Is the Ideology of the Male a Source Which Distorts the Harmony of the Whole of Creation and the Relationship Between Human Beings and The Creator?
Actually I was asked to write a paper on justice and woman in the Bible. Certainly the appearance of injustice will be found in many places explicitly and implicitly if the position and experience of woman is explored in the Bible. It is natural. For the Bible is a product of the Male way of thinking and life. Unfortunately it seems to be universalized and becomes almost an established ideology.
Moreover, the Bible is understood as a book of instruction/guide for life, or even as a holy book. Thus it helps to transform the male ideology into universal faith. Whoever and wherever people only know and are familiar with the male faith experience with God. There is a tendency to assume that all people are supposed to receive this as part of their experience as well, though women are the majority of the faithful members of the church and themselves do not know about men and their ways.
Unfortunately there was a command to canonize the Bible, so that there was no chance to have the women’s view in what we call the Bible. The canonical system, in many places, also lifts up the authority of the bible to be absolute. Of course this status contributes much in the spreading of the male ideology all over the world. Regrettably, not many men who know that this is the case are willing to do take action. Why? Because if the Bible is to be deconstructed and reconstructed, this will Impact not only the Bible and church institutions but also all established structures and relationships in the world. Surely men would not like this to happen for they have been used to the privilege of the male ideology’s domination. Therefore there is no other way except for women as individuals or as a group/community to proclaim the Bible’s identity and to find a way to articulate, understand and explain the authority of the Bible.
Men’s Understanding of the Image of Women as Seen in The Bible
After exploring men’s conception of women in the Hebrew Bible, Phyllis Bird concludes that in general woman is placed inferior to men. Her function is more to produce children and act as men’s complement. A wife is considered a man’s possession, like others, such as children, animals, house, land, etc. In the Hebrew Bible’s laws, women are not recognized, though in Proverbs and in the Historical Writings there are images that woman is intelligent, and can either break or make a man.[i]
However still the criteria is based on the male point of view. Therefore it is very difficult to draw some conclusions about the image of woman in the Hebrew Bible. Perhaps there were many brave, intelligent, independent and wise women out there, but they had no power nor chance to be seen. This can be seen in the strong effort by men to reduce or even to banish the role of women in the beginning of Exodus story. Could Israel ever have existed without the role of Miriam, her mother and Pharaoh’s daughter? [ii] Would there be Christianity in Karo land Indonesia if Jesus had not appeared on the resurrection day to women?[iii]
Domination is a Root to Destroy the Harmony and Interrelatedness of Creation, and to Damage the Relationship Between Humans and God.
Domination[iv] is part of the male character. Thus, it is not surprising if other parts of creation outside of men himself have to be inferior and less and if there is a strong tendency to posses. Men need to proclaim themselves, therefore power and status is important for him to be himself. Possession is one way to show his power and authority, and woman is one of his possessions. Domination usually is interrelated with possessiveness in man, and its nature is to ruin the wholeness of creation and the relationship between humans and God.
Genesis 2:4b-3:15 J, the writer of Gen 2:4b-3:15 expresses male domination in putting Adam to naming the animals and the woman.[v] Adam also is the one who decides to chose the woman to be his match,[vi] his equal helper,[vii] in helping him to produce future generations. Moreover, male domination strongly is stressed in the implementation of Yahweh’s punishment for human disobedience in Gen 3:1-15. In this case, snake and the earth are cursed, woman has always to be in pain while doing her role to produce children, and she will be always under male authority.[viii] While men have to suffer to put the bread on the table. Apparently, male ideology is a form of Yahweh’s punishment.[ix] In this case I agree with the radical feminist suggestion
which is stated by Ynesta King.
“… the subordination of women in society is the root of oppression, closely related to the association of women with nature…. Men identify women with nature and seek to enlist both in the service of male “projects” designed to make men safe from feared nature and mortality.”[x]
This can be seen in the way J designs the form of punishment to the woman and man in
Gen 3: . Therefore talking and exploring injustice with regard to women in the Bible cannot be separated from talking about the injustices suffered by other parts of creation. And it turns out that we all still live in the form of Yahweh’s punishment. The creator knows that humans can not live without food. Therefore when humans disobey Yahweh, Yahweh destroys the earth. In this case the land is cursed (Gen 3:17, see also Gen 4:11; 5:29). So every living being’s food is taken from the earth. The same phenomenon is found in the flood story in Gen 8:21. Yahweh has to destroy the earth and everything in it for man’s great wickedness (Gen 6:5-7). Therefore no one part of creation bear its own punishment/blessing from its creator for its own disobedience. Because of one part’s disobedience, all creation becomes shaky. No one part of creation is able to live by and for itself. All creation is supposed to operate interrelatedly. Usually other parts of creation are in solidarity with the human condition. Even sometimes they become victims of the human attitude. Therefore humans can not live without other parts of creation. More on this phenomenon will be explained below.[xi]
The words radah[xii] and kabasy[xiii] in Gen 1:26,28 are understood by Lynn White as having a colonialistic understanding. Thus he blames these two words as providing a ground for the present ecological crisis.[xiv] I think there is no need to blame the words, instead, it is the male ideology. It is proper to blame the male ideology for the present ecological crisis and the damaged relationship between humans and God. Thus I think to restore and maintain the wholeness of creation and the relationship of humans and God, we need to deconstruct and reconstruct the whole established structure in the world. Is this a Utopian way? I don’t think so. However even longer time is required and courage for people who are able to proclaim something different is needed to achieve the goal above. Different voices apparently echo in the Bible, such as in Gen 1:1-2:4a; and the two eschatological texts in Hos 2:20-24 and Isa 11:6-9.
P’s creation story in Gen 1:1-2:4a
P divides the creation story into six days of activity concluding with a day of divine rest. After creating some of the divisions of time and space, on the third day Elohim creates two categories of vegetation: plants yielding seeds, and trees bearing fruit with seed in it, each according to its kinds. In this process the earth has the role of bringing forth the vegetation.
After creating the lights of the sky, on the fifth day Elohim commanded the water to bring forth living creatures in the water (the great sea creatures and everything that swarms in the sea), along with the appearance of the creatures in the sky (every winged bird), each according to its kind. Then Elohim blessed them and pronounced them good. On day six, Elohim created the land animals and humans. As with the vegetation, the earth still has a function in bringing forth the land animals, which are categorized as cattle, everything that creeps on the ground, and beasts of the earth. The sequence seems to be based on the character of encounter with the animals in ordinary life.
Then as the climax, P specifically emphasizes the different character of the creation of humans in Gen 1:26-28. Here P states that humans are created in accordance with Elohim’s image and likeness. Moreover, humans are given a role, i.e., the responsibility of ruling over the animals and subduing the earth. Again a blessing is given, this time to people, together with the command to be fruitful, multiply, and fill the earth. In addition, humans have an additional command, to “subdue” the earth. Then Elohim points out that both humans and animals are to consume the plants as their diet. In the above sequences, P distinguished the creation of plants, animals, and humans.
For the creation of plants in Gen 1:11-12, and of land animals in Gen 1:24-5, Elohim assigned the earth to be intermediary. Meanwhile for the water animals in Gen 1:20, Elohim delegates their generation to the sea. Only with the creation of humans, does Elohim create directly, indeed in Elohim’s image and likeness. Though P indicates that plants and animals were not created directly by Elohim, P considers them to be parts of creation which have their own identity. This can be seen in how P divides the plants and animals based on their place and kind, and how P uses the repetition of “each according to its kind”. Besides emphasizing the existence of each part of creation, P also stresses the interrelationship among them. P states that on the first day Elohim created the light and the dark, which is day and night. On the second day, Elohim creates the sky and water. On the third day water is divided into two spaces: the dry land which is called the earth, and the sea. On the same day, after creating the dry land, the vegetation was created. As we know, plants need land, water and light to live. Therefore the basic needs of plants were created first, then Elohim created the plants. Later Elohim created the individual lights, sun, the moon and the stars. These joining the light and the dark from the first day, are the sources for the determination of time. The sky, water and earth are the source for defining space. Plants, animals and human are limited by space and time. On the fifth and sixth day Elohim created water animals and birds, the land animals, and human beings. P explicitly states that the vegetation, created on the third day, and the land animals created on the sixth day, have a relationship with the dry land or the earth which was also established on the third day. The water animals which were created on the fifth day have a relationship with the water which was limited and named on the third day.
Meanwhile only humans are described as having a direct relationship with Elohim. Though P marks the existence of animals and plants and also the interrelationship among the parts of creation, P purposely expresses the special status of humans who are created in the image of Elohim. There is no explicit statement that the plants and animals are created for the sake of humans. Instead, the content and structure of Gen 1:1-2:4, clearly shows that every part of creation comes about in a seemingly logical sequence.
The status as “created in Elohim’s image” can not be separated from the role of humans in ruling over the animals and subduing the earth. These two are one. Most scholars recognize that P does not fully explain the meaning of “image of Elohim.” However based on the structure and content of Gen 1:26-28, it is understood that P emphasizes more the consequences of being in the image of Elohim, that is to rule (radah) over animals and subdue (kabasy) the earth.
Though scholars[xv] have some differences of understanding about it, all agree that the ultimate power/subject in this case is Elohim as creator. P is concerned that “something” has to manage/maintain the goodness of the earth and everything in it. Thus P combines the concept of status (created in Elohim’s image) and function of humans to rule over the animals and subdue the earth. These two understandings can not be separated.
The way I see the structure and content of P, the creation is not based on a strictly hierarchical system nor on authority without responsibility, but on sustaining the mutual relationships within creation. Within the structure of creation, the physical world, P focuses on the plants, animals and human structures, based on the need of every creature to be in a relationship of harmony. Note that the humans and animals eat only vegetation. The emphasis that only humans are crated directly by Elohim, and in Elohim’s image, has to do with P’s understanding that there has to be one who can serve as the “local” manager of the earth and everything in it. P frequently emphasizes that every part of creation is good, even very good, thus P needs a “representative” or someone in the right “relationship” who has to be related to Elohim as a creator, so as to take care of the whole creation. Of course the goal is to maintain the situation as it is, i.e., very good. So we know in this case woman and man work together as caretakers of the earth,[xvi] and they have a peaceful relationship with animals, for all of them are vegetarian.
However this stage has vanished. After the flood that was caused by kal basar (humans and animals) who created hamas (oppression; injustice and unrighteousness),[xvii] Elohim, the creator, revises criteria for the parts of creation, in Gen 9. To hold the original criteria in Gen 1-2:4a where the whole creation is very good is impossible. No more peace. Hamas every where. Therefore since the post-flood era, humans are eligible to eat meat (Gen 9:3), as long there is no blood in it, for life is in the blood, and life belongs to God.
In the Hebrew Bible, humans and animals are considered as living beings, plants not included. And there is no license for living beings to take the life of another living being. Consequently there is a tension always between humans and animals (Gen 9:2,5), and among humans themselves (Gen 9:5). In the post-flood era the status of animals is under human oppression for they have permission to kill them as food, therefore there is always a tension between them. However still Elohim owns the creation. The animals’ blood can not be eaten, for life is in it, and its life belongs to the creator. However no one can take a human life except the creator, for the status of humans created in Elohim’s image is preserved. Therefore, there is still hope whether humans want to do the right thing or not! But Elohim has anticipated already that, if humans cannot perform according to their status, Elohim will never destroy the earth anymore, for it is a promise in Elohim’s covenant with the living beings (Gen 9: 8-17.)
Hosea 2:20-24 (ET 2:18-22)[xviii]
In the book of Hosea, Yahweh is not the one who destroys (cf. Hos 11:9). Even though Yahweh had been angered by Israel’s attitude, and announces punishment to the people (Hos 2:11-15; ET 2:9-13), all these plans and feelings are melted by the compassionate love which Yahweh has for Israel. Laken hineh in 2:16 (ET 2:14) is used by Hosea to mark the changing attitude of Yahweh. Instead of making Israel’s life miserable with punishment, the compassionate Yahweh tries to persuade Israel to remain in their “marriage” relationship. (Hos 2:16-19; ET 2:14-17). As a result of this expected reconciliation, Yahweh will do two things: Yahweh will make a covenant , for the people with 1/ the wild animals, the birds, and creeping things (cf Hos 2:14/ET 2:12; 5:14; 13:7-8) and 2/ the bow, the sword and warfare will be abolished (“broken”) from the earth.
The text does not state what kind of covenant this is nor does it describe how the covenant will be made; only that this covenant will be made for the benefit of the people of Israel (though the animals would also benefit somewhat from the cessation of warfare). The purpose of the covenant is to make Israel able to lie down securely. The using of hiphil form for syakav and the adverbial labetah emphasizes that the security the Israelites will have comes from Yahweh
who will act according to the promise.[xix]
Scholars assume that the effect of the covenant between Yahweh and animals ensures the animals and human beings have a good relationship.[xx]
It is clear in Hosea 1-2 that the relationship between Yahweh and Israel is in serious trouble. The analogy of marriage points to “a mutual commitment;” they belong to each other. In this case, Israel is the unfaithful partner, Israel does not know her husband, Yahweh (Hos 4:1,6; 5:4; 6:3,6). Knowing Yahweh here refers to acknowledging the sovereignty of Yahweh who is the almighty and is the source of everything (Hos 2:10/ET 2:8). Yahweh responds to Israel’s betrayal with understanding, compassionate love. Yahweh’s love for Israel will initiate a transformed relationship, in which Israel will “know” Yahweh (Hos 2:21-22/ET 19-20). At that time Israel will “know” Yahweh and a true relationship between them will come about.
Thus by using the terrace pattern, Hosea proclaims that Yahweh will “answer/respond to” the heavens and the heavens will answer the earth, and the earth will answer the grain, the new wine, and the fresh oil, and they all will answer Jezreel. As a result there will be enough food for Israel, a gift from Yahweh (cf. Hos 2:10,11,14,17). Hos 2:20-24 indicates, therefore that when Yhwh brings about the transformed relationship between Yhwh and Israel, Israel will not need to fear the animals (cf. Hos 2:11b; 5:14;13:7-8)[xxi], war (2:20), or the lack of food (2:23-24).
This is a remarkable declaration of the interdependence among all parts of creation which can not be separated from the interrelationship between the creature and the creator (Yahweh-animals-humans-in Hos 2:20, and Humans-plants-humans in Hos 2:24). The well-being of the interrelationships among the parts of creation cannot be separated from the well-being of the relationship between Humans and YAHWE; these two aspects are interrelated.[xxii] This interrelationship also can be seen in Hosea’s statement of the consequences if Israel does not know Humans: there will be chaos on earth (Hos 4:3).
V. 6 indicates the idea of togetherness among the animals. The subject in both lines one and two is the wild and powerful animals, while the object of the preposition is the weak domestic animals which are usually prey for the wild animals. However, here they are pictured as living together. Even more they are not living together but also their young feed themselves together. The climax of this stanza indicates that a young child shall lead them. The harmonious relationship among animals expands to humans, since a young child shall shepherd them. Again, a human- indeed even a child-is portrayed as a leader of the animals (Cf. Gen 1:26,28).
The central idea in v.7 is still the harmonious relationship between the animals such as the cow and the bear. And this peace situation is transmitted to their offspring. The vegetarian idea appears as inclusion (Cf. Gen 1:31, humans and animals are vegetarian). So there will be no conflict for no one part of creation preys on another.[xxiv] v.8 indicated that the enmity which Yhwh Elohim put between the snake and the humans no longer exists (cf. Gen 3:14-15)
Therefore, Isa 11:6-8 points to a harmonious relationship among animals and also between animals and human beings.[xxv] This concept is supported and declared in the last stanza of this section of the poetry (v.9): They shall not hurt or destroy in my holy mountain For the earth shall be full of the knowledge of Humans As the waters cover the sea.
Like Hosea, Isaiah also understands that peace among living beings (humans and animals) cannot be separated from the well-being of the relationship between the creation and the Creator, “for the earth shall be full of knowledge of Yahweh. This statement implies a drastic change for Isaiah, who had claimed that Israelites do not know Yahweh (Isa 1:3; 6:9). Thus, at that time, there is a harmony of interrelationship among the living beings and also between humans and Yahweh.
Though the picture of harmony in the whole of creation and with the Creator is more detailed in the P creation story than in the eschatological texts in Hosea 2:20-24 and Isa 11:6-9, the three texts indicate together the interrelatedness of all creation.
Claiming kal basar (humans and animals) as a source of hamas in Gen 6 by P, is supported by these two eschatological texts which indicates that there is violence among the animals.
The three texts agree that food is an important factor. Plant, land, rain and some animals will be used by Yhwh to punish living beings for their disobedience. One creation disobey Yhwh, all creation will suffer for it. Food also as a factor of violence when living beings consume meat.
The three of them agree that the most important factor is humans know God, so their relationship will be good, and it will expand to the whole of creation. Therefore to be created in the image of God, is so important for humans. Thus though Yhwh revised some of Yhwh’s criteria for Yhwh’s creations in Gen 9, Yhwh did not revise the status of humans as being created in the image of God.
[i]See: Phyllis Bird,” Image of Women in the Old Testament,” in Religion And Sexism. Ed. By: Rosemary Radford Ruether, New York: Simon Schuster, 1974, 41-88
[ii] See: Phyllis Trible, “Subversive Justice: Tracing the Miriamic traditions,” in Justice and The Hoy, 99-109.
[iii] It is no coincidence that Jesus’ first appreance after his resurrection is to the women (Matt 28:1-10). If Jesus’ context was in Karo land and he showed himself to Karo men, I can say that the story of Jesus’ resurrection would have been kept in the coffee shop where Chess and cards are more important. However Jesus’ first appearance is to women who are active in every segment of society, so the resurrection story is spoken in the market, in the field, at the river, at the well, in the kitchen, at school, every where!
[iv] Cf. Ynesta King who took Murray Bookdun’s idea in The Ecology Of Freedom (Palo:Alto, Ca: Cheshire Books, 1982) in her article “Healing The Wounds: Feminism, Ecology and the Nature/Culture Dualism in Reweaving The World, 107.
[v] Cf. Gordon Wenham, Genesis 1-15. WBC. Texas: Word Book Publisher, 1987, 70; David Clines, What Does Eve Do to Help? Sheffield: SOT Press, 1990, 39; Nahum Sarna, Genesis, The JPS Commentary, 21-23.
[vi] The use of hafaam followed by the statement of the man, “bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh,” indicates his emotional happiness and excitement (like: “eureka”) . Now finally the man finds his match, cf. Westermann, Genesis 1-11, 229-232.
[vii] Ezer kenegdo is used to highlight the superiority of women by Phyllis Trible for most often ezer is applied to Yhwh, either as a helper or with reference to the help that comes from Yhwh, see Trible’s view in God and the . However in this case I follow Clines who says that help in this matter, ezer means to help men to produce future generations, see. David Clines, 35-37.
[viii] Masal is a verb which is used with a special subject, who has the power to lead/guide and to take care of. This verb is applied to God in Pss 22:29; 59:14;89:10; 103:19; judg 8:3; Isa 63:19; 2 Chr 20:6; Job 25:2) to the king in Isa 19:4; Jer 22:30; to the expectation of Messiah in Mic 5:2; to sin in Gen 4:7 and to the heavenly bodies in Gen 1:18.
[ix] Cf. Nahum Sarna, 28.
[x] See: Ynesta King, 109-110.
[xi] Ruether considers this as Ecofeminism which she understands as bringing together ecology and feminism in their full form, and she explores how male domination of woman and of nature are interconnected, both in cultural ideology and in social structure, see: Rosemary R. Ruether, Gaia and God. (New York: Harper Collins, 1992), 3.
[xii] The word radah is used in Ezek 29:15; 34:4; Lev 25:34,46,53; 26:17; Isa 14:2; 1 Kings 5:4; 9:23; 2 chr 8:10; Num 28:19; Pss 49:15;72:8;110:2; Jer 5:31 and Neh 9:28. Using the sematics approach, I found that this verb is used in sentence in which the subject has more power than the object . The verb itself does not determine whether the subject of the verb uses power in negative or positive way. The verb is a neutral one, just indicating that the object of the verb is under the power of the subject. Cf. Barr, Man And Nature, 62-66.
[xiii] The same as radah, kabasy here is also neutral verb.
[xiv] See Lynn White, “The historical roots of our ecological crisis,” in Ecology and Religion in History, Ed. David and Eileen Spring (New York: Harper and Row, 1974)15-31, see also response to his article by James Barr in “Man in Nature,” Ecology and Religion in History; B. W. Anderson, From Creation to New Creation: An Old Testament Perspective, OBT (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1994); Steck, World and Environment, 198.
[xv] Scholars understand the meaning of “created in the image of God based on “analogical” and “consequential” relationships. Some point to humans as Elohim’s representatives (Von Rad, Jacob, Schmidt ) or point to the “relationship between Elohim and humans (Vriezen, Barr, Westermann and Sarna); or point to humans and Elohim having a dialogue and a knowledgeable-relationship (Eichrodt).
[xvi] Cf the idea of all humankind is entitled to glory and honor from and honor from God in Ps 8:6.
[xvii] See Cassuto, Genesis 2, 52; B. Jacob, Genesis, 48 and Sarna, Genesis, 51.
[xviii] Who wrote the text is still debated among scholars. Mays thinks it is possibly from Hosea, see James Luther Mays, Hosea, OTL (Philadelphia:Westminster Press, 1969) 47; while others consider it was composed later by a redactor, see Gale Yee, Composition and Tradition in the Book of Hosea: A Redaction Critical Investigation (Atlanta Scholar Press, 1987) 86,88, 142-43, 316-17; Martin Buss, The Prophetic Word of Hosea (Berlin: Verlag Alfred Topelmann, 1969) 33,72, 109; Andersen and Freedman, Hosea, 57-58; Jacob Myers, The Book of Hosea (Richmond: John Knox Press, 1959) 7. Based on the fact that the idea and language in v.20 are old, I think it was composed by Hosea.
[xix] Lev 25:18,19; 26:5;Ezek 28:26; 34:25,28; 38:8,11,14; 39:6,26; Job 11:18; Isa 47:8; Jer 32:37; 49:31.
[xx] See Vriezen, An Outline, 223; S.A Cook, The Old Testament A Reinterpretation (London: Cambridge W. Heffer&sons, 1963) 107, 163.
[xxi] See also Isa 30:23-25; Jer 29:17-8; 31:12; 32:24;38:2; 42:22; 44:12; Amos 9:13-15; Joel 2:19,24,26.
[xxii] Cf. Wolff, Hosea, 69.
[xxiii] Scholars have had differing views about the content of Isa 11:6-9. Some say that the change pictured in the passage is only a symbolic one, see Edward Kissane, The Book of Isaiah, 136; Others think that it can be understood in a literal way, but that it does not come from the original prophets, see George B. Gray, The Book of Isaiah 1-39, 214; Still others view it as composed by Isaiah of Jerusalem and to be understood in its literal meaning, see George A. Smith, The Book of Isaiah 1-31, 136,183; Skinner, Isaiah 1-39, 104;Wildberger, Isaiah 1-12, 462-69.
[xxiv] Cf. Solomon B. Freehof, Book of Isaiah, 77.
[xxv] Therefore most scholars take Isa 11:6-8 as portraying a situation in which peace exists. This situation is called paradise by some scholars, see Franz Delitzsch, The Prophecies of Isaiah, 282,85; Georg Fohrer, Das Buch Jesaja, 154-55; Johan Fischer, Das Buch Isaias, 103-4; August Dilmann, Jesaja, 118-19;Kaiser, Isaiah 1-12; R.E. Clement, Isaiah 1-39,14.
This paper is presented at the CCA Meeting in Chiang Mai 2002.