The traditional teachings of the church (as an institution) and many societies has been the translation of man (as in gender) and husband (as in male marital partner) to mean provider, defender, protector, etc., there are no biblical grounds for these definitions and therefore, no justification for imposing these understandings on people of religious faiths.
The first time the Judeo-Christian scriptures refer to the institution of marriage, it refers to the man (as in gender) as simply ‘man,’ – Ádam, which also means ‘human.’ Nowhere in the Scriptures is there mention of this term being translated to mean ‘provider,’ ‘defender,’ or ‘protector.’ Instead, what we see in Scripture is that people who are in covenant of commitment to one another deliberately practice and model these concepts regardless of their gender.
The attempt to redefine man and husband to mean provider, protector, and defender is an error of patriarchy’s attempt to socialize men and women to believe that men are ‘naturally’ protectors, providers, or defenders.
Such misguided teachings are the reason many men fail at being loving and faithful spouses to their wives – because they are waiting for the ‘natural’ feeling of protectiveness, desire to provide for and defend their spouses to kick in and it never does.
Being a provider, protector and defender are actions that need to be learned through teaching, discipline and practice. Rather, and as I will show with the following biblical examples, they are actions which can and should be and have been carried out by persons in covenantal relationship with others regardless of their gender.
For example, when Pharaoh gave the edict for the destruction of all Hebrew boys born in Egypt (Exo.1:8-22), it was women who protected the Hebrew boys from being killed (Exo.1:15-21).
When a boy child was born to a Levite couple (man AND woman), it was the woman partner who saw the need to protect their boy child from Pharaoh’s murderous edict (Exo.2:1-2). It was the woman partner who had the courageous wisdom to ‘hide’ the boy child on the river (Exo.2:2-4).
Although the Scriptures will later show that this boy child had an older brother, Aaron, it is this boy child’s sister, a woman, who keeps watch over him while he is on the river (Exo.2:4).
When this boy child is found by Pharaoh’s daughter, it is she, a woman, who makes the dangerous decision, against Pharaoh’s murderous edict, to sustain the child’s life by (1) rescuing him from the river (Exo.2:5-6); (2) courageously entering into a dangerous alliance with the boy child’s mother in an attempt to ensure the child lives (Exo.2:7-9) and (3) adopting the boy child as an Egyptian prince (Exo.2:10).
Although Moses was raised at the breasts of his Hebrew mother and therefore, must have been circumcised and learned the importance of circumcision for the Hebrew community, i.e., a covenant between the Hebrews and their God (Gen.17:9-14), it was his African wife, Zipporah, who stood between Moses’ son and the angel of death who wanted to kill Moses because their son was not circumcised (Exo.4:24-26).
Contrary to the erroneous teaching of institutional religion and society, it was the woman who protected the husband from death, NOT the other way around!
At a lodging place on the way, the Lord met Moses and was about to kill him. But Zipporah took a flint knife, cut off her son’s foreskin and touched Moses’ feet with it. “Surely you are a bridegroom of blood to me,” she said. So the Lord let him alone. (At that time she said “bridegroom of blood,” referring to circumcision.)Exodus 4:24-26.
Although there were men in the times of these historical narratives, it the actions of the women in this narrative, i.e., (1) the Hebrew midwives, Shiphrah and Puah, (2) Moses’ mother, and (3) Pharaoh’s daughter protected an entire race of people and paved the way for a man, Moses, to come in and take center stage of demanding the liberation of the people from Egypt and from Pharaoh’s wrathful indictment.
Without the women, there would be no Moses.
Without the women, there would be no enacting of the wonderful, miraculous Ten Plagues story.
Without the women, there would be no miraculous Red Sea parting and crossing.
Without the women of this narrative, the nation of Israel and the Jews as a distinct people of God in the earth, would not exist.
As an aside, it is interesting to see how Moses was a ‘protective’ leader where his older brother Aaron was not. Many times, Moses put himself between the people and God’s wrath, offering his own death to God in place of the death of his people. It can only be surmised that Moses learned how to be a protector of the people from the stories of how the women of his birth and nurture protected an entire people group!
The other striking biblical male figure of protection, providing for and defense of those with whom he was in relationship would come from David. David, the shepherd who learned how to provide for, defend and protect his community by learning provide for, defend and protect his sheep at all cost, even the cost of his life! 1 Samuel 17: 12-37.
When the Jews were under the threat of genocide from Haman in the land of Iran (Esther 3), it was a woman, Esther, who put her life on the line to work out their deliverance (Esther 4:9-17).
Esther (Hadassah) would courageously and boldly protect her people from both imminent and future harm (Esther 7-9).
Although there were many men (of valor) in Persia (Iran) at the time, it was a woman, Queen Esther, whom God used to save the Jews from the threat of genocide by their captors.
The Old Testament is full of many other stories of women protecting their households, children, husbands and nations but very few of men ‘naturally’ protecting their households. Men fought wars because women were protecting, providing for and defending the future generations, but on a daily basis, there are very few biblical historical narratives where individual men as covenantal partners of spouses and family ‘naturally’ stepped in and protected, defended and provided for women and households. Quite the contrary!
For example, Jephtah rashly promised to sacrificed anyone in his household IF God made him victorious in war (Judges 11:29-31),
Then the Spirit of the Lord came on Jephthah. He crossed Gilead and Manasseh, passed through Mizpah of Gilead, and from there he advanced against the Ammonites. And Jephthah made a vow to the Lord: “If you give the Ammonites into my hands, whatever comes out of the door of my house to meet me when I return in triumph from the Ammonites will be the Lord’s, and I will sacrifice it as a burnt offering.”(Judges 11:29-31)
Since God was already giving Jephthah’s army victory and since biblical history shows God always favored the Israelites/Jews whenever they were maintained their part of the covenant with God, it is unclear why Jephthah felt the need to make such a rash vow to God.
Since there was no historical precedence of Jewish people making vows of human sacrifice to the LORD, and instead, vows were fulfilled with animal and grain sacrifices, it was unclear why Jephthah did not promise to give God a hundred sheep or goats, etc.. Surely, Jephthah knew that it would be a human member of his household that would come out to greet him upon his return from war!!!
Therefore, rather than demonstrate a ‘natural’ inclination to protect, defend and provide for members of his household, we see in Jephthah, a callous disregard for their lives! And although he ‘cried’ (Judges 11:34-35), Jephthah did not try to seek out the priests or prophets to inquire if God would allow him substitute an animal for his ONLY child’s life!!!
Although there was precedence in the biblical and historical narrative of ‘men’ arguing with and wrestling with God in order to change a murderous edict, and although as an Israelite Jephthah would be very familiar with these factual narratives, Jephthah made NO attempt to save the life of his child.
And although God was clear that no Jew may offer human sacrifices, Jephthah did NOT attempt to wriggle out of his vow and instead interpret the commandment regarding fulfilling of vows as not including ‘sacrifice of humans.’ If Jephthah were acting as a true God follower, he would have known his vow did not and could never include sacrifice of a human, and would have instead waited to see what ‘first’ non-human living thing came out of his house after his return.
The Jephthah narrative brings many questions to mind: was this man unhappy with his current family and therefore looking for a way to get rid of them? Surely, he would have known that it would be a human who would emerge out of his house to ‘greet’ him upon his return from war???
Were the tears he ‘cried’ that it was his ONLY child who came out to greet him genuine? Surely, he must have known that his ONLY child was super attached to him and was most probably a Daddy’s Girl, looking out the window each day for signs of return of her beloved father; praying that God would return her father to her safe and sound? Surely, this ‘man’ knew that the probability of his ONLY child, a girl child, being the first to welcome him as she probably had many, many times before, was high? Surely, this ‘man’ knew which ‘living thing’ would come out to welcome him when he returned from war! He knew. Yet, he made the murderous vow that condemned his ONLY child to death!!!!
One can only conclude that Jephthah was unhappy with having no sons and probably, his wife could no longer bear children, and the excuse of the sacrificial death of his ONLY child, the girl child, would open doors for him to marry another woman and increase the likelihood of having sons. Whatever the reason(s), the fact remains that Jephthah made no attempt whatsoever to protect, defend and even offer his own life for the life of his ONLY child!!! What kind of man wants victory so badly that he OFFERS to sacrifice members of his family in order to win big in public??!!
Whatever Jephthah’s demons were, we do not know. What we do know is this:
Instead, it was his ONLY child, a young teenage woman, who made the decision to spare her father’s life by assuring him she would surrender herself to be murdered for the unusual and never again seen sacrifice this man whom she called father, offered to God (Judges 11:36-37),
“My father,” she replied, “you have given your word to the Lord. Do to me just as you promised, now that the Lord has avenged you of your enemies, the Ammonites. But grant me this one request,” she said. “Give me two months to roam the hills and weep with my friends, because I will never marry.”
It is also very interesting that this young, ONLY girl child, could ask for a two-month deferment of her execution so she could mourn the life she would never have, and her ‘father’ Jephthah granted it!
How was he able to make the argument for postponing her execution and not immediately carry it out as he promised God, but he could not make an argument to protect her life?!
It is also interesting that while Jephthah’s daughter’s friends went away with her for two months to mourn the loss of a life that would have been, upon her return, her own father did not ask to spend extra time with her to mourn the life they would have had together!!!
Jephtah did not ask for a father-daughter mourning time or offer mother-daughter mourning time to mourn the loss of not seeing his daughter marry and bear him grandchildren. Jephthah did not ask for time to mourn meticulously ensuring the man who would marry his ONLY child was worthy of her. Jephthah did not ask for time to mourn proudly attesting to his child’s chastity and therefore, planning the most beautiful wedding ever for his ONLY child, a virgin young woman. Fathers, such as Laban, had gone as far as to manipulate business deals just to ensure the secure marriage of what he thought was an unmarriageable daughter, Leah, but Jephthah did not show that he had ever considered the marriageability of his daughter and the benefits of that to his family. So he did not ask for time to mourn the loss of his ONLY child and any dreams he had associated with her. To all purposes and intent and despite the obvious devotion and godliness of his ONLY child, a girl child, she never really existed for him in the first place!
Since there was no single mention of the mother of Jephthah’s mother, one may assume she had either been socialized into silence and oblivious depression by Jephthah’s obvious disregard of his family. The deliberate lack of mention of Jephthah’s wife shows this woman did not exist, either figuratively or literally in Jephthah and his ONLY child’s life.
There is also no mention of the child saying ‘goodbye’ to her mother and vice-versa; no mention of Jephthah saying ‘goodbye’ to his ONLY child and versa. Instead, it is the Jewish women who are so stunned and impacted by these proceedings who instituted what can only be referred to as the First Woman’s March, which was a four-day journey into the hills in memorial of Jephthah’s daughter.
From this comes the Israelite tradition 40 that each year the young women of Israel go out for four days to commemorate the daughter of Jephthah the Gileadite.Judges 11:39-40
Women. Women have biblically been shown to be the protectors, defenders and providers for their families. From the women who provided their children as food for others in a dire time of siege and famine, to the ones who protected their children from being eaten (2 Kings 6:24-29), to the wives who worked tirelessly to provide for their households while their husbands ‘sat’ and held theological and philosophical conversations with other men and which the church has tirelessly encouraged every woman to be (Prov.31:10-27)!!! [By the way, having theological or philosophical conversations is NOT a biblically acceptable reason for NOT providing for one’s family (1 Tim.5:8)]
4. The Judeo-Christian traditions lay much emphasis on Abraham as the “father of faith.” What they don’t speak about is how several times, Abraham sex-trafficked his wife to protect HIMSELF!
Twice, when this father of faith was scared for his life, he dishonored and debased his wife and pimped her out to protect himself,
Now there was a famine in the land, and Abram went down to Egypt to live there for a while because the famine was severe. As he was about to enter Egypt, he said to his wife Sarai, “I know what a beautiful woman you are. When the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife.’ Then they will kill me but will let you live. Say you are my sister, so that I will be treated well for your sake and my life will be spared because of you.”
When Abram came to Egypt, the Egyptians saw that Sarai was a very beautiful woman. And when Pharaoh’s officials saw her, they praised her to Pharaoh, and she was taken into his palace. He treated Abram well for her sake, and Abram acquired sheep and cattle, male and female donkeys, male and female servants, and camels.Genesis 12:10-16
The account of rhe second time this father of faith pimped out his wife to save himself is recorded in Genesis 20.
This father of faith’s poor example of failing to maintain covenant with members of his household must have rubbed off on Abraham and Sarah’s only son, Isaac, the promised heir of God’s covenant with Abraham.
Just like his father before him, when Isaac thought he might in danger, he pimped out his wife, Rebecca, to save himself!
So Isaac stayed in Gerar. When the men of that place asked him about his wife, he said, “She is my sister,” because he was afraid to say, “She is my wife.” He thought, “The men of this place might kill me on account of Rebekah, because she is beautiful.”
When Isaac had been there a long time, Abimelek king of the Philistines looked down from a window and saw Isaac caressing his wife Rebekah. So Abimelek summoned Isaac and said, “She is really your wife! Why did you say, ‘She is my sister’?”
Isaac answered him, “Because I thought I might lose my life on account of her.” Then Abimelek said, “What is this you have done to us? One of the men might well have slept with your wife, and you would have brought guilt upon us.”Genesis 26:6-10
Whereas women have typically and factually been biblically presented in the Scriptures to provide for, protect and defend their families (husbands and children), one may not also assume it is ‘natural,’ for there are women who have no maternal instincts, women who have no domestic abilities, etc.
What one may infer from these religious narratives and examples is that the attributes of protection of, provision for and defense of one’s family, relatives and those one is in covenant relationship with, are learned acts and behaviors, and where there is no intentional teaching, discipline and practice of these acts, these attributes will be missing in both men and women.
Many women appear to be ‘natural’ protectors of, defenders of, and providers for their spouses, children and relatives (cf. the modern day single parent households are mostly women and very rarely men) because society socializes them to be so. In the presence of such deliberate socialization, the natural Divine images of love and care for those with whom we are in relationship is able to flourish, thrive and become strong and visible.
For example, the modern day reform that argues that fathers need to ‘bond’ with their newborn as much as mothers need to, is giving rise to a generation of more sensitive, involved, caring, and protective dads.
Likewise, the Family Leave Act reform which allows fathers and husbands take ‘paternal’ leave from work to care for their children, is increasing bonds of love, protection, care and commitment between men and their wives and children.
Although Scripture tells us that God has sown the seeds of love in every human being, like any other seed, love needs nurturing and care for it to fully bloom into the qualities we see and appreciate in 1 Corinthians 13 and other places in Scripture.
The only thing ‘natural’ about any human being’s ability to love, care and provide for, and defend those with whom they are in covenantal relationship is that God has already planted the starter seed in us. All we have to do is intentionally cultivate it.
The absence of teaching that love, care for/of, protection and defense of and provision for one’s partner and children (and other family) are ‘learned’ behaviors, is responsible for the large failure of many men to be the fathers and husbands they theoretically think they are. Many men are expecting, without any intentional learning and training and teaching, to be ‘naturally’ protective of, provide for and defend their families. But in the absence of such teaching, we instead see violent, rash and unempathetic husbands and father like Jephthah. Men who have silenced and made their wives invisible. Men who sacrifice their wives and families for success in the public square…
The good news is that in God’s love and mercy, society is changing and learning that without learning, discipline and practice, there is nothing natural about men loving, caring for, providing for and defending their families.
It is my hope that we also learn and remember that these attributes are not gender-related but rather human-related. That is, we are supposed to lean into them and practice them because that is what God does and we (all humans, regardless of gender) are created in God’s image.
In relation, let society STOP socializing women to think that they as women cannot and do not provide for, protect and defend their families (husbands, children and relatives).
Let society STOP socializing women to think they NEED men to provide for, protect and defend them and their families.
Let society pause to thank the billions of women who over centuries from times of biblical history until now, have provided for, protected and defended their families and the human race, while the Evil One deceived men into associating manhood, fatherhood and spousal hood with protection, provision and defense and therefore erroneously socializing them to make no effort to learn and practice these attributes.
Kudos to government reform and community practices that are working hard to educate men to ‘nurture’ the natural seed of love God has placed in every human so they can faithfully exhibit the human attributes of loving, protecting, defending and providing for those they are in covenantal relationship with.
Rather than teaching men that they are already providers, defenders and protectors of their spouses and families, let us encourage men to urgently catch up with the learning and socialization of women as it pertains to these attributes so that society can be healed through men and women equally demonstrating what it means to be created in God’s wonderful and loving image!
Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.1 Timothy 5:8
This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.1 John 3:16-18
Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.1 John 4:7-12
[All biblical quotations are from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® by way of http://www.biblegateway.come]