Women’s Issues and Concerns in the Old Testament

Claude Mariottini
Emeritus Professor
of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary

Over the years I have written many posts about the women of the Old Testament. The significant role women played in Israelite society is found in texts that tell their stories. Some of these women are well known, such as the matriarchs of Israel. Others, such as Rizpah, are not well known, but their stories reveal much about their strong character. The majority of the women who lived in ancient Israel are unknown because their names have never been recorded, and for this reason, their stories have never been told.

Some women are known because of their relationship with important men in Israel, such as Zipporah, the wife of Moses. Others are known by the functions they performed in Israelite society, such as Huldah the prophetess.

The stories of these women come from different places in Israel, from different periods in the history of the nation, and from different social and cultural situations. And yet, notwithstanding the different origins of these stories, the biblical text presents the different and important roles women played in Israelite society

I have written several posts dealing with women’s issues and concerns in the Old Testament. These issues and concerns are expressed in the legal codes of the Pentateuch and in other texts of the Old Testament.

Some of the laws of the Old Testament show that women are subordinate to men in the household. For instance, a wife was considered to be a man’s property. A father exerted the right to control his daughter’s sexuality. A single woman was expected to be a virgin at the time of marriage. A man could accuse his bride of not being a virgin.

Not withstanding the perception that women were slaves of a patriarchal system, the Bible shows that in many situations women could assume roles that were traditionally assigned to men. As Frymer-Kensky (1992: 120) wrote,

These stories . . . show that beyond the realities of Israel’s social structure, the Bible presents a remarkably unified vision of humankind, for the stories show women as having the same inherent characteristics [as] men. The circumstances of their lives are different from those of some men (those with power), but there are no innate differences that preclude women from taking men’s roles . . . should the occasion arise and circumstances warrant it. There is nothing distinctively “female” about the way that women are portrayed in the Bible.

In my studies on the plight of women in Israelite society, I show that the status of women as persons of worth and dignity in Israel at times is betrayed by the social realities present in Israelite society. However, throughout the studies listed below, I make an attempt at showing how the reforms of Josiah and the book of Deuteronomy made an attempt at improving the status of women in Israelite society during the seventh century B.C.E.

The best effort to improve the religious and social problems confronting women in Israelite society in the late monarchic period is found in the book of Deuteronomy. The book of Deuteronomy was an attempt at developing a special sense of social responsibility in the life of every Israelite for the poor, slaves, women, and for those in society who were underprivileged and did not enjoy the whole benefit of the law.

In addition, the studies below address some of the issues women faced in Israelite society. Some posts deal with issues women faced in the past and are facing in the present. In all, my goal is to address some of the problems women faced in the past so that women today may understand and identify with the struggles women have faced. The struggles women faced in the past are, in a sense, the same struggles women are facing today in many parts of the world.

Enjoy these studies.


Frymer-Kensky, Tikva, In the Wake of the Goddess. New York: The Free Press, 1992.

Women’s Issues and Concerns in the Old Testament

The Status of Women in Israelite Society

Women and the Book of Deuteronomy

Studies on the Deuteronomic Concern for Women

The Deuteronomic Concern for Women

The Social Concern of Deuteronomy – Part 1

The Social Concern of Deuteronomy – Part 2

The Tenth Commandment (Deuteronomy 5:21)

Old Testament’s Deuteronomy Puts Women on Equal Footing

Ecclesiastes 7:28: Not One Upright Woman?

Ecclesiastes 7:28: In Search of a Better Translation

Ecclesiastes 7:28: Was Qoheleth a Misogynist? – Part 1

Ecclesiastes 7:28: Was Qoheleth a Misogynist? – Part 2

Women Who Proclaim the Good News

The Mutilation of Women in the Hebrew Bible – Part 1

The Mutilation of Women in the Hebrew Bible – Part 2

The Mutilation of Women in the Hebrew Bible – Part 3

Ripping Open Pregnant Women

Greg Boyd and the Practice of Ripping Open Pregnant Women

Studies on the Women Prophets in the Old Testament

Women Prophets: A Postscript

Women Prophets in the Hebrew Bible

Violence Against Women – 1

Violence Against Women – 2

Child Sacrifice: More Violence Against Women

Women, Football, and Domestic Violence

Agunot: Chained Women

The New NIV and Women in the Church

Women and the Torah

Ordaining Women

Not for Women Only

Women of the Wall

Roman Catholic Women Priests

The Mystery Women of the Assyrian Empire

Women, Pants, and Deuteronomy 22:5 – Part 1

Women, Pants, and Deuteronomy 22:5 – Part 2

Women, Paris, and Pants

Women Wearing Pants: The Consequence

Studies on Old Testament Mothers

Happy Mother’s Day

Honor Your Mother

Moses’ Two Mothers

The Mother of Seven

The Sons of Rizpah: Reflections on a Mother’s Love

Tribute to a Blessed Mother

A Woman Who Was Better Than Seven Sons

Witches and Witchcraft in the Bible

Solomon and the Two Prostitutes – Part I

Solomon and the Two Prostitutes – Part II

The Law of the Hebrew Slave

Sex with a Female Slave

The Marginality of the Female Slave

Female Slaves in the Hebrew Bible

Slavery in the 21st Century

Widows and the Law of Pledges

God and the Widows and Orphans

The Permanent Text of the ESV

Blaming the Woman

Sheerah: A Woman of Distinction

The Genealogy of Jesus According to His Great-Grandmothers

Do Women Really Want to Go Back to Patriarchy?

Patriarchy and the Problem of Honor Killing

Honor Killing

David’s Family

Ideal and Dangerous Sisters in the Bible

Studies on Deborah

The Seven Prophetesses of the Old Testament

Prophecy and the Spirit of God

The Nameless Prophetesses in the Book of Ezekiel

Female Tattooing in Ancient Egypt

Women and Christianity

Modesty and the Talmud

Adam’s Sin: Listening To His Wife

Rape in the Hebrew Bible – Part 1

Rape in the Hebrew Bible – Part 2

The Creation of the Woman in Genesis 2:18-24

Sacred Prostitution in Antiquity

Pregnancy Test in Ancient Egypt

Hypatia: A Woman of Renown

Phoebe: A Diakonos

Junia, the Apostle: Man or Woman?

A Woman Who Was Better Than Seven Sons

Gender Representation in Ancient Egyptian Art

A Case for Domestics Abuse: Another Perspective

The Veil in Sumerian Culture

Nefertiti’s Eyes

The Complementarian-Egalitarian Divide

Revisiting Isaiah 50:1: The Problem of Divorce in the Old Testament

Tikva Frymer-Kensky: 1943 – 2006

The Creation of the Woman in Genesis 2:18-24

Searching for a Woman’s Voice in Psalms

All the Women of the Old Testament

Beth Moore, Don’t Go Home

Obscure Texts Sometimes Used to Diminish Women

The Leadership of Miriam

Claude Mariottini
Emeritus Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary



NOTE: Did you like this post? Do you think other people would like to read this post? Be sure to share this post on Facebook and share a link on Twitter or Tumblr so that others may enjoy reading it too!

I would love to hear from you! Let me know what you thought of this post by leaving a comment below. Be sure to like my page on Facebook, follow me on Twitter, follow me on Tumblr, Facebook, and subscribe to my blog to receive each post by email.

If you are looking for other series of studies on the Old Testament, visit the Archive section and you will find many studies that deal with a variety of topics.

This entry was posted in Bathsheba, Book of Deuteronomy, Book of Ecclesiastes, Rape, Social Concern, Women and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.