Quoting Quiverfull: Stay At Home Daughters Are Slaves?

Quoting Quiverfull: Stay At Home Daughters Are Slaves? April 15, 2014

by Suzannah Rowntree at Ladies Against Feminism – Is Stay-At-Home Daughterhood Biblical?

But there was one thing missing from my convictions on “stay-at-home” daughterhood. Folks—particularly Christian peers—would remind me that the Bible doesn’t specifically command, describe, or endorse the concept, and therefore one could not make it a rule for everyone. Up until recently, I found this reasoning pretty fair. None of the books I read on the subject of daughterhood and the family made more than a persuasive argument from Scripture—certainly nothing I found convincing. Most of the factors in my own decision had been personal, and while I loved the life so much, I couldn’t recommend it to others, I knew I couldn’t promote anything as Scriptural truth which wasn’t.

Then recently, not really to my surprise, I discovered Exodus 21:7-11, the Scriptural evidence I’d been waiting for.

7. And if a man sell his daughter to be a maidservant, she shall not go out as the menservants do.

8. If she please not her master, who hath betrothed her to himself, then shall he let her be redeemed: to sell her unto a strange nation he shall have no power, seeing he hath dealt deceitfully with her.

9. And if he have betrothed her unto his son, he shall deal with her after the manner of daughters.

10. If he take him another wife; her food, her raiment, and her duty of marriage, shall he not diminish.

11. And if he do not these three unto her, then shall she go out free without money.

I can see you looking at me funny. This is a law about selling a daughter into slavery, and I’m treating it like the Scriptural prooftext for stay-at-home daughterhood?

Well, yeah.

I believe that this passage tells us something very important about the Lord’s intentions for unmarried women.

Let’s start with the whole slavery concept. It’s important to know that “slavery” or servitude under Old Testament law was not chattel slavery as we know it today. Rather it encompassed a spectrum of different relationships ranging from hire of labourers through a kind of indentured apprenticeship to a means of restitution for debtors or criminals. One of the major uses of Old Testament servitude was to enable a man in need to provide for his family by selling himself. Laws then required him to be released in the seventh year. The rules governing this kind of arrangement are given immediately preceding the passage we’re discussing in Exodus 21. Selling one’s daughter, then, could be another option for a family in financial need.

Verse seven establishes the big difference from selling one’s self, though: if you sell a daughter, she doesn’t get set free in the seventh year. This makes perfect sense in context because it emerges that the daughter is “sold” to be married.

If you’ve read much in the Old Testament, you’ve heard of the bride price and the dowry. According to Philip Kayser, these were payments made by the groom to his betrothed wife’s family. The dowry provided a guarantee of financial security to the wife in case of the groom’s death or desertion. The bride price was a compensation to the wife’s family for her loss—in other words, it was assumed that the bride had been a positive economic good to her parents during her single years, and that economic loss required some form of financial compensation.

This law, therefore, is not so much about selling a daughter into servitude as it is a sort of advance marriage arrangement. The “sale” would be the exchange of a daughter for a dowry and bride price, which could then be used by the girl’s family to put themselves back on their feet financially.

Now this is getting easier to imagine. A family falls on hard times, and so a neighbouring family with a young son (let’s call him Alvin) betroths their son to the poor family’s daughter (we’ll call her Sheila) and makes the traditional payments immediately, so that the poor family will have something to live on until they can put themselves back on their feet.

If Alvin, once he’s old enough to take a wife, decides he’d rather marry someone else, Sheila can be redeemed once her family (or, perhaps, an alternate suitor?) repays the bride price and dowry. Until then, she remains a member of the family and Alvin can’t sell her (verse 8). Up until her marriage to Alvin, his father is obligated to treat Sheila like his own daughter (verse 9). After her marriage to Alvin, Sheila has full rights to food, clothing, and what the KJV calls “due benevolence”, even if Alvin marries another wife (verse 10). If he fails to provide her with these things, she has legal recourse to divorce, in which case the bride price and dowry need not be repaid (verse 11).

There are lots of interesting facets to this law. Notice, for instance, the fact that Sheila’s entrance into the family as a “maidservant” does not degrade her legal status to anything less than a wife, with the full legal protections of a wife—for instance, like other wives, she has the right to divorce her husband if he fails to provide for her.

Even more, notice how little distinction is drawn between the status of maidservant and the status of daughter.  During the time, however long, between her betrothal/sale and the consummation of her marriage with Alvin, Sheila holds a legally-enforceable position as a daughter of the family: Alvin’s father “shall deal with her after the manner of daughters”.  This lends weight to the observation of one commentator that servants in the Bible occupy a position in their master’s household analogous to that of children. Compare with Paul’s illustration in Galatians 4, which begins: “Now I say, that the heir, as long as he is a child, differeth nothing from a servant, though he be lord of all.” Being sold as a maidservant into a family under this law means being accepted as a daughter by that family.

Thinking through the passage, it seems safe to assume that the natural daughters of the family also act as maidservants to their parents: this is no Cinderella deal, with the new “daughter” being made to do all the work, for she is treated no differently to the master’s own daughters. The concept of the bride price as compensation to the parents for the loss of an economically-productive daughter supports this reading. And when we look at other daughters in Scripture, we see them filling a similar maidservant role: drawing water (Rebekah) and herding sheep (Rachel, Zipporah, and her sisters).

So what application does this law have to modern Christian women? Well, I happen to believe in the continued relevance of Old Testament judicial law (like this) to New Testament society, which drives my interest in this area. Still, even if you disagree on the exact current application of this law, it continues to teach us about the Lord’s desires and intentions for human society. We don’t get to erase it from Scripture entirely, even though the commonwealth of Israel is no more. It would be arrogant of us to assume it has nothing to teach us.

So Exodus 21:7-11 tells us a number of things about the Lord’s intentions for unmarried women.

First, that a daughter placed outside her parents’ home is a sign of financial need. The whole point of this law is about ensuring the daughter’s future and helping her family through financial difficulty similar to Exodus 21:1-6, the immediately preceding passage. Ordinarily, a daughter with an intact family would be found working as a maidservant in her own father’s home.

Second, that in such times of need, daughters do not act as hirelings or indentured servants, as their brothers or fathers may. The Lord has different rules, just for them. This goes against the common argument that a daughter should have a career in case something should go wrong one day in the future. In Scripture we do see these financial questions being answered, but not in the way the world answers them.

Third, if pressing financial or other need does result in a daughter being placed outside her parents’ home, she does not become an employee or hireling, but is placed into another family with a legally-enforceable right to be treated as their daughter. One wonders, if a daughter placed into another man’s home has the right to be treated “after the manner of daughters”—presumably given food and clothing—how much more does her own father have the duty to do the same?

Fourth, the daughter is also placed into a marriage which will provide for her long-term, and verse 8 even suggests that there is some stigma if the young man betrothed to her fails to marry her: “he has dealt deceitfully with her.”

To sum up, even in times of financial difficulty and emergency, daughters under Old Testament law did not leave home and hire themselves out. Instead, they were transferred to live as daughters and wives in a new home.

This, not an alternative of college or employment, is what the Lord provided for single daughters of functional covenant families in Old Testament Israel.

In the interests of not stretching this passage beyond what it plainly says, I’ll happily acknowledge that this law does not limit all daughters to the exact model described. However, this law does give us an excellent idea of what the Lord clearly prefers!

While I was studying law, I worked casually at a local law firm. They were kind people, and I thoroughly enjoyed and am grateful for the experience. But I was not welcomed into my employer’s home, treated like his own daughter, or betrothed to his son! I have a question:

Why should we daughters take anything less than what the Lord provides in His law?

Comments open below

QUOTING QUIVERFULL is a regular feature of NLQ – we present the actual words of noted Quiverfull leaders and ask our readers: What do you think? Agree? Disagree? This is the place to state your opinion. Please, let’s keep it respectful – but at the same time, we encourage readers to examine the ideas of Quiverfull and Spiritual Abuse honestly and thoughtfully

NLQ Recommended Reading …

Breaking Their Will: Shedding Light on Religious Child Maltreatment‘ by Janet Heimlich

Quivering Daughters‘ by Hillary McFarland

Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement‘ by Kathryn Joyce


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  • SAO

    Why would women prefer their choice of paid employment over being sold as a slave (unpaid servant) to whomever could give their father enough money? Why indeed? I just don’t get it.

  • Brennan

    That. Was. Horrific.

  • Trollface McGee

    Leave it to fundies to extol the virtues of slavery. For people who treat the Bible supposedly literally, they sure do interpret a lot. It’s quite clear in those verses, slave means slave and there’s indicia that female slaves had a worse time than male ones, because the male indentured servants could at least be freed in theory.
    Slavery was a thing back then, quite widespread, people sold their kids into slavery like they do now – because of dire financial need – and it was a sale into slavery, not some pseudo marriage or promise of marriage. and no, female slaves weren’t treated like daughters of the owner.
    Of course, the idea of the girl consenting to marriage is completely ignored – whether it’s her father or her master “benevolently” selling/giving her into marriage that’s supposed to be superior than being free. No, just no.

  • Joy

    The girls are still being sold. Sold is sold is sold. The purpose of the sale does not change the fact that they are being sold!

  • Mel

    OH. MY. GOD.

    What is wrong with these people?

  • Lynn

    The author completely overlooked the fact that slaves being treated like children was more of a statement about how poorly children were treated, than how well slaves were treated.

  • Astrin Ymris

    Reading this made me throw up a little in my mouth.

  • Nightshade

    So theoretically if a family has too many children to feed, they continue to have as many as their god allows, and the mother gives birth to another girl there should be no problem with selling the infant to another, wealthier family. It’s just undertaking the transaction a few years earlier.

  • Carry

    Wow, thanks LAF. Now I’ll put even more effort to go job hunting even though I haven’t found one yet. It’s thanks to folks like you, I can find at least some contentment in whatever job I will find because it pisses you off to see a female work outside the home.

  • Allison the Great

    I did not get very far in getting this. There are no verses saying that a daughter has to stay at home, and to think that the verses listed above are about daughters at home is just… it’s nauseating. How brainwashed must these women be for them to think that this is the life that they deserve to live, that they’re slaves, that they’re property, that their perverted fathers can buy and sell them to perverted husbands who will use them as sex objects? Oh my fucking god, what the fuck is wrong with these women? It’s sick.

    These quiverful/patriarchal/reconstrunctionist/dominionist people are some of the most immoral shitbags I’ve ever heard of. It’s a haven for pedophiles and sex fiends, liars, embezzlers, cheaters, thieves, the list goes on. Then they have the audacity to tell we the Atheists that there is no morality without God? I just have one thing to say to that : “What the fuck, man! Bitch, you ain’t hiding from Sodom and Gomorrah, you fucking live there! That is your home! You do all that terrible shit, and you’re fucking comfortable with it and you go to great lengths to keep doing it and not get caught!”

  • Edie Moore McGee

    Oh. My. God. Please don’t tell me this young woman has a law degree from somewhere or is admitted to the bar. That is scary.

  • Edie Moore McGee

    I’m wondering about what a dear Christian friend who works against human trafficking would have to say about this article. (I think I know, but …)

  • texcee

    Why in the 21st Century are people still adhering to tribal laws of Bronze Age Middle Eastern goat-herding nomads? *pound head on desk*

  • So she’s brought into the family as a daughter (for like 8 years!) and marries the son eventually? So this is advocating incest as well as slavery? Oh yes, I see plenty of reasons to rejoice here. /snark

  • Suzanne Harper Titkemeyer

    Mr. Jimmy is one of my heroes! Thanks for posting that!

  • Brennan

    Also, saying that it’s “not like chattel slavery as we know it today” displays stunning historical illiteracy. “They’re like my children!” was a standard “argument” used by slavers in the Antebellum South right up until the end of the Civil War. It was just as much bullshit then as it is now as it was 4000 years ago.

    Of course, this being a fundie, there’s a not insignificant chance that Rowntree also idealizes the era of American slavery and thinks this country’s been going to the dogs ever since that damn liberal Lincoln got elected.

  • Nea

    Wow. Someone came out and said it – that the system of slavery justifies their world view and that the system of slavery is both holy and good.

    History and law disagree but hey! Bible! And quoting a verse totes makes it the most moral position out there!

    I’m actually impressed that someone thought this was a good thing to say in the 21st century in the First World. Impressed with their stupidity, but impressed all the same. This is a soundbite that is going to haunt LAF for a long, long time: “So… you’re that anti-feminist, pro-slavery group, right?”

  • Nea

    $5 that sooner or later the same person will say chattel slavery was totes okay because it Christianized the enslaved.

  • Levedi

    Exactly. Selling your daughter as a sex slave in order to pay your debts = marrying her off. It’s totally the same, y’all!

  • Monica Swanson

    Women didn’t go to college five or six millennia ago? Neither did men! Are they advocating for a society set up EXACTLY like the Old Testament? Or just shoving women back in time? Smh.

  • Joy

    SO not taking that bet!

  • Joy

    Even if she does have a degree, how would she use it? Wouldn’t that be working outside of the house?

  • Joy

    Setting up a society exactly like the Old Testament or shoving women back in time amount to the same thing. Not thrilled with either event occurring.

  • She uses a passage meant to give women rights – and twist it to limit women.

    As I understand, the passage actually say something like this:

    Slave has a wide meaning range in the OT. A king’s governors over provinces would be slaves by the OT meaning, so would any contracted employee. At the other end of the meaning range was what we will understand as slavery.

    This passage say even if a man pays a dowry, he may NOT treat the woman as an object. He may not pass her to someone else.

    Other sources tell me this bride price was not because the family will miss her service, but because, in a world without pensions and insurance policies, they should keep money for her in case he leaves or dies. (That is why Jacob’s wives were willing to move away from their father with their husband: Their dad did not keep their money but spent it – Gen. 31:14-16)

    The part about letting her go “without money” means she is not property that can be sold or refunded: When left, she NEEDS money, and can use the money the parents kept – she don’t have to return it.

    Also notice that this don’t say women should not be employed like men. This text is about marriage to a woman he paid for and married women’s rights for protection. Married women, unlike employees, don’t get their own income from the man they are married to, to save for themselves.

    This is not about women staying with parents (but staying with the extended family was usually safer, for both women and men, in a no-police world) but about treating wives as people, with laws protecting her from what we will call sexual slavery (we define slave differently from how the OT do), and financial security if abandoned.

  • Historical revisionism, sexism, and patriarchal privilege, all rolled up in to one pile of stupid…

    A bunch of ignorant dumbasses trying to claim slavery’s okay because “bible”.

  • “The misinterpretation of religious scriptures is the foundation of abuse against women and girls,”

    Indeed, Mr. Carter.

  • Yeah, I don’t want to lose five bucks…

  • gimpi1

    Yet another person taking snippets of life in a pre-technological, slave-holding underpopulated, monolithic and pastoral culture and trying to make them fit a high-technological, freedom-respecting, overpopulated, diverse and urban culture. Why do people do this? We don’t live in that world. Our lives are better in virtually every way. No rational person wants to go back.

  • Indomable

    I love how she writes:”in the interest of not stretching the meaning of the passage beyond what it clearly says”…after an entire article that does exactly that

  • Indomable

    This might explain the Doug Phillips debacle. I’m pretty sure this passage was on his list of biblical justifications for molesting his childrens nanny. Makes me sick to hear a woman defend this point of view

  • I guess if your options are “Completely reject everything you were taught and cultured to believe” or “Rationalise the hell out of something that doesn’t really make sense”, most people choose rationalisation.

  • Saraquill

    Only a little?

  • Joe Rufus

    what about single missionary women who God has used in huge ways to spread his word? They did not stay at home.

    the problem with these homeschool groups is they try to fit everyone in a box… this is the way you should live…. but we are all different and I believe God did not intend everyone to live the same. he has different plans for each of us.

    I was homeschooled under one of these homeschool groups, but thankfully my parents have some decernment… and there came a time when I NEEDED to leave home and function as an adult on my own. it did me a world of good and the Lord used that time for me to grow in Him and for me to meet my husband. I was not meant to stay under my parents roof… though I stayed in close relationship with them.

  • Astrin Ymris

    Sipping ginger ale is a very effective way to deal with nausea. I heartily recommend it to everyone bothered by tummy troubles, or who reads Christian Patriarchy Movement eisegesis.