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Adultery of the Heart

Adultery of the heart isn't punishable by a civil court and isn't grounds for divorce, but it is definitely a serious problem.

I recently posted this on social media:

If a man commits adultery with the wife of his neighbor, both the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.
Leviticus 20:10

By Biblical standards (not modern English nor American legal), adultery is a sexual relationship between a married woman and someone who is not her husband. A man cannot commit adultery with an unmarried, unbetrothed woman. It’s impossible by definition. A sexual relationship between them might be sinful, but it is not adultery because she’s not married or betrothed to another man.

Don’t get mad at me. I’m just letting the Bible define its own terms.

I added that last sentence because I know that this can be a very sensitive topic and will put many people into fight-or-flight mode. Sure enough, this post had many times more comments than normal, many of them quite irate and accusing me of having all kinds of nefarious motives for even discussing the topic. I’m not going to waste my time defending myself from other people’s imaginations, so I blocked most of them.

One person had the self-awareness to recognize that her emotional reaction against what I was saying might be only emotional.

Holly wrote…

I think this discussion raises hackles because it seems to insinuate a greater standard of fidelity upon married women than upon married men. Biblically, the latter will not incur the death penalty if they sleep with a woman who isn’t married; whereas the former will incur capital punishment in 100% of cases in which they stray from their marriage. A married man could potentially justify a range of unfaithful behavior with any unmarried woman, could he not? Also, I struggle to reconcile the Torah commands about adultery with Yeshua’s statement about a man looking upon a woman with lust in his heart. The Savior did not qualify His statement by saying “a man who looks upon a MARRIED woman…” He knew the Torah far better than we do, so what are we to conclude from this?

If you can help shed any light on this difficulty, it would be much appreciated. A husband, as the head of his household, ought to have at least an equal standard of fidelity as his wife, if not a higher one.

I thought Holly’s questions were good, and I appreciated that she wasn’t trying to attack me for merely exploring what the Scriptures might mean. She deserved a thorough and honest reply.

Thank you for the honest questions, Holly. Topics related to male-female relationships can be very difficult for most people to think objectively about, so it takes a lot of thought and study, and a willingness to confront ideas that might be very difficult. So, I sincerely appreciate the spirit of your question.

Remember that Yeshua was primarily addressing heart conditions and not delivering sermons on the technicalities of the Law. For example, if you hate your brother in your heart, you are guilty of murder in your heart, but you haven’t actually murdered your brother. Torah says it is a sin to hate your brother in your heart, but it’s not a crime that can be punished by anyone.

The same principle is true in marriage.

Matthew 5:32, Matthew 19:9, Mark 10:11-12, and Luke 16:18 all give somewhat different versions of the same teaching. We’re not getting precise transcripts in the Gospels. We’re only getting summary versions. I think this causes some confusion in cases like this, but we’d probably find even more to argue about if we had full audio recordings of everything Yeshua said.

Keeping in mind that Yeshua almost never discussed technicalities of the Law, choosing to teach about the state of people’s hearts instead, here is how I believe these 4 statements, along with Matthew 5:27-31, harmonize:

It’s a sin to covet another man’s wife, even if you haven’t done anything about it. In Matthew 5:27-30, Yeshua discusses lust that is tantamount to adultery. The text doesn’t specify “married woman”, but it also doesn’t specify “married man”. I think we’re all in agreement that adultery requires at least one party to be married, so we already have to make some assumptions about what Yeshua’s intent. (I know that some people believe it’s adultery even to desire your own wife, but I hope we agree that’s nonsense.) In v28, I believe he meant for his audience to understand he was talking about a married woman, because it wouldn’t have made any sense to them otherwise. Just like we assume that he must have been talking about married *people* because it doesn’t make sense to say that two unmarried teenagers have committed adultery because they find each other sexually attractive.

(Please note that I am NOT saying it’s ok for anyone to lust after someone who isn’t their spouse. I’m neither saying it nor implying it.)

If a man despises the covenant of marriage, whether his own or someone else’s, he has adultery in his heart, even if he hasn’t committed actually adultery. It is a sin for a man to hate his wife and want to divorce her when she hasn’t done anything to deserve it. It’s a sin to despise another man and want to take his wife. However, these aren’t crimes of which he can be tried and convicted. These are sins in the heart that can lead to sins of the body.

There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him.
Mark 7:15 ESV

If a man does divorce his wife without just cause, then the adultery in his heart is beginning to come out. If you willfully put someone else in a position where you know they are likely to sin, you are making yourself guilty too.

You shall not curse the deaf or put a stumbling block before the blind, but you shall fear your God: I am the LORD.
Leviticus 19:14 ESV

In the ancient world, a divorced/put away woman who had no family to fall back on, was in a very bad economic situation, facing possible starvation and constant abuse from strangers. She must either find another man to support and protect her or possibly resort to prostitution. If she was put away unjustly, her former husband shares in the guilt of her ensuing adultery because he put her into an impossible situation. He is guilty, she is guilty, and any man who sleeps with her is guilty.

Adultery of the heart isn’t punishable by a civil court and isn’t grounds for divorce, but it is definitely a serious problem that needs to be addressed. Just like having murder in the heart, eventually it comes out into the real world.

Any time you are trying to fill in gaps in the Scriptures, you are going to be engaging in some speculation, and there is significant danger that you are going to get it wrong. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make the attempt, though. Yeshua’s teaching style makes it necessary.

Believers need to stop being afraid or ashamed of the Bible. If it’s God’s word, being ashamed of what it says is tantamount to being ashamed of God. Since the Father, the Son, and the Apostles all tell us that God’s Law teaches us how to love one another, why in the world would you be afraid of it?

God doesn’t want childish marionettes who only follow orders with no understanding. Writing the Law on our hearts means that it must be internalized. To do that, we must spend a lot of time studying God’s Word, looking for connections between different passages, meditating on the meaning, and praying for understanding.

Sometimes you’re going to get it wrong. Don’t worry too much about it unless it leads you to doing something that seems to contradict some direct commandment or it bothers your conscience. Those are both warning signs that your understanding could be wrong. Keep studying. Keep meditating. Keep praying.

The Tabernacle and the Family

The wilderness Tabernacle is a picture of God, the individual, and the family.

YHWH is a God of patterns. You only have to look at DNA for the proof. Humans share a large percentage of their DNA code with monkeys, fish, and bananas. Contrary to popular opinion, that’s not evidence for evolution. It’s evidence for a Creator who loves to reuse a good pattern. Every good coder does the same thing. He writes a module, which is a small bit of code, that can be called and reused from numerous other parts of the program. That’s not laziness or a shortcut. It’s elegance. Efficiency. God is the master coder, the most elegant and efficient coder who has ever existed.

He follows patterns in other ways too. Consider the feast days. They are all patterns of his interactions with Israel and the world. They remind us of what he has done in the past, and they prophesy of what he will do in the future. Also consider the creation of mankind. God said “Let us create mankind in our own image.” Then he took a pattern of himself and applied it to his favored creation: man.

The image of God in mankind is much like his signature or fingerprints. First, God created Adam in his own image, and then he created Eve in Adam’s likeness to be a helper “suitable to him”, unlike any of the animals. She was shaped like him, had free will, and an eternal spirit like him. Adam and Eve, both together and individually, are made in the image of God, and the two together are tasked with creating new people who will carry the image of both of their parents and, through them, of God himself. If you look closely enough at all of God’s creations, you can find evidence of his fingerprints in everything he created. God loves to reuse a good pattern.

In Exodus 25, we begin to see God’s instructions for his Tabernacle, the place where he would dwell in the center of the camp of Israel. If we did not see evidence of his fingerprints in the design of the Tabernacle, I think we should be very surprised and begin to wonder if the Tabernacle was from God at all. Fortunately, we do see those fingerprints.

Like God himself, the Tabernacle is a unit. It is echad. Yet within it there are compartments and furnishings, and the primary components of the Tabernacle follow the pattern of the primary components of God.

The Ark contains a memorial of divine provision (manna), and the tablets of the Law, and so is an image of the provider and law giver, God the father.

The Menorah is a source of light generated by oil, like the anointing of the Holy spirit. Like the Holy Spirit the menorah has seven branches. Recall the seven spirits of God in Isaiah 11:2 and in Revelation 3, 4, and 5.

The Table holds within the bounds of its crown twelve loaves representing both the bread of life and the twelve tribes of Israel. Since it holds all the people of Israel, the Table is a metaphor of the King and Messiah of Israel, Yeshua.

If the Tabernacle is an image of God–and it certainly appears to be–then it must also be in some way an image of mankind, since mankind bears the image of God. I have written elsewhere of how the Tabernacle can be an image of a single person, but it is also an image of the family, which God instituted at the same time and on the same day he created man in his image.

The commandments in the preceding chapters of Exodus show some ways in which a man’s responsibility to his family includes providing sustenance and protection. Elsewhere in Torah, a man is commanded to teach his children, to be a lawgiver and law enforcer in his house. In this, every husband and father is intended to follow the pattern of God the Father, as he his represented in the Ark of the Covenant.

The very nature of the woman’s creation and her physical aspect shows us that she was created to be a life giver, a source of wisdom and comfort to her family, and to light the way of the children to their father. She nurtures her children when they are too young to understand explicit instruction, teaches them the ways and wisdom of their father when they are older, and comforts them when they are hurting. She is the Menorah in the tabernacle of man, and in some ways an image of the Holy Spirit for the family.

The firstborn son, according to God’s order, receives a double inheritance over his brothers, putting him in the position of a secondary provider for the extended family and the captain of his father. He is the father’s right hand, an extension of his father’s power into the world, and he sustains his siblings as the showbread table holds the sacred bread. The first born son of a man in this respect is an image of the first born son of God. When his father deems him ready, he will sit on his father’s throne and become the patriarch of his family. Even more than other believers, a firstborn son should look to Yeshua, the Son of God, for his role model.

Be careful of reading too much into these patterns. We are very good at finding patterns where none exist, so it’s important that any lesson drawn from allusions and apparent patterns in Scripture is supported by more explicit texts elsewhere. Some of the roles pictured by the Tabernacle and its furnishings are explicitly commanded in torah, while others may only be illustrated or even just hinted at. There may be characteristics of the Tabernacle that could be extrapolated into roles in the family but that are not commanded in scripture. Patterns like these might be illustrative but are not definitive.

For example, there is no explicit command in Scripture that younger children should obey the firstborn son in the absence of the father. This is an idea that could certainly be derived from the structure of the Tabernacle and the pattern of the firstborn son of man after the firstborn son of God, and it might even be a good principle in many respects, but it is by no means commanded by God and should not be treated as if it is.

For another example, a father is not to be hidden away from his family. To some extent he will be inscrutable to his children due to his superior strength, knowledge, and wisdom, and perhaps the oft inexplicable nature of his rules. Like God, he has no obligation to explain his actions or his laws, but also like God, his laws shouldn’t be arbitrary. Every commandment of God is given in love for the good of his children, and so should be every instruction of a father. He must be actively involved in the care and teaching of his children, aware of their activities and experiences so that he can speak directly to them when needed. A father should not only be a lawgiver and disciplinary, but a caregiver and a protector. He holds the staff of Aaron as a rod of correction, guidance, and comfort.

Likewise, a mother is not simply a source of light and comfort, she also is a lawgiver of sorts and a disciplinarian. The difference between the roles of father and mother in these respects is more of degrees and ratios, than ironclad laws. The Holy Spirit is God just as much as is the Father and Son, and a woman is just as much the image of God as is her husband.

Reading through scripture, you won’t be able to find a clean division between the authority and roles of Father, Son, and Spirit, and this is true in the household as well. There is no hard line between the roles of mother and father and firstborn son, but a gradient. Deborah was both mother and judge of Israel. Yeshua is our master, brother, friend, and servant. There will be times when a wife must take command of the household because her husband is ill, absent, or incapacitated. That’s not a sin. It’s part of the flexibility that God has built into all of humanity. It is part of our image to be able to fill in for and support one another.

Jacob, First into Battle

Why did Jacob divide his camp before he met Esau in the wilderness east of the Jordan on his way back from his years with Laban?

Then Jacob was greatly afraid and distressed. He divided the people who were with him, and the flocks and herds and camels, into two camps, thinking, “If Esau comes to the one camp and attacks it, then the camp that is left will escape.”
Genesis 32:7-8 ESV

Jacob divided his camp into two companies. In one company went all of his livestock, and in the other went his family and other possessions. (We can know the general scheme of division because verses 22 and 23 say that all four women and eleven sons were still with him after he had sent off his livestock.) Jacob obviously did not consider his wives and children to be mere property. He was willing to sacrifice all his wealth before sacrificing even one of the concubines. Later, he would also divide his family into separate parties.

There are points in this story where it sounds like Jacob sent his family ahead to face the danger of Esau while he stayed behind to see what would happen, but a careful reading shows that this isn’t what happened at all. Here is a breakdown of the actual sequence of events:

  • 32:3-5 – Jacob sent messengers to Esau to announce his return.
  • 32:6 – Messengers returned to say that Esau was coming with 400 men.
  • 32:7 – Jacob divided people and herds into two groups, but they didn’t go anywhere yet. His entire retinue was still in one location.
  • 32:8-12 – Jacob prayed for deliverance from Esau and declared his trust in God’s promise.
  • 32:13-18 – Jacob sent servants with goats, sheep, camels, cattle, and donkeys as 5 separate gifts to Esau.
  • 32:19-20 – Jacob sent additional presents of herds to Esau.
  • 32:21 – Jacob stayed in the camp with his family.
  • 32:22-23 – Jacob sent his family and remaining possessions across the Jabbok river.
  • 32:24-30 – Jacob wrestled with the angel.
  • 32:31-32 – Jacob returned to his family.
  • 33:1-2 – Jacob divided his remaining camp into three.
  • 33:3 – Jacob went ahead of his family to meet Esau alone.
  • 33:4-11 – Esau met Jacob and his family. Discussion of gifts.
  • 33:12-15 – Esau offered to merge their camps and Jacob refused.
  • 33:16 – Esau returned to Seir.
  • 33:17 – Jacob went on to Sukkot.

At first Jacob feared for himself and his family, so he divided his household into two groups, thinking that if Esau attacked one, then the second might have time to escape. But then, as he prayed for God’s protection, he remembered God’s promise to make his offspring as numerous as the sand of the sea and realized there was nothing Esau could do to threaten that future. He changed his plan.

Instead of sending his household in two different directions, Jacob decided to try to make peace with Esau, apparently hoping to cool his brother’s anger before they even met. He formed small herds of goats, sheep, camels, cattle, and donkeys and sent them ahead as gifts, one herd at a time. He instructed the herdsmen accompanying each herd to tell Esau that they belonged to his servant Jacob and were sent as a gift to Lord Esau. He called Esau “Adonai” and used the same word for gift, minkhah, used of the grain offerings given to YHWH in Leviticus 6 and 7. He simultaneously expressed humility and generosity to someone who was legally and justly his inferior and did so in a way that was certain to soften Esau’s heart toward him.

Jacob then followed this with more of the same, with groups of animals–the most widely recognized form of wealth–probably arriving over the course of at least two days. He could have sent all of these animals as a single, tremendous offering, but he understood that many small–but still generous–gifts over time will have a much deeper impact on the recipient than a greater gift given all at once. If a soft answer turns away wrath (Proverbs 15:1), how much more will a dozen soft answers?

In Genesis 32:22, Jacob took his family and the rest of his household across the Jabbok River north of Esau’s territory. While both sides of the river were within the territory that God had ultimately promised to Abraham’s descendants, it was a significant geographic boundary separating them from Esau. Jacob had authority from God, but Esau still held most of the actual power, as evidenced by the significant force that accompanied him–100 more men than Abraham fielded in his war against Chedorlaomer in Genesis 14.

Verse 23 says that Jacob “sent them across the stream” and is then left alone in verse 24 for his wrestling match with the angel. However, verse 22 shows that he crossed the Jabbok with his family, probably going back and forth multiple times to lead them across in smaller groups. When his entire household had successfully crossed the river, it appears that Jacob went back by himself, possibly to make one last check for stragglers, just as we might check under all the pillows and in all the drawers of a hotel room before finally checking out.

Even then, the text doesn’t say which side of the river Jacob was on during his encounter with the angel. Most people assume that he was on the north bank since he was by himself, and that seems reasonable but is ultimately unknowable. The antiquity of Genesis necessitates guessing at many dates, names, and locations.

My point is that Jacob didn’t send his family ahead into danger. In 33:1, he is back with his family again, so whether he wrestled on the north or the south bank of the Jabbok, they were never far away.

In 33:1-2, when Jacob could see Esau and his men approaching, he divided his camp again, this time into a column of three groups, with those he valued most at the rear. Bilhah and Zilpah with their children were in the first group, Leah and her children in the next, and Rachel and Joseph in the last. Each of these groups probably included herds, beasts of burden, servants, and armed guards. Even after giving away enormous wealth to Esau, Jacob was likely still a very wealthy man.

Good leaders, fathers, and husbands should almost always be first into danger and the last to escape. Verse 3 says plainly that Jacob then went ahead of all these to be the first to meet Esau on the road, bowing seven times along the way. Although we know from Genesis 29:10 that Jacob was a strong man, he didn’t want a fight with Esau, let alone with all of his men. He wisely softened Esau’s heart before they met with generous gifts, shows of humility, and generally treating Esau as an honored lord, all the while putting himself and all his wealth in danger before his wives and children.

Finally, knowing Esau’s fiery character from previous decades spent with him, he seems to have also suspected that Esau’s good will might not last and that his men would not make good company for his family on the road.

In 33:12-15, Esau offered to accompany him on the road, but Jacob found a gracious way to decline: “Let my lord go on ahead of his servant, and I will lead my group slowly, at the pace of the livestock and children, until we reach Seir.” He flattered Esau by acknowledging his ability to travel more quickly, he made himself seem weaker in Esau’s eyes, and he even lied to say that they would join him in Seir, when he had no intention of going there.

Esau responded by offering to leave a group of men behind to guard them on the road, but without their lord present to keep them in check, that might prove even more dangerous than traveling with Esau. Jacob’s response this time was simpler, but even more subtly flattering: “There’s no need. Only let me find favor in your sight.” That last was probably to say that if everyone knew that Jacob was in Esau’s good graces, who would dare try to harm him? So Esau went to Seir and Jacob went to Sukkot.

Jacob, far from being a coward, showed himself to be a generous, determined, and humble leader. He put the well-being of his family ahead of his own, recognizing and avoiding dangers to them, and humiliated himself before the world in order to preserve them. He was far from perfect, but in this episode of his life, Jacob was a model from which all fathers and husbands can learn.

No One Can Serve Two Masters?

No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money. Matthew 6:24 ESV

In Genesis 24, Abraham ordered his servant, Eliezer, to swear by YHWH that he would find a wife for Isaac from among Abraham’s people in Haran.

And Abraham said to his servant, the oldest of his household, who had charge of all that he had, “Put your hand under my thigh, that I may make you swear by the LORD, the God of heaven and God of the earth, that you will not take a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I dwell, but will go to my country and to my kindred, and take a wife for my son Isaac.”
Genesis 24:2-4 ESV

When Eliezer met Rebekah, the daughter of Abraham’s nephew Bethuel, he thanked God for guiding him.

The man bowed his head and worshiped the LORD and said, “Blessed be the LORD, the God of my master Abraham, who has not forsaken his steadfast love and his faithfulness toward my master. As for me, the LORD has led me in the way to the house of my master’s kinsmen.”
Genesis 24:26-27 ESV

Eliezer followed the orders of his master, Abraham, and of his God, YHWH.

However, in Matthew 6:24, Yeshua said, “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.” At first, it sounds as if Yeshua was saying that nobody should ever have any master except God himself, but clearly that’s not what he meant.

The word for “master” in this verse is kurios, which means the same as the English word “master”. It can refer to a teacher, employer, slave owner, nobleman…pretty much anyone who has authority over something. In Ephesians 6:5, Colossians 3:22, and other places, Paul tells slaves to obey their human masters (kurios). In 1 Peter 3:6, Peter holds Sarah up as an example for women because she obeyed her husband and called him lord (kurios). Since God established the authority of judges, husbands, and others, clearly Yeshua didn’t mean “No one can serve two masters” in a strictly literal sense.

This is another of many times that Yeshua employed hyperbole as a teaching tool. The immediate context of his statement was the pursuit of material wealth. Just a few seconds earlier, in verse 19, he said “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth”, and he didn’t mean anyone to take this in a hyperliteral sense either, because it’s not a sin to acquire wealth. Once again, Abraham is a case in point.

The key to understanding what Yeshua meant is in the verses between:

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!
Matthew 6:21-23 ESV

Do you see the world as land to be exploited for every grain of wheat and every lump of coal you can extract? Or do you see it as the property of a higher master entrusted to your care for its health and prosperity?

Eliezer served Abraham by seeking out the best possible wife for Isaac, ultimately serving God by being faithful to his charge. A disciple serves God by serving his master. A wife serves God by serving her husband and caring for her children.

There is no conflict at all between serving God and seeking the wellbeing of one’s family, employers, neighbors, and country, because the wellbeing of all people is tied to their conformity to God’s will. On the other hand, if any authority commands us to disobey God’s clear instructions, then we are obligated to obey God rather than man.

But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men.”
Acts 5:29 ESV

It’s one thing to submit to taxation that we know will be used for wicked purposes; it’s another thing entirely to obey orders to carry out that wickedness with our own hands. It’s one thing for a wife to submit to a criminal husband; it’s another to be an active participant in a criminal enterprise. Where exactly you draw that line in your own circumstances is between you and God.

YHWH is the Creator of everything and everyone and remains the ultimate authority over all people and relationships. So long as we do everything for his ultimate glory and purposes, we serve him by serving others in whatever role he has placed us. If we elevate our own desires–or those of anyone else!–above God’s, we also elevate ourselves above God, rejecting him as Master.

Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’
Matthew 7:21-23 ESV

For the LORD your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.
Deuteronomy 4:24 ESV


Related video…

Man and Woman in the Image of God

Man and woman together were created in the image of God.

Then God 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 birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.
Genesis 1:26-27 ESV

Scripture never explains why God created mankind, but there are some clues we can discern from the Creation narrative.

  • We were created in his image, so our purpose requires being like him in some important ways.
  • Our first command was to “be fruitful and multiple and fill the earth and subdue it”, so our purpose requires a large enough number of us to fill the earth and be its master. (See Be Fruitful and Multiply at the RN Blog.)
  • Adam’s first task was to inventory all the animals so that he would know he was unique and needed a helper of his own kind.
  • Eve’s first task was to assist Adam in his role as the keeper of God’s garden.

Humanity’s mission as God’s stewards over the earth requires us to act as his agents in the world, to be god-like to the plants and animals, much as Moses was to be like a god to Pharaoh (Exodus 7:1). To fill that role adequately, a man needs a wife, and through that relationship, together they act in another of God’s capacities: they create more people.

God created Adam first, and he was the only man to have been created directly in God’s image through divine action rather than through procreation. Even Yeshua, who is God in the flesh, had a body built cell-by-cell within the body of a woman. All others, including Eve, are created in God’s image by being created in Adam’s image.

Moses’ was deliberate and precise in his wording of Genesis 1:27. Consider this very literal translation:

God created the man in his image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

The man in this verse is literally “the man”, ha adam in Hebrew, not “mankind”. While Scripture sometimes refers to mankind collectively as adam, only the first man is ever called Adam as an individual. Throughout Genesis 1 and 2, when Moses referred to the individual characters, he calls the man adam and the woman ishah. (The woman isn’t called “Eve” until the end of chapter 3.)

The Hebrew words used for male and female in v27 are also illustrative. Zakar, the Hebrew for male, comes from a root that means “remembered” or “memorial”, and what is an image but an imprinted memory of something else? Nekevah, the Hebrew for female, is derived from nekev, which means “to pierce”. It might be derived from the wearing of rings, especially in the context of betrothal, or it might be a sexual reference, as crude as that seems to our Western sensibilities. It’s a more functionally oriented word and describes more of who the woman is rather than who she resembles.

Adam was created from dust and the breath of God, while Eve was created from Adam. In 1 Corinthians 11:7-9 Paul pointed out that all mankind as a whole bears the image of God, but men more specifically are that image: “…he is the image and glory of God: but the woman is the glory of the man. For the man is not of the woman; but the woman of the man. Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man.”

Despite all this, the very first task God put to Adam was to learn how incomplete he was without Ishah.

God is neither male nor female, but he has something of both the masculine and the feminine within him; else how could Eve have been created from Adam, who was created in the image of God? When the first part of the substance of Eve was extracted from Adam, both feminine and masculine traits, which he had inherited from God, were passed on to Eve, but in a very different balance. Both men and women have masculine and feminine attributes, and in this they both bear God’s image, but each in different ways and degrees

For example, Adam is the law-giver and protector (inadequate as he might have been in both of those roles) and Eve is the mother and helper. But they are only able to be fully God’s agents in Creation when they are together, not as man and man or woman and woman, but Adam and Eve. They are complements, not Lego blocks that can be swapped out for each other at will.

By God’s original design, a man is unable to be a woman and a woman is unable to be a man. They can fill in for each other in a crippled, temporary sort of way, but one will never be complete without the other. If either disregards their role for any length of time, like any well-designed machine, malfunctions will begin to accumulate in every system: physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual. A person can compensate for that damage for a time through drugs, entertainment and distractions, but that won’t stop the degeneration. It only hides it, enabling a cascade of failures until the whole person is drowning in utter misery.

Hollywood, the legacy media, the National Education Association, and Washington, D.C. are all intent on convincing the world that the only loving thing to do is to encourage injured people to go on destroying their lives. I can’t help but believe they know the damage they are causing and that they actually hate all those they claim to love.

For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
Romans 13:9 ESV

True love isn’t making people feel good about this moment at the expense of the rest of their lives. It’s teaching them to keep God’s commandments, including those that concern sexuality and “gender roles”. If you love your neighbor, you must support the Biblical example of marriage as male and female joined together and oppose the world’s twisted counterfeit.

What Is Marriage?

Then the man said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.” Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. Genesis 2:23-24

Some topics are more personal than others and tend to trigger more emotional reactions. Food and holidays, for example. Or “is that dress white and gold or blue and black” and, of course, marriage and sexual relations.

Although the Bible has a lot to say about marriage, it never explicitly answers the question, “What is marriage?” Probably for the same reason it doesn’t give a precise definition for travel, war, and sacrifice. Everyone in the Bible’s original audience already knew what marriage was, so why waste expensive paper and ink explaining it.

Our world, on the other hand, has become so full of confusion that we need to spell out even the most basic ideas. So, let me begin at the beginning…

Adam gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field, but the man could not find a helper fit for him. So YHWH God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that YHWH God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman (ishah), because she was taken out of Man.” Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.
Genesis 2:20-24

This passage gives us the three most important elements of the definition of marriage.

  1. Marriage exists to help a man fulfill his assigned role in Creation.
  2. Marriage is meant to be a lifelong union of a man and woman.
  3. Marriage was instituted by God from the very beginning.

Marriage Exists to Help Man Fulfill His Mission

Although Genesis 1:28 records that the first collective mission of mankind was to be a caretaker over the earth and all life on it, Adam’s first individual assignment was to evaluate all of the other creatures to see if one of them might serve as a special helper for him. Of course, God knew that none of them would, but he had Adam go through this process so that the man would also know. When Adam was satisfied that none of the animals would meet his requirements, God created a woman, whom Adam named Eve.

Adam and most other creatures were created from the ground, but Eve was created directly from Adam. God didn’t create Eve from Adam’s head or foot, but from his side, showing that she wasn’t supposed to rule over him nor be his slave, but was supposed to be a peer. The woman was to be more like the man than any other creature in heaven or earth, a counterpart who would rule over and care for the earth together with him.

Eve wasn’t created to be exactly like Adam, though, or else God would have created another man and made them hermaphrodites or capable of parthenogenesis. Woman shares in the collective purpose of mankind as God’s stewards on earth, but each woman does so primarily by assisting her husband in his individual mission.

For man was not made from woman, but woman from man. Neither was man created for woman, but woman for man.
1 Corinthians 11:8-9 ESV

I know that doesn’t sit well with many people, but it is the plain teaching of Scripture. Eve was created specifically to be a helper for Adam, and Paul asserts that this principle applies within all marriages.

While the original task of humanity was to be a caretaker of God’s creation, the Fall necessitated a change in mission parameters. Our task now is to expand the Kingdom of God through procreation, evangelism, establishing justice, and generally doing good works according to God’s standards of justice and good. How each individual and family participates in this mission varies in as many ways as there are individuals and families, but you can know this with absolute certainty: A woman’s divinely appointed mission will never be at odds with her husband’s.

All kinds of things can prevent us from fulfilling marriage’s full purpose: illness and other circumstances that might be out of our control, the husband isn’t fulfilling his calling, or the wife isn’t fulfilling hers. However, our circumstances and failings can’t change the reason God created marriage.

Marriage Is a Lifelong Union

Genesis 2:24 says that the relationship of Adam and Eve is to be a pattern for all marriages, that a new marriage is inaugurated when a man leaves his father and mother to become one flesh with his wife.

“One flesh” implies that they are united in a way that would be painful and unnatural to separate and Yeshua confirmed this understanding when he said “They are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” (See Matthew 19:4-6 and Mark 10:6-9.)

“Leaves his father and mother” doesn’t necessarily mean that he physically leaves their dwelling place. The Scriptural example is for extended families normally to live close together, frequently on the same land, and obedience to God’s instructions for the use of the land in Israel requires this. What this statement actually means is that the man steps outside of the nuclear family unit into which he was born and creates a new family still under the broad umbrella of his father’s clan and tribe.

This also doesn’t mean that marriage cannot be ended. God hates both divorce and death, but both happen, whether for good or bad, and both end a marriage. I’ll write more about this another time, but the Torah, Prophets, Yeshua, and Apostles all discuss when it is and is not appropriate to end a marriage. Divorce should be avoided because it breaks something that God didn’t want to be broken, but it is still possible.

Marriage Was Instituted by God

From the very beginning, God intended mankind to be male and female and to be joined in a union that he uses as a metaphor of his relationship with Israel.

Like the Sabbath, marriage was created for mankind’s benefit. Both parties, as well as their children, benefit from the arrangement, especially if it is conducted according to all of God’s instructions. However, also like the Sabbath, God created marriage because it suited his purposes. Every good master provides his servants with the tools necessary to accomplish his assigned tasks. The servant benefits because his job is made easier and more enjoyable. The master benefits because the servant is able to do a better job with greater economy.

Also like the Sabbath, marriage is not a man-made custom and man doesn’t get to define it. People today insist that they can make marriage whatever they want it to be: a man and another man, a woman and herself, and every other perversion one can imagine. Yet, Yeshua said that marriage is “what God has joined together”, so there can be no real question on this score. God makes the rules, not us.

Marriage was the very first government and was created by God to serve as the core of ministry, labor, justice, and civilization. It is a model of God and of our relationship to God and, as God is one (Hebrew echad), man and woman are to be one in spirit and flesh. Marriage benefits us and was created to help us in the work for which we were created, but ultimately both we and marriage belong to God and we have a responsibility to him to protect and honor it.

Bride, Priest, and Citizen

For I feel a divine jealousy for you, since I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ. 2 Corinthians 11:2

And he shall take a wife in her virginity. A widow, or a divorced woman, or a woman who has been defiled, or a prostitute, these he shall not marry. But he shall take as his wife a virgin of his own people, that he may not profane his offspring among his people, for I am YHWH who sanctifies him.
Leviticus 21:13-15

For I feel a divine jealousy for you, since I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ.
2 Corinthians 11:2

The High Priest of Israel was only to marry a virgin of Israel.

For anyone else, there is nothing wrong with marrying a woman who is not a virgin, but, because of his close contact with YHWH, the High Priest had to keep himself to a much higher standard, beyond simple right and wrong. He is also a type of the Messiah, for whom we are preparing ourselves as a bride. In practical terms, it is impossible for us to be pure. Everyone has sinned and therefore the whole body of his people has also sinned. Our theology is corrupt, our behavior is corrupt, our minds and hearts are corrupt. On what basis can Paul say that he intends to present the Church to Messiah Yeshua as a pure virgin?

Solely on the basis of Yeshua’s righteousness imputed to us through his blood which takes away our impurity. He more than covers us, more than forgives us. He cleanses us, making us whole and pure again.

They shall teach my people the difference between the holy and the common, and show them how to distinguish between the unclean and the clean.
Ezekiel 44:23

As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
1 Peter 2:4-5

We have become the bride of Messiah, and we have also been made priests, not of the orders of Aaron or Melchizedek, but that of all believers. From the beginning, when Israel was chosen from among the nations, she was chosen to be God’s bride and a nation of priests to the world. Set apart and made holy, we are tasked with teaching the world the difference between unclean and clean, drawing them closer to their creator and interceding on their behalf.

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.
1 Peter 2:9-11

We are the bride of Christ, we are a nation of priests, and we are citizens of the Kingdom of God.  We have been reborn into the nation of Israel, wild olive shoots grafted into a cultivated tree. As citizens, whether physically circumcised or only spiritually, we are expected to behave ourselves as children of the King, not flaunting privilege, but obeying a higher standard.

Our ultimate purification is yet to come, but until we finally exchange these mortal, corruptible shells for eternal, incorruptible bodies, we must strive to live as pure as we are able, with the aid of God’s Word and Spirit. We can’t be perfect, but we can always be better than we are, one choice, one stop, one word at a time. It’s the least we can do for our ultimate, heavenly High Priest and Husband.

What Does “Help Meet” Mean?

Eve was created to be a help meet for Adam, but what does that really mean? What does the Torah say about marriage for the Christian?

Then the LORD God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.”
Genesis 2:18

Men and Women are Not the Same

According to Adam Clarke (Commentary on the Bible), the Hebrew for “help meet for him,” ezer kenegdo, “implies that the woman was to be a perfect resemblance of the man, possessing neither inferiority nor superiority, but being in all things like and equal to himself.” He was right to an extent.

Mankind, both male and female, is unique among God’s breathing creations, those beings that Scripture calls nephesh, or souls. This is confusing to many English speakers because we often use the terms “soul” and “spirit” interchangeably, but they don’t mean the same thing in the Bible. A soul is a living being, while a spirit is the incorporeal part of a person that carries on the essence of the person after the body dies.1

Eve was like Adam in that she was of the same kind of being, mankind, somewhere between angel and beast. Like Adam, Eve was a living soul in possession of a body, spirit, and mind. She shared his divine mission of caring for the Garden and, by extension, the whole Earth. She shared in his authority and in his role as a connection between the eternal Creator and his temporal creation.

But Eve was never “a perfect resemblance of the man, possessing neither inferiority nor superiority.”The physical differences between men and women are obvious. Sane people do not allow men to compete in women’s athletic events, even if those men are pretending to be women. Every society that has every existed has recognized the sexual dimorphism of humanity, sorting men and women into activities that are best suited to their capabilities. Among hunter-gatherers, men almost always do the hunting, fighting, and heavy lifting, while women almost always do the gardening and textile work, which might be even more challenging in their ways, but don’t require the same strength or speed.3

The mental differences are intuitively apparent to most people. Think of the joke about men being a machine with a single switch and women being another machine covered in switches, dials, gauges, and buttons without a hint of what they’re supposed to do. The joke is an exaggeration, of course, but still close enough to the truth to be funny. The mind is significantly more opaque than the body, so the differences between the sexes is harder to quantify, but the work of many reputable researchers, astute observers of human behavior, and less reputable (but possibly more effective) proponents of dating Game, have established their existence and general parameters beyond reasonable argument.

The spiritual differences between men and women are not so obvious. They are evident, however, in the spiritual and hierarchical roles into which men and women have almost universally organized their activities, in the Creation story of Genesis, and in the many scriptural examples of and references to the differently ordained roles of men and women.

Consider just a handful of many dozens of examples:

  • God repeatedly chose a younger son to inherit the covenants and promises of Abraham, never a daughter, although their wives and daughters certainly participated in those covenants. (Genesis)
  • When God chose someone to lead Israel out of Egypt, he chose Moses rather than Miriam. Only men were appointed by Moses as leaders over the people at God’s direction. Only the sons of Levi are permitted to serve at the Tabernacle and only the sons of Aaron to serve at the altar, although their wives and daughters enjoy some of the benefits of that service.  (Exodus, Numbers)
  • The land of Israel is passed from father to son and only to a daughter if the man had no sons. A woman joins the tribe of her husband–never the other way around–and so a daughter who inherits her fathers land must marry a man of her own tribe in order to keep the land intact. (Numbers)
  • God gave fathers the explicit right to annul the vows of their wives and daughters, but not of their sons, and Paul twice wrote of the obligation of wives to respect and obey their husbands. (Numbers 30, Ephesians, Colossians)

At about this point, some readers might be thinking to themselves, “My! What a misogynist!” But how so? If I say that elms make better shade than palms, does that mean I am somehow anti-palm trees? If I say that dump trucks haul more rocks than do refrigerated panel vans, am I saying anything against refrigerated panel vans? Of course not, to both questions. I am merely pointing out that some things are better at one thing than another.

I am also not saying that women have no legitimate role in ministry or leadership. Although men are more suited to many kinds of leadership and a preponderance of women in leadership is almost certainly a symptom of a society in trouble, God never said, “Thou shalt not suffer a woman to lead.” Scripture records a number of prophetesses and one God-ordained woman who served as the national Judge of Israel at a time when men were weak and cowardly.

Men and women are different physically, mentally, and spiritually, and it would be impossible for them to be equally suitable to performing the same tasks or filling the same roles. To insist otherwise is actually anti-man and anti-woman by disregarding their unique strengths and weaknesses.

A Help Meet for Him

If it’s not clear already, the term “help meet” (often mistakenly given as “help mate”) doesn’t mean that Eve was created to be Adam’s slave. In fact, Moses and David both used the same word to refer to God as their own helper. (Exodus 18:4, Psalm 33:20, 70:5) Surely they didn’t think of YHVH as a personal servant to be summoned and ordered about at will! God is the indisputable superior in those relationships, yet he is still called a helper.

In Ezekiel 12:14, God refers to the personal attendants–whether guards, aides, or mercenaries–of the King of Judah with this same word. So ezer ultimately implies neither inferiority nor superiority. Rather than a servant, ezer implies an ally, an indispensable supporter, and even a rescuer.

The Hebrew phrase ezer kenegdo literally translates to “a helper suitable to him”–“Meet” is an archaic English synonym of “suitable”–and by itself the word doesn’t necessarily imply any kind of hierarchal relationship at all.

So then what does it mean for Eve to be a help meet for Adam?

The fact that she was made specifically for Adam’s purposes, and not for her own, demonstrates that God’s intended purpose for her was to assist Adam in his divinely appointed mission, not to launch a separate mission of her own.

Genesis 2:15 says that God placed Adam in the Garden to keep it, but he immediately recognized that Adam could not effectively perform the task unaided, and so v18 says “It is not good that the man should be alone.” Before God created Eve, he brought all of the animals to Adam to examine and name them. The naming is explicit in the text, while the examination is implied by the context and the ancient Hebrew practice of naming a thing according to its character and behavior.

The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him.
Genesis 2:20

A Perfect Complement

One of the purposes of this naming exercise was to demonstrate to Adam that none of these lesser creatures could ever be an adequate help in Adam’s primary task of caring for the Garden. God created Eve immediately afterward and, from God’s reaction, we can know that Adam was acutely aware of the animals’ entire deficiency:

Then the man said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.”
Genesis 2:23

Eve was like Adam in a manner that no other creature could approach. She walked on two feet and manipulated the world with hands, fingers, and opposable thumbs, just like Adam. She spoke, laughed, reasoned, and loved like Adam, and, like Adam, she was, in her being, the image of God and carried within her the same breath that God exhaled into him.

God didn’t create Eve merely to be Adam’s friend, but she was his friend more profoundly than any of the animals could ever be. A horse can bear a man across country, a dog can show him affection, and an ox can help him plow a field, but none of these can carry on a conversation, help him solve a complex problem, bear his children, or offer him any wisdom. A wife can do all of these things and more.

Eve was Adam’s perfect complement.

It is abnormal for a woman to lead a nation or to be a spiritual teacher over men, but it is certainly no sin, and it is sometimes quite necessary. When a woman steps into a leadership role because the man who should be there is unavailable, unable, or unwilling, she is, in fact, fulfilling her purpose as a “helper suitable to Adam”. It’s a long way from God’s original ideal, but, in his wisdom, his plan included remedies for less than ideal conditions, and we should all thank God for women who are willing to step up to leadership roles when men fail!

God created Adam and appointed him to a task before he created Eve. From this we know that Eve’s purpose is to aid Adam. But God also purposefully created Adam incomplete and unable to perform the task to which he had been set, so that he would love Eve and fully appreciate his need for her.

I suspect that we would all live happier, more fulfilling lives if we didn’t fight so hard against God’s plan and instead used it as a blueprint for our marriages, families, and civil governments.

End Notes

1 Major tangent: Like God, man is a tripartite being, a living soul, made up of body, spirit, and mind. Our bodies are made up of numerous, complex organs and systems that are also made up of complex, interconnected systems. Our consciousnesses, the part of our thoughts and minds that can’t be dissected and objectively measured, also appear to contain separate systems and components. What about our spirits? We know almost nothing about them, and anyone who claims otherwise is most likely either a con-artist or under demonic influence. However, we do know that God’s Spirit is seven-fold in some manner (Isaiah 11:2; Revelation 1:4, 3:1, etc.) and probably more complex in ways that we couldn’t possibly understand. What might that say about our own spirits? Or about the anatomy (for lack of a better word) of the rest of God? Purely academic questions, of course. There’s no way to answer them and probably little value in spending a lot of time thinking about it.

2 I’m sure Clarke never meant to imply that men and women are equal in a mathematical sense, but many people to day really do believe his statement to be literally true despite all evidence and reason.

3 Goldberg, Stephen. The Inevitability of Patriarchy. New York: William Morrow & Company, Inc., 1974. 228. “…the central fact is that men and women are different from each other from the gene to the thought to the act and that emotions that underpin masculinity and femininity, that make reality as experienced by the male eternally different from that experienced by the female, flow from the biological natures of man and woman…the women of every society have taken the paths they have not because they were forced by men but because they have followed their own imperatives.”

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Patriarchy, Feminism, and the Government of a Godly People

The antidote to feminism isn't patriarchy, but repentance.

And I will make boys their princes, and infants shall rule over them. And the people will oppress one another, every one his fellow and every one his neighbor; the youth will be insolent to the elder, and the despised to the honorable. For a man will take hold of his brother in the house of his father, saying: “You have a cloak; you shall be our leader, and this heap of ruins shall be under your rule”; in that day he will speak out, saying: “I will not be a healer; in my house there is neither bread nor cloak; you shall not make me leader of the people.”

…My people—infants are their oppressors, and women rule over them. O my people, your guides mislead you and they have swallowed up the course of your paths. The LORD has taken his place to contend; he stands to judge peoples. The LORD will enter into judgment with the elders and princes of his people: “It is you who have devoured the vineyard, the spoil of the poor is in your houses. What do you mean by crushing my people, by grinding the face of the poor?” declares the Lord GOD of hosts. The LORD said: Because the daughters of Zion are haughty and walk with outstretched necks, glancing wantonly with their eyes, mincing along as they go, tinkling with their feet, therefore the Lord will strike with a scab the heads of the daughters of Zion, and the LORD will lay bare their secret parts….Your men shall fall by the sword and your mighty men in battle. And her gates shall lament and mourn; empty, she shall sit on the ground.

And seven women shall take hold of one man in that day, saying, “We will eat our own bread and wear our own clothes, only let us be called by your name; take away our reproach.” In that day the branch of the LORD shall be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the land shall be the pride and honor of the survivors of Israel. And he who is left in Zion and remains in Jerusalem will be called holy, everyone who has been recorded for life in Jerusalem, when the Lord shall have washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion and cleansed the bloodstains of Jerusalem from its midst by a spirit of judgment and by a spirit of burning. Then the LORD will create over the whole site of Mount Zion and over her assemblies a cloud by day, and smoke and the shining of a flaming fire by night; for over all the glory there will be a canopy. There will be a booth for shade by day from the heat, and for a refuge and a shelter from the storm and rain.

Isaiah 3:4-4:6 (abbreviated)

A Nation of Weak Men

This prophecy in Isaiah concerned the ancient nations of Israel and Judah as well as the coming Messiah and His Kingdom, but there are still lessons for us to learn from the example. Look at the sins that brought about this punishment from God: men refusing to take leadership, teachers leading the people astray, oppression by selfish rulers, oppression of neighbor against neighbor, promiscuity, vanity and dominion of women.

When the men God called to leadership refuse to take it, women, children, and fools take it instead. God brings down the proud and avenges the oppressed. He will not sit idly by forever. In time, God will purge His people so that only those worthy and those willing to accept His ways will survive. Men will accept the role that God assigned to them as the heads of their families and the leaders of their people. Women will accept the role that God assigned to them as their husbands’ assistants and supporters.

“In that day, seven women will take hold of one man,” the prophet says, and today’s western Christian immediately recoils in horror at the thought. “What!? Women subjecting themselves to the authority of a man?” But this is not a part of the sin, this is a part of the healing process. When men turn to God and accept the leadership He desires for them, and when women turn to their men and accept the headship that God has placed over them, then we will begin to truly see what God can do with His people.

The Symptoms of Decline

These things are specifically listed in Chapter 3 as being good things that God would take away as punishment for their sins; they are the support and sustenance of a nation:

  • Food and water
  • Strong men and soldiers
  • Judges, prophets, administrators, elders, military commanders, honorable men, skilled craftsmen, and eloquent speakers

These things are listed as either sinful or the terrible consequences of the absence of those things listed above:

  • Government by women, children, and weak-minded men
  • Infighting
  • Disrespect for elders
  • Elevation of the disreputable above the honorable
  • Prideful and vain women

The pattern should be obvious. The first list is typical of a well-ordered, patriarchal society. The second is typical of a feminized democracy. Except for the judgeship of Deborah when no man was willing to stand up for the whole people, God’s mandated leadership throughout all of Israel’s history was masculine. Every one of God’s specially appointed kings, priests, elders, and judges (with that one exception) was a man. The only times when women led the nation were times of turmoil and weak-willed men.

Feminism Is an Effect, not the Cause of Trouble

I do not mean that no woman should ever be in a leadership position, or that it is somehow a sin for a woman to have authority over men. Some women are well suited for leadership, and some leadership positions are best occupied by women, and there is no command in God’s Law against women holding leadership positions. We should thank Him that there are competent and willing women available to take charge when all of the men have advocated their responsibilities!

None the less, any society with a significant percentage of its leadership positions–civil, business, family, or religious–occupied by women is already in serious trouble. A healthy society will always be governed primarily by godly men.

Humble Righteousness Is the Cure

If weak and selfish men are the disease and feminism a symptom, what is the cure?

Repentance.

In Isaiah 4, the healing begins with the repentance of women, but if that’s as far as it went, then there would have been no real healing at all. Ultimately, national healing requires the humble repentance of men.

We could take back the reins of power, take the vote away from women, and re-establish men-only universities and clubs… But without godliness, that would only replace one tyranny with another.

The solution to crime, corruption, and decaying public morality isn’t patriarchy in itself, but humble, righteous men picking up their divinely appointed staffs and mantles in their homes, churches, and synagogues. Be the men that God intended for you to be. Live righteously. Keep the commandments. Ensure justice for the oppressed–the legitimately oppressed, not people who merely imagine themselves to be oppressed–the widows and orphans.

When we obey God, when we follow his standards in our personal lives and in our homes, the rest will fall into place naturally.

Burning Down the House with Strange Fire

Nadab and Abihu evidently held to the same maxim as feminism and today's emasculated church: "Listen to your heart."

Leviticus 10:1-11 “Nadab and Abihu…offered strange fire before the LORD, which he commanded them not.”

When addressing the age-old spiritual pathologies of feminism, humanism, and hedonism, there is no passage more appropriate than Jeremiah 17:9. “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?”

Nadab and Abihu evidently held to the same maxim as feminism and today’s emasculated church: “Listen to your heart.”

I believe they meant well. They wanted to express their devotion to God in a dramatic way, but it is not man’s place to decide when, where, or how to worship God.

Perhaps the most difficult aspect of this story to understand is Moses’ instruction to Aaron and his remaining sons. They were not allowed to touch the bodies nor show any grief or sympathy for the two dead men. They appear to have been in the middle of consecrating the Tabernacle for its first use, and Moses said that if they were to leave the Tabernacle or disrupt the ceremony before the consecration was complete, they would die. That’s not because they were weak, but because there are dangerous spiritual forces at work in the world, both good and evil.

Remember Uzzah.

God allows us a wide margin of freedom in showing our love for him, as fathers do their children, but every good father imposes rules for the health and safety of his family. There are some tasks in a house which are only appropriate for more mature children and only appropriate at certain times and when done in certain manners.

There are also tasks in God’s kingdom which he has set apart with more specific guidelines, and not all of them have to do with the Levitical Priesthood. In fact, most of them don’t.

God also gave us instructions on crime and punishment, clothing, diet, and family relationships. None of his instructions are arbitrary. They are all given for our benefit, to keep God’s house healthy and family safe.

He appointed men to be the heads of their wives and the spiritual coverings of their houses, for example. When they abdicate their authority, their families suffer. When women attempt to take on those roles, they are more likely to be harmed than blessed, not because women are weaker, but because they are the wrong tools for the job. A voltmeter is a great tool, but it makes a very poor hammer.

When our hearts lead us to actions contrary to God’s design, they deceive us and leave us vulnerable to consequences which we might not foresee or to attacks against which we are not prepared to defend. It’s better to accept God’s design without understanding than to rely on your own understanding and be burned like Nadab and Abihu.

When a wife consciously rejects her husband’s covering–or a child rejects his father’s or, indeed, when any person rejects the covering of God’s instructions–based solely on the feelings in her heart she must accept the consequences of her own actions. Courts and other sympathizers who would blame her husband for her actions insult the woman by treating her as completely incapable of controlling herself, and they treat her husband unjustly.

Nadab and Abihu walked their own path instead of the one that God had mapped out for them. No one forced them to act outside the covering of their priestly calling. They were not deceived by anything outside themselves, and no one else could accept any blame. They followed their hearts and they died for it.

God will not hold them blameless who hold their own hearts higher than his Law.