Ordination of Women and the Old Testament
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Ordination of Women and the Old Testament
This idea is widely held, but it lacks Biblical support. No Bible text gives any indication that their monthly seven-day ritual impurity (Leviticus 15:19-24) was the basis for women's exclusion. In fact, men became ritually unclean more frequently than women did: not just once a month, but every time they had a natural or unnatural discharge of semen (Leviticus 15:1-18). Women could have served at the Temple on a rotating basis, like men, according to their ritual status (1 Chronicles 24; Luke 1:5, 9).

What is more, the Bible tells us that women did serve in a limited role at the tabernacle (Exodus 38:8; 1 Samuel 2:22). If ritual impurity were the factor keeping them from serving as priests, it would also have disqualified them from ministering at the entrance to the tabernacle.

Were women excluded from the priesthood to avoid the dangers of the Canaanite fertility cults and sacred prostitution?

No. Many pagan priestesses lived celibate, devoted lives. The fact that some pagan priestesses served as prostitutes cannot have been the reason God excluded devout Israelite women from serving with honor as priestesses at the sanctuary. The sons of Eli “lay with the women who served at the entrance of the tent of meeting” (1 Samuel 2:22), yet their mutual immorality resulted in the abolition neither of the male priesthood nor of the ministry of the women who served at the entrance to the sanctuary.

Furthermore, the danger of male cult prostitution was equally present in Old Testament times. Scripture condemns it as being equally, if not more, abominable than female prostitution (Deuteronomy 23:18; Revelation 22:15). If the danger of prostitution were the reason for excluding women from the priesthood, men would not have been eligible either.

Why then were women included in prophetic, religious, and social ministries in Old Testament times, but excluded from serving as priests?

One reason appears to be that the role of the priest was seen in the Bible as representing the head of the household. During patriarchal times the male head of the household or tribe functioned as the priest, representing his household to God (Genesis 8:20; 22:13; Job 1:5). Later God appointed the tribe of Levi as priests instead of the firstborn son or head of each family (Numbers 3:6-13). “The Levites shall be Mine, for all the firstborn are Mine” (Numbers 3:12, 13).

A woman could minister as a prophet, communicating God's will, but a male was appointed to the priestly role because the male was viewed by Bible writers as the “firstborn” of the human family (Genesis 2:7, 21-23) to whom God assigned the headship role in the home and in the church.

The New Testament continued this concept, appointing representative males as elders or pastors. The New Testament practice ran contrary to the culture of the time, since most pagan religions had priestesses as well as priests. The New Testament practice was based on the divine revelation in the Old Testament (see 1 Timothy 2:12, 13), pointing to a headship role established at Creation for man to fulfill at home and in the household of faith.

It was God's plan, of course, that every individual should be a “priest” in Old Testament times (Exodus 19:6) as in our own times (1 Peter 2:9; Revelation l:6)—but this was as individuals in our individual relationship to God, not as ordained priests representing the community.

- Adventist Affirm, Answers to Questions about Women's Ordination - Ordination of Women and the Old Testament