Troublesome Topic: Is Our Society More Advanced than That of Ancient Israel?

Many Christians think they can ignore Paul’s words about women based on the idea that Paul’s culture was influencing his thinking. They see our modern perspective on the role of women as a sign that we have progressed a long ways since Biblical times and therefore we do not need to follow certain rules that Jews of old followed.

I am convinced that all cultures are different. One is not better than another. Each culture has its positive and its negatives.

We have many technological advancements, but the treatment of women is not a technology issue.  

In many places in ancient times, life was cheap. Certain people were expendable. God tried to teach His people that all life has value in His sight, but they did not always take that message to heart. We kill preborn babies that are unwanted, and our legal system allows it. Many other countries of the world have learned to do the same. Abortion is far and away the biggest killer in the world. In ancient times child sacrifice was common and Israel was lured into it at times. We would never dream of sacrificing children in the fire, yet we abort them at an alarming rate. Neither culture is better than the other; we simply have different strengths and weaknesses.

They accepted slavery as a normal and almost unavoidable reality. We do not. Even the Jews accepted slavery as a normal part of society and the Bible treats it as normal. For more on this issue see my study topic called WHY DID GOD ALLOW SLAVERY? We have zero tolerance for the type of slavery seen prior to the civil war, but we do not do enough to eradicate human trafficking which includes sex slavery. Each year the days leading up to the Super Bowl see the highest levels of human trafficking in the world.

We have an educational system that is indoctrinating our children against God and for atheistic evolution. When it is convenient, people claim there is no such thing as right and wrong, but then people run to court to sue someone every time they feel they have been “wronged.” In contrast ancient Israel had a high respect for God as Creator. However, they also found ways to get around certain rules so they could do what they wanted to do. Human nature has not changed. Ancient Israel did not have an educational system that dishonored God, in fact they had no educational system at all. Homeschooling was the only option in Old Testament times. Many modern Americans are glad there is more than one option.

We have no way of knowing how prevalent divorce was in ancient Israel. My perception is that divorce is considerably higher in America today than it was in Ancient Israel. Divorce is over 50%, both in the church and outside the church. The number of children living in mixed marriages is very high. Children of divorce who have contact with both parents are pulled back and forth with each parent using the child as a tool to get at the other parent, and the children use the parents against each other to get what they want. There is no teamwork, and the exercise of parental authority is often compromised for fear of what the other parent will do. Within the home where such children reside, the issues of parental authority are muddled at best. How often does a child say, “you’re not my real dad, I don’t have to obey you”? Man of these children grow up with no structure, no boundaries, and no idea of what a good dad looks like.

In ancient Israel people did not just start living together, and then separate easily if things didn’t work out leaving children to pay the price for their decisions. Today many couples just live together without getting married. We should expect that type of thing for people who do not claim to be following God and we should not try to hold them to God’s standard if they make no claims to trust in Him. However, among people who consider themselves part of the body of Christ, it should be different. But even in the church many people see traditional marriage as futile, frustrating, and restrictive. They pass on to their children an ideology that is contrary to the biblical picture of marriage. Even among couples that do stay together, a high percentage of families are dysfunctional and fail to be a good example to the children of what a family is supposed to be.

Sexual experimentation has been entering into life at continually earlier ages. This trend caused Eric and Leslie Ludy to write a book called Teaching True Love to a Sex-at-13 Generation. Pornography is readily available to anyone who has internet access, and dominates the lives of many men, making them slaves to inner desires they can no longer control. In ancient times they did not have pornography in the forms that we do, but they had their share of problems. There were times in their history when sexual free-wheeling was rampant.

We are beginning to recognize homosexual marriages more and more as viable alternatives to traditional marriage, putting homosexual marriage on an equal standing. But the homosexual activists are not happy to stop there; they strive to force on the rest of us their goal that we all become homosexuals. Take that to its logical conclusion and then calculate how long the human race would last!

We probably have a higher rate of rape in modernized countries than they did in ancient times where a father or husband could protect the women most of the time. Incest was also low in Israel because a father did not want to ruin the chance of getting a good bride-price from his daughter; it was usually equivalent to what we would pay for a house. However, all ancient societies may have had a high rate of sexual abuse against female servants. The father was given the task of protecting everyone under his care, but what if the protector became a predator?

They had a great number of people in poverty. They accepted it as a normal part of life. We in contrast, are proud of the fact that we don’t have as many people that are homeless. Instead we have a large number of people who are unwilling to work and would rather rely on others to carry them with their tax dollars. Both social systems are bad but in different ways. If ancient Israel had followed the Law faithfully, there would have been very little poverty, but there were many parts of the Law that they did not follow because the price tag was too high.

So they had their problems, and we have our problems. One society is not better than another, just different.

Regarding the issue of women exercising authority over men, each position has its negative consequences. We may think that one type of society is better than the other, but we probably cannot say that conclusively unless we have lived under each system and experienced a variety of situations under each system. That is almost impossible to achieve in one lifetime. In my opinion it is an overreach to insist that we are much more advanced than the people of ancient times and therefore we can ignore the parts of the Bible that address the roles of men and women.

The next lesson is What About Household Chores?