Old Testament Times
The position of women in Israel was in marked contrast with her status in surrounding heathen nations. Israelite law was designed to protect woman’s weakness, safeguard her rights, and preserve her freedom (Deuteronomy 21:10-14; 22:13; 22:28). Under divine law her liberties were greater, her tasks more varied and important, and her social standing more respectful and commanding than that of her heathen sister. The Bible has preserved the memory of women whose wisdom, skill and dignity it willingly acknowledged. Numerous names of devout and eminent Hebrew women adorn the pages of the Old Testament. To some extent, a woman was her husband’s property (Genesis 12:18; Exodus 20:17; 21:3) and owed him absolute fidelity. While the husband had no formal rights over the person of his wife, nevertheless, he was recognized as lord and master. By her chastity, diligence and love woman created an honorable position for herself within family and community circles.
Any prominence woman attained was obtained by force of character. There were those, like Deborah, who achieved greatness. Others, such as Esther, had greatness thrust upon them. Womanly virtues were foreign to pagan culture under which woman became subject to inferior and degrading conditions. Decline of woman in Israel was always due to the invasion of heathen influences. Morality lapsed as idolatrous customs were countenanced. “The prominence of women in idolatry and in the abominations of foreign religions is indicated in the writings of the prophets (Jeremiah 7:8; Ezekiel 8:14, see Exodus 22:18). The sordid effect of idolatrous women ruined the religious life of Judah and Israel and contributed to their overthrow.”