Further to last week’s thoughts about Luke 7:36-50, this week’s blog will also refer to the story in John 8:1-11. The leading thought from John’s story is where was the guilty man of the adultery with this woman? If a wronged spouse catches his/her partner in the act, shouldn’t he/she be just as mad at the other person? This highlights the oppression of women in New Testament times as I explained in an earlier blog. What we learn today from the media about women’s oppression in Islam-dominated countries was true for women of the NT era.
Eastern women take no part in public life…in all cases where Jewish families faithfully observed the Law. When the Jewess of Jerusalem left her house, her face was hidden by an arrangement of two head veils, a head-band on the forehead with bands to the chin, and a hairnet with ribbons and knots, so that her features could not be recognized…. Any woman who went out without this headdress…committed such an offence against good taste that her husband had the right—and indeed the duty—to put her away from him, and was under no obligation to pay the sum of money to which, on divorce, the wife had a right by virtue of the marriage contract…
There were a variety of exceptions to this rule for women, but there were also more extremes. One I think we would all find appalling is referring to rabbis worried about the woman stimulating unchaste thoughts. From Poet and Peasant and Through Peasant Eyes,
The priest seizes her garment, it does not matter if they are rent or torn open, until he uncovers her bosom and loosens her hair. R. Judah said: if her bosom was beautiful he did not expose it, and if her hair was comely, he did not loosen it…
In my studies, I discovered if a woman had no male relative or husband to look out for her, oppression was often merciless. It took the male relative to protect her, which was why at least young widows were always expected to remarry. Polygamy was excused, especially if there weren’t enough men due to war. This seems likely from so many being killed just before and during Christ’s era. But it doesn’t seem common from ancient writings, except perhaps among the rich.
So, if a woman was a sinner, it seems oppression was even more justified. Self-righteous anger brought on disdain by the majority and intense humiliation for the woman. In John 8:1-11 they jumped all over this woman and ignored the man’s guilt. Does this not hint at a love-starved woman? At any rate, she succumbed to the affections of an adulterer, and it seems the male adulterer hardly got a slap on the wrist. The predominant rhetoric: it was all the woman’s fault.
In this context we observe in Luke 7:36-50 she lets down her hair in front of everyone to wipe Christ’s feet. Why? There were no towels provided. She couldn’t stop crying. His feet were still dirty. She just didn’t care. And so Jesus is compelled to come to her defence.
Praise God for such a bright light in such a darkened world. Praise God for freeing us from such oppression and calloused cruelty!