Rediscovering Eve: Ancient Israelite Women in Context

Rediscovering Eve: Ancient Israelite Women in Context

Rediscovering Eve: Ancient Israelite Women in Context

Rediscovering Eve: Ancient Israelite Women in Context

Synopsis

This groundbreaking study looks beyond biblical texts, which have had a powerful influence over our views of women's roles and worth, in order to reconstruct the typical everyday lives of women in ancient Israel. Carol Meyers argues that biblical sources alone do not give a true picture of ancient Israelite women because urban elite males wrote the vast majority of the scriptural texts. Also, the stories of women in the Bible concern exceptional individuals rather than ordinary Israelite women. Drawing on archaeological discoveries and ethnographic information as well as biblical texts, Meyers depicts Israelite women not as submissive chattel in an oppressive patriarchy, but rather as strong and significant actors within their families and in their communities. In so doing, she challenges the very notion of patriarchy as an appropriate designation for Israelite society.

Excerpt

More than twenty years ago, with the encouragement of many colleagues and friends, I published a book—Discovering Eve: Ancient Israelite Women in Context (Oxford, 1988)—that I hoped would enlighten readers about women in the biblical past. My goal was twofold: to provide new ways of understanding the Eve of the Genesis narrative, and also to reconstruct the everyday lives of women in the earliest period of ancient Israelite existence. The second goal would presumably contribute to the first. The book drew on biblical texts, archaeological data, and social science materials.

Much has changed since the 1980s in all of the areas that were my resources for that book, and I was thrilled when Oxford seemed interested in publishing a revised version that would take into account those changes along with my own subsequent work on women in the world of the Hebrew Bible. Having agreed to update the 1988 book, I soon found that a revision was not possible. I would not be merely correcting or improving or updating a few points; I would not simply be adding some references. The changes I found myself making were too extensive and too profound for the result to be considered a second revised edition. At every step of the way, I found myself able to retain very little of the previous book. It is my hope that the new title, Rediscovering Eve: Ancient Israelite Women in Context, acknowledges my indebtedness to its antecedent but also represents the fact that there are substantial differences. The present book is similar in structure and goals to its predecessor but also differs in many ways.

Most obvious is the scope. Readers who are familiar with the 1988 book will notice that I no longer restrict my observations about women’s lives to the earliest period of ancient Israel (Iron Age I, ca. 1200–1000 bce). Rather, I believe that the agrarian life that obtained in that period continued throughout most of the Iron Age for most people.

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