Today, we will study the lives of numerous other stay-at-home daughters. Before we do so, however, I want us to quickly learn from the lives of sisters-in-law Ruth and Orpah, whose stories also clearly outline the order described in Leviticus 22:13-the practice of divorced or widowed women returning to live with family members.
This continuity in Scripture continues on through the account of Ruth and Orpah. In verse 15 of Ruth 1, we discover that Orpah has indeed chosen to return to her childhood home. Ruth, however, no longer desires the false gods of Moab and has no desire to return to her childhood home, for she now knew the one true God and desired to be with His people. So, what did she do? Did she decide to purchase her own dwelling, begin a career, and live on her own? By no means! Rather than going to live with her parents in the pagan city of Moab, she desired to follow her mother-in-law, Naomi, as she returned to the godly city of Bethlehem (verses 16-17), and to take up residence with her there. So, we see that neither Ruth nor Orpah lived a solitary life following the deaths of their husbands. Orpah went to her mother’s house, and Ruth went to live with her mother-in-law.
This account represents not only the existence of the deep love and care which the Lord has for women who have lost their husbands, but also makes clear the design of stay-at-home daughterhood which God has set forth. It is a beautiful illustration of the glories of God’s wisdom and grace in providing women with a safeguard and means of protection and care. As I’ve expressed before, what a loving and caring God we serve!
Now let us turn to a study of the lives of other stay-at-home daughters mentioned in the Bible!
We are first introduced to Rachel in Genesis 29, when Jacob arrives at her father Laban’s home. Previously, in chapter 28, we read of Jacob leaving (again, sons leave, but daughters are given!) home to find a wife among the household of Bethuel. Genesis 29:9 makes it clear that Rachel is residing at home, caring daily for her father’s sheep. She, being a grown woman, not only lived at home with her father (verses 9, 12, and 19), but was also diligent in making him and his household productive and fruitful. She was under the care of her father, caring for his sheep, until the time of her marriage. Rachel, like Rebekah, was clearly a stay-at-home daughter who worked with a servant’s heart to further the assets and industry of her household. She, too, served as a polished cornerstone!
Next in our list of stay-at-home daughters mentioned in the Bible, we come to Rachel’s sister, Leah. Leah was older than Rachel, but due to the fact that she was yet unmarried, she was dwelling in her father’s house along with her younger sister (as is made clear by verse 23; note-by referencing this verse, I am intending to simply show the fact that Leah was at home with her father; I do not, however, approve of the sin that takes place in this verse!). We are not told very much regarding Leah’s day-to-day life in her father’s home, but it does become clear through the reading of Genesis 29 that she was provided for by her father both prior to her marriage and at the time of her union with Jacob (verse 24; please note, however, that I am by no means advocating Laban’s sin of fooling Jacob and allowing polygamy! While he is to be commended for providing for and caring for the needs of his unmarried daughters, he was definitely not perfect!). While the passage of Genesis 29 leaves a lot to be desired in the areas of purity and honesty, it does represent to us the fact that, Biblically, daughters were expected to remain at home until marriage, and fathers were to lead, protect, and provide for them until they married.
Exodus 2:16,18 reveal that Reuel, the priest of Midian, had seven daughters, all of whom were living under his roof and caring for his flock. Not one of these daughters was pining away in an ivory tower in her father’s home, wasting her time, just waiting for Prince Charming to come. Neither were they feeling sorry for themselves, that they were living at home with Reuel rather than “out in the world”. Likewise, not one daughter complained of drudgery. Rather, each one was actively serving her father and furthering the welfare of his household. Again, they were living examples of faithful, dutiful, polished cornerstones! In verse 21, Reuel gives (there’s that word give again!) his daughter Zipporah to Moses, and so the transition from a submissive and industrious daughter-at-home to the status of wife and homemaker, is a smooth one.
As an additional note, I want to mention the fact that Reuel’s protection and care for his daughter Zipporah did not completely end when he gave her to Moses. Yes, Zipporah now had a new head and a new provider, but when the time came for Moses to leave to fight against Amalek (Exodus 17), Moses sent his wife to her father’s home (Ex. 18:2) to be cared for there during his absence. Here is another example of Leviticus 22:13 in action-when a woman’s husband leaves for one reason or another, she is not left alone, but is rather cared for again by her family at home, just as she was prior to marriage. Another beautiful example of this is that of Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson and his wife Anna. Prior to marriage, Anna dwelt with her family in their homestead, Cottage Home.1 After they were married and the time came for Jackson to leave in order to fight in the War Between the States, Anna went to live with Mr. and Mrs. Page. Mr. Bill Potter, in his excellent work Beloved Bride, recounts what happened next, “In May [of 1861], pursuant to his [Thomas’] wishes, she closed up their Lexington home, sent the family servants to ‘good homes among the permanent residents,’ and moved back to Cottage Home in North Carolina.”2 While some might call this being treated like a doormat and child, I believe that Stonewall held in his heart such a tender, caring, protective love for his beloved wife, that he desired for her to be cared for and protected well while he was away. What a blessing this must have been, ladies! Just like Moses, Jackson did not want his wife to be alone worrying while he was away in the War. Rather, he wanted her to be surrounded with family and friends, and cared for lovingly during this difficult time while he was absent.
As was evident through this study, great blessings are to be had when family dynamics are conducted in such a way as to have adult daughters remain at home until marriage. Just as the glories and blessings of this practice are both numerous and evident, however, so are the dire consequences which often follow an unmarried daughter’s departure from home. We will be addressing this next Friday, when we study the tragic account of Dinah.
*Please note that I am not saying above that a divorced or widowed woman is necessarily living in sin if she lives alone. More on that later, in an upcoming article!
1. Bill Potter, Beloved Bride: The Letters of Stonewall Jackson to His Wife, (The Vision Forum, Inc.) pg. 14
2. Ibid. pg. 41