Isn't the Old Testament God Sexist?

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“When God created human beings, he made them to be like himself. He created them male and female, and he blessed them and called them ‘human’” (Gen. 5:1-2 NLT).

Go and check out this verse in your bible. Do they read the same? Probably not.

The New Living Translation (NLT) among some others aims for gender-inclusive language. This echoes a recent shift from translations like the International Readers’ Version and New Revised Standard Version that counter what the editors of the NLT see as historically biased translations promoting cultural patriarchies. Might these translations be attempts to reconcile a God who seemingly created inequalities between man and woman? Was God sexist from the beginning?

Imago Dei

As with other topics in this series, Imago Dei comes front and center in response to perceived Old Testament injustices. The sexism argument must acknowledge how God created both men and women in His likeness (Gen. 1:26). God created all people in His likeness from the beginning of Scripture -- from kings and queens to male and female slaves. An argument that sees God as preserving inequality between men and women must also argue that God established the Imago Dei with inherent inequalities. Gail Wallace makes the case that, “woman is not a separate creation; she is made from the same material as the man. Both embody the fundamental qualities and capacities of being human while at the same time having the added dimensions of sex and gender.” (http://juniaproject.com/in-the-image-of-god-implications-for-gender-equality/)

If we spend time reflecting on this It is simply incredible to think about how God created man and woman in such a way that we can be different and yet equally reflect God’s non-divine attributes.

Has it always been this way?

Adam and Eve were equally responsible for sin at the Fall. Yet part of God’s curse for Eve is that Adam will “rule” over her. This seems to contradict what we just talked about, but let’s dive deeper into the passage. God’s statement to Eve parallels with a warning to Cain in the next chapter.

“Your desire shall be for your husband, yet he will rule over you.” – Gen. 3:16

“Sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.” – Gen. 4:7

How does this similarity help us understand what God says about the relationship between man and woman? “Desire” is key in how “‘sin is crouching at the door’ of Cain’s heart…that its desire is for him…[and] wants to overpower him. It wants to defeat him and subdue him and make him the slave of sin.” This clarifies Gen. 3:16 in that, “when sin has the upper hand in woman, she will desire to overpower or subdue or exploit man. And when sin has the upper hand in man, he will respond in like manner and with his strength subdue her, or rule over her.” (https://www.desiringgod.org/messages/manhood-and-womanhood-conflict-and-confusion-after-the-fall)

Sin’s curse is evident from the beginning through its disruption of relationships. This isn’t what God intended. God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him” (Gen. 2:18). “Suitable helper” comes from the Hebrew “ezer kenegdo.” This describes someone, usually of God, as a strong and mighty helper who comes to someone’s aid, typically to Israel. The Hebrew language paints a robust view of womanhood in which God views men and women with equal dignity and likeness in Him.

Key Women in the Old Testament

A popular argument for God being sexist is that all major Old Testament people were men. However, the Old Testament identifies women as invaluable to God’s story and are instrumental in moving the biblical narrative forward. The Old Testament shows how, “Man couldn’t reflect the plurality of God alone. The description of the woman as ‘a help’ is the same word used to describe God and military protectors and allies…God only declared humanity ‘very good’ after completing the masterpiece. We do well to honor the strength of women working alongside men.”(https://relevantmagazine.com/god/worldview/5-ways-bible-supports-feminism)

Hebrew midwives spared Hebrew male children and provided the opportunity for God to rescue His people through Moses (Ex. 1:15-21). God established those like Miriam who lead songs of praise (Ex. 15:21) and Deborah as one of Israel’s judges (Judges 4:4), both prominent religious leaders. Rahab helped pave the way for Israelite conquest (Joshua 2). God blessed the faithfulness of Ruth, a Moabite woman who is listed in the messianic line (Ruth 4:17; Matt. 1:5). Queen Esther’s obedience saved the Israelites from extermination. Moreover, God identifies the church as the bride of Christ (Rev. 21:9-10).

The argument of a God who is sexist toward women doesn’t have much of a foundation in light of His intentionally including these, and other, Old Testament women in His story.

The questions that sparked our discussion in this series seem daunting at first, but the good news is God’s Word produces confidence in who God is.

The depth of God’s Word is amazing as we look at the Bible from a holistic viewpoint, considering the accounts of the Imago Dei, biblical hermeneutics, and strong biblical women. These pieces come together to form a deeper understanding of what God intended and show us that He is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

For more posts in the series ‘Isn’t the Old Testament God______?’ visit www.foundationchurch.org/blog