Friday, August 24, 2007

Debbie Maken On Women's Accountability

I don't know if any of you remember, but I had said a long time ago that, if you acknowledge that women have a part to play in the "delay of marriage," but you only mention it in passing, then you really cast doubt on whether there is any substance to your claim.

Debbie Maken has once again proven that there is no substance to her claim that "women have a part to play," and, worse than that, she needs to be told to stop playing Old Testament scholar, because she is not an Old Testament scholar. We have another case in point here:

I am going to conclude with Hosea 4:14. It reflects not only God’s scheme of accountability, but also from which sex the redemption must come

The NIV puts it like this:

"I will not punish your daughters
when they turn to prostitution,
nor your daughters-in-law
when they commit adultery,
because the men themselves consort with harlots
and sacrifice with shrine prostitutes—
a people without understanding will come to ruin!"

And the ESV has this:

"I will not punish your daughters when they play the whore,
nor your brides when they commit adultery;
for the men themselves go aside with prostitutes
and sacrifice with cult prostitutes,
and a people without understanding shall come to ruin."

Undoubtedly, that entire book is not only about Hosea’s personal marital problems, but the general infidelity of Israel. We all know what Hosea’s wife was like. To say she had some issues is to put it mildly. But this letter reminds us that God expects men with “great compassion” to redeem this situation, as the Lord God himself has often redeemed His people when they have strayed. The issue ultimately is not going to be decided by the alleged impact of Feminism on Christian women, or the role that women and men have played in our current mess. Men are going to be held accountable when women go astray. They have failed in their leadership and have led women into sin because of it.

Now, we need to understand right off the bat that Debbie Maken has not looked carefully into this text. First of all, Maken is simply wrong to start off by saying that the book has anything to do with Hosea's marital problems. That is entirely contested, and I actually agree with those who dissent from this position. The key is this text:

Hosea 1:2 When the LORD first spoke through Hosea, the LORD said to Hosea, "Go, take to yourself a wife of harlotry and have children of harlotry; for the land commits flagrant harlotry, forsaking the LORD."

The problem is that none of the words for harlot are used here. The that is used here contains none of the common Hebrew words for harlot:
~ynIWnz> tv,aeÛ. There are many common words for prostitute:[ hn"zO, and hv'deq. are the most common words to describe female prostitutes], but none of those words are used here. Hence, the question is what the specific phrase used here means. In fact, Douglass Stuart has an entire section on this in chapter two of his book on Old Testament Exegesis. He rightly states that the noun ~ynIWnz> has a plural ending, and, one of the major syntactical functions of plural Hebrew nouns is to indicate abstract concepts. Thus, because the book has to do with the unfaithfulness of Israel, Stuart suggests [and I agree with him] that the point of Hosea 1:2 is that the people have committed so much "spiritual harlotry" against God that it does not matter who Hosea marries, she will be a spiritual harlot. Now, what about chapter 3?:

Hosea 3:1-3 Then the LORD said to me, "Go again, love a woman who is loved by her husband, yet an adulteress, even as the LORD loves the sons of Israel, though they turn to other gods and love raisin cakes." 2 So I bought her for myself for fifteen shekels of silver and a homer and a half of barley. 3 Then I said to her, "You shall stay with me for many days. You shall not play the harlot, nor shall you have a man; so I will also be toward you." [NASB]

The issue with this text is one of accenting. The question is whether this is the same woman mentioned back in chapter 1. Here is the Hebrew text to verse 1:

tp,a'_n"m.W [;rEÞ tb;huîa] hV'êai-bh;a/ %lEå dA[… yl;ªae hw"÷hy> rm,aYO“w:
~yhiäl{a/-la, ‘~ynIPo ~heªw> laeêr"f.yI ynEåB.-ta, ‘hw"hy> tb;Ûh]a;K.
`~ybi(n"[] yveîyvia] ybeÞh]aow> ~yrIêxea]

The issue here has to do with the little dot above the yl;ªae in in the first line. That is a disjunctive accent. However, the question is where that accent is to be placed. Is it to be placed over the yl;ae [to me] or the dA[ [again]? The reason why it is important is because the text will break at whatever point the accent is placed. Thus, if the accenting is the way that it is in the MT, it would read as the NASB. However, if the dot is placed above the dA[, it would translate something like, "The Lord said to me again, 'Go, love a woman... Hence, there is some debate in Hebrew scholarship as to where the accent should go. Thus, Maken has not wrestled with these issues, and just seems to take for granted that this is what the book is about.

Worse than that, she has not presented the other side of this text as well. Debbie Maken is known rather well for her ignorance of historical backgrounds of the OT, and I have caught her many times in that ignorance. In this case it is inexcusable, as the context gives it very clearly:

Hosea 4:6-13 My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you from being My priest. Since you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children. 7 The more they multiplied, the more they sinned against Me; I will change their glory into shame. 8 They feed on the sin of My people And direct their desire toward their iniquity. 9 And it will be, like people, like priest; So I will punish them for their ways And repay them for their deeds. 10 They will eat, but not have enough; They will play the harlot, but not increase, Because they have stopped giving heed to the LORD. 11 Harlotry, wine and new wine take away the understanding. 12 My people consult their wooden idol, and their diviner's wand informs them; For a spirit of harlotry has led them astray, And they have played the harlot, departing from their God. 13 They offer sacrifices on the tops of the mountains And burn incense on the hills, Under oak, poplar and terebinth, Because their shade is pleasant. Therefore your daughters play the harlot And your brides commit adultery.

Thus, the context is the religious leaders leading the people astray for their wickedness. In other words, the context is not about men and women, but about religious leaders and women. Hence, even if this is the correct translation of verse 14, Maken is still guilty of taking the verse out of context.

Worse than that, there are some who say that this verse should not be taken as an indicative, but rather as a question.
Francis I. Anderson and David Noel Freedman have written a commentary on the book of Hosea for The Anchor Bible commentary series in which they argue that very thing. Here is there reasoning:

The apparent meaning of the MT, which excuses the women from punishment (v 14a) because the men are entirely to blame (v 14b), is hard to fit into context. In fact, the apparent negative at the beginning of v 14 is unaccountable. The verb dq;P' is always used by Hosea to announce divine punishment (1:4b; 2:15; 4:9b). It is inconceivable that the women could be exculpated, even if the men were primarily responsible. The problem could be sloved by taking v 14aA as a rhetorical question-"Shall I not punish...?" The preceding word ends in h-, which could be supplied also before al
, either by repairing a haplography, or by scripto continua [p.369].

To understand what he is saying, let us first take a look at the Hebrew text going from verse 13 into verse 14:
`hn"p.a;(n"T. ~k,ÞyteALk;w> ~k,êyteAnæB. ‘hn"yn<’z>Ti !Keª-l[;
~k,øyteAnB.-l[; dAq’p.a,-al{) 14.
~['îw> WxBe_z:y> tAvßdEQ.h;-~[iw> WdrEêp'y> tAnæZOh;-~[i ‘~he-yKi hn"p.a;ên"t. yKiä ‘~k,yteAL)K;-l[;w> hn"yn<©z>ti yKiä
`jbe(L'yI !ybiÞy"-al{)

As you can see, the last letter of verse 13 is a h. What the commentators are suggesting is that the h may have originally been written twice, and when a scribe copied it, he glossed over the second h. The significance of this is that a prefixed h to a sentence is the Hebrew way of constructing a question. Thus, if it is true, the sentence would be translated as "Will I not punish your daughters?"

They also go on to argue that the
al may be asseverative, that is, "the particle may be l. here, if the a is a dittograph" [p.369]. I am not sure if I am ready to put my endorsement on that theory, but it would make sense of the text.

However, all of these other arguments are inconsequential. Maken has ripped this text out of its context. Not only that, but she has failed to realize that there are other exegetical issues which, even if she were right, would need to be addressed. Let's face it. What does it say about a Christian when they would abuse a text of scripture like this to say that they should get out of responsibility for their actions? If Debbie Maken continues to make excuses for what she believes to be her sin, she will find herself under the wrath and punishment of God. This is not the Christian way to answer this problem. Christians do not make excuses for their sin, they repent from their sin. Thus, I know I have resisted saying this for a long time, but I am now willing to say that Debbie Maken is not a Christian. I believe she is an unbeliever, and I believe she needs to be converted just like all of the other pagans. The sad thing is that Albert Mohler has endorsed her book, and thus, given a blank check to a wolf in sheep's clothing. I plead with anyone in positions of Christian leadership who endorses this woman's work to reconsider. What Debbie Maken has said here is something no Christian should ever say.


Anakin Niceguy said...

LOL. I managed to get the gist of your post, computer diacritics and HTML code notwithstanding. Your point is valid, and yet Maken isn't the only one making the Hosea argument (I've seen it on Boundless too). It seems to be a favorite saw of the marriage mandate folks. I've contemplated making a post on this matter and asking if these people would also support (a) Men refraining from marrying on the basis of the culture being corrupt (see Jeremiah) ... or better yet (b) telling men not to mourn the passing of their wives (see Ezekiel).

Gordon Hackman said...


There is no doubt in my mind that Maken's (and other marriage mandate type folks') interpretations and applications of various Old Testament text are grossly misguided and abusive. I don't think one has to have studied the original languages to notice this either. I think any reasonably well-informed non-ideologically driven reader will sense something is wrong with the way in which such people attempt to use the biblical text.

Nevertheless, I'm pretty leary about the claim that Maken is not a Christian. That is a serious accusation to make.

I think that misunderstanding concerning the proper use, interpretation, and application of the Old Testament (and perhaps even of scripture in general) in the life of the believer is probably pretty widespread among evangelicals and I think this, combined with the heavily politicized culture-war mentality that prevails among many conservative evangelicals could easily lead to something like what Maken is saying. In this sense, Maken is just a symptom of a wider problem that infects contemporary evangelicalism. That doesn't mean she is not a Christian though, just a product of misguided thinking.

I think you should be careful about making such a claim about another professing believer.

PuritanCalvinist said...

gordon hackman,

I agree that it is a serious charge to make. That is why I have avoided making it. However, the problem is that Debbie Maken is not repenting of what she believes is sin. Instead, she is saying that the buck should be placed on the man, and the woman should be seen as the victim. Remember, that one of the key elements of the gospel is repentance. When you start blaming other people for your sin, you are exhibiting no repentance whatsoever.

The Christian life is a life of repentance, and, when you have someone saying that they have sinned, but I don't deserve any punishment for it, that tells me that you have people who don't care about repenting, and turning from their sin. I realize it is a serious charge to make, but repentance is absolutely essential to the gospel of Jesus Christ, and Debbie Maken exhibits no repentance whatsoever.

It is not out of any personal animosity towards Debbie Maken that I say this, it is only out of an effort to protect the gospel of Jesus Christ against this anti-repentance ideology that is going around in the Christian church. I would say the same thing to any Christian leader who recognizes that they have sinned, and yet wants to blame someone else. Until Debbie Maken shows some repentance for what she believes is sin, I cannot say that she is obeying Christ's command to "repent and believe the gospel."

Gordon Hackman said...


Not trying to be contentious here, but I'm not clear on where Maken has admitted to sin in the post you quote from. I just skimmed the post and I didn't see it. In fact, if anything, it seems to me that she thinks of herself as someone God has raised up and used to accomplish his purposes, not someone who has sinned.

She definitely misuses the Hosea passages to suggest that men are accountable for women who have gone astray, but I didn't see any personal admission of sin on her part. Can you point that out for me?


PuritanCalvinist said...


No, I understand. I don't mind a discussion about this issue at all.

I wasn't referring to the post itself to say that she has admitted to sin, but she does believe that delay of marriage is a sin, and she does believe that she has delayed marriage. My point is that, rather than taking responsibility for that, and simply repenting from it and turning from it, she says in her post that the men should take the blame because they are the head.

So, in other words, rather than saying that they should both be punished [just as in the garden of Eden], she is saying that the men should take the blame, and is using this passage to say that women should be exculpated.

My point was that this is not Christian behavior. Christians desire repentance from their sin, and do not try to pass the blame off to someone else. If Debbie Maken does believe that protracted singleness is a sin [and she certainly does], then to pass the blame off to someone else for her own protracted singleness is totally unchristian behavior.

Ted Slater said...

Anakin -- you wrote:

"Maken isn't the only one making the Hosea argument (I've seen it on Boundless too)"

Please point out where we've made that argument on Boundless. I've only found three articles that reference Gomer, and none of them seem to include heretical interpretations of Scripture.

If you're unable to reference where we've promoted false teaching regarding Gomer, please humble yourself and apologize for being so eager to slander Boundless.

Anakin Niceguy said...


My retraction is at my own blog.

Take care.

Ted Slater said...

Thank you for taking the time to look into the mixup, Anakin. I'm still concerned that you harbor an illegitimate animosity toward Boundless, something I elaborate on in my comment on your "retraction."