Let’s take a trip back to Ancient Israel. We are in a time where we basically get to experience the Old Testament in action. We see a world run by men, and we stop to ask our selves, “Where are the women?”
The lives of Ancient Hebrew women can be separated into work, marriage, and basic rights.
Women were expected to work mostly with food and clothes (Lang 192). The women were likely to begin the process of making clothes from the spinning and weaving stage. This particular set of skills was known as “women’s wisdom” (Lang 193). They were required to keep their homes running smoothly. Women were actually allowed to sell their clothes in the market place for their own personal salary (Lang 195).
While most scholars believe that the women stayed at home and prepared food and clothes, some scholars believe that some women held outside jobs like farmers and even scribes. In his article, Lang said, “but for the Hebrew wife we cannot be sure – the reference to the vineyard may imply her active involvement with its planting and other horticultural activities.” In the article Women and Communication in the Ancient Near East, Meier believes that some ancient Hebrew women were probably scribes. “Women were responsible for inscribing other cuneiform texts now housed in museums, but the anonymity of much of the evidence prevents us from discriminating between male and female scribes” (Meier 541). Women were also believed to have participated in making music with drums, something that was previously thought to be a job for men (Meyers 16). Archaeologists found terracotta figurines of women playing drums (Meyers 16).
A woman had to get her father’s blessing before marrying (Levine 91). In marriage, women were basically sex slaves to their husbands. “The husband was the designated ba’al or ‘master’ of his wife, and to marry a woman was expressed by the verb ba’al, i.e., ‘to become master… it is true, and in the marital context it signified not full ownership but authority” (Levine 92). Women were however given some protection in their marriages. If their husbands decided to get another wife, he was not allowed to ignore her. If he decided to let her go, then she was classified as a free woman (Levine 93). Also, her husband was not allowed to have sex with her if she was on her period (Levine 102). “According to rabbinic tradition, a woman remains in niddah for a minimum of 12 days – 5 for the period of the menstrual flow and7 "clean"days thereafter. During this time, sexual intercourse and any physical intimacy is forbidden. At the end of the7 clean days, a woman must immerse in the mikveh; husband and wife are then free to resume sexual relations” (Hartman 393).
A woman was granted a few rights. A woman could own slaves and land if she was wealthy. “He has no control over his wife’s estate, neither is he responsible for her, nor her slaves’, behaviour on the Sabbath day – this is her business” (Lang 200). We discovered earlier that a woman could sell her clothes in the market. She was allowed to keep that money to gain a profit; “a woman may become wealthy through her own spinning” (Lang 195).
Needless to say, life for the ancient Hebrew woman was just different.
Hartman, Tova, and Naomi Marmon. "Lived Regulations, Systematic Attributions: Menstrual Separation and Ritual Immersion in the Experience of Orthodox Jewish Women." Gender and Society 18.3 (2004): 389-408. JSTOR. Web. 16 Mar. 2013.
This source talked about women and their experiences with menstruation. It
went into some detail. This is not for the weak stomached.
Lang, Bernhard. "Women's Work, Household, and Property in Two Mediterranean Societies: A Comparative Essay on Proverbs XXXI 10-31." Vetus Testamentum 54.2 (2004): 188-207. JSTOR. Web. 16 Mar. 2013.
This source went into extensive detail on the woman’s home life. It compared the lives of Greek women to the lives of Hebrew women.
Levine, Étan. "Biblical Women's Marital Rights." Proceedings of the American Academy for Jewish Research 63 (1997-2001): 87-135. JSTOR. Web. 16 Mar. 2013.
This source talked mostly about the marriage and sex life of the ancient Hebrew women. It analyzed a couple pieces from literature at the time, and pulled is information from those.
Meier, Samuel A. "Women and Communication in the Ancient Near East." Journal of the American Oriental Society 111.3 (1991): 540-47. JSTOR. Web. 16 Mar. 2013.
This source looked at both male and female scribes in the area of the time. It gave some interesting information on markings and methods the scribes used.
Meyers, Carol. "Of Drums and Damsels: Women's Performance in Ancient Israel." The Biblical Archaeologist 54.1 (1991): 16-27. JSTOR. Web. 16 Mar. 2013.
This source talked about dance and drums. I mentioned the surprising amount of evidence pointing to female drummers.