What does the Bible say about women's rights?

There is some debate on the topic of whether the Bible has caused women to be treated unfairly or whether it has been a proponent of women's freedom and equality. When God created man, He said that it was not good for man to be alone (Genesis 2:18, 22). Thus He created the woman out of the man's side. The woman is like man in that man said she was "bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh," but different in that she was created to be a necessary helper to the man, not to be a duplicate of him (Genesis 2:20–23). Both men and women are created in the image of God. God gave the mandate to have dominion over the earth and to be fruitful and multiply to both men and women (Genesis 1:27–28). Throughout the Bible, we see that the guidelines and examples God provides show that He believes women and men are different from each other but equal when it comes to the treatment and value they should receive.

When God gave the Law to Moses, He structured it in such a way that it would help distinguish the Israelites from the pagan cultures around them. There were social contexts in place that the Israelites had grown accustomed to from living surrounded by pagans for hundreds of years. God used the Law to enact change within their societal norms. While pagan nations did not value women, under the Law, God made provision for women to be protected, provided for, and granted fair treatment. There were laws in place to protect women at all stages of life, including widows, orphans, and unmarried women (Exodus 22:22; Deuteronomy 27:19; Joshua 17:3–4). God showed the Israelites another way of living, which included treating women better than their pagan neighbors; He made sure Israelite women had rights. Society overlooked women, but Jesus treated them with dignity and care; for example, He chose to reveal Himself as the Christ to the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:7–29).

Historically and, unfortunately, currently, in many cultures, women have been treated as inferior to men. This is a result of the fall, because the original sin opened the door for women to be dominated by men: "Your desire shall be contrary to your husband, but he shall rule over you" (Genesis 3:16). Instead of being equal partners, as God intended, women became ruled over by men.

According to God, males and females are equal because "you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 3:28). While acknowledging this, it is important to keep in mind that equality does not mean "sameness." Men and women have some inherently unique giftings and abilities, but this is no excuse for either of them to be valued more or less than the other.

Men and women are not the same and that is a good thing, because the uniqueness of both men and women is needed in society. Again, while men and women complement one another, both genders are of equal worth and should be treated as such. For example, in the workplace, there should be no room for any gender-based discrimination. Men and women should be fair and equal competitors in the job market, and the only factors considered in the hiring process should be those that can be used to determine which candidate best meets the specific requirements of the job. Feminine qualities no more negatively affect job performance than do masculine qualities. The person—whether male or female—who is the right fit for the particular position is the one who should be hired. The pay should be commensurate with the job, not based on the gender of the worker. The same logic applies to opportunities for education and the like.

The Bible grants women many specific rights, some of which include:
• Getting an education—when looking at the Proverbs, it is worth noting that instruction is personified as a female (Proverbs 4:13; 18:15)
• Owning property and building a business (Proverbs 31:16)
• Receiving fair and equal pay for equal work (Deuteronomy 24:17)
• Deciding whether or not she will get married (Numbers 36:6)

When looking at the Bible, it is evident to see that in God's original design men and woman were created to be equal; therefore, God cares about women having all the rights He designed for them to have. On the other hand, when it comes to the women's rights movement, as a cultural movement, things can get a bit off base when people try to claim as a "right" something that was not a right given to them by God. For example, no woman has the right to terminate the life of a child residing in her womb. The rights God gave to humans are not intended to be used as an excuse to infringe upon the rights of other human lives. Something to keep in mind is that just because something is culturally relevant or a commonly acceptable standard does not make it a biblical "right." Cultural norms and inherent rights are not the same thing. Both men and women are still subject to the guidelines and standards of behavior laid out in the Bible.

Related Truth:

Does the Bible say that men and women are equal?

Does the Bible really teach gender equality? Why has gender inequality been the norm?

What is a biblical view of human rights?

Is it possible to be a Christian feminist? Is feminism against the Bible?

Abortion - What does the Bible have to say?

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