Egypt, Israel, and the Ancient Mediterranean World: Studies in Honor of Donald B. Redford

By Gary N. Knoppers; Antoine Hirsch | Go to book overview

EZRA'S REFORM AND BILATERAL CITIZENSHIP IN
ATHENS AND THE MEDITERRANEAN WORLD

Baruch Halpern

In the fifth century BCE, Judah underwent an important transition. Sometime in the period of Ezra and Nehemiah, probably between 458 and 444, the authorities in the Persian province of Judah (Yehud) introduced a new system of genealogical reckoning. Formerly, children of Judahite fathers had been reckoned as Judahites. Furthermore, male coresidence over a number of years or perhaps generations apparently conferred citizenship on children, quite possibly by adoption into the cognate line. In the late seventh century, Deuteronomy introduced an interdiction on the incorporation into the sacral community of the offspring of Ammonite and Moabite fathers (Deut 23:4). But it equally permitted membership to the grandchildren of transplanted Edomites and Egyptians. Thus, in the world of the authors of Deuteronomy, adoption or matrilocal coresidence sufficed for eventual incorporation into the state-defined community.1

At least some change, then, was probably underway at the time of Deuteronomy. Correspondingly, the Deuteronomistic History and P (Num 33:50–56) both emphasize an interdiction against intermarriage with (long-dead) indigenous Canaanites: they blame these elements—specifically, reciprocal exchange of women with them—for the introduction of Canaanite cult practice into Israel, as though the aboriginal populations programmed Israelite popular religion (note that, atypically, it is exchange, not just population import, that creates the problem). P also furnishes a polemic about miscegenation with Moabites (Num 25:1) that indicates an extension of the alleged taboo to contemporary cultures, as in Deuteronomy.

The seventh-century cases, focused on isolating Israelites from the theoretically indigenous peoples of Canaan, may have had earlier ante-

1 Cf. J. Milgrom, “Religious Conversion and the Revolt Model for the Formation
of Israel” JBL 101 (1982) 169- 176. Milgrom supposes that this situation held for the
entire pre-exilic period, which is possible but unlikely. A less restrictive regimen for
foreign males is suggested by the incorporation of Gittites, Ammonites and others
into David's staff.

-439-

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