Women were not prohibited from certain activities, it was the circumstances that prohibited them

   There are many people who believe that in ancient times and above all in the Bible, women were  scorned and even spurned. Some have this in their minds because of their misogynistic atavism, but there are some who mistakenly believe it. That did not occur in the Biblical culture, but that was introduced to that region as of the imposition of the Islamic religion. The false religions are distinguishable for having two extreme and erroneous positions towards women:  some scorn them and others see them as semi-goddesses.

   The fact that women were not more outstanding in ancient cultures was because in past times, physical strength was indispensable to excel in society.

   Up until the 1800’s what existed was a society which because of the lack of the technical advances of today, required brutal strength. Let’s use the example of war. The ones who have always exceeded in society have always been war heroes. War was characterized by using heavy mace blows, swords, rocks, running after the ones who escape running from their captors and persecutors, fighting body to body with the enemy. None of these things could be done by women with the efficiency of men. Therefore, they could not, in general be heroines of war and consequently they could not be influential characters in society.  

   On the contrary, nowadays, they are allowed to enlist in the Army, the Navy and in Air Force. Any woman can pilot a combat plane, extraordinary physical effort is not needed for it.

   We can say the same about business. A woman in ancient times could dedicate herself to certain and determined businesses, but not as much as men.   We have the case of the woman mentioned in Proverbs 31:10-31, and Lydia in Acts 16:14, they dedicated themselves to businesses they could carry out. They couldn’t, for example, take their merchandise to places that were distant and dangerous like men did riding their camels, because due to their physical weakness, they would be assaulted, raped, enslaved or assassinated.

   Nowadays, any woman can safely travel to the majority of the big cities in the world and conduct extensive business. Even they can conduct many of these businesses without leaving their offices, via telephone, fax, computer and the banking services in diverse countries.

   If we talk about work on a farm, the same thing happens. A woman can plow a field on a tractor or strip down a field full of weeds or undergrowth, sitting on a bulldozer. It was not the same in the 1800’s when the only thing that could be utilized was the strong arm of a man and the strength of oxen and horses. It wasn’t easy therefore accumulate riches in agriculture and livestock. 

   The issue was not that before a woman was   scorned; the issue was that before, in Biblical times, women could not compete in the brutal world in which she lived in. No one was going to give an opportunity to a competitor woman, because they didn’t give it to a competitor man either. That is why women were reserved for a certain type of work or activity,  to which they themselves were restricted by nature. That does not mean that there weren’t any exceptions, but it was just that, exceptions in which, for some reason or circumstance not frequently, a woman stood out.

   As we see, it was not an issue that it was prohibited for a woman to be outstanding; it was that circumstances did not allow it.

   Among the jobs that women did were the domestic ones, because in the city and in their homes they were safer than walking alone in the countryside. However, they worked in the farms in the company of their relatives or neighbors, or in places close to the city where they lived, which were frequented by the neighbors and people they knew. It is such a case in which women shepherded the family sheep.

   In Exodus 2:16 we also see that the daughters of Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, grazed his father’s sheep. In this special case, these women, even though they did not receive serious attacks, they were displaced by other shepherds. Motivated by this abuse it was that Moses defended them and got involved in Jethro’s family. Rachel was also a shepherd to  the sheep of Laban, her father.


Now the priest of Midian had seven daughters, and they came and drew water, and filled the troughs to water their father's flock.”                                  (Exodus 2:16)


And while he yet spake with them, Rachel came with her father's sheep, for she kept them.”                      (Genesis 29:9)


   Another task that at times was given to women was to keep the vineyards, as is seen in Song of Solomon 1:6.


Look not upon me, because I am black, because the sun hath looked upon me. My mother's children were angry with me; they made me the keeper of the vineyards; but mine own vineyard have I not kept.”                                          (Song of Solomon 1:6)


   Carrying the water for the household use was another task of women, especially the single ones. Whoever has watch a horse drink water can comprehend the task that Rebecca had to undertake in order to provide a drink for ten camels. The  pitcher that she carried upon her shoulders could not have been small, because the stone troughs that are near wells used by animals to drink was not small, because you don’t fill a trough for ten camels to drink with small sips of water.


And she hasted, and emptied her pitcher into the trough, and ran again unto the well to draw water, and drew for all his camels.”                                                             (Genesis 24:20)


   It appears that those women, within certain limits, had rough work. In order to carry the water that is needed in a house, pitcher by pitcher is no light feat.   Of course, there were probably other young women in the household who shared the task. In reviewing verse 43, it gives the feeling that the job of going to the well for water was reserved to single women; at least during that time or in that region. In the time of Christ, we see that the Samaritan woman went to get water.


Behold, I stand by the well of water; and it shall come to pass, that when the virgin cometh forth to draw water, and I say to her, Give me, I pray thee, a little water of thy pitcher to drink.”               (Genesis 24:43)


   There were also other activities that were particular to men, that women did as is seen in the case of the construction of the walls of Jerusalem by Nehemiah.


And next unto him repaired Shallum the son of Halohesh, the ruler of the half part of Jerusalem, he and his daughters.”                                                                                  (Nehemiah 3:12)


   In this case, not just a woman but a whole family of them were working in the restoration of the walls of the city of Jerusalem. Undoubtedly this means one of two things, either these women practiced architecture or worked in masonry.

   In general, when it came to the activities of women, there were no prohibitive rules, it was they themselves, who knew that physically they could not compete, and moved away. However, those women who considered themselves capable of doing something, did so without anyone bothering them.

   As for social activities, it is perceived that they participated as much as the men as we see in the following passage from Job.


And his sons went and feasted in their houses, every one his day; and sent and called for their three sisters to eat and to drink with them.”              (Job 1:4)


   In general, it could be said that women had liberty, but circumstances, competition and the nature of their sex limited them greatly. Because  of the fact of being women and become pregnant and have to care for newborns, limited them in the use of their time and in the amount of strength they could dedicate to excel in politically, socially and economically. This does not mean that none of them did, what it means is that there were always more impediments for women than for men. It is good to analyze these things because this allows us to understand the customs and upon doing so, it helps us to interpret Scripture correctly.

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