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to in this connection. I refer to the elevation of women
to the highest social and civil positions, even among com-
munities that refuse to them the exercise of elementary
political functions. No complete explanation of the facts
can as yet be given. It is easier to account for the part
played by prophetesses in ancient Israel and elsewhere,
for such an ofhce does not directly imply or involve social
elevation. More difficult is it to explain the origin of

^ Of the publications of texts of business documents, the most important
is J. N. Strassmaier, Inschriften des Nabonichis, Leipzig, 1889. For selec-
tions with translations and comments, see J. Oppert and J. Menant, Docu-
ments juridiqurs de VAssyrie et de la Chaldee, Paris, 1877 ; and especially
F. E. Peiser, Keilschriftliche Actenstiicke, 1889, and Bahylonische Ver-
trdge, 1890.


" queens," who still persist as an institution in many
communities, civilized and. uncivilized, to the present day,
and who were frequent also among the ancient Semites,
especially among the northern and southern Arabians. ^
Similar was the appearance of women as "judges " in early
Arabia,^ and at least once among the Hebrews (Jud. iv., v.).
The hypothesis may be well founded which ascribes the
usage to a more primitive state of general female pre-
dominance. In any case these abnormities are not the
result of the causes which have led to the enfranchisement
of women. But, on the other hand, they are not consistent
with the usages of communities, such as those of later
Arabian times, in which women are the virtual slaves of

§ 424. One or two general remarks are necessary at
this point. At a certain stage in the history of every
community that has permanently risen above savager}^,
the predominance of the husband and father in the family
is found already established by statute or by recognized
usage. Whatever may have been the relative standing
of the mother in the community before its arrival at
this stage, her position is now fixed and determined by
the interests of the primitive state. The wife, as being the
mother, now exists and is maintained and protected for
the sake of the perpetuation of the family. The husband
is necessarily the absolute controller of the whole house-
hold ; but his practical relations to wife and children are
varied in different communities. From the fundamental
rule of absolute subjection there are far greater deviations
among various races and peoples in the case of the wife
than are found in the case of the children. In ancient
society there was practically little difference anywhere in
the relations of the children to the house-father. In the
case of the wives, although theoretically the husband had
the ultimate control, general social conditions materially

1 Cf. § ?>U and "W. R. Smith, Kinship, p. 104 and 171.
Kinship, I.e.


affected their actual status in the household. Polygamy,
for examiDle, when practised within narrow limits, tended
for a time to give comparative freedom to the wives,
because the attention of the husband and father could not
be so strongly concentrated upon each individual grouj) of
children with their several mothers, as necessarily was the
case with a single family group and the one mother. It was
among the monogamous Romans that the strictest t373e of
the marital as well as of the paternal relation was evolved.
On the other hand, polygamy as perpetuated among any
people, and virtually limited only by the ability to support
the household, tends to the subjection of the wives through
their moral degradation. This is exemplified among the
mediaeval and modern Arabs as contrasted with the early
Hebrews, the ancient society of the peninsula having ap-
parently had more resemblance to that of ancient Israel.
A nomadic life, however, is apt to retard the emancipation
of women, for the reason that there is little scope afforded
for their interests and activities in their monotonous round
of family service, and the stationary, unprogressive course
of life in which the children have to play their parts.
For as the wife originally received her status as being the
materfamilias, so her appreciation, her increasing preroga-
tive, in a word, her emancipation, is due to the development
of the family as a wliole ; above all, to the awakening of
ambition in the souls of the children through the enlarge-
ment of their career and the opening up of unlimited
opportunities of activity and influence.

§ 425. We lay stress on the relations of nomadic life,
because they were the unseen foundations on which later
society was constructed, as their traditions and their in-
herited terminology equallj^ attest. But we are more
directly concerned with the transitions to settled civiliza-
tion, and the social changes which accompanied the tribal
and national development of the Hebrew people. And
in this connection we may observe that the early family
legislation of the Hebrews corresponds to their contempo-


raneous stage of social development pretty much as the
early constitution of Rome represented its stage of national
advancement. This may account for the general similarity
in the provisions made under the two systems for deal-
ing with wife and children. In other words, it was the
sense of the vital importance of the newly acquired prop-
erty which led to the statutory provisions concerning the
family. Legislation is, strictly speaking, not necessary
among nomads, and among them, as a matter of fact, usage
takes its place. But where a permanent settlement has
been made, and landed possessions have been acquired,
first by the clans and then by the families, to whom they
come to be permanently allotted, tlie conditions are essen-
tially changed. The conventions and agreements that are
made between clan and clan or family and family for the
adjustment of concurrent claims involve as their necessary
complement the gradual institution of family laws. The
family or household is identified with the property ; and
in absolute accordance with the principle of civic gov-
ernment which succeeded to the patriarchal rule, the
house-master becomes the controller of the whole. Hence
primitive laws about the disposition of wives and children
are necessarily rigorous. And it was just among the people
that had and continued to have the strongest sense of
property that the marital and paternal prerogatives were
the completest and most imperious. What enormous con-
sequences resulted from the conception of the relations
of the famil}' and the home in the Roman state, wliich
was in its essence merely the reproduction and amplifi-
cation of the constitution of the household, the political
and social history of the whole Western world reveals and
attests. In the constitution of the Hebrew family, also,
as modified by its settlement in Canaan, we shall find the
subsequent history of the people implicitl}" and potential!}-
contained. There lay the secret spring of their racial vital-
ity, their patriotism, their national solidarit}'. As we shall
see presently, it gave also form and colour to their literature.


§ 426. What we specially observe in the Hebrews
as contrasted with other ancient peoples is, not merely
the retaining of the rigorous legal bonds by which the
wife was subjected to the husband, but the establishment
of a relation of moral equality between them along with
a real community of feeling and unity of aim and pur-
pose. Without doubt this was profoundly connected
with the worship of Jehovah and its elevating and puri-
fying influences. And now we may see clearly the social
background of the manifold diversified representations
given us of the relations of Jehovah to his people,^ as set
forth under the guise of conjugal associations. This is
not the place to particularize. But just observe how here
again the claim of ownership and authority is asserted
even over the spouse that has wilfully wandered farthest
from. the love and care of the husband, as in the infin-
itely pathetic and significant story of Hosea's marital
experiences and its application to Jehovah's relations
with his people. Ownership is expressed even in the act
of disowning (Hos. ii. 2 ff.). On the other hand, we
may see how the tenderness and affection of an ideal, and
we may be sure not uncommon, Hebrew marriage is used
to image forth the inalienable and inextinguishable affec-
tion of Jehovah for his people. Isaiah liv., that won-
derful idealization of the marriage bond, presupposes an
elevation and transfiguration of woman in her relation to
man as high and beautiful as that which has been achieved
in our Christian civilization. And the comprehensiveness
of the picture is as admirable and touching as the intensity
and tenderness of feeling displayed in its colouring. All
that awakens interest, sympathy, and chivalric regard in

1 " Jehovah's land," so closely identified in the Hebrew conception with
the people of Jehovah, is likewise associated with its Lord, its true Ba'al,
by the terms of the marriage relation. See Isa. Ixii, 4. It was a common
notion among the Semitic peoples (W. R. Smith, RS. p. 95 ff.) that the
land was the spouse of its ha'cd. It was left to the Hebrews to spiritualize
and refine this conception, with so many other traditional ideas.


the vicissitudes of Jewish womanhood is brought before
us by a single stroke of the pencil — the blushing shame
of the slighted maiden, the reproach of the isolated widow,
the hopeless grief of the deserted spouse (v. 4, 6). One
central word gathers up the elements and motives of the
affection and devotion of the husband: Jehovah, who is
the husband-lord (cf. Jer. xxxi. 32) of his people, is
also their " Redeemer " their Goel (v. 5), the vindicator
of family rights, the champion of the abandoned, the
wronged, and the oppressed. A sociological fact of
Hebrew domestic life stands out here as clearly as do the
spiritual lessons of the passage: it is the husband that
is the emancipator of the wdfe. The primary traditional
authority is not foregone ; but it yields at length to the
diviner power of personal regard and loyal devotion. It
is no great psychological interval that separates the
Prophet of the Exile from the Apostle of the early
Christian age. In one breath Paul asserts the headship
of Christ over his Church, and his love and sacrifice for
it, along with the authority of the husband over the wife,
and the love with which he should cherish her; while,
like his great prototype, he makes the human relation the
counterpart of the divine (Eph. v. 22 ff.).

§ 427. A few words must be added as to the specific
relations of the children to the parents. We have seen
that, as far as the testimony of the narrative portions of
the Old Testament is concerned (§ 412 ff,), the power of
the father was reckoned to be absolute. The meagre pro-
visions of the legislation confirm this view of the paternal
right. In the all-important matter of marriage the father
could espouse either the son or the daughter to wdiomso-
ever he wished (Ex. xxi. 9 f. ; cf. Jud. xiv. 2 ff . ; 1 Sam.
xviii. 17 ff., 27, xxv. 44; 2 Sam. iii. 13 ff.). As to the
daughters, the whole system of procedure indicates that
they were originally regarded and treated as slaves of the
father. Thus brides were purchased by their suitors
from their fathers, and though, no doubt, the rule came


often to be relaxed or broken, yet we find it enforced in
the eighth century B.C. (Hos. iii. 2; cf. Ex. xxi. 7 f.),
in a case when it was necessary to make the covenant
especially binding. In general, the daughters of the
family were, to use the classical phraseology, restricted
both in familia and pecunia. As to the former disability,
we may notice the fact that in the numerous genealogical
lists of the Hebrews a female progenitor is scarcely ever
mentioned. The most striking illustration of the prin-
ciple is afforded by the genealogical tables given in
Matthew i. and Luke iii., which were drawn up so man}^
centuries after the foundations of Hebrew society were
laid. Their restriction in pecunia is exhibited just as
plainly in the special provisions made for their inheri-
tance of property. It was only when there were no sons
in the family that they could inherit at all; and then
there was put upon them the further limitation that the}',
with their property, were to be at the disposal of men of
their own tribe alone (Numb, xxvii. 8; xxxvi. 2 ff.).
In the first instance they were deprived of co-ordinate
rights with men, and, secondly, they were treated as
appendages and auxiliaries of the tribe as well as of the
household. Their condition, as a whole, is a corollary
from the status of the wives and mothers of the com-
munity, a direct evolution of the principle that the
primary function of woman was to serve her people
through the bearing and rearing of children. Hence
marriage was regarded by every maiden in Israel as the
normal and ideal state. By it she was appreciated; in
it she realized her mission.

§ 428. The treatment of sons differed from that of
daughters, not in virtue of the theoretical constitution
of the household, but in consequence of the functions
of the former as family representatives and prospective
house-fathers. Great significance must be attached to the
prerogatives of the first-born. To him came a double por-
tion of the inheritance (Deut. xxi. 17), with the duty of

Ch. II, § 429 THE BIRTH-RIGHT 71

maintaining the religious rites of the househokl, and of
supporting the women of the family. Hence the prestige
that invested the eldest son from childhood. Among
other weighty results, it was this principle that made
hereditary chieftainship and kingship possible. Hence,
in general, the fateful consequences of the alienation of
the birth-right.^ These, in conjunction with the ultimate
and supreme authority of the house-father, are imaged
forth most powerfully in the classical example of the sons
of Isaac. With all this accords the legal prohibition of
interference, in any case, with the rights of primogeniture
(Deut. xxi. 15-17). Such a high prerogative is, of course,
dependent upon and subordinated to the cardinal principle
of family headship. This is illustrated from the fact that
in the eye of the law the heir himself was, after all, only
a slave of his father — as we are reminded by one familiar
with both Jewish and Gentile law and custom, writing
near the close of the ancient regime. ^

§ 429. The social and legal position of the first-born
also plays a great part in the Hebrew religion and ritual.
The whole of the people of Israel, as owing their life to
Jehovah and as being his peculiar possession among the
nations of the earth, were viewed as the first-born of
Jehovah. This consideration explains the symbolical
and vicarious function of the eldest born of the family as
being dedicated to God, and, also, the ceremony of his
redemption. As a symbol of the pre-eminence of the first-
born in right and authority the usage of the term is famil-

1 This was perhaps always theoretically within the right of the house-
father, though we have examples of it only in patriarchal times (Gen.
xxvii., xlviii. 14 ff., xlix. 3 f.)- Yet this was the prerogative by which
the kingly succession was taken from Adonijah as well as Absalom by
David and given to Solomon.

- "The heir, as long as he is a child, differeth nothing from a slave,
though he is lord of all" (Gal. iv. 1). Hearn {The Anjan Household,
p. 91) acutely remarks that Paul addressed this observation to a people
among whom the Roman conception of patria potestas was exceptionally
exemplified, according to the express statement of Gaius, i. 55.


iar. See especially Ex. iv. 22; Jer. xxxi. 9; Ps. Ixxxix.
27. Like other terms of relationship, this, also, is trans-
ferred to higher spiritual conceptions, even the highest
and most sublime. Christ, as the only Son of God, was
one for whom no redemption was X30ssible. Indeed, in his
mediatorial function He becomes himself the Redeemer
of his human brethren, their Leader in suffering and
triumph, their Archetype, and therefore the first-born
among them all (Heb. ii. 10 ff. ; Col. i. 18; Rom. viii. 29).
The symbol reaches the extreme limit of its application
when, in view of the completeness and universality of
his redemption He is called the first-born of the whole
creation (Col. i. 15). Another figure, equally bold and
magnificent, is employed when the children of God, ex-
alted alike to pre-eminent rank and privilege, are called
"the general assembly and church of the first-born" (Heb.
xii. 23).

§ 430. The preceding observations are little more than
an attempt to gather and utilize some of the more impor-
tant applications of the principal terms of relationship
among the Hebrews. An exhaustive treatment of the
subject would be of the highest value, for into these
terms has been interfused the spirit of the immemorial
traditions of the people.^ The comprehensive and domi-
nant idea is, of course, that of the family bond. In con-
nection therewith it may be well to emphasize what has
already been frequently suggested, that the physical idea
of parentage is not the only, perhaps even not the prin-
cipal, notion, associated with the terms for "father" and
"mother," at any stage in their history. Moreover, the
respective spheres of the parents are not mutually exclu-
sive. In the conception of the father, authority and protec-

1 I would suggest to Biblical students who have not yet taken up the
subject, to begin by going carefully through the treatment of the articles
3s, DN, ]2, 03, in Brown's Gesenius, studying the references, and collating
them, in chronological order, in the light of sound philological and his-
torical principles.


tion predominate; in that of the mother, love,'Cai'e, and
tenderness. And yet fatherhood is not infrequently
invested with tenderness and pity,^ while motherhood is
sometimes a type of authority. In the latter case, how-
ever, a distinction must be made : the father commands,
the mother instructs and directs (e.g. Prov. vi. 20). Still,
in certain spheres appropriate to maternal influence the
initiative may be taken by the mother. These are par-
ticularly the provinces of religious and moral education
and the region of domestic life. An extreme instance,
suggested by the former, is Hannah's determining the
priestly career of her son (1 Sam. i.). Another, sug-
gested by the latter, is Hagar's providing a wife for
Ishmael (Gen. xxi. 21), though this was apparently in
accordance with the ideas of female independence prev-
alent among the nomadic and semi-nomadic tribes on the
southern borderland of Palestine (cf. Job xlii. 15; Prov.
xxxi. 1, 10 ff.). The usage of the Avords for son and daugh-
ter, on the other hand, brings into special view obedience,
honour, and reverence.

§ 431, What I wish, however, to emphasize is, that
such terms of relationship embrace ideas that go far
beyond the mere notion of kinship. For example, the
father is, in general, a protector and guardian. The
term is specially applied also to the patron of a class or
guild,2 (Gen. iv. 20 f.), and quite freely besides to priests
(Jud. xvii. 10; xviii. 19), prophets (2 K. ii. 12; vi. 21;
xiii. 14; Isa. xliii. 27), and counsellors (Gen. xlv. 8;
cf. Isa. ix. 5).^ It is, in fact, doubtful whether the word

1 So also the role of motherhood is attributed to Jehovah by the Second
Isaiah (Isa. Ixvi. 13).

- Correlative are, of course, such phrases as "sons of the Prophets,"
and the frequent Assyrian term, "sons of architects" for builders and
workmen generally, e.g. the builders of the ark, Delurje Tablet, line 81 ;
cf. Jensen, Bahylonische Kosmolor/ie, p. 414.

2 In Isa. ix. 5, observe the parallelism between the phrase "everlasting
father," used of the Messiah, and the preceding " a wonder of a couusel-
lor" (cf. § 726).


was originally restricted to fathers alone, and whether it
was not rather like the Aryan word patar, in this sense
specialized from a more general meaning.^ In further
illustration of the far-reaching scope of domestic and
social terminology, I may be permitted to cite the well-
known fact that the "religion of Confucius" was based
upon an observance of the three fundamental laws of rela-
tionship, those of sovereign and subject, father and child,
husband and wife. The social and religious life of China
as well as of Japan, which adopted and extended Confu-
cianism, has been, in great measure, determined by a
develo23ment of the cardinal ideas of such relations. Of
course this great teacher found the institutions already in
existence in the sixth century B.C. But his work was to
seize upon the ideas already associated with the terms in
question, and emphasize and extend them so that society
should crystallize itself about them. How different from
our own are the ideas of sovereign and subject prevailing
in China with its paternal despotism and its semi-deifica-
tion of the emperor! How natural it was that Confucian-
ism should unite in Japan with Mikadoism, or belief in
the Mikado's divine descent, and that as a result of that
syncretism the relation of lord and retainer came to be
paramount over the others, even over that of father and
child! Thus we find in the remotest east of Asia the
extreme development of tyranny and servility so charac-
teristic of Oriental peoples generally. This may suggest
at how great a cost the refined politeness of the Oriental
with its essential obsequiousness has been acquired.
Again recurring to the light thrown upon such subjects
b}^ current phraseology, it may be observed that the Japan-
ese language has no word for brother apart from the car-
dinal distinction between younger and older brother. ^

§ 432. The discussion of the status of the first-born
(§ 428) has already brought out something of the spiritual

1 See Hearn, The Aryan Household, p. 281 ff.

2 See Griffis, The Beligions of Japan (1895), p. 126 ff.


significance of the relations of fatherhood and sonship. It
is these relations which have, perhaps, contributed most
largely to the framework of metaphor and symbol about
which has been woven the sublime fabric of the moral
and religious teaching of the Bible. In them we have
the key to the understanding of that larger spiritual
nomenclature which embraces the whole earth and links
it with the Fatherhood in Heaven. Oriental society and
religion, including Semitism, are based upon paternalism.
The worship of Jehovah has utilized this relation to the
full. But, at the same time, it softened, humanized, and
glorified it according to the essential nature of Jehovah
himself. Two broad facts or tendencies of the Biblical
teaching may be particularized. They are both in com-
plete harmony with the social, moral, and religious devel-
opment of the Hebrew people and of the race. One is that
the Hebrew conception of sonship and fatherhood becomes
more special, individual, and personal in the progress of
sacred history and of Revelation. First we see God
revealing himself as the Father of all the tribes and
families of the earth. ^ Then he declares himself to be,
in a special sense, the Father of the people of Israel, the
child of privilege and choice (Ex. iv. 22; Deut. xxxii.
6; Hos. xi. 1; Jer. xxxi. 20; Isa. Ixiii. 16; Ixiv. 8;
Mai. ii. 10; cf. § 429). Again, he appears as the Father
of individuals highly distinguished by his favour and pro-
tection, as the theoretic King (2 Sam. vii. 14; Ps. Ixxxix.
26 f. ; cf. ii. 6 f.), or of those who have lost their earthly
parents (Ps. Ixviii. 5). His fatherhood, in relation to
those who are his children through faith and obedience,
is the basis of the relis^ion of the New Covenant. "As
the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ," he reveals
fatherhood and sonship more special still, which exhausts
the significance of all the aspects of the relationship.

1 Indeed, of all created tilings. According to Mai. ii. 10, creation and
fatherhood on the part of God are identical. Cf. Ps. xc, 2 in the original,
and .lob xxxviii. 28.


§ 433. The other outstanding fact is, that fatherhood,

Online LibraryJames Frederick McCurdyHistory, prophecy and the monuments (Volume 2) → online text (page 8 of 39)