Why is it that when it comes to the Bible, the scandalous label always seems to apply to the women but the men often get a pass? It is as if we remember the best moments of the men and the worst moments of the women. I know it isn’t all of us but it is prevalent enough to bring it up and shine a light on it.
When it comes to the genealogy of Jesus, many find the female tie in to be women of questionable sexual ethics. We gawk at Rahab making it in (but she may have been an innkeeper). The same with Tamar. Again with Bathsheba. Both of them were sinned against with the power dynamics severely not directed in their favor. Do we stop and pause for a moment of judgment on the women without recalling what Judah did? Go back and read Genesis 38…check out verse 25 where Judah wants to burn Tamar to death when he was propositioning and sleeping with Tamar, thinking she was a prostitute.
Ruth seducing Boaz? We aren’t really sure about that either. It is murky. Should we be stigmatizing people for situations that are confusing at best? Should we be stigmatizing people at all?
Again, what about the men?
Matt 1:2 – We think of Abraham in his best moments (Gen 12, 15, 17 and 22). Abraham passed his wife off as his sister to save his own bacon, putting her in jeopardy on multiple occasions.
Matt 1:2 – Jacob wasn’t the most straightforward person…a swindler at times. A trickster and deceiver. His name even means he trips people up.
Matt 1:3 – Judah took advantage of Tamar in a very scandalous way in Gen 38.
Matt 1:6 – David had Uriah killed after having an affair with Bathsheba.
Matt 1:7 – Solomon went after false gods after marrying many women and having concubines (mistresses).
Matt 1:7 – Rehoboam – rejected the council of the elders and put heavy burdens on the people.
Matt 1:9 – Ahaz – worshiped idols, sacrificed one of his sons to the “gods”, and did detestable things. His son, not the one he sacrificed to false gods, was Hezekiah (2 Kings 16:20).
Matt 1:10 – Hezekiah’s son was Manasseh. He was horrible and did terrible things, including sacrificing his kids to the false gods (2 Kings 21).
Matt 1:10 – Amon – just as bad as his father, Manasseh.
The women get the stigma and yet not one of them was a murderer. Not one of them led nations into immorality (imagine the ripple effect of that and the responsibility). Not one of the women had the power dynamics in their favor. Nor did any of them lead the nation of Israel into idol worship and even sacrificed their own children to the “gods”.
This is not to say the men are especially worse, necessarily (although a case could be made that some were definitely worse). This info about them teaches us something about us. The way we read the stories and the conclusions we read display our inner filters and presuppositions and even values.
What this does is cause us to introspect a bit and ask ourselves about the way we read scriptures and our how our conclusions about people may well reveal some of our own inner workings and meta-cognition about how we label people based on criteria like race and gender. It might be safe to assume if we do that with Bible people we may well do that with the people right in front of us. And that’s a BIG problem!
This problem of perception, value (or lack thereof) and meta-cognition is not just a gender issue – it crops up any time our team is on the field. It happens in our politics – when we can only find praise for our side and flaws for the other (even when the truth clearly points the opposite direction). It happens in our marriages – when we justify our own behavior while condemning our spouse for their faults. We see this in our view of other religious groups, particularly those who are most like us – we give the flaws in our view a pass while nit picking someone else’s view for lesser problems.
Maybe deep down inside it is an insecurity issue – that we worry to pick at one thread might make the whole knit sweater come undone. So we defend to the bitter end things and people who shouldn’t be defended while condemning those who least deserve it.
We never know what someone is going through. Let us be inclined, as God is inclined, toward grace and mercy. This takes heart training. It takes a growing awareness of our inner workings and thinkings…this is soul work, hard work…necessary work. May God have mercy on the men and women in the Bible…and on us today because Lord knows we need it more than ever before!