3.06.2008

Vows and the Framework of Gender

A few days ago, I mentioned that we have began a new sermon series, The Genesis of Gender. If case you missed the first two sermons, they are available here . (The second one should be up shortly). Although you really should take the time to listen to both sermons...if you don't have time to listen to the sermons yet... let me summarize them briefly. First, men and women are the same in that they are both equally created in the image of God. Men and women have equal worth and value. Second, men and women are different in that God has given them different roles as they both pursue the same purpose of glorifying God. Along the same thought lines of those discussions, I'd like to point your attention to an Old Testament text that is very insightful in relation to gender issues.

In Numbers 30 we find an interesting discussion in which the issue of vows is discussed within the framework of gender. Let's go to the text so that I can explain what I mean. First, the discussion begins by addressing the men:
If a man vows a vow to the Lord, or swears an oath to bind himself by a pledge, he shall not break his word. He shall do according to all that proceeds out of his mouth (v.2).
According to this, text if a man makes a vow then he is obligated to keep the vow no matter what. The vow is final. Why? Because in the hierarchy of the family he is the leader. He is under the authority of God, and he speaks for himself and his family. Yet, in the next few verses as Moses discusses the issue of women and vows, we find a different scenario:
If a woman vows a vow to the Lord and binds herself by a pledge, while within her father's house in her youth, and her father hears of her vow and of her pledge by which she has bound herself and says nothing to her, then all her vows shall stand, and every pledge by which she has bound herself shall stand. But if her father opposes her on the day that he hears of it, no vow of hers, no pledge by which she has bound herself shall stand. And the Lord will forgive her, because her father opposed her (v.3-5).
Isn't it interesting to note that the vow of a woman, who is in this case within her father's house, stands or falls based on whether or not her father agrees or disagrees with the vow? Why is this the case? It is because her father is her authority, her head. He has been given the responsibility for watching and caring for his daughter's well-being. If he is silent, then the vow stands. If he opposes it, the vow is void. Yet, the discussion does not end with the authority of father's. Next, Moses demonstrates that headship isn't just a matter between father's and daughters but also between husbands and wives:
“If she marries a husband, while under her vows or any thoughtless utterance of her lips by which she has bound herself, 7 and her husband hears of it and says nothing to her on the day that he hears, then her vows shall stand, and her pledges by which she has bound herself shall stand. 8 But if, on the day that her husband comes to hear of it, he opposes her, then he makes void her vow that was on her, and the thoughtless utterance of her lips by which she bound herself. And the Lord will forgive her (v.6-8).
Once again we see that the woman's vow stands or falls based on the authority of her head, who in this case is her husband. If he hears of the vow and says nothing, then his silence becomes the mark of his approval. Yet, if he opposes the vow, it become null and void.

So, why does this matter? The world (and even a number of Christians) would like for us to believe that male authority and headship is a bad thing. Of course, some men do abuse there God-established authority. They fail to love as Christ loved the Church. Yet, as we see in Exodus 30, headship should serve to protect and serve women. A loving father only wants what is best for his daughter. And a loving husband only wants what is best for his wife. So, father's and husbands: love the women that the Lord has called you lead. Realize that God has called you to look out for the interest of the ladies in your life. Daughters and wives: realize that your father or husband's authority has been put in place by God, in order to show His care for you.

1 comment:

Bethany said...

my dad recently did a few sermons on this very topic. They were really good, and I imagine yours were as well. I'll have to listen to them sometime.