“Give me sons or I will die!” Pleads Rachel (Gen: 30:1).
A bit demanding and a bit degrading, this usage of “sons” is just one of the 132 times “sons” are mentioned in the book of Genesis. Can you guess how many times “daughters” are mentioned? …A measly 46, mostly in the context of taking them as wives.
“This time my husband will honor me because I have borne him six sons,” smiles Leah, placidly, barefoot and postpartum.
Noticing her sister’s increasing attention among women in the community (“I am happy that the women call me happy,” -Gen. 30:13), Rachel’s aforementioned protest for sons results in her giving birth to a son, though she’s still not satisfied. “May the Lord add another son to me,” she declares.
My re-readings of Genesis have left me disgruntled and hurt at best. Lists of family lineages only mentioning sons while purposely omitting daughters is incomplete, disrespectful, demeaning and perpetuates a society that renders one sex as worthy, cherished, and sought after, while another sex, overlooked, dismissed, incapable, and not as important. Re-reading about men who “take” multiple women as their wives, plus a few more for concubines further revolts me.
And… to throw in a tangent… Not to mention, the part where God rains burning sulfur on Sodom and Gomorrah from out of the sky… God-the God of Love… pouring burning sulfur on God’s people, each made in imago dei… (Gen. 19:24)… ((shakes head)).
These are just some of my struggles with “The Word.”
Because it seems so unlike the God and I know, and most definitely irreflective of the Jesus I’ve come to adore.
When I read of Jesus and spend time with Jesus, I have no doubt of my worth as a female child of God and do not feel unwanted as a woman (nor do I worry that God will pour chemicals on my head). Why?
Because Jesus treated women with dignity. 24 times, Jesus mentions women in Luke and each time in instructive and positive ways.1 Jesus taught women scripture in era that reserved this privilege only for men. He traveled and “preached the Good News of the Kingdom of God” with his 12 disciples and “also some women who had been healed.. Mary, Joanna, Susanna, and many others who were supporting them” (Luke 8:1-3). While Genesis names lengthy lineages of Sons of Abraham, Jesus chooses to call attention to one of the “daughters of Abraham” (Luke 13:16). Jesus gave women equal rights in marriage by doing away with polygamy and divorce laws (since only men could seek a divorce at that time and men could have many wives, but women could not have multiple husbands).2
Since Jesus treated women with dignity, I am reminded that God does too, no matter what the author of Genesis purports. The Bible is difficult and when Christian males give me a hard time when I say that I struggle with the Bible and do not find it entirely true nor inerrant, I will ask them to read the above passages and ask them what it would feel like if it was their gender being minimized. Imagine if there were only accounts of daughters and women fervently pleading, “Oh please, not a son!! Give me a daughter! A daughter is what I want!” As a man, how would you feel? Wanted? Appreciated? Undesired? Nevermind. Men who take pride in being a “woman’s leader:” guess what, you don’t have to worry about that, because your gender is never reflected in such a lowly way in scripture. Ever.
Though I will never be able to read the Old Testament verses that omit women or diminish their roles without feeling a sense of depravity and hurt, and though I will never be able to say that I wholeheartedly love everything about this book, I am grateful to worship a God who reminds us that no matter what our gender, our socioeconomic status, our sexual orientation, our marital status, or our physical and mental abilities may be, in Christ we are all one and welcome at the table of our God… every day.
((Interesting article on The Awareness and Perception of Female Feticide in Urban Ludhiana, India).