Babylonia And Israel (II.) The Position Of Women In Ancient -- By: Franz M. Til. Böhl

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 077:306 (Apr 1920)
Article: Babylonia And Israel (II.) The Position Of Women In Ancient
Author: Franz M. Til. Böhl

Babylonia And Israel (II.) The Position Of Women In Ancient

Franz M. Til. Böhl

The family as the basis of all social life was of far greater importance for Ancient Israel than, for example, for the ancient Egyptians and Babylonians. Political organizations are to be found in Egypt and Babylonia even in the earliest ages; the individual is first and foremost a citizen of his state or town; the heads of families and tribes have had to surrender their privileges to the prince or king. The Israelite, on the contrary, was and remained first and foremost member of his tribe and family. The oldest form of government in Israel was the tribal community. The heads of the tribes and families retained their influence till far into the period of kings. In ancient times the fathers of families in Israel were the upholders of the law and of public worship. As is still the case among the Arabs father filled the rôle of priest. This is very evident in the period preceding Moses. But even later the priestly tribe and rank of the Levites ousted the fathers only very gradually from their privileges. The Paschal lamb, for example, always remained a family sacrifice, killed by the father and eaten by the members of the family.

It is beyond all doubt that the institution of the Patriarchy is to be found everywhere in the Old Testament The father is the head of the family, his will is law. He is the Ba’al, the lord, tin’ owner; his wife is the Beûlâ, the Lorded, the owned. The wife leaves her family and by her marriage passes over into that of her husband. Blood relationship, the right of inheritance, everything, is decided by the father.

It is a difficult question whether survivals of the Matriarchy too are to be found in the Old Testament; that

is to say, of the social organization by which all family relationships were regulated by the mother. This institution is by no means so ideal as people have supposed. There is here no question of an actual “rule of the mother.” Even in the organization of the so-called Matriarchy the husband as the stronger had a big say in matters. Not, however, as husband and father. It is her eldest brother, the uncle of the children on the mother’s side, with whom the wife lives, to whom she is subject, and who decides in marriage and inheritance questions. This condition of things is not the normal one and can never have been the normal and original condition. The wife who either has no husband at all or only sees her husband now and then, and who is under the thumb of her brother, is, in point of fact, anything but mistress in her family. The term “Matriarchy,” in my opinion, masks bitter irony. This system runs directly cou...

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