One such passage is Leviticus 27:1-8. In this passage, Moses gives the Israelites instructions for how to “redeem” a person who has been dedicated to the LORD’s service. In Old Testatment Israel, it was possible to make a vow dedicating yourself or one of your children to the LORD. This person then served full time in the temple. You see an example of this in I Samuel chapter one. Samuel’s mother Hannah dedicates him to the LORD’s service and Samuel goes to live in the temple beginning right after he’s weaned, eventually becoming Israel’s last Judge before the monarchy is established.
However, in this passage in Leviticus, Moses explains how, by paying a specified amount to the Temple, the person dedicated to the LORD can be released from the vow. A value is specified for each type of person with the value to redeem females set lower than the value for males. Gottcha! The Bible says women are worth less than men!
But, there’s more to it than that. As you read the passage, notice there are differing values for several categories of people. The most valuable is a male between the ages of 20 – 60. After that is a female in that age range. Then for younger males and females there are lower values – the younger the person the lower the value. The same is true for those in advanced age. People over 60 are valued less then people between 20 – 60. But still, within each age group, the value placed on females is less than that placed on males.
While that seems to say women are not as valuable to God as men, I submit these amounts have nothing to do with the intrinsic worth of the individuals. This is a value based on financial or productivity considerations. In an agrarian, manual-labor intensive society, young, strong men were worth more to the culture than were women, children and the aged. Even when younger or older, a man, because of his strength, was worth more compared to a woman of the same age. But, it’s interesting to note, a woman in the prime of health (between the ages of 20 – 60) is worth more than an older or younger male.
A similar principle is seen later in the chapter with regard to valuing land (Leviticus 27: 22-25). The closer in time to the year of Jubilee, the less was required to redeem the land because there was less productive time left before the land reverted to the original owner. Exact same parcel of land but differing values for redemption based on the amount of productive output expected.
So what’s being recognized here is that young, strong men are worth more when you have manual labor to do than are their female counterparts.
You have similar valuations based on skills today. A doctor is “worth” more from a financial standpoint than a sales clerk. It has nothing to do with the intrinsic value of the person but with what they bring to the culture skills-wise. Sometimes the value is based on circumstances.
Is a plumber “worth” more than a doctor? Yes, if I have a broken pipe pouring water into my basement.
Is a young man in ancient Israel “worth” more than a woman? Yes, if I have a field to plow.
While the Bible speaks of differing roles for men and women, it does not teach that men and women have different worth in the eyes of God simply because of their gender.