A book entitled, Eve’s Bible: A Woman’s Guide to the Old Testament opens with the sentence,
The Bible is a dangerous book. Written by men for men, it has been used for thousands of years to keep women in their place.
Oh the Bible.
The book said to be an oppressive patriarchal scheme of defunct power-greedy men designed to oppress, limit, and keep women “in their place”, among other things.
The book Eve’s Bible is overtly heretical and the fact that this Ph.D author uses such sources as The Feminist’s Companion to the Bible and Ten Things Every Feminist Should Know About the Song of Songs and tries to direct the reader back towards goddess worship gives this away as a heavily biased and un-academic work not worth the paper its printed on. Suffice it to say the book was a flop. But what is ironic is that the author is basically correct in this opening sentence. The Bible is dangerous, yes. It will lead you to be crucified with Christ. Adhering to it will get you hated and scorned by the world around you. By men for men, yes. Men penned the Bible and as such its voice heavily caters and speaks to men. Men connect with the Word of God in a way which women cannot, much in the same way men connect with each other when they are by themselves. Much of the expectation was that fathers would pass on the knowledge to their families (Eph. 6:4, Ps. 78:2-4) (obviously a complicated problem in a family-less society).
The Bible has certainly been used, no doubt about that. Its been used for everything from a means to get Jesus to kill himself (Luke 4:9-11) to rolling paper for tobacco. The Bible does, in fact, keep women in their place. It even keeps men in their place. But what is that place?
The book of Proverbs, authored by a handful of men—Solomon son of King David, various wise men (Prov. 22:17), an unknown guy named Agur, and King Lemuel, is the most important book in the realm of wisdom in the Bible. The book teaches us that wisdom is of the highest value and built on understanding and knowledge. Already I hear the lament of the lack of female authorship of the wisdom literature. How incredibly biased and sexist. Surely, the women didn’t write or generate any scripture, proverbs, or have any position of influence to offer counsel to anyone because they were all oppressed, and locked away all the time, and only let out to do man’s bidding…humph. Men, taking all the credit for the wisdom of the world. Predictable.
But then when we move into the actual content and find out that of all the values and godly principles of the entire Logon Ton Theo, the Word of God, it is wisdom that gets personified as a female. Let’s put this together: a man who becomes famous for his wisdom world-wide tells us among thousands of wise proverbs that wisdom itself is a lady. This, in a heavily biased male chauvinist seventh century B.C. world. To fully appreciate this you have to actually imagine yourself in that time period…do some history reading. The kingdom of Kush, Persia, Classical Greece, the eastern empires, etc.
And then Solomon comes on to the scene, one of the most prominent prophets of scripture mind you, and says wisdom is a lady. She will guide you.
To you, O men, I call. Prov. 8:4
Wisdom has built her house… Prov. 9:1
She sends her young women [maidens] to the highest places of the city… Prov. 9:3
Like a thunderclap going off in the middle of a brutal pagan world that treated women as property. For such a notion that there could be any relationship between wisdom and regular women to pass through the ancient world at that time was unheard of.
In fact there is great irony in the fact that some of these kingdoms worshiped goddesses and yet still treated their women like property. The goddess Athena during that time period (whence comes “Athens”) was actually considered a goddess of wisdom of all things. Yet Athenians considered women lesser and unequal. Apparently goddess worship didn’t do much for women. But the Hebrew bible attributes two of the most important truths and principles that anyone could learn in their life—wisdom and folly—to the feminine. Folly is also signified as a woman:
The woman Folly is loud; she is seductive and knows nothing. Prov 9:13
There is a strange contrast and Hebrew parallelism at work here in Proverbs 8 and 9. Lady Wisdom sends out her young women to call from the highest places of the town while the woman folly herself takes a seat on the highest places of the town. The picture is one of two women making a call to the simple—to those who lack sense. One is loud and makes a big show of herself, the other does the opposite. One is duping people to steal and takes advantage of people’s simplicity (Prov. 9:17), the other is actually trying to get people out of their simplicity to live and walk in insight (Prov. 9:6).
This is wisdom and folly. Perhaps two of the most important principles taught in the entire Bible and perhaps even the rest of the world’s religious literature. But it is only the Bible that teaches that we can learn about wisdom and folly through women. These same two feminine examples of wisdom and folly are still alive and well today, ready to teach us all something if we are ready to learn. An ever increasing number of women today are hell-bent on making themselves “heard”. It seems like they are everywhere because of the fact that they are deliberately trying to be seen and that they will be as loud it takes. The wise ones, you have to look for. But they are not hiding. They send out their own to inform the simple where they need to go to find true and real wisdom.
With the theme carried on into the New Testament by Jesus (cf. Matt. 22:2-3), an even bigger revelation is unveiled in the way that these two women represent two opposing worlds. Two cosmic kingdoms. Listen to the 19th Century Pulpit Commentary on this allegory:
As the “strange woman” in ch. 7. possessed a house to which she seduced her victim, so Wisdom is represented as having a house which she has made and adorned, and to which she invites her pupils. Spiritual writers see here two references – one to Christ’s incarnation, when he built for himself a human body (John 2:19); and another to his work in forming the Church, which is his mystical body (1 Peter 2:5). And the sublime language used in this section is not satisfied with the bare notion that we have here only an allegorical representation of Wisdom calling followers to her. Rather we are constrained to see a Divine intimation of the office and work of Christ, not only the Creator of the world, as in ch. 8, but its Regenerator. She hath hewn out her seven pillars. Architecturally, according to Hitzig and others, the pillars of the inner court are meant, which supported the gallery of the first story. Four of these were in the corners, three in the middle of three sides, while the entrance to the court was through the fourth side of the square. The number seven generally denotes perfection; it is the covenant number, expressive of harmony and unity generally, the signature of holiness and blessing, completeness and rest. So in the Apocalypse the whole Church is represented by the number of seven Churches (Revelation 1:4, etc.; see on Proverbs 26:16). Wisdom’s house is said to be thus founded because of its perfection and adaptability to all states of men. But doubtless there is a reference to the sevenfold gifts of the Holy Spirit, which rested upon the Christ (Isaiah 11:2, etc.), and which are the support and strength of the Church, being symbolized by the seven-branched candlestick in the temple. (Pulpit Commentary, Proverb 9)
Meanwhile, Lady Wisdom’s opponent, Ms. Loud-mouthed Seductress, is making sure she is in your face and that you don’t finish a day’s duty without her voice ringing in your ears. The two paradigms here are so great that books could be written on the implications for our lives. Wisdom and truth vs. folly and wickedness. Think of how the entire culture of visual and audio media and consumer marketing thrive. Then think of books or a library. Then think of the book to end all books, the Word of God. How do you choose between these? Well it’s very simple. In the media and consumer marketing world, you don’t. It is chosen for you because the Loud-Mouth always wins. But for the books and the Bible, and for Jesus’ Church—far from being hidden away out of sight—that is something you have to choose. Obviously, paying attention to what is being taught through these two allegorical women will save your life.
And as far as men taking credit for the wisdom literature of the Bible, upon further reading you’ll actually learn that Solomon gave himself to worldly lusts and luxuries, Agur called himself “too stupid to be a man” (Prov. 30:2), and King Lemuel’s words were give to him by his mother (Prov. 31:1).
The two big accusations from the world (the Bible is a tool of men to uphold their power and Christianity is for weak people) don’t add up because they’re false. The Bible doesn’t exalt anybody. It sees both men and women as unrighteous, impoverished, and futile. If you have the ears to hear, it will definitely put you in your place.