Before the first sin was the first evil desire, which led to the first sin.
The first evil desire was that man wanted to rule over another man, a female man. A man wanted his words to another man to be equal with God’s words. A man wanted to be sovereign over another man. A man wanted to be the ruler over another man, to do as he pleased, whatever he might want, without regard to God’s commandment. In this desire, to be lord and master over another man, that he would have more power than another man, that he would possess as much as another man, even if it was forbidden by God, even in disobeying God’s will, this is what led to the first sin.
And so it was only a continuation of the first man’s evil desire which led to sin, when God told the weaker man that the stronger man would rule over him. In the beginning God made man, male and female made He them, in His image and after His likeness. And the first sin was all about the stronger man wanting to rule over the weaker man, in clear disobedience to God. God’s original intent was clearly for God to rule over each man, male or female, individually and directly. And it was the stronger man’s desire to rule over the weaker man, instead of God’s rule, which led to the first sin.
As history progressed, this evil desire, which was the core of the first sin, took several forms. The first form was a male-man ruling over a female-man. Next, a male-man ruling over several female-men. Then soon to follow was a male-man ruling over another male-man, and then a male-man ruling over many male-men, and female-man followed suit as well. And in all cases, this is oppression.
(If you have not read the prior article on Romans 13 then go here and read it first, then return here.)
The first sinful construct man made contrary to God’s will should be the most obvious, which was the idea that a man owned his wife. Next, the man owned many “wives” or “concubines”. He also owned his children, and continued to own his female children even upon maturity.
Then a man came to own another man. Then a man came to own many men.
To quote Joshua in the movie The 10 Commandments,
God made men. Men made slaves.
Indeed it is true. Male-men made slaves, first of female-men, then of other male-men.
How did this come about? We can see the immoral tactics used by Adam to rule over Eve, and how she took to this so easily, as a woman was designed to be trusting and want a man to love her. Truly, God made women to naturally follow and submit to a man, and this is God’s will, but this is in fact the opposite of a man ruling over her, and was always meant to be balanced out in love and equality. But as it was not, it is easy to understand that as he took authority over her, which God never gave him, he also claimed more authority than her over the children as well. The sons grew to fill his shoes, and were like him, and the daughters he kept or gave away ultimately as he saw fit, having more say than their mother, who he oppressed in ruling over her.
And Adam’s sons were like Adam. That Adam envied that Eve could eat of a single tree he could not eat of, and was willing to lie to her, disobey God, and even with his sin cause her to die, all of this iniquity was visited upon his sons, and passed down through him.
Gen 4:3-8 And in the process of time it came to pass that Cain brought an offering of the fruit of the ground to the LORD. Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat. And the LORD respected Abel and his offering, but He did not respect Cain and his offering. And Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell. So the LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, your sin offering lies at the door. And it will return to you, and you should master it.” Now Cain talked with Abel his brother; and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him.
Who does not know the story of Cain and Abel? Cain the first-born was like Adam, and envying his brother’s favor with God, like Adam envied Eve over what seemed as favor, and Cain was willing to kill his brother Abel, just as in eating from the tree, Adam caused Eve to die. The stories are very closely paralleled, showing the traits of the father passed on to his sons. And a man who could not rule over another man, or beat him in competition, would kill him.
The tactics a man used over his wife to oppress her, rule over her, and dominate her, from the beginning, are clearly seen in the words of Lamech, who was Cain’s great-great-great-grandson. Lamech was the first man to mock God’s construct of marriage, as God designed it to be. He was the first man to practice polygamy. How did he rule over 2 wives, as he was outnumbered?
“And Lamech took unto him two wives:
the name of the one was Adah, and the name of the other Zillah….
And Lamech said unto his wives,
Adah and Zillah, Obey my voice; ye wives of Lamech,
be obedient unto my speech:
for I have slain a man to my wounding, and a boy child to my hurt.
If Cain shall be avenged sevenfold, truly Lamech seventy and sevenfold.” Gen 4:19,23-24
There are several things to note here. The first as underlined, is that Lamech made a big point to his wives that they were owned by him, like his possessions. They knew he was their husband and they were his “wives” that he had taken. He was not saying this to them to remind them they were married, but rather to make it clear to them that he considered them his possessions, like he owned them.
And what does he tell them? To obey him and to be obedient to his voice.
Why? Because he has killed a boy child, even to his own hurt and wounding. Essentially, he makes it clear to them that he is capable of killing a child, even if later he feels pain about it. So, he tells his wives to obey him because he is capable of killing a child, even a child that it will hurt him later to have killed, a child he implies he therefore has some love for. Now what would that bring to mind but their own children? It implies ‘Obey him, his owned wives, because he is capable of killing your children, even a child you think he cares for.’ And after this, he makes it clear that he has killed a child, and implies he could do it again, but God will not punish him for it, and he will get away with it.
And he also adds to God’s Word to his “wives”, as Adam did with Eve, and passes his own words off to them like they are the words of God. Apparently he believes that God will not punish him for murdering a child, or at least he wants his wives to believe this, and he tells them this because he wants them to obey him.
Though he says he has killed a child it is unknown if he actually did, or if all of this was just said to threaten his wives so they would obey him, using their love for their children as a weapon against them. The Bible does not record that Lamech killed anyone, and it is entirely possible that he lied and made all of this up just to cause his wives to fear for the lives of their children if they did not obey him.
And so, the first polygamist ruled over his “wives”.
Now, were they actually both married to him? Jesus teaches a resounding NO.
“Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” Matt 19:4-6
“But at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female.‘ For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” Mark 10:6-9, And also see
For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. Eph 5:31
Jesus twice confirms, and also God through Paul, that marriage is the union of TWO people, 1 Man and 1 Woman. It is God that joins them together into one flesh. This is something God does, and that God alone is sovereign over. It is not and has never been up to the will of man to join himself to a woman in marriage, but in fact God joins them together in what is marriage before God in His sight. Marriage in the sight of Jesus, of God, is only the union of 1 man and 1 woman, and that is the same as it always has been from the beginning. And how it works has never been up to man. God joins people in marriage, according to His will, not according to the will of men. God also grants divorce according to His will, not according to the will of man. Men’s laws do not matter, as to what men say marriage is or when divorce can occur. In truth, God has always retained complete sovereignty over marriage and divorce. Men’s laws they have made about it have never changed a thing.
And so while the Bible often records that a man had many “wives”, the truth is that men at the time called them “wives” and this was the word they used, but in truth they were never their wives. But as daughters were given in marriage, and as men took women to possess them, this is how it was, and women had little or no choice over it.
At this time, there was no custom of betrothal. Essentially, a man “took” a wife, and that is exactly what he did. At this time, men married their sisters at first, and when he had reached an age to find her attractive, he “took” her, and then she was his wife. Because men ruled over their wives, considering them “owned” in a way, so they also “owned” their daughters, and gave them away in marriage as well. This was the time before the flood, and the custom of Jewish betrothal was not yet around. But of course, if a man laid with a girl and wronged her, he would have to deal with her father, especially if a father loved his daughter and was offended. So surely they worked it out amongst themselves, but a girl had no recourse or real choice about who she married, beyond what love her father had for her, that he might wish her to be happy and protect her or give her some choice in the matter.
The next instance of polygamy mentioned is in Gen 6:2
That the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose.
In this case, they each took many wives, of all which they chose. Shortly thereafter, God destroyed the world with a flood. No matter what you think of the strange phrase “sons of God” as to who they were, the fact is that they took multiple “wives”, and likely set an example for other men around them to do the same, making polygamy more common in that time. Along the lines of “Hey, the sons of God, who sure have an important title, are taking lots of wives, let’s be like them and do that too.”
And it is interesting to note that Noah had one wife, a man of whom God says,
These are the records of the generations of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his time; Noah walked with God. Gen 6:9
Not that Noah was without sin or perfect, but in his time, he was a righteous man. And he had one wife. All the more interesting is that in a culture which allowed and accepted polygamy, each of Noah’s sons had 1 wife each. And these 4 married couples were saved from the flood, only 8 souls, one man and one woman each.
After the flood, God said, in Gen 9:6, Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man.
And so the threat of Lamech to his “wives” was made void, as no longer could a man threaten to kill a woman’s child and get away with it, or say God was protecting him, in trying to rule over her. Surely, there was more good reason for God to say this, but noting the words of Lamech, it is interesting.
After the flood is the first time we see both kings, and slaves. The first time that a servant is mentioned in the Bible, of one person being over another person, is,
He took his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, all the possessions they had accumulated and the people they had acquired in Haran, and they set out for the land of Canaan, and they arrived there. Gen 12:5
In this case this is a broad term. In Gen 13:8 some of these people are specified to be herdsmen, as Abraham owned many cattle. And so some of these people may have been his employees, who worked for him with pay. But not all were: some were servants or slaves who were essentially owned.
In Gen 14:1 there is the first mention of kings of a particular city, and the kings of various cities banding together to make war against other bands of kings of little cities. In the fighting, Abraham’s nephew Lot is taken captive, to be made a slave. In some extreme irony, Abraham takes his slaves who were born in his house, and they all go with him to rescue his nephew Lot from the fate of slavery. This is a very informative passage, Gen 14:11-24:
And they took all the goods of Sodom and Gomorrah, and all their victuals, and went their way. And they took Lot, Abram’s brother’s son, who dwelt in Sodom, and his goods, and departed. And there came one that had escaped, and told Abram the Hebrew; for he dwelt in the plain of Mamre the Amorite, brother of Eshcol, and brother of Aner: and these were confederate with Abram. And when Abram heard that his brother was taken captive, he armed his trained slaves, born in his own house 318, and pursued them unto Dan. And he divided himself against them, he and his slaves, by night, and smote them, and pursued them unto Hobah, which is on the left hand of Damascus. And he brought back all the goods, and also brought again his brother Lot, and his goods, and the women also, and the people. And the king of Sodom went out to meet him after his return from the slaughter of Chedorlaomer, and of the kings that were with him, at the valley of Shaveh, which is the king’s dale. And Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine: and he was the priest of the most high God. And he blessed him, and said, Blessed be Abram of the most high God, possessor of heaven and earth: And blessed be the most high God, which hath delivered thine enemies into thy hand. And he gave him tithes of all. And the king of Sodom said unto Abram, Give me the persons, and take the goods to thyself. And Abram said to the king of Sodom, I have lift up mine hand unto the LORD, the most high God, the possessor of heaven and earth, That I will not take from a thread even to a shoelatchet, and that I will not take any thing that is thine, lest thou shouldest say, I have made Abram rich: Save only that which the young men have eaten, and the portion of the men which went with me, Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre; let them take their portion.
We can learn several things from this passage. Abraham was horrified enough about his nephew being taken captive, to be made a slave, that he takes over 318 of his own slaves to go rescue him. These 318 men had been born in his house, and essentially were under his rule, and he owned them. By definition, a slave is a slave when they are born into slavery, and so there is no confusion here that these 318 men were in fact slaves, not servants by choice or indentured. There were also likely ones that had not been born in his own house that went too, that he likely had purchased. He did not want this fate to become a slave to befall his nephew Lot. Lot also owned many people, and when Abraham rescues Lot, he also brings back Lot’s women, possessions, and people. Those would be the people that Lot had as servants or slaves. Later the king of Sodom tells Abraham to take the goods, but to give him the people, which means he would take them as slaves. Abraham insists that he does not want the possessions, agreeing for the king to take the slaves. But Abraham insists that the 3 men who went with him should take their portion, who are Aner, Eshcol and Mamre.
Funny, it seems like at least 318 men went to battle with Abraham, but yet he only asks for 3 men to have a portion of the spoils. Why? Because those 3 men were free men, and leaders of their own estate of slaves and servants. The rest of the men, the 318 slaves, were not considered to be equally as men, because they were slaves, born into slavery. Now, there is every reason to think that they were treated well, more like servants than slaves, but nevertheless they were not considered equally men as Abraham, Aner, Eshcol, Mamre, and Lot, who all had slaves under them.
And so we see both kings of cities, and also rich free men of power like Abraham who had many servants or slaves under them. Were these slaves all male? No. They were also women. And the first time we see the concept of a “concubine”, a female slave that a man has sex with, although she is not his wife, is in the case of Hagar, Sarah, and Abraham. And while men invented polygamy, of many “wives”, and women had no choice about it, Sarah was the first person recorded to have made a slave into a “concubine”.
Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. But she had an Egyptian slave named Hagar; so she said to Abram, “The LORD has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my slave; perhaps I can build a family through her.” Abram agreed to what Sarai said. So after Abram had been living in Canaan ten years, Sarai his wife took her Egyptian slave Hagar and gave her to her husband to be his wife. He slept with Hagar, and she conceived. When she knew she was pregnant, she began to despise her mistress(owner). Then Sarai said to Abram, “You are responsible for the wrong I am suffering. I put my slave in your arms, and now that she knows she is pregnant, she despises me. May the LORD judge between you and me.” “Your slave is in your hands,” Abram said. “Do with her whatever you think best.” Then Sarai mistreated Hagar; so she fled from her. The angel of the LORD found Hagar near a spring in the desert; it was the spring that is beside the road to Shur. And he said, “Hagar, slave of Sarai, where have you come from, and where are you going?” “I’m running away from my mistress Sarai (owner)” she answered. Then the angel of the LORD told her, “Go back to your mistress(owner) and submit to her.” The angel added, “I will increase your descendants so much that they will be too numerous to count.”
And so while it is entirely possible that men did sleep with their female slaves before this, the problem is that then the owner has sons and daughters by the female slave, who stood to inherit. Which is a likely reason why men did not have actual intercourse with their female slaves. There was a class system of owners and slaves in this society, and the two did not mix so that a man’s heirs were from a slave. Sarah gives Hagar to be Abraham’s second wife, but when it doesn’t work out as Hagar hates Sarah, Abraham makes clear that she is still Sarah’s slave. She was not given her freedom at any point. When Sarah her owner then mistreats her, she runs away. And then God tells Hagar to go back to her owner and submit to her, and comforts her that He will bless her.
And this is the concept of a concubine… she is not a wife, and does not have the rights of a wife, but she is used for sex and/or offspring, and is essentially a female slave. As women could not prevent a husband from taking a second “wife” of the status of a “wife”, it seems women were themselves willing to mistreat other women, making them “concubines” or sex slaves, so that they could retain more power. And some of it had to do with whether a woman was free or a slave to start with.
But it should be understood that the sin of Adam to rule over others did not just pass to men, but also to women. Where they could, women also were sinful, and wanted to rule over others, slaves, even female slaves, even in this case to have her be used for sex, and then in Sarah imagining to steal Hagar’s child as her own. Which of course did not work, and was proven a foolish idea, as she could not nurse nor bond with this child like his mother could. But make no mistake, the nature of women was also to sinfully rule over others, slaves, and women. They learned to mistreat their own gender and others, but truly it was men who first set this example for women to follow in.
For many people, it might be upsetting that God seems to condone slavery here, in telling Hagar to return to her master and submit to her. God does not condone slavery. But what would you have had God do? Send multitudes of angels to rule over man, forcing them not to enslave each other and treat each other right? God gave people free will, and with it men made slaves of women and other men, and women followed suit, and men ruled over other men. God has always wanted people to choose to love Him and obey Him and be righteous as He is, by choice. God could not allow for people to have free will to be good or bad, love Him or not, obey Him or not, and at the same time force the sinful world to turn upside-down so as to abolish all sin. That is an important thing to understand when reading the Bible, especially the Old Testament, that God worked with people where they were. God tried to help people to be moral, within systems that they insisted upon and were stuck in.
And keep in mind also, that as a few people accumulated wealth and land, soon it was all owned.
A person without anything in many cases might want an owner or master, to be their slave or servant, much like today a person needs an employer to earn a living. Back then, why would a man pay another man for work, when he could take him captive and force him to work or die, or even find men who would beg him to take care of them as they had nothing, if they committed to obey him and be his slave. People were slaves and servants by choice in some cases, because they could not feed themselves nor have shelter any other way, as the land and food was owned by others. But others were born into slavery, considered subhuman from birth by class, and had no choice over this at all.
Still, all this was rooted in the same desire for a man to rule over other man, as Adam first tried to do with Eve, and all of this in complete contradiction of God’s true law for men to love their neighbors as themselves, and for God’s clear desire seen in Eden, for God to directly rule over each person.
And Sarah eventually regretted her decision to do this to her slave Hagar, as she found it of no benefit to herself, but not out of compassion for Hagar. And so she sent her away with her son, after Sarah had her own son Isaac. What a terrible thing, to be a female slave, forced to have sex, forced to bear a child, and then cast out of her home with no husband, and only with a water bottle and a little food. (Gen 21) But because God’s hand was on her and her child, and God told Abraham he would take care of them, Abraham did all this, and sent her away with God’s reassurance. But if anyone wants to think that women back then were considered to have much rights, or thought of as mattering in how they felt or were treated, please have no illusions. Male slaves were seen as less than men, and so were wives and daughters seen as less than men and even as little as almost nothing, but a female slave was seen as less than nothing.
And this is Sarah and Abraham, whom God chose to bless the world through! Were they the cream of the crop, the most righteous couple around? Apparently so. If they were “good people”, the best humanity had to offer, while all else were in blindness and sin, how terrible were the bad ones?
If even the “good” people who had no law and had not been taught of sin, owned slaves and would do this to a female slave, what were the bad people like?
The Bible teaches that Lot, Abraham’s nephew, was a just man, but was oppressed and his soul was vexed because he was living in Sodom, and thus was in temptation to be evil like those around him, and struggled not to be.
“And delivered just Lot, vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked: (For that righteous man dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed [his] righteous soul from day to day with [their] unlawful deeds;) The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished:” 2 Pet 2:7-9
Lot is said to have been delivered out of temptation, by the angels that destroyed the city. And he was vexed or oppressed by the evil all around him, which did lead him to be tempted to do evil. Lot is an example of a good man, but who under oppression and in blindness, was tempted and willing to do something terribly wicked, but the angels delivered him and his daughters out of Sodom.
The two angels arrived at Sodom in the evening, and Lot was sitting in the gateway of the city. When he saw them, he got up to meet them and bowed down with his face to the ground. “My lords,” he said, “please turn aside to your servant’s house. You can wash your feet and spend the night and then go on your way early in the morning.” “No,” they answered, “we will spend the night in the square.” But he insisted so strongly that they did go with him and entered his house. He prepared a meal for them, baking bread without yeast, and they ate. Before they had gone to bed, all the men from every part of the city of Sodom—both young and old—surrounded the house. They called to Lot, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us so that we can have sex with them.” Lot went outside to meet them and shut the door behind him and said, “No, my friends. Don’t do this wicked thing. Look, I have two daughters who have never slept with a man. Let me bring them out to you, and you can do what you like with them. But don’t do anything to these men, for they have come under the protection of my roof.” “Get out of our way,” they replied. “This fellow came here as a foreigner, and now he wants to play the judge! We’ll treat you worse than them.” They kept bringing pressure on Lot and moved forward to break down the door. But the men inside reached out and pulled Lot back into the house and shut the door. Then they struck the men who were at the door of the house, young and old, with blindness so that they could not find the door. The two men said to Lot, “Do you have anyone else here—sons-in-law, sons or daughters, or anyone else in the city who belongs to you? Get them out of here, because we are going to destroy this place. The outcry to the LORD against its people is so great that he has sent us to destroy it.” So Lot went out and spoke to his sons-in-law, who were pledged to marry his daughters. He said, “Hurry and get out of this place, because the LORD is about to destroy the city!” But his sons-in-law thought he was joking. With the coming of dawn, the angels urged Lot, saying, “Hurry! Take your wife and your two daughters who are here, or you will be swept away when the city is punished.” Gen 19:1-15
Lot, being oppressed in his soul by the evil around him, and fearful of all the men of Sodom actually being able to rape these angels, Lot was tempted and willing to do something terrible, which was to let these men rape his daughters instead, even with them being pledged to fiancés. However, had the men said yes to this offer, it is clear the angels would not have allowed the men to rape the daughters of Lot, but still would have stricken them with blindness. Lot’s actions were very wrong, and were the actions of one oppressed and tempted, and fearful of what could happen if these angels were raped by these men, as to what God would do in reaction, most likely.
And this fear of God, however misplaced, seems to be what motivated him to be willing to allow this to happen to his daughters. However, the angels took care of the situation, and blinded the men.
But it cannot be denied that beyond this, even the “good” men of that time saw women as less than men, expendable, usable, property, and their hearts were hardened to their pain, feelings, and they did not see them as having rights. Even a “good” man at the time saw women as less than nothing. Much better for a woman to be gang-raped and helpless to a crowd of men, then for a man, especially an angel-man from God, to be raped. And the cowardice here also must be noted. But God delivered them all out of this situation.
And so that was Lot, a just man but who fell to temptation because he was oppressed by the evil around him, oppressed in his soul. And God was there to deliver him, as he was falling into temptation, but delivered. The angels had their own way to deal with the men of Sodom, which it seems they intended from the beginning, as they had intended to stay the night in the square, and only went to Lot’s home because of his insistence. Though Lot is still an example of how men saw women at that time, as less than men and expendable. It should also be noted that the Bible also states “So when God destroyed the cities of the plain, he remembered Abraham, and he brought Lot out of the catastrophe that overthrew the cities where Lot had lived.” Which implies Lot was rescued for Abraham’s sake. (Gen 19:29)
As for the men in Sodom, they were evil enough to be destroyed by God. They were not content to gang-rape 2 virgin girls, but were determined to gang-rape 2 men who had come to visit their city. And so it can be gathered by the way that women were treated at the time, that being able to rape a woman, either a slave, or take her to be your wife, had become so passé and common that it was just a normal thing, and did not give men an apparently desired feeling of ruling over another. Or perhaps by custom, if they did, they would have to provide for a child, and marry them. But they were not seeking just sex, nor just to rule over a woman’s body by rape. And what is rape but ruling over another’s body as well as will? And to rule over a woman, was not as desirable for the men of Sodom. To rule over a free man was more desirable, and seemingly even to bond with other men in your city by doing this together seems to have had some aspect of feeling their superiority over foreigners. And for this, being so evil and vile, they were judged and destroyed. Keep in mind, they very likely had done this before, and did this when visiting men came to their city. The angels originally wanted to stay the night in the square, to see for themselves if the reports were true.
Gen 18:20-21 And the LORD said, “Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grave, I will go down now and see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry against it that has come to Me; and if not, I will know.”
And why was this sin against other men so great as for them to be destroyed, but slavery of men and women was not in itself enough for God to destroy men? This is an important question that deserves an answer, even begs for understanding, lest someone think sodomy is a worse sin than slavery and rape of a woman, both which Abraham committed, and Sarah participated in or did also.
And there is a satisfactory answer. It seems in many ways, that a man (or woman) was judged by God by his conscience, not by his actions. Truly the Bible says Abraham was declared righteous because of his faith, not because of his works. “for we say that faith was reckoned to Abraham for righteousness” (Rom 4:9). And his faith in God was likely very dependent upon his conscience. “Holding faith, and a good conscience; which some having put away concerning faith have made shipwreck” (1 Tim 1:19) A person who violates their conscience shipwrecks their faith, faith which was reckoned as righteousness in Abraham, and the same principle is true for Christians today.
It seems true that women and slaves were not considered as real people by most free men at that time.
In truth, they were not considered a man’s “neighbors” to that man, but just his property, or less-than-neighbor, or less-than-man, less human than himself. And even a slave woman was considered less than human to a free woman. Violating slaves and women, as they were less-than-human, did not violate a man’s conscience. Nor a woman’s conscience. So sins against a woman or slave were not going to dirty a man’s conscience and come between him and his faith in God. This seems to be precisely the case with men God chose, such as Abraham, not that they were sinless, but they were innocent in their sins because they truly did not understand they were wrong. Abraham was a slave owner, as was Sarah, and both were fine with raping a slave. But they did not understand this was wrong, and it did not violate their consciences. They were blind. And in this blindness, of a clean conscience, they still could have great faith in God. And it was because of Abraham’s faith that God counted it to him as righteousness.
Which differed greatly from the men of Sodom. To violate another free man by rape did violate the conscience of a free man, because the free men recognized other free men as equally men, and as their neighbors. The men of Sodom did filthy their consciences before God, and ignored their guilt, and ignored that they knew what they did was wrong. They worked intentional evil, knowing it was vile and sin, but they did not care, and wanted to do evil and violation anyway, to those they actually did see as their neighbors.
Truly, the only way to make sense of many, many things in the Old Testament is to understand that these imperfect people, Abraham and Sarah, that God chose to work through, had faith in Him because of a much cleaner conscience, as they did not understand the wrongs they did. But from what they did understand of right and wrong, they truly did try to do right and to please God. Whereas the wicked people in Sodom knew a thing was wrong, and as a known wrong, they did it anyway, not caring to please or fear God. But Abraham repeatedly showed he had faith in God, leaving his home country when God told him to, moving to a distant land, being willing to sacrifice his son Isaac for God… his faith was such that he believed God was good, and just, and he held nothing back from God. At the same time, it seems his conscience was not shipwrecked, but rather was blind and unaware, in the things he did which were not loving his neighbor as himself, as in his mind few men really were his neighbors.
God is the same today, yesterday, and always. God loves everyone, all people, and He always has. It is not because of what we do or don’t do, but because of who He is. And like we are given grace by our faith in Jesus Christ, and are thus counted righteous before God, Abraham was also given grace because of his faith in God, and counted righteous before God. But none of us are righteous on our own account, not today, and not then. That Abraham was a slave owner, even raping and impregnating a female slave of his, not seeing it was wrong, does not show us that God thinks slavery is ok, or that rape is ok. No, of course God’s law of love is do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Why do we know slavery is wrong? Because we would not want to be a slave, or born into slavery. Why do we know rape is wrong? We would not want to be raped. Rather than showing God approves of either of these things, which He does NOT, Abraham’s imperfections show us that God has THAT MUCH LOVE for each of us. That God loved people back then, even if they were immoral and vile and did not know it. The exact same God, who is the exact same way through all time, sent His Son to die for us, while we were still sinners. We were in sin, and did not know Him, and sometimes did not know what was right and what was wrong, and even when knowing did wrong anyway. Abraham also was in sin, but God loved him anyway, and had a relationship with him because he had faith in God.
This also shows us that God is the same now as He always was, and people back then were not counted righteous by works, but by faith in God. Abraham was ignorant of his sins, and so his conscience was pretty clean, and so he had faith in God, so God counted it as righteousness to Abraham. And today we have a relationship with God also, because we have faith in Jesus Christ, God’s Son. Abraham’s deficits throw no shadow of darkness upon our perfect loving God, but rather just highlight all the more what an amazing amount of true perfect Love God has for each and every person who ever was. And it shows us that our perfect Loving God is the same today, and yesterday, and always, and truly no man receives God’s love or acceptance because of his or her works, but rather because of faith and God’s totally Amazing Love for each of us.
Now, is it any coincidence that Abraham, a slave-owner, was shown by God that his descendents who would inherit the land God had promised, would live as mistreated slaves for 400 years in a foreign land? (Gen 15) And this was even before he impregnated Hagar. Truly, it seems he really did not understand that it was wrong to treat her this way, and it seems there was some barrier in his mind between him and a person who was a slave. He did not see a slave woman as his neighbor.
And there seems to be no lack of balance or lesson that Hagar was an Egyptian slave, and that his and Sarah’s descendents would be slaves of Egypt for 400 years, and be mistreated. It seems clear that while God would make them the parents of a great nation, that first God had an intent to teach any view of slaves as not-being-people out of their descendents. And it does seem true, that sometimes for an apathetic person to have understanding and compassion for someone who is mistreated and helpless, that apathetic person has to experience being mistreated and helpless. And so whatever iniquities Abraham and Sarah possessed towards the mistreatment of slaves, or having slaves, was worked out through the firsthand experiences of their descendents. And so by the time they left Egypt under Moses, the house of Israel had much compassion for slaves, being freed slaves themselves, who were mistreated while they were in Egypt.
Now obviously, Egypt was no different in many ways than the land and culture that Abraham had come from. And his descendents were slaves in Egypt, where there still was polygamy, and women were still ruled over by their husbands. And as time passed in cultures all over the world, this only became more and more cemented as normal. This was all that people knew. It was normal for men to rule over other men, and for men to rule over women. And in Egypt, the Hebrew men came to learn what a terrible thing it was for another man to rule over their wife and self harshly, even to killing all of their sons. As the Hebrew women were slaves, they also likely were taken as concubines and at times for sexual use at times by Egyptian men. And so the Hebrew men also came to learn about this, that their daughters or even wives could be taken by men, against the will of the husband or father.
And so Moses was chosen by God to lead the Hebrews out of slavery, into the land that God had promised to give them as Abraham’s descendents. The people that Moses led out of Egypt, that God led out of Egypt, saw certain institutions as normal, and had no concept of functioning without them. These were institutions such as a husband ruling over his wife, or “wives”, concubines, and children, and also slavery. They already had a society and culture in place which had these institutions as fundamental building blocks and the normative way things functioned.
Please keep in mind that all of these concepts of a man ruling over a woman, or women, or over other men, were not institutions that God had created. God never had said that men should be slaves, and God did not invent slavery but rather men did. In the same way, while God warned Eve that Adam would in fact rule over her, this was in no way a sanction for such, and was not what God’s intention was for marriage. God did not ever sanction a male-man ruling over a female-man, nor any man ruling over any other man. God did not put these institutions in place with the Hebrews, or with any people. Men made these things up, and by their sinful nature practiced them.
After God led the people out of Egypt, before God gave the Ten Commandments, Moses was spending all day judging the people. They would come to him and want him to settle their disputes. Moses was the only one that God had explained His Law and ways to, and so Moses was the only one who could settle their disputes and try to explain to them what was God’s will. Ex 18:13-27,
The next day Moses took his seat to serve as judge for the people, and they stood around him from morning till evening. When his father-in-law saw all that Moses was doing for the people, he said, “What is this you are doing for the people? Why do you alone sit as judge, while all these people stand around you from morning till evening?” Moses answered him, “Because the people come to me to seek God’s will. Whenever they have a dispute, it is brought to me, and I decide between the parties and inform them of God’s decrees and instructions.” Moses’ father-in-law replied, “What you are doing is not good. You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out. The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone. Listen now to me and I will give you some advice, and may God be with you. You must be the people’s representative before God and bring their disputes to him. Teach them his decrees and instructions, and show them the way they are to live and how they are to behave. But select capable men from all the people—men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain—and appoint them as officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. Have them serve as judges for the people at all times, but have them bring every difficult case to you; the simple cases they can decide themselves. That will make your load lighter, because they will share it with you. If you do this and God so commands, you will be able to stand the strain, and all these people will go home satisfied.” Moses listened to his father-in-law and did everything he said. He chose capable men from all Israel and made them leaders of the people, officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. They served as judges for the people at all times. The difficult cases they brought to Moses, but the simple ones they decided themselves. Then Moses sent his father-in-law on his way, and Jethro returned to his own country.
And so Moses started to teach the people God’s decrees and instructions in the way of a judge, to decide between parties in conflict. All of these parties were people who completely believed in the normalcy of slavery, and of men dominating women and ruling their families. For them, there was no concept that the righteous thing to do would be to not have slaves at all, because to them the idea was as outlandish and unmanageable as the idea of marriage itself not existing. And the idea that a woman should have equal rights as a man, was as unmanageably outlandish so as to be unthinkable. To them it defied all “common sense”.
These cases probably included things like,
“This man had sex with my virgin daughter, and now refuses to pay me to take her as his wife”
and opposing this,
“I slept with his virgin daughter and would take her as a wife but the bride price he asks is so outrageously high, so I will not take her as a wife for I will not spend the money”.
Now, if two men came to you and asked you, how would you decide a case like that? What would be best for the girl in her situation, possibly pregnant? What would be fair to the father and the man?
Would you endeavor even an hour to explain how the man should love the girl he had sex with enough to pay the price, or that the father should care enough about her well-being to not force her to be pregnant and unmarried? Would you try to explain to the girl that she was more than chattel to be bought and sold? Would an hour get you anywhere, with men that saw women as less-then-human property, and a girl that had known nothing but rule over her of her father her entire life, and who very likely saw herself as being less-than-a-man?
Would you spend two hours, or even a whole day, only to find vacant stares looking back at you?
And then they say respectfully, “Oh, well, that’s very well and all, Moses, God’s prophet, but now that you have shown us that God has no common sense, would you mind settling this dispute? Either he must pay, or I must lower the price, either he will take her as his wife or not, what says God?”
Did Moses himself understand these larger concepts to change, to teach them to the people?
This was their society, and ways that they insisted things be, and nothing could have persuaded them otherwise. They were sinful people and could not have understood, no matter had you spent a day trying to explain to them the truths that we only understand by God’s Holy Spirit living in our hearts!
Yet within these systems of slavery and men ruling over females, and families, which they would not have abandoned, God did set down judgments for them, that modified them doing things however they might have wished. Though at the time, probably no man had more than one wife, as they were all slaves, nor did a man have slaves, as he had just been one. But the way things were was all they knew, such as things had been with Abraham. But God intended to teach them and improve upon them just doing whatever they felt like, within these institutions of man ruling over other man.
And so after Moses teaching people how to judge, then God gave His Commandments directly, and explained how they were to live, through Moses, who wrote it down for the people to have, and taught it to them. And when you read through the Law, it is full of all sorts of fantastical notions that these men were ready to accept, having just been slaves and their families having been slaves, ideas which had appeal to them and they could understand from experience, despite their sinful natures to try to rule over each other.
Included in these ideas was the revolutionary notion that if a Hebrew man became a slave of another Hebrew, that he was to be set free after 7 years. Also, that if a master so much as knocked a tooth out from his slave, any slave, Hebrew or not, that the man could go free immediately on account of that tooth. Even that if a Hebrew man sold his land, as each were given a portion, that it would return to him or his family in 50 years. The laws God gave the Israelites greatly advocated for the rights of slaves, and insisted on the men of Israel viewing each other as brothers, regardless of social status or class. And on top of this, many restrictions were placed on slaves from other nations, that they also had to be treated just as well. And the rules in place by God did everything possible to restrict Hebrew men from ruling over each other long enough for a slave system or class system to form in which one man viewed another as some sort of sub-human inferior, as was the case in Abraham’s time.
On top of this, God advocated for the rights of women, and many of his laws regarding them were for their protection. For instance, a child was told to honor his mother and obey her, not just his father. Also, they could no longer be “taken” as wives without their father’s agreement, and a man absolutely had to pay a bride price for them. If a man seduced a woman, he had to marry her, as long as her father would allow it, and if not he still had to pay a God-determined bride price for her. God placed a value on daughters that their fathers could understand was both high and set. She could no longer be given away, or taken away for nothing, but was given a very high value, fixed and set by God. And this was placed on her being a Hebrew woman who was a virgin, not on her being of a poor or rich family. Hard to conceive, but a rich daughter had been worth more than a poor one, but God set all of their prices to be equal, and high. Which meant a daughter’s value was inherent on what she was, not on if her family was well-to-do or not. And in the case of the poor, if a man sold his daughter as a slave, she had to be treated as a daughter or a wife of someone in the house, whether her master, his son, or one of their slaves. She had to be treated as family, and provided for. If she was not treated right, then she was given her freedom. This is FAR more rights than a female slave had previously. And FAR more rights and value placed on women than they had previously.
And so the law is full of instances in which a slave is given more rights, and a woman is given more rights. God obviously sought to protect women and slaves in the laws He gave, far more than the ZERO amount of rights or protections they had previously, when men could do whatever they felt like doing. If you read the books of the law, the first 5 books of the Bible, you can see this. If you start out with a chaos and no law in which men would do whatever they could do to other men and to women, with nothing to stop them but the will of other men, then it becomes clear that God’s laws to the Israelites served to help to protect and free the oppressed. But the institutions inherit in the law which were already present, invented, and held by men, such as men dominating women and enslaving other men and women, were not commanded by God to be put into place, nor affirmed by their mere existence and acknowledgement in the law.
God considered slavery wrong, and oppression of women as wrong. Besides their complete inability to accept more radical changes, is there another reason why God did not abolish these things altogether in the law Moses gave to them?
Just looking at this from a historical perspective, we know that the Israelites could not manage to even obey what laws God gave them. They were corrupt and disobedient, bound by the sinful nature of the flesh, and failed to obey even what laws God did give them. And these were laws that God must have considered them potentially able to follow. Instead, ultimately, they ignored what laws they did not like, did whatever they wanted, and even added their own rules and tried to pass them off as God’s laws. Jesus repeatedly rebuked the Pharisees for this, that they made their own traditions and rules, and by them made the laws God had given them, even the Commandment to honor your mother and father to no effect (Matt 15:6). The fact is that no matter what perfection of law God had tried to give then, they would have failed. The law that was given to Israel was not ever intended to be a black and white portrayal of absolute perfection for humanity, but rather was correct to improve them closer to perfection. That was it’s purpose. It helped them to see their own sin, and how evil they were, and to admit how impossible it was for them to not sin. Which helped prepare them for the coming Messiah.
And it was meant for all of us to learn and understand, that not a single one of us could be sinless on our own. No one can be sinless on their own, and no one could be good enough. The entire law of Israel was intended from the beginning not to bring anyone to perfection, even if they followed the law. It was intended to teach them, and improve them, as they learned that they needed something else, something more, that they simply could not be good enough on their own. And that was even within a system which did not see women as equals, and a system which allowed slavery of other men. And even if men were still allowed to treat others in ways they would not want to be treated, like women, like foreigners, like the poor, they STILL couldn’t be righteous.
By men’s own will men started ruling over women and other men, and made these flawed institutions. And even though God still allowed these flawed institutions, but perfected them as far as God could, men still could not stop from sinning, even within the institutions that they had thought up. Men created rule over women and other men, in place of God’s direct rule over men and women. Israel and the law God gave them showed that men’s creations of institutions of rule over each other were inherently flawed, and even if God perfected them to the utmost as they could be as broken sinful creations, that men could not bear up under them, to be without sin before God.
God put men as priests, to teach and manage God’s laws over the people, but these priest became corrupted, abused their power, added their words and presented them as God’s Words (like Adam), and also set themselves to rule over others as much as they could, until in the time of Jesus we see the Pharisees and Sadducees that He repeatedly rebuked. It was man’s idea to have men that ruled over other man. Those men that God placed to let rule over other men, between God and other men, the priests, were not able to correctly handle their role any better than Adam did his. They did not, for the most part, live up to what God wanted them to do any better. Where they could get away with it, they added to God’s Words, and presented their will as God’s will. The priests failure just shows again that man’s idea of ruling over other men was inherently flawed, and would not work.
It is true also that God never originally wanted to give Israel a king, but upon the people’s insistence, God eventually allowed them to have a king. And this also failed, as God never intended for a man to rule over others, not women or men, but for God to rule over all. And so it failed miserably. And most of the Old Testament is full of descriptions of one failure and violation of the law after another, both violations of women by sinful men who still would not keep the law, as well as many other sins. Including the many failures of the kings of Israel, even the better kings.
And when all this failure had proven true, and the priesthood charged to keep the law had been so corrupted, and the rules of men had superseded the rules of God, and the kingdom itself lived under foreign rule, and it all had been shown as an utter failure, then God sent Jesus Christ.
Just as Abraham, in Israel the people were counted as righteous because of their faith, not because of their perfection. But it was through Israel that the Messiah would be born, the same who God prophesied about to Adam and Eve, who Israel also hoped for. And this Messiah was what Israel was all about, and the laws God gave Israel, was all to prepare the people for the Messiah.
And whereas all of history had been filled with men ruling over women, and the free ruling over slaves, and then also the Israelite ruling over the Gentile or visa versa, when Jesus Christ came it was intended to change all of this, so God alone Himself would rule over His people.
Jesus Christ is THE LORD of us all. Jesus Christ is our only King. Jesus Christ is our High Priest. Jesus Christ makes the rules, and gives them to each Christian personally, and gives us each His Holy Spirit to write His laws on our mind and in our hearts personally and directly. And He is God!
And so Jesus Christ, a man, and God Himself, was anointed by God to be the only man fit to rule over any other man, which restored things to God’s original intent and design, which was for God to have a direct and personal relationship with each of us, for God to rule over each of us individually and directly, with no other man in between us and Him, because Jesus Christ is also God. And by God ruling directly over each man, this could change the world, in a way that a law given through other men never could, and bring a perfection with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, which was never possible before. This was a change not from the outside-in, but from the inside-out. For:
There is neither Jew nor Greek,
there is neither slave nor free,
there is neither male nor female:
for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
God made it clear to us as Christians that ALL people are our neighbors, and we are to love them as we love ourselves, and to treat them as we would want to be treated, regardless of gender, class, or race, or nationality. Jesus Christ showed us that we all are each other’s neighbors, and we all should see each other as equal. And He alone is the Lord of each of us Christians, personally and directly.
And this HAS changed the world in many ways and in many places! And while in this time, and for a time, while the Gospel is preached to all the world (and it has not been yet), we are in this world but not of it. We suffer by being in the systems of men who are rulers, but we also know that this is only for a time. And someday, soon, Jesus Christ is returning to establish His kingdom on Earth, and He will be the government and King of all people, and reign Himself for 1000 years on Earth. Even now, He is above all things, though Satan still is prince of this world, but Jesus Christ is far above Satan, as God has given Jesus Christ all power and authority. For now, a war rages, which we fight in, as we wait for all of those who would be saved to come into salvation in the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ has already won the war and has the Victory. We each know we are to obey God, and that Jesus is our Lord, and for this the rulers and people of the world persecute us, even until we become martyrs. But despite this, we still proclaim Jesus Christ as our Lord and King.
Therefore I make known to you that no one speaking by the Spirit of God calls Jesus accursed, and no one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit. 1 Cor 12:3
And who can say that their president, that their owner, that their king, their boss, or whatever manner of man rules over you, whether in a democracy or not, who can say that not any of them is your lord, but your Lord is Jesus Christ, except by the Holy Spirit? And in a time of Caesar as Emperor, and Herod as a King, and Pilate as a King, even some of them slaves with masters, in a world with men as rulers most obviously, who were these Christians that said that their personal Lord and King was Jesus Christ? While they were told to submit to these rulers where they did not conflict with obedience to God, they said that Jesus Christ was their actual Lord and King, and not earthly rulers.
And so with God’s people, He alone rules over them personally and directly in Jesus Christ.