The Feminist Leaning of the Hebrew Bible

Over and over again in the Bible it is the woman who gets it and the man who is clueless.

Eve has been maligned for generations for the so-called fall of man, but really she is the heroine of the elevation of humanity. It was she not her husband who perceived that life in Eden –while idyllic – was sterile and essentially without meaning. It was she who saw (Genesis 3:6) ונחמד העץ להשכיל the tree of knowledge was desirable as a source of wisdom; she took of its fruit and ate.

Other examples abound.

Rebecca, though her actions are morally questionable, understand’s God’s will while Isaac is literally and figuratively in the dark. Judah evolves from the man who sold his brother to the man who would not leave his other brother behind through the tutelage of his daughter-in-law Tamar. Hannah is savvy and aware. Her husband Elkanah and Eli the high priest of Israel just don’t get it. Rahab, Vashti, Esther, Ruth, Deborah, Yael…the list of female heroes is long, and their influence is substantial.

Moses is unquestionably the Bible’s most important figure, but he owes his entire career to the vital intervention of no fewer than six women:

Shifrah, Puah, Miriam, Yocheved, Pharaoh’s daughter and Zipporah all play crucial roles in our people’s signature story: The Exodus from Egypt. Without them Moses never would have become our liberator, lawgiver and leader. Through their stories and commentaries the rabbis of the Midrash embellish each of their roles.

The task of our generation is twofold:

  • Underscore the vital role women play in biblical stories and give them the enormous credit they are due but do not receive in traditional circles.
  • Continue the forward progress in women’s rights until society views women and men as completely equal.