Book Reviews -- By: Anonymous
BBR 23:4 (2013) p. 565
Rainer Albertz and Rüdiger Schmitt. Family and Household Religion in Ancient Israel and the Levant. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 2012. Pp. xxii + 696. ISBN 978–1-57506–232–7. $79.50 cloth.
This volume represents a comprehensive catalog and interpretation of relevant materials and texts from the land of Israel and its neighbors. The authors use this material to recreate the domestic religion of Iron Age Israel (ca. 1200–586 B.C.). Its chapters consider method, domestic materials as may be found in Israelite homes, types of cultic centers within and without the home, personal names, rituals associated with the family, and the care for the dead as part of family religion. At the end, 115 pages provide tables of archaeological remains, especially all the personal names studied (divided into six major types of Israelite and neighboring names as found in the Bible and in extrabiblical sources). More than 170 drawings and illustrations add considerably to the book’s presentation.
In the introduction, the authors review previous work on family religion. Earlier studies assumed the communal or collective nature of the biblical world view and made little or no attempt to highlight the nuclear family, much less the individual. More recent work has distinguished family cult from larger categories of national, village, or even clan-based religious practices. Family religion, especially matters such as infant circumcision, Sabbath keeping, and diet, became the means by which religious expression forged emergent Judaism.
Chapter 2 (by Albertz) defines the basic social unit in Israel as that of the household family, with its own house cult. This is identical to the biblical “house of the father.” It may be identical to a nuclear family, but the term is fluid and can also include a larger unit, such as a clan or a tribe. There were four types of Israelite families: paternal joint families consisting of the nuclear families of a father and a son, fraternal joint families consisting of the nuclear families of two or more brothers, nuclear families, and extended family households consisting of a combination of the first two types. Albertz surveys the average size of the houses excavated from ancient Israel and the estimates of the amount of roofed space necessary for each individual in a household. He concludes that the average house would have accommodated about eight people, or a nuclear family and one or two relatives, servants, or visitors. However, Albertz also notes Schloen’s conclusions in this area, which take into account the high infant mortality rate. He assumes five people per nuclear family and ten for joint family households. This means that three in ten houses in the survey could have been inhabited by joint nuclear families. Albertz att...
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