Every Girl a Princess
One of the most astonishing observations from human history is the widespread mistreatment of women. It is a universal phenomenon across every continent and throughout every generation. Let me mention a few examples:
The Greek historian Herodotus (c. 485 – c. 424 BC) describes the Babylonian custom of rounding up all the unmarried girls from a village and auctioning them off to be married. The price was determined strictly by their outward beauty. In 1875, the British artist Edwin Long painted A Babylonian Marriage Market depicting this scene above.
In China, foot binding began as early as the 13th century. In an attempt to attract men of means for their daughters to marry, parents would make their girls' feet extremely small, causing them to walk with mincing steps. The Smithsonian Magazine's Amanda Foreman explains the process each girl would go through:
Ellen Thornbecke's Sing Song Girls in Training in a Tea House, 1930s
"First, her feet were plunged into hot water and her toenails clipped short. Then the feet were massaged and oiled before all the toes, except the big toes, were broken and bound flat against the sole, making a triangle shape. Next, her arch was strained as the foot was bent double. Finally, the feet were bound in place using a silk strip measuring ten feet long and two inches wide. These wrappings were briefly removed every two days to prevent blood and pus from infecting the foot. The girls were forced to walk long distances in order to hasten the breaking of their arches. Over time the wrappings became tighter and the shoes smaller as the heel and sole were crushed together. After two years the process was complete. Once a foot had been crushed and bound, the shape could not be reversed without a woman undergoing the same pain all over again."
In India, married women who lost their husbands were expected to honor the tradition of Sati (formerly Suttee). Sati is when a widow immolates herself on the funeral pyre of her dead husband, a tradition dating back 1,500 years. William Carey (1761 - 1834), a Christian linguist living in Serampore, recounted his first experience watching a woman committing Sati:
“. . . As I was returning from Calcutta, I saw a woman burning herself with the corpse of her husband, for the first time in my life. She was standing by the pile of wood on the top of which lay the dead body of her husband. I asked them, if this were the woman’s choice, or whether she were brought to it by any improper influence? They answered that it was perfectly voluntary. I talked till reasoning was of no use, and then began to exclaim with all my might against what they were doing, telling them that it was a shocking murder. They told me it was a great act of holiness.
"She in the calmest manner mounted the pile, and danced on it. She then lay down by the corpse, and put one arm under its neck, and the other over it. Two bamboos were then put over them, and held fast down, and fire put to the pile, which immediately blazed very fiercely, owing to the dry and combustible materials of which it was composed. No sooner was the fire kindled, than all the people set up a great shout, “Hurree Bol, Hurree Bol!” which is a common shout of joy. We could not bear to see more, but left them, exclaiming loudly against the murder, and full of horror at what we had seen. . . .”
Anti-FGM campaign for Somali Women, January 25, 2014
In Africa and the Middle East, another kind of abuse was percolating, namely female circumcision. Today it is more accurately referred to as female genital mutilation (FGM), i.e., the ritual cutting or removal of some or all of the external female genitalia. It is usually done while a girl is young, and it can result in various health issues, including urinary problems, infections, and pain during sexual intercourse.
Hulda Stumpf (1867 - 1930), an American missionary to Kenya, worked tirelessly to eradicate FGM from the Kikuyu women. Tragically, her life ended when she was murdered near the African Inland Mission station neary Kijabe. Historians believe it was because of her stand against FGM. Today, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates there are more than 200 million women who have undergone FGM.
To the above three examples we could add verbal abuse, acid attack, sex trafficking, forced abortion, femacide (abortion of the female fetus), and domestic violence. During our eight years of living in the Middle East, Karen and I witnessed countless acts of domestic violence against our neighboring women and friends.
a Turkish public service poster against domestic violence
Some might think that we have avoided these kinds of abuses in a developed country like the United States. But the last 60 years have seen the treatment of women deteriorate from Playboy clubs to BDSM. The fact that the B in BDSM stands for Bondage should tell us something about the direction we are heading.
In contrast to this tragic trend of history, a different view of women began to emerge through the sacred writings of the Jews. The high esteem awarded to women in these writings goes beyond every other writing of antiquity. Outside of Israel, no society held them in higher regard. Here are some of the salient truths:
1. She was created equal with man
During the 14th century BC, the prophet Moses claimed that the man and woman were equal before God, saying
So God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:27)
1,400 years later, the apostle Peter referred to this truth, warning husbands to
Be considerate as you live with your wives,
and treat them with respect as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life,
so that nothing will hinder your prayers. (1 Peter 3:7)
2. She was God's masterpiece
When God made the world, he started with light, then water, then land, then plants, then the stars, then birds and fish, then animals, and finally man. The progression of complexity and beauty is unmistakable, and we discover that his final masterpiece was the woman, not the man. When Adam was formed out of dust, Moses used the Hebrew word yatsar (to form or fashion), the same word that God used for the animals. But for Eve, Moses says that God built her from Adam's rib (Hebrew, banah). In other words, God had a special blueprint in mind when he completed the woman. Adam was the rough draft; she was the polished masterpiece. Adam was given strength; Eve was given beauty. Adam would manage the garden; Eve would become the mother of all the living. For this reason, the apostle Paul referred to the woman as the glory of man.
courtesy of Natalia Ivanova, Les Origines de la Beaute
The photo above is of a young woman whose DNA stems from Eastern Anatolia, where Noah and his family had settled. As our most recent common ancestor (MRCA), Noah's wife would have had features similar to Eve. She is the perfect middle woman of the earth, and could be the mother of the European, the Asian, and the African.
3. She was not forced to marry against her will
Alexandre Cabanel's Rebecca et Eliezer, 1883
When Abraham sent his servant Eliezar to find a wife for his son Isaac from his relatives in Haran, Rebecca was asked,
“Will you go with this man?”
“I will go,” she said.
So they sent their sister Rebekah on her way, along with her nurse and Abraham’s servant and his men. Isaac brought her into the tent of his mother Sarah, and he married Rebekah. So she became his wife, and he loved her.
(Genesis 24:58, 67)
4. She enjoyed physical intimacy in marriage
In many societies, women are expected to provide the pleasures of intimacy for their husbands, but are unaware of their own potential for pleasure. Those who have undergone FGM may even experience pain during intercourse, and assume that their main purpose in marriage is only to bear children.
Domenico Morelli's Song of Solomon
Not so with Jewish women. Their understanding of erotic love was healthy and full of joy. Notice how the king's bride relished the affection of her husband in the Song of Solomon:
“May he kiss me with the kisses of his mouth!
For your love is better than wine.
Your oils have a pleasing fragrance,
Your name is like purified oil;
Draw me after you and let us run together!
The king has brought me into his chambers.”
“Sustain me with raisin cakes,
Refresh me with apples,
Because I am lovesick.
“Let his left hand be under my head
And his right hand embrace me.” (from Song of Solomon 1 and 2, NASB 1995)
Solomon's bride clearly savored physical intimacy with her husband. She even instructed him on how to make love to her and bring her great pleasure.
5. As a mother, she produced the world's greatest leaders.
When Mary visited her relative Elizabeth for three months, the event might seem at face value to be nothing more than two pregnant women sharing their dreams for the future. Today's social scientists might scoff at the story, claiming that Mary should have opened her own carpenter's shop like Joseph, and Elizabeth should have demanded that women be allowed to serve as priests in the temple like her husband Zechariah. The academic world views motherhood as the least fulfilling of all career options.
Mariotto Albertinelli's Mary Visits Elizabeth, 1503
But the historian, Luke, makes it clear that Elizabeth's son John the Baptist would one day serve as Israel's last prophet, and Mary's son Jesus would change the course of human history. Never did two women have a greater impact on the world. As the poet William Ross Wallace so aptly penned in 1865,
The hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that rules the world.
6. She was worthy of public respect
In the Book of Proverbs, there is a beautiful section extolling the virtues of the woman of noble character, and proposing that she be honored in public.
A wife of noble character who can find?
She is worth far more than rubies.
Her children arise and call her blessed;
her husband also, and he praises her:
“Many women do noble things,
but you surpass them all.”
Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
Honor her for all that her hands have done,
and let her works bring her praise at the city gate. (Proverbs 31:10, 28-31)
7. She was a member of the royal family
In the scriptures, the woman of faith was destined to become the one to lead others in the knowledge of God. From heaven's perspective, she gained a royal status by being the daughter of the King of Kings.
God said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you are no longer to call her Sarai ['my princess']; her name will be Sarah ['princess']. I will bless her so that she will be the mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her.” (Genesis 17:15-16)
The Jewish sacred writings hold women in high esteem. Not only are they equal to men in their worth, they possess more glory by their sheer beauty and their ability to conceive and perpetuate the human family. Those women who develop a personal faith in God are rewarded by being called his daughters and becoming the leading women of the world - the princesses. If you are one of those belonging to Him, it's time to celebrate.
 Herodotus. The History of Herodotus, translated by G C Macaulay, vol. 1, MacMillan & Co, 1890, par. 196.
 Foreman, Amanda. “Why Footbinding Persisted in China for a Millennium.” Smithsonian.com, Smithsonian Institution, 1 Feb. 2015, www.smithsonianmag.com/history/ why-footbinding-persisted-china-millennium-180953971/.
 Myers, John Brown. The Life of William Carey: the Shoemaker Who Became "the Father and Founder of Modern Missions". S W Partridge and Co. , 1887. pp. 124-125.