20 ¶ And Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took a timbrel in her hand; and all the women went out after her with timbrels and with dances.
21 And Miriam answered them, Sing ye to the Lord, for he hath triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider hath he thrown into the sea.
AFTER many previous disappointments from Pharaoh, the children of Israel were permitted to start from Egypt and cross the Red Sea, while Pharaoh and his host in pursuit, were overwhelmed in the waters.
Then Moses and the children of Israel expressed their gratitude to the Lord in a song, comprising nineteen verses, while Miriam and the women expressed theirs in the above two. Has this proportion any significance as to the comparative happiness of the men and the women, or is it a poor attempt by the male historian to make out that though the women took part in the general rejoicing, they were mutinous or sulky. We know that Miriam was not altogether satisfied with the management of Moses at many points of the expedition, and later on expressed her dissatisfaction. If their gratitude is to be measured by the length of their expression, the women were only one-tenth as grateful as the men. It must always be a wonder to us, that in view of their degradation, they ever felt like singing or dancing, for what desirable change was there in their lives--the same hard work or bondage they suffered in Egypt. There, they were all slaves together, but now the men, in their respective families were exalted above their heads. Clarke gives the song in metre with a chorus, and says the women, led by Miriam, answered in a chorus by themselves which greatly heightened the effect.
23 And he said unto them, This is that which the Lord hath said, To morrow is the rest of the holy sabbath unto the Lord: bake that which ye will bake to-day, and seethe that ye will seethe; and that which remaineth over lay up for you to be kept until the morning.
29 See, for that the Lord hath given you the sabbath, therefore he giveth you on the sixth day the bread of two days; abide ye every man in his place, let no man go out of his place on the seventh day.
30 So the people rested on the seventh day.
In these texts we note that the work of men was done on the sixth day, but the women must work as usual on the seventh. We see the same thing to-day, woman's work is never done. What irony to say to them rest on the seventh day. The Puritan fathers would not let the children romp or play, nor give their wives a drive on Sunday, but they enjoyed a better dinner on the Sabbath than any other day; yet the xxxi chapter and 15th verse contains the following warning:
15 Six days may work be done; but in the seventh is the sabbath of rest, holy to the Lord: whosoever doeth any work in the sabbath day, he shall surely be put to death.
As the women continued to work and yet seemed to live in the flesh, it may refer to the death of their civil rights, their individuality, as nonentities without souls or personal responsibility.
A critical reading of the ten commandments will show that they are chiefly for men. After purifying themselves by put ting aside their wives and soiled clothes, they assembled at the foot of Mount Sinai. We have no hint of the presence of a woman. One commandment speaks of visiting the iniquities of the fathers upon the children. There is an element of justice in this, for to talk of children getting iniquities from their mothers, in a history of males, of fathers and sons, would be as ridiculous as getting them from the clothes they wore.
"Six days shalt thou labor and do all thy work." With the majority of women this is impossible. Men of all classes can make the Sabbath a day of rest, at least a change of employment, but for women the same monotonous duties must be performed. In the homes of the rich and poor alike, most women cook, clean, and take care of children from morning till night. Men must have good dinners Sundays above all other days, as then they have plenty of time in which to eat. If the first born male child lifts up his voice at the midnight hour, the female attendant takes heed to his discontent; if in the early morning at the cock crowing, or the eventide, she is there. They who watch and guard the infancy of men are like faithful sentinels, always on duty.
The fifth commandment will take the reader by surprise. It is rather remarkable that the young Hebrews should have been told to honor their mothers, when the whole drift of the teaching thus far has been to throw contempt on the whole sex. In what way could they show their mothers honor? All the laws and customs forbid it. Why should they make any such manifestations? Scientists claim that the father gives the life, the spirit, the soul, all there is of most value in existence. Why honor the mother, for giving the mere covering of flesh. It was not her idea, but the father's, to start their existence. He thought of them, he conceived them. You might as well pay the price of a sack of wheat to the field, instead of the farmer who sowed it, as to honor the mother for giving life. According to the Jewish code, the father is the great factor in family life, the mother of minor consideration. In the midst of such teachings and examples of the subjection and degradation of all womankind, a mere command to honor the mother has no significance.
E. C. S.