Elizabeth Cady Stanton
Vol. 1: Comments on
Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus,
Copyright © 1895. All Rights Reserved.
1. And Moses spake unto the heads of the tribes concerning the children of Israel, saying, This is the thing which the Lord hath commanded.
2. If a man vow a vow unto the Lord, or swear an oath to bind his soul with a bond; he shall not break his word, he shall do according to all that proceedeth out of his mouth.
3. If a woman also vow a vow unto the Lord, and bind herself by a bond, being in her father's house in her youth;
4. And her father hear her vow, and her bond wherewith she hath bound her soul, and her father shall hold his peace at her; then all her vows shall stand, and every bond wherewith she hath bound her soul shall stand.
5. But if her father disallow her in the day that he heareth, not any of her vows, or of her bonds wherewith she had bound her soul, shall stand; and the Lord shall forgive her, because her father disallowed her.
6. And if she had at all a husband, when she vowed, or uttered aught out of her lips, wherewith she bound her soul;
7. And her husband heard it, and held his peace at her in the day that he heard it; then her vows shall stand, and her bonds wherewith she bound her soul shall stand.
8. But if her husband disallowed her on the day that he heard it, then he shall make her vow which she vowed, and that which she uttered with her lips, wherewith she bound her soul, of none effect; and the Lord shall forgive her.
9. But every vow of a widow, and of her that is divorced, wherewith they have bound their souls, shall stand against her.
13. Every vow, and every binding oath to afflict the soul, her husband may establish it, or her husband may make it void.
14. But if her husband altogether hold his peace at her from day to day; then he establisheth all her vows, or all her bonds, which are upon her he confirmeth them, because he held his peace at her in the day that he heard them.
15. But if he shall any ways make them void after that he hath heard them; then he shall bear her iniquity.
16. These are the statutes, which the Lord commanded Moses, between a man and his wife, between the father and his daughter, being yet in her youth in her father's house.
ELIZABETH CADY STANTON
A VOW is a religious promise made to God, and yet in the face of such a definition is placed the authority of husband and father between the woman and her God. God seems thus far to have dealt directly with women when they sinned, but in making a religious vow, or dedication of themselves to some high purpose, their fathers and husbands must be consulted. A man's vow stands; a woman's is always conditional. Neither wisdom nor age can make her secure in any privileges, though always personally responsible for crime. If she have sufficient intelligence to decide between good and evil, and pay the penalty for violated law, why not make her responsible for her words and deeds when obedient to moral law. To hold woman in such an attitude is to rob her words and actions of all moral character. We see from this chapter that Jewish women, as well as those of other nations, were held in a condition of perpetual tutelage or minority under the authority of the father until married and then under the husband, hence vows if in their presence if disallowed were as nothing. That Jewish men appreciate the degradation of woman's position is seen in a part of their service in which each man says on every Sabbath day, "I thank Thee, oh Lord, that I was not born a woman!" and the woman meekly responds, "I thank Thee, oh Lord, that I am what I am, according to Thy holy, will."
The injunction in the above texts in regard to the interference of fathers is given only once, while the husband's authority is mentioned three times. If the woman was betrothed, even the future husband had the right to disallow her vows. It is supposed by, some expositors that by a parity of reason minor sons should have been under the same restrictions as daughters, but if it were intended, it is extraordinary that daughters alone should have been mentioned. Scott, in extenuating the custom, says: "Males were certainly allowed more liberty than females; the vows of the latter might be adjudged more prejudicial to families; or the sons being more immediately under the father's tuition might be thought less liable to be inveigled into rash engagements of any kind."
E. C. S.
ELIZABETH CADY STANTON
REV. PHEBE HANAFORD
Woman is here taught that she is irresponsible. The father or the husband is all. They are wisdom, power, responsibility. But woman is a nonentity, if still in her father's house, or if she has a husband. I object to this teaching. It is unjust to man that he should have the added responsibility of his daughter's or wife's word, and it is cruel to woman because the irresponsibility is enslaving in its influence. It is contrary to true Gospel teaching, for only, in freedom to do right can a soul dwell in that love which is the fulfilling of the law.
The whole import of this chapter is that a woman's word is worthless, unless she is a widow or divorced. While an unmarried daughter, her father is her surety; when married, the husband allows or disallows what she promises, and the promise is kept or broken according to his will. The whole Mosaic law in this respect seems based upon the idea that a woman is an irresponsible being; and that it is supposed each daughter will marry at some time, and thus be continually under the control of some male-the father or the husband. Unjust, arbitrary and debasing are such ideas, and the laws based upon them. Could the Infinite Father and Mother have give them to Moses? I think not.
P. A. H.
REV. PHEBE HANAFORD
May the Wisdom Force
be with You.
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