Apologetics 101: What’s with the Weird Old Testament Laws? Part 3

So, why no female priests (Numbers 8:5-6 NASB)? The priests in the pagan nations were largely female and the rites were sexual in nature. God sought to avoid such a temptation and to mark off Israel from its neighbors.  Also, it is important to note ALL Israel was called to be priests (see Exodus 19:6) and that within the Kingdom there is no distinction (Galatians 3:28).

Furthermore, unlike the rest of the world at the time, the Old Testament forbade polygamy.  If you look at Leviticus 18:18, “18 “‘Do not take your wife’s sister as a rival wife and have sexual relations with her while your wife is living.” The term “wife’s sister” does not just apply to her immediate family but to any fellow female Israelite who they called “sisters.” Many figures in the Old Testament violated this law but it is never affirmed by God!

But did men buy wives in Israel (Exodus 22:16)? The “marriage gift” was an integral part of an agricultural society where every member of the family was to work to support the family.  The marriage gift was to

compensate the family for their loss and to demonstrate the seriousness of the young man and his family. In other words, it was God’s way of protecting families from economic hardship.

But was rape allowed in the Old Testament? Look at Deuteronomy 22:23-29, which in the NIV, reads:

22 If a man is found sleeping with another man’s wife, both the man who slept with her and the woman must die. You must purge the evil from Israel.

23 If a man happens to meet in a town a virgin pledged to be married and he sleeps with her, 24 you shall take both of them to the gate of that town and stone them to death—the young woman because she was in a town and did not scream for help, and the man because he violated another man’s wife. You must purge the evil from among you.

25 But if out in the country a man happens to meet a young woman pledged to be married and rapes her, only the man who has done this shall die. 26 Do nothing to the woman; she has committed no sin deserving death. This case is like that of someone who attacks and murders a neighbor, 27 for the man found the young woman out in the country, and though the betrothed woman screamed, there was no one to rescue her.

28 If a man happens to meet a virgin who is not pledged to be married and rapes her and they are discovered, 29 he shall pay her father fifty shekels of silver. He must marry the young woman, for he has violated her. He can never divorce her as long as he lives.

Paul Copan points out that Deuteronomy 22:23-24 deal with adultery, while verses 28-29 deal with fornication.  Tapas or “rape” (v.28) in the NIV is a poor translation. “Seizes” in the ESV is slightly better but the scenario is one where the girl does not cry out, which was required to avoid false charges of rape. Only Deuteronomy 22:25-27 deals with rape and notice the consequences!

Does Deuteronomy 21:10-14 endorse taking women as loot in wars? The culture of the ANE approved of rape and murder when conquering a nation but the Old Testament forbids rape and demands a soldier must marry any foreign woman he finds attractive, must provide for her, allow her to mourn and, if he still wants to marry her, he must do so and may never divorce her.  Israeli soldiers would have thought twice before approaching a female of a conquered nation.  Again, this is God meeting the culture where it was at and challenging it to move forward.

What about the strange passage in Deuteronomy 25:11-12 dealing with a woman who gets involved in a fist fight between two dudes? We will turn to that and more tomorrow! Stay tuned.

6 thoughts on “Apologetics 101: What’s with the Weird Old Testament Laws? Part 3

  1. Matt, do you believe that a relationship exists between Numbers 8:5-6 you quoted early on to 1 Timothy 2:12?
    Considering how scholarly The Apostle Paul was…
    The context seems quite differant, yet I would consider a relationship possible.
    Curious of your thoughts.
    Grateful for your effort with this series. I am enjoying it.

    • Thanks, Josh. I hadn’t thought about it but will try to look in to it. Would love to hear your thoughts. Blessings,

      • Matt,
        I believe the question and subject we are diving into goes back to Genesis 2:21-23. This introduces several details. Man’s birth order, God’s desire for man to have a “fit” or equivalent “helper”, the nature of the union between man and women in creation.
        That may be the easiest part.
        We should then introduce the fall in Genesis 3. I want to note that it seems that a great deal of misunderstanding and animosity comes from chapter 2 and 3. *God’s word is always convicting when read with hearts at the ready.*
        There is a principal of headship and accountability with the birth order. Just as a gift that accompanies great trust and responsibility. I do not read or see headship as a demeaning position to “lord over”, but of love and care. Just as our Father in heaven loves, instructs and heads our lives.
        Moving to your reference of Numbers 8:5-6.”no female priests”. I do not read this passage this way and cannot find the context for the statement.
        I read this as: 5 And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 6 “Take the Levites from among the people of Israel and cleanse them. Num 8:5-6 ESV
        Even the NASB reads similar. Not to detract, but for clarity was this the correct reference?
        That aside and moving toward a relation to 1 Timothy 2:12. Does Paul’s language and context reflect that of Genesis? Let us note that Paul also references 1 Corinthians 14:34. Another passage that often comes under fire, assuming Paul’s message is that of suppression and not discernment and accountability.
        Because Paul was so well educated as a
        Pharisee/Sadducee and a citizen of Rome, I believe his insight and understanding of the Septuagint and Torah allowed not only for an impactful conversion moment but a powerful ministry verbally and scholastically.
        I believe Paul is honoring the birth order and balance of God’s design. Both physically and spiritually. This passage in Timothy is certainly direct and a bold point.
        I confess this is one of many passages where Biblical tension exist. without careful contextual examination of the surrounding passages and potentially a finite breakdown of the language, it would simply be a passage that appears brash, sexist and without purpose for God.
        In the final analysis I believe what we find is that our fallen nature as son’s of Adam and daughter’s of Eve have very distinct and often very predictable “qualities’.
        Qualities an infinite and omniscient God see’s. Where man is pridefully blind.
        As a parent I often enforce what my children do not see and cannot yet fathom. Out of love and an understanding I have from prior experience.
        Our Father in heaven has given us guidelines to live by, for our betterment. Not out of malice but divine love.
        Reconciling all things to himself in the process.
        Praise God

        • Josh, I’m still not clear on what you are saying and I’m sure that’s my fault but I am not saying that the only reason priest were males is because of bleeding but just one of the reasons. I believe men are to lead albeit with the love of Christ. Does that help? Blessings.

  2. Matt,
    I apologize for the confusion. Likely from my unabridged answer.

    1. can you clarify how you arrive at “no female” priests” from Numbers 8:5-6. This is what I read –
    5 Again the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 6 “Take the Levites from among the sons of Israel and cleanse them.”
    Contextually I see this as a body (Levites) being set apart from the nation of Israel for a special purpose.

    On the Subject of Women priests. I was asking you if there was a realtionship with the OT reasoning you spoke of to 2 Timothy 2:12.

    In reply you asked for my thoughts (above) and that you would look into it-ish.

    In reading your response, it looks as if the OT justification (biblically) was for the clean/unclean reasons versus the Pagans whom used women priests for “other” duties…

    The Bible is a vivid and brilliantly written book,with many layers to uncover.

    I am curious about many of the relationships that exist.

    I hope that clears up my question. If not, I will shun and then chastise myself thoroughly!


    • Oh, I see. Numbers 8 identifies Levites as priests and only males were identified as such. I think PART of God’s reasoning for choosing only male priests had to do with the clean/unclean distinction, driving Israelite’s minds back to Genesis 1-2 AND the fact that female priests in the Ancient Near East were looked upon as sex objects AND the pattern of male leadership. Does that answer your question?

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