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Dear friends,

Welcome to my blog. I am honored to have you visit. I hope you'll find my articles a blessing. I welcome your input and especially comments and questions.

I write as a Christian from Jerusalem, Israel about Biblical subjects.

I am particularly interested in the subjects of children, families, women's issues, corporal punishment, science and nature as these subjects relate to the Holy Scriptures.

For more information, see my website: www.biblechild.com

With every good wish - Samuel Martin

Sunday, February 02, 2014

Girls were, are and always will be girls and boys were, are and always will be boys

Girls were, are and always will be girls and boys were, are and always will be boys

Abstract - Much like today, the division of the sexes were established and organized early in life. This issue affects how we look at the Bible. A lack of recognition of and application of this fact (especially by looking through the Biblical texts through modern eyes) can lead to a misunderstanding of the Scriptural intent.

I have two daughters aged 11 and 7. They attend an all girl’s school. All of the girls in the school show up every morning in their nice, neat uniforms. The children rush to line up for their morning songs before going off to class. But this school is not only a place of learning for my girls. Even their old dad could learn something new by going for a visit to the school.

When my eldest child enters the school, she began in pre-school, which is followed by kindergarten after which comes first grade. No surprises here. However, one day when I dropped my daughter off, I was in for a surprise.

All of the pre-school girls arrived in their area for assembly for the morning song and prayer before breaking up into their class groups. In this area, you had about ten classes of 20 girls each, so I thought, but much to my surprise I looked in the line behind my daughter and there was a little boy standing there! Talk about a square peg in a round hole!

I was a bit perplexed at seeing this for the first time. This little boy was dressed exactly like all of the other little girls in his nice bright blue smock and his shiny black shoes. Honestly, it struck me as a bit strange the first time I saw him. In fact, no one paid any attention to this issue. The little boy, in fact, was just standing in line like all the rest of the 200 girls assembled to prepare to head off to the first class of the day.

After going home, I spoke to my wife about this situation. I told her: “Do you know that there are little boys who are attending our daughters supposed all girls school?” She looked at me with the most unconcerned glance saying: “Yes, so what is your point?” I told her: “But honey, this is an all girl’s school as far as I knew?” She said: “Yes, it is an all girl’s school, but they do allow little boys to attend the pre-school and the kindergarten. After that, they go to another school.” This was quite a surprise.

After my daughter got home, I asked her about the little boy in her class. I asked her if she played with him. She told me: “No, I don’t play with him.” I thought that a bit sad that this little boy was left all alone. But then I said: “Why don’t you play with the boy in your class?” She told me: “He plays with the other boys in the pre-school.” It turned out that there were about half a dozen boys in her whole class.

This was a bit of a revelation to me and it should not be a surprise. This is because I am a man and men normally operate in a different sphere of life than women do. We all fall into this programming later in life. Boys play with trucks and balls and girls play with dolls and dresses and the like.

But there is an important point which nature really demonstrates and this is quite clear even today. It is this: The gender differences between small children are often blurred and little boys and girls below the age of six mixes freely and without any concern or care.

It is because of this that little Michel, the boy in my daughter’s class, could show up to school dressed in the same little girly blue smock that the other 200 girls in his class had and not care in the least. No one also cared much when Michel needed to use the girl’s room like all the other girls. Yes, Michel was a bit different, but no one cared or raised an eye brow. Five years on, he wouldn’t be caught dead in the girl’s school, because the blurring of gender lines are no longer blurred. They are crystal clear for all to see and know about. They are also reinforced by moms and dads who urge their little girls to be “lady like” and their little boys to be “little gentlemen.”

I have seen the exact same circumstance in observing local semi-nomadic cultures here in the Holy Land. There is a sphere where women operate and a sphere where men operate, but what do we find? We find little boys under age seven remaining in and being totally supervised in the sphere of their mothers and the other women who operate in the women’s sphere (like their sisters, unmarried aunts, grandmothers, etc.)

But once they reach age seven, they leave the women’s sphere permanently and begin their role as “young men.”

There are no surprises here and it must be understood that this circumstance that we all witness today and which, in fact, mothers are much more acutely aware of because they generally spend more time with children than do us men, it must be understood that this situation was similar in ancient times and we have specific historical records that indicate this.

Young boys in ancient times in the near East (from where the Bible emerged) remained in the care of their mothers until normally about age six or seven. After that, they enter the sphere of their fathers and left the daily care of their mothers.

We have precise textual evidence which indicates this and this should not surprise us at all”
In the article Parent and Child under the sub-heading, „Different Rules for Boys and Girls‟ in the prestigious Encyclopedia Judaica, we read the following: “halakhic scholars laid down that children below the age of six years must be in the custody of their mother, since at this tender age they are mainly in need of physical care and attention. Above the age of six, boys must be with their father, since at this age they are in need of education and religious instruction, a task imposed by law upon the father, and girls with their mothers (“the daughter must always be with her mother‟), since they are in need of her instruction in the ways of modesty.” (Martin, Thy Rod and Thy Staff, They Comfort Me – Page 48)

Now, this does not surprise anyone as it is normal and natural that this is the case. Just as it was in the past, when I see today a little boy dressed like a girl in my daughter’s school no one thinks anything about it. In fact, not only is it unacceptable naturally for a boy to remain in a girl’s school beyond the normal time for this, the school would not only not allow it, such a circumstance would simply be unthinkable.

Now, all of this starts to get important when it comes to the Bible. It is because if we look carefully, we can see specific gender orientations and structures in the Biblical texts and these are designed by God to be there and to teach us lessons.

I have talked a little bit about this in several blog posts which are important reading as I will not cover all the evidence for this assertion here. Please review the following posts for a better understanding of the context here.

The books of Psalms, Proverbs and Job make up a section of Scripture which has a very strong masculine orientation. The exact opposite can be said for the next five books, which are called the “MEGILLOT” which are decidedly feminine in orientation.(1) For more information on this subject, see: http://samuelmartin.blogspot.co.il/2012/07/the-original-order-of-old-testament.html

But isn’t it interesting that the book of Proverbs starts out at the very beginning with the following text which provides an introduction and an orientation to the whole book:

“The proverbs of Solomon, son of David, king of Israel: To know wisdom and instruction, to understand words of insight,  to receive instruction in wise dealing, in righteousness, justice, and equity; to give prudence to the simple, knowledge and discretion to the youth— Let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtain guidance …” (Proverbs 1:1-5)

It is important to note the use of the term “youth” in the above text. It’s importance should not be misunderstood. This “youth” is the one who is to receive all of these virtuous ideas by reading this book and let us be certain that these subjects are not for small kids.

I have addressed the fact at length in my book of the importance of this term but also the importance of this whole book and its orientation to the male gender. I don’t need to do that again here, urge all interested parties to review the extensive arguments to that effect in my free ebook – write me at: info@biblechild.com to get yours or download it now here for free –  http://whynottrainachild.com/2013/06/22/download-martins-book/

The important point to catch in this whole argument is that this information in Proverbs is decidedly located in the male sphere of influence. It deals with subjects that are relevant and important to the “young man”. They are not for one moment to be understood to be introduced before a “young man” becomes exactly that: a “young man.”

We have the following text which outlines when this information starts to be introduced.

"He [Yehuda ben Taima] used to say: At five [one should begin the study of] Scriptures; at ten, Mishna; at thirteen [one becomes obligated in] the commandments; at fifteen [the study of] Talmud; at eighteen the wedding canopy; at twenty to pursue; at thirty strength; at forty understanding; at fifty counsel; at sixty old age; at seventy fullness of years; at eighty spiritual strength; at ninety bending over; at one hundred it is as if he has died and passed on from the world." 

In this Mishnah, Yehuda ben Taima sums up the human experience with simple but uncanny accuracy. It is interesting that although Yehuda earlier challenged us to such great heights -- to serve G-d with the fierceness of a leopard, swiftness of a deer, etc. (Mishnah 23) -- here he sees life in such undulating order and regularity. We reach for the stars, yet we must be thankful if we merit lives of normality and longevity. 

Before we begin examining the stages of life, I can't resist quoting a parallel statement in the Midrash (Koheles Rabbah 1:2) -- more amusing, in a pathetic sort of way. In the beginning of Koheles (Ecclesiastes), King Solomon seven times calls the physical world a place of "hevel" -- vanity or futility. The Midrash relates this to the seven stages of life. At one year of age, man is a king, fondled and doted upon by all. At two and three he is a pig, groping in the garbage. At ten he prances around like a kid. At twenty he is a horse, preening himself in search of a wife. After marriage he works like a donkey to earn a living. When he has children he is brazen as a dog trying to raise and support his family. And at the end of his life he becomes senile and senseless as an ape. A script few of us veer from. For better or worse -- as Yehuda wrote above -- life really is a mimicry of the animal kingdom!” (Here making reference to the ancient Hebrew book – Pirke Avot -http://www.torah.org/learning/pirkei-avos/chapter5-25.html#)

This is where it is important to contextualize the Biblical texts and, unfortunately, this is not happening today as best as it could be.

Lumping genders together and blurring the lines of cultural demarcation for the stages of life that are found in the ancient Biblical texts and are hidden by the use of the term “child” or “children”, misses an important nuance, which all mothers who normally spend a greater amount of time raising their children than we men do, are well aware of and take for granted.

Once a boy leaves the feminine sphere of influence, his life changes. We can see this in evidence in even how modern semi-nomadic peoples still relate to boys:

Here is a quote from Professor Clinton Bailey, one of the world’s foremost living experts on Near Eastern Semi-Nomadic culture. Talking about proverbial attitudes of fathers to their young sons, Professor Bailey mentioned the following quoting his own book in a private conversation:

“The first seven years, treat your son mildly
The second seven years, treat him strictly
The third seven years, keep him close to you (to teach him and prepare him for adulthood)
After that, lose the reins and let him run free (like a horse)”

To conclude, let us take great care with the Scriptures to keep the gender differences, distinctions and boundaries in place and learn from them and rightly divide the word of truth as God has divided the sexes into two beautiful divisions both made in God’s image after God’s likeness. (Gen. 1:26, 27) 

(1) The suggestions about the orientation of the "Megillot" section of the Old Testament is suggested and elaborated in the strongest way  by my late father Dr. Ernest L. Martin in his book "Restoring the Original Bible" pages 131-132 (ASK Publication: Portland:OR, 1994)

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