Non-Carrier, Are You Serious!!!???

I was just thinking about yesterday’s post about Voddie Baucham, and and I have now listened to a sermon of his on this topic, and found his blog. Let me first of all say that I cannot see how anyone can say that this man radically holds to scripture on this topic. He reads all kinds of things into the text that are just simply not there. The sermon I listened to was on Genesis 2 and headship, and, after reading the text and making a few comments on the text, he didn’t actually get back to the text until just past half way through the sermon, and then only used it to demonstrate that the concept of headship was Biblical. All kinds of things about manhood, and how we need to raise our children that have nothing whatsoever to do with the text were stated in the meantime.

Now, I ran across this article on his blog on Proverbs 31. Of course, Proverbs 31 is a passage that is rather difficult for the kind of position that Dr. Baucham is expousing. The crutial text is here:


She looks for wool and flax And works with her hands in delight. 14 She is like merchant ships; She brings her food from afar. 15 She rises also while it is still night And gives food to her household And portions to her maidens. 16 She considers a field and buys it; From her earnings she plants a vineyard. 17 She girds herself with strength And makes her arms strong. 18 She senses that her gain is good; Her lamp does not go out at night.

Proverbs 31:13-18 

I don’t see how a passage can be any more clear than this. However, even if a text is crystal clear, there is always a way to get around it, if you don’t want to believe what it says. Dr. Baucham first tries to make a distinction:

While I would never argue that a woman cannot work, I have argued that a woman is required to be a “keeper at home” (Titus 2:5; cf. 1 Timothy 5:14), and that as such, she must prioritize her home and any ‘work’ she does must not be allowed to interfere with her primary calling as wife and mother.  Hence, the farmer’s wife who helps with the harvest, the baker’s wife who works by his side, or the accountant’s wife who works as his receptionist in his home business are all in a different category than the so-called ‘career gal’ (not my term) who spends her life as a “helper fit” (Genesis 2:18) for another man (or a corporation) instead of her husband.

After making this distinction between a “carrier gal” and a simple woman who has a job, Dr. Baucham writes the following:

The Proverbs 31 woman was certainly entrepreneurial.  She also brought income into the home and made it more productive.  However, there is nothing in this passage that even hints at a career.  She didn’t punch a clock.  She didn’t have a nanny.  In fact, the cultural context renders such a reading implausible.  Old Testament Israel was not a culture in which ‘career women’ flourished.  But what about the other truths in this passage that were the norm for women in Old Testament Israel?  Why is it that we use this passage to push for women having outside careers, but we don’t push for women:

Getting up before the sun to cook for their family (15)

Growing their own food (16)

Making their own bed coverings (22)

Making their husband known among the elders of the land (23)

Making their own clothes (and those of their family) (24)

Making and selling garments (24)

Looking after her household (27)

These things are clear in the text.  The ‘career woman’ argument is an absolute stretch.  Especially when we recognize the irrefutable hermeneutical principal that Scripture interprets Scripture.  Thus, we cannot use Proverbs 31 to negate Titus 2.  Whatever the Proverbs 31 woman teaches us, she cannot teach that which would contradict the direct command for women to be “keepers (or workers) at home.” (Tutus 2:5, cf. 1 Timothy 5:14)

Let us take each of Dr. Baucham’s assertions one at a time:

1. The very nature of the vineyard argues against this being an entrepreneurial pursuit. The vineyard was one of the most important crops of this time period mentioned over and over again as connecting to prosperity. For example, Eugene Carpenter and I. Cornelius in the New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology and Exegesis write:

The vineyard was a mainstay of joy and abundance in the cultures of the OT world and the ANE in general. The vineyard was a dominant concept in Israel’s agricultural concerns and became a symbol for blessing, wealth, joy, and prosperity, both in the present age and in the age to come.

Does the phrase “dominant concept of Israel’s agricultural concerns” sound like something that is a mere entrepreneurialship? Indeed, because of importance of vineyards to ANE agriculture, it makes it very hard to escape the fact that this is probably a carrier.

Next, we also have the problem of verse 17. The text says that she makes her arms strong in the context of this work. Vineyards required very hard labor, and was almost certainly as time consuming as any job today. Hence, there is no reason contextually or historically to take this as a non-carrier job. It totally violates the ANE context, as well as the context of the passage itself.

2. Punch clocks and nannies didn’t exist at the time of ancient Israel, so, even if this were a carrier woman, that does not mean that she would have them.

3. One wonders where Dr. Baucham is getting this idea that “a carrier woman” did not flourish in ancient Israel. Outside of the Hebrew Bible, all we have are a handful of inscriptions to reconstruct the socio-economic setting of ancient Israel. Unless he is aware of some text that goes into the socio-economic position of women from this time period that I am not, he is just simply stating something for which there is no evidence.

4. A few eisegetical understandings by Dr. Baucham with regards to the texts he cites. First of all, there is nothing in verse 16 that says she is growing this for herself. In fact, verse 18 specifically uses the Hebrew term rx;s; which the standard Hebrew lexicon of Koehler-Baumgartner defines as “trading profit” [p.750] and the New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology and Exegesis places it under the word rx;s’ which means “to travel, trade.” Hence, it is almost unquestionable that she is not growing this for herself, but rather, growing this to sell, again putting this in the context of one of the most important agricultural crops in the ANE in general, and in Israel imparticular.

It is also impossible that she is making garments for her family in verse 24, because the specific word selling something on a market is used, the Hebrew term rk;m’. Now, might she be making it for her family as well? Yes [v.21-22?], but it appears to be part of her profession, and hence, it is not hard to understand how she could keep some of these back in order to clothe her family.

Now we have a much more interesting list. She:

I. Grows one of the most important agricultural plants for sale to merchants.

II. Sews garments both to sell and to keep for herself and [likely] for her family.

III. Cooks in the morning.

IV. Does household chores.

Now, this is not really favorable to Dr. Baucham’s position. Why? Because here is a woman who labors in the sun keeping a vineyard going in order to sell the produce, then makes clothers, not only for herself, but also for her own family, and then only leaves what little bit of time that is left for cooking and taking care of household chores.

5. Timothy and Titus may not be setting up a gender role at all. If they are, then that results in some funny exegesis. For example, that also means that it is a gender role that women love their children [Titus 2:4], are sensible, pure, and kind [Titus 2:5]. That must mean that, while a man can love their children, be controlled, pure, and kind, it is not his role to be that way. That must also mean that it is a gender role for the woman to not given the enemy an occasion for reproach [1 Timothy 5:14]. Hence, a man may not have any reproach, but it is not his gender role to not have reproach. Hence, a man can neglect his self-control, his purity, his kindness, as well as his public opinion [yes, he can even neglect getting married! (1 Timothy 5:14)] because all of these things are the  primary responsibility of the woman, because this text is defining the female gender role. Now, obviously, such is utter nonsense.

Dr. Bauchum is simply misusing Proverbs 31. Again, he has good concerns, but his solution is not to go back to scripture solve the problem, but back to tradition. Yes, it is true that no one being at home is a problem. However, I think that we want to say to that is that, no matter what the arrangement is, there must always be someone at home. Given the fact that God tells men to bring up their children in the wisdom and instruction of the Lord, and the fact that, in these texts, he tells women to tend to the duties of the house, I would say that it is the responsibility of both the man and the woman to make sure that there is someone at home to take care of the children. That means that we keep children out of Marxist based schools, and in the instruction of the the Lord.

Secondly, there are many exegetical issues with regards to Proverbs 31. First of all, there is the whole question of whether or not this woman ever existed in the first place.  However, even if this text is discribing an ideal woman, you still have to deal with the fact that it upholds the working of a woman in a tough agricultural job such as a vineyard. Probably even better is the fact that collections of these Proverbs were passed along through royal courts. For instance, we have several wisdom texts from Egypt, and they are royal in character. Hence, it is likely that such a woman as this would have maids and servantgirls to help her with things like working at home, or taking care of the children. Hence, one can say that there was always someone in the household to look after the children while she is going off planting vineyards, and sewing garments.

Hence, there are legitimate questions here, and the text does not necessarily leave the answers out. However, we have to approach the text honestly, and not dismissively like Dr. Baucham does in his post. The problem is that Dr. Baucham assumed an interpretation of Titus and 1 Timothy, never bothered to defend it, and then read it into his exegesis of this passage. This is why Biblical theology is tough. If you make a mistake in one text, it will cause you to make a mistake in another.

Works Cited:

Koehler Ludwig. Baumgartner, Walter. The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament. Brill Academic Publishers. Boston 2001

VanGemeren, Willem (ed.). The New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology and Exegesis. Zondervan Publishing House. Grand Rapids, Michigan. [CD Rom Version]


2 Responses to “Non-Carrier, Are You Serious!!!???”

  1. Anakin Niceguy Says:

    I had the same thoughts as you about the Titus passage. I believe Baucham commits what D.A. Carson calls the Negative Inference Fallacy. He falsely assumes that A=B implies ~A=~B (Keeper of the home = woman’s role, (NOT)keeper of the home = (NOT)woman’s role (False assumption). He is hoisted by his own exegetical petard when he writes:

    Hence, the farmer’s wife who helps with the harvest, the baker’s wife who works by his side, or the accountant’s wife who works as his receptionist in his home business are all in a different category than the so-called ‘career gal’ (not my term) who spends her life as a “helper fit” (Genesis 2:18) for another man (or a corporation) instead of her husband.

    The problem is that being a receptionist for one’s husband is still being a receptionist. According to Voddie’s reading, even this is forbidden to the wife. She must concern himself with domestic duties only, husband’s business or not. Of course, such makes a hash out of Acts 18:2-3 where we learn that Priscilla, along with her husband, was a tentmaker by trade. No mention of her being strict SAHM. The Bible does not distinguish between one helpmeet who helps her husband bring home the bacon by working for him and the woman who helps bring home the bacon by working for another (Voddie must think maidservants don’t exist in the Bible).

    Oh yes, it would be sinful for him to teach on motherhood, etc., because according to his exegesis, only older women can do that.

  2. Jason Stumpner Says:

    Where would one even find “marxist based schools”? I certainly am not aware of any such schools existing, outside of countries like Cuba. I don’t even know how such a school would be able to be accredited in the U.S.A.

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