Does a Christian Wife Have Fewer Rights than a Slave Wife in Moses’ Day?
And if a man sells his daughter to be a female slave, she shall not go out as the male slaves do. If she does not please her master, who has betrothed her to himself, then he shall let her be redeemed. He shall have no right to sell her to a foreign people, since he has dealt deceitfully with her. And if he has betrothed her to his son, he shall deal with her according to the custom of daughters. If he takes another wife, he shall not diminish her food, her clothing, and her marriage rights. And if he does not do these three for her, then she shall go out free, without paying money. (Ex 21:7-11 NKJ)
If a man strikes the eye of his male or female servant, and destroys it, he shall let him go free for the sake of his eye. And if he knocks out the tooth of his male or female servant, he shall let him go free for the sake of his tooth. (Ex. 21:26-27 NKJ)
There are those who think that the law given to Moses was the perfect rule given to all men for all time. When it comes to the moral law, summarized in the Ten Commandments, this was certainly the case. But with regard to the case laws and the civil laws, the cultural situation in which they were promulgated — which included the practice of slavery, concubinage, bride price, female prisoners of war being made into wives for their captors — these things were never intended to be the perfect norm for God’s people for all time.
The Bible teaches that since the fall of our first parents, Adam and Eve, the world has been under a curse. Men and women, and especially the relationship between the two, were cursed of God (Gen. 3:16). The Mosaic Law did not take away the curse, for the curse could only be taken away by the sacrifice and death of the Son of God, who obeyed the Law perfectly and suffered its ultimate penalty on our behalf.
It might be said that the Mosaic Law had three main aspects:
- It gave the Ten Commandments, the moral law for all time as mentioned above. Realization of their failure to obey these commandments would drive people to recognize their need for the Savior-Redeemer — the seed of the woman who would crush the serpent’s head (Gen. 3:15).
- It instituted sacrifices, ceremonies and priesthood, which all pointed to the time when God would provide the Redeemer. It was thus faith-building and reassuring for those having faith in the promised Messiah.
- And because sinful humans would not follow the Ten Commandments, it set out civil and case laws to regulate and restrain the most abusive out-workings of the curse.
The Exodus passages quoted above are examples of restraining laws that aimed to limit the most heinous types of sin which fallen humanity would get up to. Another way of putting this is that the laws we see in Exodus 21 and many other case laws in the Mosaic Code were aimed at protecting the most vulnerable: refugees and the homeless (the sojourner), slave wives, orphans, victims of crime, etcetera.
To all those who believe that there is never any ground for divorce; or who say begrudgingly that adultery alone might be considered adequate grounds – I ask you this: Do you really believe that a wife who has been freed by Christ, who is a co-heir of eternal life, who is dearly loved and delivered by God – do you really believe that she has less rights than a slave under the Mosaic administration?
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone.” (Mat 23:23 NKJ)
A slave under Moses was set free if the master violently abused her. A purchased slave wife was set free if the husband diminished her food, clothing or marriage rights. Do you really believe that a woman who is beaten, abused, neglected and hated must remain in bondage to the seed of the devil, when she would have been freed under the Mosaic Law? God forbid!
This post been developed and adapted by Barbara Roberts from an article written by Rev Sam Powell. Many thanks to him for for allowing me to modify and adapt his wording, and for providing the springboard and the closing paragraphs.
Readers will remember Sam Powell from Jeff Crippen’s recent post Abusers as Children of the Devil which featured Rev Powell’s sermon Dealing With Abusive Men and also (in the comments thread) recommended his companion sermon Living With Deceitful Men.