Guide Women in the Ancient Near East: A Sourcebook

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Women in the ancient Near East : a sourcebook. Responsibility edited by Mark W. Publication London : Routledge, Physical description xii, pages ; 24 cm. Series Routledge sourcebooks for the ancient world. Isaiah likewise comes from the early postexilic period. This is because the ancestor cult, which is so constitutive of family -based identities and loyalties, stands fundamentally in opposition to the goal of centralizing worship at the royally sponsored temple in Jerusalem. Nor are Saul and Samuel related to one another. Thus, the necromancer of 1 Samuel —25 does not act in support of family interests; in fact, she acts in support of a king.

An analysis similar to that just advanced regarding women magicians might be offered regarding the various women who are identified as prophets in biblical tradition: Miriam Exod. Does Ezekiel thus take exception to the fact that there are prophetic responsibilities undertaken at the time of childbirth that his women rivals are able to fulfill, even as he is not?

Rivalries, and rivalries that may have a gender dimension, also come into play in Numbers — After all, both Miriam and Aaron are designated in the book of Exodus as prophets Exod.

Another text that speaks to the special role for women as singers and dancers in conjunction with the celebration of Sukkot is found in Jeremiah —14, where young women are described as dancing at the time of the harvest of the grapes and olives—that is, the harvest preeminently associated with the Sukkot festival. The special place of women as musicians in conjunction with the grape harvest celebration is also suggested by Isaiah —7, a text that draws on an actual song of the Sukkot festival that originally must have been sung by a woman as indicated by the reference to a male beloved in v.

A third and final arena in which Israelite women assumed responsibilities as ritual musicians is in making music in conjunction with various life-cycle rituals. A oft-quoted passage in Jeremiah , for example, speaks of how, at the time of the Babylonian invasions of the late 7th and early 6th centuries bce , the voice of the long-dead Rachel is heard performing a dirge over her devastated descendants.

Second Samuel ; Jeremiah ; —21 Hebrew —20 ; Ezekiel ; and possibly Amos also speak to the Israelite tradition of women as singers of lamentations. Coming-of-age rituals and weddings, too, may have been life-cycle events during which the women of ancient Israel were called upon to make music, although our evidence is sparse. For example, in 1 Kings 1, the story of how Solomon succeeds to the throne of his father David, we are told that David is on his deathbed and that his throne is about to be inherited by his oldest living son, Adonijah.

There is, however, dissent, expressed particularly by the prophet Nathan. Nathan thus approaches Bathsheba, the mother of Solomon, and urges her to go to her ailing husband, whereupon she persuades him to appoint Solomon as the next king. Bathsheba thus plays a crucial role in determining the royal succession.

This role is also indicated in a text from the Song of Songs Cant. In fact, Solomon accords so much respect to Bathsheba in her advisory capacity that he is said to rise and bow down to her when she enters his throne room to consult and then has a seat placed for her at his right hand 1 Kgs.

There are several reasons for the superior position of queen mothers in Israel. It follows that the king can be envisioned as having a metaphorical divine mother as well, and the actual queen mother seems to represent this heavenly being on earth. Goddess traditions of the larger Levantine world may have somewhat similarly influenced the portrayals of other biblical women who are said to serve in leadership positions.


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The depictions of the judge and prophet Deborah found in Judges —23, for example, and of Jael found in Judges —27 are very reminiscent of depictions of the warrior goddess Anat found in Canaanite mythology. As the first-wave feminist movement faded away in the United States, especially after women received the right to vote in , so too did the study of women in ancient Israel and in the Hebrew Bible.

Not surprisingly, however, the emergence of second-wave feminism in the s inspired a resurgent interest in feminist biblical scholarship. These scholars, moreover, tended to follow the two basic methodologies that had been laid down by Trible and Bird in their and articles. Bird, conversely, put forward a more historically oriented analysis, asking what we can ascertain from Hebrew Bible texts regarding the actual lives and experiences of ancient Israelite women.

This sort of historically based approach tends also to incorporate a significant amount of extra-biblical data: archaeological data, for example, or information derived from comparing biblical traditions to traditions from the other cultures of the biblical world. Comparisons are also sometimes made with cultures outside the biblical world, whose political, social, and religious structures might seem analogous to those of the Israelites. Newsom, Sharon H. Ringe, and Jacqueline E. Especially important are data derived from archaeological excavations of ancient Israelite sites and comparative data that come from the many peoples of the ancient Near Eastern and eastern Mediterranean worlds with whom the Israelites interacted and with whom, in many cases, the Israelites shared certain cultural conventions.

Unfortunately, archaeological data are not often compiled with questions about women in mind, although some useful studies exist: Jennie R. Primary sources regarding women within the larger biblical world are also somewhat hard to find. A recently published collection of historical and literary texts, focusing primarily on women in Mesopotamia, is Mark Chavalas, ed. Similar collections for Greek tradition include Mary R. Lefkowitz and Maureen B. Fant, eds. A fair number of primary sources about women are also cited in the essays collected in Barbara S.

Lesko, ed. Sasson, ed. The latest edition was published in Equally of note is William W. In neither work, however, is there a specific focus on gender. Ackerman, Susan. ABRL New York: Doubleday, Find this resource:. Bird, Phyllis. Minneapolis: Fortress, Ebeling, Jennie. Exum, J. Frymer-Kensky, Tikva. New York: Fawcett, Columbine, Hackett, Jo Ann. Atkinson, Constance H. Buchanan, and Margaret R.

Miles, 15— Boston: Beacon, Marsman, Hennie J. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, Meyers, Carol. New York: Oxford University Press, Meyers, Carol, ed. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, Newsom, Carol A. Lapsley, eds. Revised and updated. Trible, Phyllis.


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    by Mark Chavalas

    It seems the salutary aspect of Sauska suddenly became more important. In a letter to Amenhotep III, apparently accompanying the Sauska idol, Tushratta asked not for her erotic inspiration but for her protection.


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    He wrote,. Now, in the time, too, of my father [she] went to this country and just as earlier she dwelt there and they honored her, may my brother honor her, then at his pleasure let her go so that she may come back. May Sauska, the mistress of heaven, protect us, my brother and me, , years, and may our mistress grant both of us great joy" Sauska's powers, or Tushratta's prayers, in this particular instance proved to be of no avail, as Egypt shortly afterwards withdrew its support of Tushratta in fear of the growing power of the Hittites. This campaign ended the Kingdom of the Mitanni, which was afterwards ruled by the Hittites.

    The Hittites produced the best known tales concerning Sauska through the stories known as The Kumarbi Cycle. These songs were no doubt Hurrian in origin but only exist today in fragments from the Hittite period in Anatolia. The Kumarbi Cycle tells the story of Kumarbi, the chief god of the Hurrians identified with the Sumerian god Enlil , his dissatisfaction with human beings, and his two attempts to destroy them. The Song of Birth relates how Teshub, the popular storm god, came to be conceived when the sky god Anu impregnated his son, the earth god Kumarbi, in battle.

    PDF Women in the Ancient Near East: A Sourcebook (Routledge Sourcebooks for the Ancient World)

    Kumarbi bites off Anu's genitals in the course of the battle, becomes pregnant, and then gives birth to Teshub through the top of his head. Scholar Mary Bachvarova, whose essay is included in Mark Chavalas' Women in the Ancient Near East : A Sourcebook , notes that "the Hurro-Hittite story provides for the perfect combination of heaven Anu and earth Kumarbi in a single god, who is therefore invincible" Bachvarova notes that, "there are obvious comparisons with the myths of the castration of Ouranos by his son Kronos, the swallowing and subsequent vomiting forth of his children by Kronos, when fed a rock by his wife, and with the birth of Aphrodite, who issues forth from the head of Zeus " Teshub is later featured as a great hero and champion of humanity.

    Interestingly, however, it is not Teshub who initially thwarts the designs of Kumarbi to destroy human life; it is Sauska in the first instance and Ea, the god of wisdom, in the second. The first attempt by Kumarbi to destroy human beings is told in The Song of Hedammu, where Kumarbi mates with the daughter of the sea who gives birth to a monstrous sea serpent named Hedammu. According to historian Carl. Ehrlich, "Apparently a sort of sea serpent, Hedammu poses a mortal threat to Tessub and his colleagues until the goddess Sausga, the Hurrian counterpart of Ishtar, goes to the shore, beguiles him with her singing and beauty, seduces him, and renders him impotent with drink" Teshub, in fact, has no idea that his father has created this monster which will threaten life on earth.

    It is Sauska known in the story as Anzili who transforms herself into a snake in order to overhear the conversation between Kumarbi and the Sea in which Kumarbi reveals his plan to destroy human beings.

    Women in the Ancient Near East: A Sourcebook (Routledge Sourcebooks for the Ancient World)

    The text continues: "Anzili went, the queen of Nineveh, she approved. She sprinkled beauty The beauty dissolved in the waters and when Hedammu tasted the scent, the beer , a sweet dream seized victorious Hedammu. He was dreaming like an ox or an ass and he recognized nothing and was eating frogs and lizards. Kumarbi tries again to destroy human beings in The Song of Illikumi, in which he impregnates a cliff which gives birth to a stone monster known as Illikumi. He places this monster on the shoulder of the World Giant Ubelluri who, since he holds up the earth, would not notice the added weight of the child.

    Illikumi grows and draws strength from Ubelluri, unnoticed by the other gods until he is grown and is seen by the sun god Shimiki.

    Women in the Ancient Near East: A Sourcebook

    Kumarbi's principal target in the creation of Illikumi seems to Teshub, whom he wishes to "crush underfoot like an ant" and "chop up like chaff" because Teshub is the protector of human beings. Again, however, Teshub plays no significant part in defeating this second threat. Sauska, again, bathes and prepares herself and then goes to the sea with her attendants carrying the cymbals and drums; but the sea raises itself up into a giant wave, which tells her that this threat is quite different from Hedammu. As Ehrlich writes, "The offspring is a gigantic stone who is blind and deaf and thus immune to the charms of Sausga" Sauska is powerless against Illikumi who lashes out against Teshub and the other gods and wins the first battles.

    The text is damaged at this point, but it seems that Sauska either contacts Ea, the god of wisdom, or that Ea intervenes once Sauska's plan fails.