Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Women's Ages in the Bible

Women these days tend to be very sensitive about their ages. They go to significant lengths to use cosmetic concoctions and surgeries to render their appearance more youthful than it would otherwise be. Some of this is probably just vanity and a mistaken emphasis on something ephemeral and ultimately unsatisfying.

That said, it is interesting that the Bible often mentions the ages of various men, but it rarely mentions the ages of women. Indeed, the only one I can think of off-hand is Sarah:

Genesis 17:17
Then Abraham fell upon his face, and laughed, and said in his heart, Shall a child be born unto him that is an hundred years old? and shall Sarah, that is ninety years old, bear?

Genesis 23:1
And Sarah was an hundred and seven and twenty years old: these were the years of the life of Sarah.

There are some general references to age (for example, Leah was older than Rachel, Naomi was too to have children when she returned from Moab to Israel), but at least for the time being I cannot recall the numeric age of many other women in the Bible being given.

Is this general absence of discussion about the ages of women simply a reflection on the generally patriarchical emphasis of the Bible? Probably that is part of it. But perhaps it is also a kind mercy by God on the sensitivities of women.

The only close instances I can think of are the instances of Jairus' daughter (who was, it seems, not yet a woman) and the prophetess Anna (whose actual age is not given, but must have been older than 91, since she had been married for seven years, and widowed for 84 years):

Luke 8:42
For he had one only daughter, about twelve years of age, and she lay a dying. But as he went the people thronged him.

Luke 2:36-37
And there was one Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Aser: she was of a great age, and had lived with an husband seven years from her virginity; and she was a widow of about fourscore and four years, which departed not from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day.


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