“And David took more concubines and wives from Jerusalem, after he had come from Hebron.” Samuel 5-13
The orthodoxy of our three Semitic religions (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) have consistently treated women as a prized holding – valued but held in custody. This view of women is deeply rooted in the 1st Semitic civilization of Akkad , which started some 5,000 years ago in today’s Iraq.
In comparison, the “barbarian” women have often been less prized and more “free”, because the harsh hand-to-mouth nomadic life style could not afford a bunch of “ladies” sitting behind the veil and doing nothing by gossiping and giggling!
The original Jewish tradition kept women in low esteem. They were not to own anything, inherit anything, or have a say in any important matter. The power struggles between Moses and his free-spirited Mede wife (Zipporah) make for some funny moments in the Torah.
A good Jewish girl had to marry at 12, whereas the Jewish man could have up to 4 wives. However, the Jewish kings could have much more wives, as David and Solomon had hundreds! A girl was in the “custody” of her father, or in his absence, the other male members of her family – until marriage. Afterwards, she belonged to her husband. She could not even inherit from her husband or father – as inheritance was only the men’s right.
As an Arabized version of Judaism, Islam has much the same rules and ethics for the treatment of women, except one key positive attribute, which has allowed women to possess money and property, and to inherit (albeit half the men) from their fathers and husbands. Otherwise, the total submission of woman is complete, and she may not even leave the house without her man’s permission! She can be beaten and forced into submission, while the threat of divorce and another wife (Havoo) always hangs overhead.
Infected by the negativity of Manichaeism, the pre-reformation Christianity has always viewed sex and women as something close to evil. Their only key positive attribute has been the monogamous marriage, which in effect breaks the one-way tie of the woman-belongs-to-man relationship, into a two-way and permanent institution, with no way out (divorce).
A woman, who cannot be divorced or supplanted, has an immense power over the man, which has been perhaps a most important factor in the relative historical rise of Christendom over the Mohammedans.
Instead of being on the look out for his next wife, concubine or “Sigheh” – the Christian man has had to vent his sexual and marital frustrations into the intellectual, artistic or industrial ventures. Not being able to divorce an old housewife, the historical Christian had to travel away from home and explore new worlds, just to avoid the constant nagging at home!
Some 500 years ago, the confederation of Jewish rabbis placed a moratorium upon their polygamy. Until the Muslim world does the same thing, our chances of breaking free from sexual obsession will be limited.