Wednesday, November 28, 2007

the fate of the women in ezra

While it may show that God did not abandon the divorced women to destitution, prostitution, or a synonym for slavery that ends in "-itution," there's no indication within the context of this particular book that Ezra or the others (except maybe those few clans who refused to go along with his program of ethnic cleansing) gave any consideration for the fate of the women.

I'm sure some of them did, naturally, and maybe even wept over the harsh necessity of the act, from a sense of proper charity, but the whole point of the passage is: We have intermarried with foreign women, this has angered God, and we need to drive them out.

And I note again the irony that God is strangely silent this entire book. No prophets appear and advise this course of action; the Word of the Lord never trumpets forth any guidance or advice. It's just Ezra, fasting and in mourning over the sin of his people.

I don't think God views women as more evil then men, but look at the relatively low importance they get in the Bible. They have names like Potiphar's wife, Noah's wife, and Pilate's wife; they're viewed as possessions to be given away or claimed, or in this case, sent away; and they're often held us as examples of evil, as with Jezebel, the voice of destruction in Proverbs, and for that matter many proverbs paint them poorly: "Better to live a desert by yourself than to share a roof with an ill-manner and contentious woman"; "Among a thousand men, I found one upright, but among a thousand women, I found none" and so on.

There are some great examples of strong women in the Bible -- Deborah, Ruth and Esther -- but with the exception of those last two, the details on their lives are sparse and their roles are secondary and limited to being someone's wife or mother

You know how some feminists, when there's a domestic dispute, always blame the husband? Or how some women view every man as a potential rapist, and automatically assume that we're scoping them out for sex? That's what life is like, on a daily basis, for women who live in a patriarchy. It's not just a matter of a little bit of chauvanism. It's an automatic assumption of guilt, and disproportionate punishment ... much like what Ezra did.

The account of Hagar in the book of Genesis may suggest something in the larger biblical context, that God did not abandon these women, but the book of Ezra gives the impression that the foreign women were a source of evil, and needed to be driven out before they led the men astray. Read on its own, for what it says, the book of Ezra suggests that God did not give a crap about these women, because they were foreign.

And the flip side is that the book gives the added impresson that God probably didn't give a crap about the Jewish women who had married foreign men in Babylon or elsewhere. No one is urged to put away her foreign husband or half-breed children. I say it again: Patriarchy sucks.

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