:14

I believe this goes to the fact that God was showing His commitment to Israel through the marriage relationship.  This makes adultery a worse sin than other sex outside of marriage.  In the case of fornication, the law tells one how to make it right.  In the case of adultery, the punishment is death.

Vows and Pledges – Made By Women, Approved By Men?

If she marries a husband, while under her vows or any thoughtless utterance of her lips by which she has bound herself, and her husband hears of it and says nothing to her on the day that he hears, then her vows shall stand, and her pledges by which she has bound herself shall stand. But if, on the day that her husband comes to hear of it, he opposes her, then he makes void her vow that was on her, and the thoughtless utterance of her lips by which she bound herself. And the Lord will forgive her. – Numbers 30:6-8

While reading Numbers 30, we see that when a man makes a vow he is to keep it. We see this in the tragic story of Jephthah’s vow in Judges 11 where Jephthah sacrifices his daughter because he vowed to the Lord. The same is not true for a woman. A woman was always to be under authority—either the authority of her father (Num 30:3-5) or of her husband (Num 30:6-16), unless she was widowed or divorced. In this case, she was to be treated in terms of vows as a man is.

The woman that makes a vow or a pledge can be overruled by her husband if when he hears it he nullifies her vow. This would work much the same way as purchasing something and having second thoughts but with a catch. If the husband knows about it and does nothing, then the vow stands. He only has the veto right when he first hears about it.

She can even be released of vows that are to the Lord for her benefit! Consider Matthew Henry:

But it is added (v. 15) that, if the husband make void the vows of his wife, he shall bear her iniquity; that is, if the thing she had vowed was really good, for the honour of God and the prosperity of her own soul, and the husband disallowed it out of covetousness, or humour, or to show his authority, though she be discharged from the obligation of her vow, yet he will have a great deal to answer for.

God respects the divine order to the point that a husband can disallow a vow or a pledge to Himself! Basically, God is saying that the hierarchy of the family is so important that He is willing to release a vow made by a subordinate, the man’s wife if the man so wishes to show how important this is. This adds another layer of complexity to the question that we asked the other day regarding can a husband requires that his wife sin. If the Lord will forgive a woman that makes a pledge to him because her father/husband opposed her, then what about if a man orders his wife to sin?

Can we make an inference when one is disallowing a vow and one is causing a sin? It was a sin to break a vow, which is what the wife must be forgiven of, was it not?

At least I believe we can all agree that the husband would bear the responsibility for the action– not the wife. And we see that in Abraham and Sarah’s story, because God prevented Sarah from consummating a relationship with the Egyptian king; however, I’m not sure that I can go so far as to say that this prescriptive as much as it is a warning to husbands not to do this– you will be held to account!

Who is to be the source of history/truth about the Israelite past?

Remember the days of old;
consider the years of many generations;
ask your father, and he will show you,
your elders, and they will tell you. – Deuteronomy 32:7

The fathers were to be the ones that testified to God’s greatness.

Who is to teach the young about God and in what way?

Hear therefore, O Israel, and be careful to do them, that it may go well with you, and that you may multiply greatly, as the Lord, the God of your fathers, has promised you, in a land flowing with milk and honey. – Deuteronomy 6:3

Upon first reading, it seems that it’s directed to all of Israel, however, looking at verses 2, 7, 20 we see that there is the implication that this job lies with the fathers.

vs 2 – that you may fear the Lord your God, you and your son and your son’s son, by keeping all his statutes and his commandments, which I command you, all the days of your life, and that your days may be long.

vs 7 – You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.

vs 20 – When your son asks you in time to come, ‘What is the meaning of the testimonies and the statutes and the rules that the Lord our God has commanded you?’

The rehearsing of what happened in the Passover with the Israelites is conducted as a question and answer between the Father and the children.

This is the first of the duties of the parents over the government—though the government was set up here at this point, it was given to the families, to the fathers to instruct the children in the ways of the Lord, in the law of the Lord, and in the history of what the Lord had done.  This was not the domain of the church, the school, or anyone else but the parents. It is important for parents to teach their children the ways of God.

Series Navigation<< By the Book – Marriage from the Israelite Law – Part 1
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