The Land YWHW Is Giving (Deut 18). Women’s Property Rights in Ancient Israel (continued)

Methodology, Expected Results, Scope, and Limitations. Thesis Structure.

Read Part 1 HERE

The twelve tribes


The method adopted in this study will be influenced by Don C Benjamin’s comparative method used between Sargon and Moses in the matter of the women in the Ancient Near East and the women of Deuteronomy land distribution rights. 1 This thesis will show inheritance by daughters was permissible, related to the issue of carrying on the ‘father’s familial name’ (Numbers 27: 1-11). This paper draws upon the work of key scholars work and the Hebrew Bible which relate to the current debate in this arena. The elite strident loud male’s voices will be minimized to accentuate the voices of the marginalised women. 2 Documents from the ANE will be compared with the Hebrew Bible. To situate the project in the discussions and show progress there are three strands which can be used together to estimate its value, study in context and explain my text. 

(1) historical and sociological questions of women and society. One of my primary sources to investigate these questions is Carol Meyers. 3 Meyers introduces the concept of Heterarchy, to show how it fosters partnerships of mutual dependence and interdependence in their tribal setting. 4 Mcclenney-Sadler confirms Israel was a consensual two-pronged endogamous society. 5 Chapman’s work “reconfigures kinship studies” using indigenous kinship terminology. 6

(2) the type of literature we’re looking at to compare one with the other. The ANE primary source used here is Zafrira Ben-Barak. 7 A consideration of comparable cases (including and especially Babylonian) will justify Benjamin’s approach. 8 

(3) what sort of legal text are we looking at in Numbers 27:11? The question is, how is a “statutory ordinance” instigated by Moses in this case, similar or different to other laws in the Old Testament? 


This thesis will conclude ancient Israelite women typically inherited land. 9 This thesis will highlight and correct an imbalance in the ways the rights of women in ancient Israel are perceived. This thesis will show through the investigative study conducted in ANE documents different results emerge from various places, but all bar one testify to women inheriting; some, daughters and their brothers inherited together, just as Job’s daughters did, as is shown in a “unique legal document from Alalah (eighteenth century B.C.); further evidence is found in Akkad of daughters inheriting after sons.” 10 By comparison, the sons of Israel inheriting was conditional on them marrying those women recognised by YHWH, the owner of the land. 11 Overall, the knowledge gathered here on women inheriting land in the ANE, particularly Babylon, when compared with Israel, will contribute to the advancement of feminist theories, particularly in the understanding of women’s standing and social relationships in ancient Israel and their rights to land distribution. Those who benefit from the findings in this paper are the scholarly community and the wider public. Finally, the church’s testimony to the attributes of an impartial God is justified (Isa 61:8). 


Using Numbers 27: 1-11 as a case in point the theme of this paper is women’s right to inherit land in ancient Israel and the inherent rights to land distribution. This will broaden out to investigate ANE documents of the same concern. These will be compared with the Hebrew Bible on the same theme. The levirate marriage, where widow’s inheritance is concerned, is not addressed. Neither Leviticus chapter 18, that limits itself to denoting endogamous society is also not addressed. The research undertaken into the social aspects of the women of Israel is confined within the women’s familial relationships, in particular, the endogamous marriage arrangement, the different marriage arrangements, the indigenous language used in relation to this social order, and the women’s role in the choice of heir and the legal right of land distribution. The investigation of these allows a process of careful consideration that add weight to the significant role women played in them and in furthering the understanding of the women’s lives. No biblical exegesis will be conducted on Numbers 27 at this time due to length limits on this paper. The extent of the study of the ANE Law codes factors in the ANE legal instructions on women’s right to inherit land and land distribution rights which are compared with Israel as recorded by Moses in the book of Deuteronomy.


Chapter two addresses the cultural identity of ancient Israel embedded in its written record with its necessity for social order. This indicates the connection of inheritance rights and stable land management policies, conducted through the women’s distribution of land rights. The sociocultural concept of heterarchy as recognising a way of living in the small villages of Israel and meeting the essential needs of a multidimensional lifegiving community are considered. Examples will be given from the Hebrew Bible and scholarly feminist work. These serve to illustrate the way the households in Israel lived and the way it delivered lifestyles that brought meaning to life by empowering the people; its flexibility to support the laws of inheritance; the heritage of land by both sons and daughters, while reinforcing the women’s rights of land distribution. 

Chapter three questions the rights of the women of Israel and their place as heirs to land leading to comparison between law cases of ancient Assyro-Babylonian literature and Semitic languages of this period with Israel. The legal ruling in Numbers 27, namely, the “statute and ordinance” once summarised and contextualised, will widen our understanding and lead to making some inferences about when and how widely it would have been applied in Israel. It will show that the present concept of patriarchy is unjust once the threads of this thesis are drawn together. 

Chapter four shows the conclusion drawn from the research carried out in the Ancient Near East documents and the biblical narrative that ancient Israel provided for women to inherit land and legal rights to its distribution. The idea that Israel was strictly a patrilocal, patrilineal patriarchal society is disputed; rather, Israel was overwhelmingly an endogamous, two-pronged, heterarchical society, indicating, therefore, an elevated status for women rather than a subservient one. Proposed subjects for future research is the gap found on “statute and ordinance,” which will be taken further in this research  (Numbers 27: 11). The broader research will deliver greater depth to what makes it distinctive and how it compares to other types of commandments. The women’s role in the distribution of land rights, like inheritance, was widely recognised in the ANE. Finally, with increased knowledge of the women in the Hebrew Bible the modern reader is the winner here and the character of God and future work of feminist theology of the Bible will only bring greater depth of understanding for all interested participants. 



The Land YWHW Is Giving (Deut 18). Women’s Property Rights in Ancient Israel.

Patricia Erlandsen Semester 1 Test 3. June 2021

Introduction, Thesis Statement, Literature Review and Bibliography.

The twelve tribes


There is a theory that ancient Israel was inequitable in that it was a patriarchal society 1 This is at variance with the Psalmist: “God is fair and just.” (Ps 25:8 translation????) This inconsistency leaves the believer in a quandary as the patriarchal theory suggests daughters fail to meet the mark. One reason for this stance of gender bias is the Hebrew Bible is not sufficiently nuanced to account for the experiences of ancient Israelite women in their households, and in the wider community. 

This leaves the believer with unanswered questions, such as, do only sons inherit land in ancient Israel? Is the locality of the household always patrilocal? Do the daughters always have to leave their home, and join their husband’s household? These questions and many more in the same vein, not mentioned here, reveals a gap in modern interpretations of the Hebrew Bible and as a result, God’s character the biblical principle of a just God is repudiated (Ps 89:14). The reading in Num 27: 1-11 where the Daughters of Zelophehad petition Moses, and the leadership assembly for recognition of their rights in the matter of inheritance and land suggests that the Daughters of Zelophehad thought the same. The situation was complex, leading to the question of this thesis: were women passive bystanders in Ancient Israel in the matter of inheritance and who held the legal title and rights to the land, and the choice of an heir?  

This thesis will argue that the present patriarchal model of ancient Israel’s society is defective and, the son’s inheritance of the father’s house, without any conditions, as deficient as it does not reveal the conditions imposed upon the heir, due to the women holding the legal title to the land, and with it the rights to its distribution. 2

The women’s lives, in ancient Israel were enmeshed in a net of personal, communal, and administrative responsibilities through the essential matters of life: birth, marriage, and death. These complex matters, managed well, helped establish a sound social structure for the ancient Israelite society. This means the women were involved at the base level of delivering a stable society, enveloped in the endogamous marriage relationship through close kinship ties. 3 “Technically, land could not be sold in the world of the Bible.” 4 Therefore, each household dwelt securely on the portion of land inherited from the deceased father, within their own tribe’s geographical borders, with the mother of that household holding the land distribution rights. The households were tied in a co-operative communal knot of mutually common purpose, and in covenantal relationship with YWYH, ancient Israel’s “divine Patron,” and owner of the land. 5


The literature review will show the conversations taking place surrounding the theme of this thesis and their relevancy. The paper will be set out under three headings: 

(1) Who is discussing the social structure of Ancient Israelite Society, and the women’s rights regarding inheritance, and land distribution

(2) Who is discussing inheritance by Daughters in the ANE, and Ancient Israel 

(3) Case in point: the Daughters of Zelophehad (Numbers 27: 1-11). 

(4) The social structure of ancient Israelite society, and the women’s rights regarding inheritance, and land distribution:

The scholars quoted here are in discussion about ancient Israel’s society. Naomi Steinberg stresses the exclusivity of the endogamous marriage arrangement as important due to its interrelatedness to the women endorsed by YWYH who occupy the central role as it she who bears the heir; this establishes direct linage of Abraham, and Sarah’s forebears. 6 The women’s centrality to the economic survival of the household is also established due to the mother elect bearing the heir, selected by YWYH. It is the mother also who holds the legal title to the land, and its distribution rights. 7 The ‘father’s house’, (bet ab,) the smallest basic unit of social organization, and its patriline, are under scrutiny in my thesis, due to it not being the only residence in Israel. 8

The households of Israel, and women’s life-matters are intimately intertwined with birth, marriage, and death. In giving birth, mothers “predominantly named their children,” 9 When married, daughters were granted land as dowry; in the matter of conflict between heirs, mothers mediate. 10 Upon their husband’s death, widows continued to exercise their land rights. 11

The view of Israel as a patriarchal society is contested: it is not a biblical term but rather, a “social-science theory.” 12 Naomi Steinberg identifies Israel as a patrilineal society “without exception.” 13 Cynthia Chapman builds on the differentiation by showing a “neatly schematic patriline,” when, on occasions, the male descent line splits laterally and records mother’s lines: the “House of the Mother” (Bet em,) hence revealing the uterine family “nested” in the father’s house (Bet ab). 14

Chapman also discusses the patri-matriline of Jacob’s uncle, as the ‘house of the father of his mother’ (bêt-’ăbî ’immô) and his ‘father’s house’. 15 This scenario may provoke a political struggle, whereby the daughter’s father’s house was never left entirely, but instead, could provide for the mother a “support base” in “her sons bid for succession in his father’s house.” 16 This shows land inheritance does not run along straight descent lines of the patrilineal ‘father’s line’ as the basic unit according to the patriarchal assumption. 

Instead, it shows the naivete of the patriarchal assumption that those most affected, the mothers, daughters, and disinherited sons, have no say or reward in its outcome, yet they willingly play a subjective role in its success. Accordingly, the son who inherited the land of his deceased father did not inherit its legal title. 17 In the first instance, the land ownership and all rights, Moses assigned to YWHW, Israel’s divine patron with Israel as YWYH’s client. 18 In the second instance the land distribution rights, Moses assigned to the mother. 19

Carol Meyers contests the patriarchal model, by identifying the ancient society of Israel as a “Heterarchy.” 20 Benjamin agrees with this. 21 The alternative model to patriarchy is compelling. 22 Meyers says patriarchy manifests itself in two ways: the clans are under the father’s control, by extension, “the organization of an entire society in ways that exclude women from community positions”. 23

The heterarchical model, alternatively, allows for “different power structures” to exist at the same time, rather than “fixed, hierarchical gender patterns” allowing for “autonomous actors in multiple aspects of household and community life.” 24 Benjamin explains women could hold legal title to the land and its distribution rights. 25

Madeline Gay Mcclenney-Sadler identifies five different patterns of marriage in the family structures represented in the ‘father’s house.’ 26 These five, all nestled within Israel’s endogamous clans, reveal an interpersonal, intertwined, clustered knot of familial relationships. Mcclenney-Sadler goes on to discuss the plausibility of Israel practicing a matrilocality (living near the relatives of females) hence a one-sided patrilocal society was defective. 27 The patrilocal model is unsupported by the anthropological and documentary evidence and the different kinship terminology used. 28 She questions the idea of simplified inheritance from father to son and the heir decided by the father as being the norm. 29 Benjamin concurs, asserting, “ancient Israel was not matrilineal, but it was also not rigorously patrilineal.” 30

Benjamin’s proposes, by making a comparison between the similarity of Sargon and Moses’ birth motifs, shows the way Sargon delegated to the woman, Enheduanna, to distribute land use rights to the women of Akkad; he sees the similarity in the way Moses does the same to the women in Deuteronomy. 31 In this, Benjamin shows conclusively, both Sargon and Moses bestow upon their peoples to supply an enduring need; the need for survival in the world of Bible – how to acquire land but also how to manage it. 32 In this way, the women the land, and sustainable practice are entwined. 

Robert A. Oden states, “all of Israel’s approved marriages, to some extent, were endogamous”  (Genesis 12-36). 33 This brings this idea under the scrutiny of daughters leaving their mother’s house and consistently joining the father’s house. In some instances in the endogamous marriage relationship, daughters stayed within the protection of their ‘mother’s house. 34

The “house of the mothers” comes to the fore when Chapman questions, why, in those cases of a daughter marrying out, the house of the mother, her daughters, and their uterine brothers becomes centrally involved in the matter of an eligible daughter, whose groom would marry into her household? This anomaly reiterates the point that the will of the father was not the only determinant in matters relating to inheritance. 

(2) inheritance by Daughters in the ANE and Ancient Israel 

In the ANE sons inherited the father’s estate upon his death. Zafrira Ben-Barak shows documented evidence of women in the ANE inheriting land and women holding legal title to the land and its distribution rights. 35 Ben-Barak cites three distinct situations, attested to in different periods, and in four different societies: daughters may inherit with sons but as inferiors, or they may inherit with sons on an equal basis.” 36

The ANE legal title to the land and its distribution rights were held by the king: he represented the divine assembly who owned the land; as a rule, the distribution was assigned to a body of elite individuals who held the administrative rights. 37 Benjamin brings to the fore the similarity in the motifs of Sargon’s and Moses’ birth stories. 38 Based upon this and Sargon delegating to the woman Enheduanna to distribute land use rights to the women of Akkad. Benjamin makes comparisons between the two and concludes: “Moses appoints the women in Deuteronomy to hold legal title and to distribute land rights in ancient Israel.” 39 This just ruling puts the onus on the fathers of the households to care for the land and women, “as Deuteronomy envisions.” 40  Benjamin justly deduces, “only those fathers can endow their households with life as abundant as the life with which Sargon and Enheduanna endowed Akkad”. 41 However, a difference in point is, unlike the rest of the ANE, YHWH alone is the divine Patron of Judah. 42

A plain reading of Numbers 27: 1-11 appears as if the daughters of Zelophehad bring a petition to Moses to inherit their father’s land. However, Benjamin says this is an example of women asking Moses to allow them to exercise their land rights independently. 43 In other words, it is a dispute about the preservation of the land rights of households. 

We have considered the parallels and comparisons of Benjamin with the ANE documents, between Sargon and Moses’ birth motifs; the dynamics involved in Israel’s endogamous marriage relationships, and finally, Moses’ granting the women of Deuteronomy to hold legal title to the land and its distribution rights. The various authors quoted discussing women’s inheritance and their land distribution rights frame my research topic in such a way as shown there are variances involving marriage, locality, and the diverse ways in which various players are involved in Israel’s ancient society which Chapman liberally covers. 

In the instance where Moses passed a “statute and ordinance,” or more literally “a statute of ordinance” (Hebrew: חֻקַּת מִשְׁפָּט). This means the evidence for inheritance in Israel is broader than here as it looks like a technical expression, which is only used here and in Numb 35:29. The similar expressions חֹק וּמִשְׁפָּט and חֹק וּלְמִשְׁפָּט occur in Exod 15:25 and 1 Sam 30:25, respectively. This means a form-critical study which focuses on this particular type of commandment, will be carried out in the future to ask, what makes it distinctive and how does it compare to other types of commandments? 

Finally, my thesis shows Israel’s ‘patriarchal’ society cannot be seen as simple as the father’s house and son’s linear descent providing for the inheritance needs to the full extent of that society. The hidden nuances and the complexities involved in such a diverse society provide justification for why my research should be undertaken. 

Proposed subjects for future research is the future investigation into “statute and ordinance.” There is found to be a gap here. Further research would bring greater depth to what makes it distinctive and how does it compare to other types of commandments? Finally, with increased knowledge of the women in the Hebrew Bible the modern reader is the winner here and the justification of the just character of God and the future work of feminist theology of the Bible will only bring a greater depth of understanding for all interested participants. 

to be continued


Ackerman, Susan. Celebrate Her for the Fruit of Her Hands: Essays in Honor of Carol L. Meyers. IN: Eisenbrauns, 2015.

Ackerman, Susan. “Digging Up Deborah”. Near Eastern Archaeology 66, no. 4: (2003), 172-184.

Ackerman, Susan, Charles E Carter, and Beth A Nakhai. “1. General (Including Introductions and Collections of Essays).” Journal for the Study of the Old Testament 40, no. 5 (June 2016): 1–40. .

Albertz, Rainer, Beth Alpert Nakhai, Saul M. Olyan, and Rüdiger Schmitt. Family and Household Religion: Toward a Synthesis of Old Testament Studies, Archaeology, Epigraphy and Cultural Studies. IN: Eisenbrauns, 2014.

Bader, Mary Anna. Genesis 34 and 2 Samuel 13. Dinah and Tamar: Their Brothers and Fathers, PhD diss., Lutheran School of Theology IL, 2002.

Ben-Barak, Zafrira. “Inheritance by Daughters in the Ancient Near East.” Journal of Semitic Studies 25, no. 1 (1980): 22-33. 

Benjamin, Don C. “The Impact of Sargon & Enheduanna on Land Rights in Deuteronomy.” Biblical Theology Bulletin 49, (2019), 22-31.

Benjamin, Don, C. “The Land Rights of Women in Deuteronomy: In Memory of John J. Pilch. (1937–2016).” Biblical Theology Bulletin 47, (2017), 67-79. 

Benjamin, Don C. The Social World of Deuteronomy: A new feminist commentary. Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2015. 

Bess, Stephen Herbert. Systems of Land Tenure in Ancient Israel, PhD diss., University of Michigan, 1963.

Bridge, Edward J. “A Mother’s Influence: Mothers Naming Children in the Hebrew Bible.” Vetus Testamentum 64, no. 3: (2014), 389-400.

Cameron, Averil, and Amelie Kuhrt. Images of Women in Antiquity. LDN: Croom Helm (1983), 260-272.

Chapman, Cynthia R. The House of the Mother: The Social Roles of Maternal Kin in Biblical Hebrew Narrative and Poetry. New Haven, CT: University Press, 2016.

Cimosa, M. “Translating Go’ēl Ha-Dām: “The Avenger of Blood”.” The Bible Translator 41, no. 3 (1990): 319-26. .

Classens, Juliana. “‘Give Us a Portion among Our Father’s Brothers’: The Daughters of Zelophehad, Land, and the Quest for Human Dignity.” Journal for the Study of the Old Testament 37, no. 3 (2013): 319-37.

Coogan, Michael D. “Genesis.” In the New Oxford Annotated Bible with the Apocrypha, Augmented Third Edition, New Revised Standard Version. Oxford University Press, 2007. Oxford Biblical Studies Online. Accessed 22 April 2021.

Davies, Eryl W. “Inheritance Rights and the Hebrew Levirate Marriage: Part 1.” Vetus Testamentum 31, no. 2 (1981): 138-44.

Harris, Rivkah. “Biographical Notes on the Nadītu Women of Sippar.” Journal of Cuneiform Studies 16, no. 1 (1962): 1-12.

Heady, Patrick and Lale Yalcin-Heckmann. “Implications of Endogamy in the Southwest Eurasian Highlands: Another look at Jack Goody’s theory of production, property and kinship.” History and Anthropology 31 no. 2 (2020): 257-281. 

Hurvitz, Avi. “The Evidence of Language in dating the Priestly Code: A Linguistic Study in Techical Idioms and Terminology.” Revue Biblique 81, no. 1 (January 1974): 24-56. Accessed April 29, 2021.

Levicheva, Larisa. “Family and Household Religion: Toward a Synthesis of Old Testament Studies, Archaeology, Epigraphy, and Cultural Studies.” Review [Untitled], Bulletin for Biblical Research 26, no. 1 (2016): 88-90.

McEntire, Mark and Wongi Park. “Ethnic Fission and Fusion in Biblical Genealogies.” Journal of Biblical Literature 140, no. 1 (2021): 31-47. Accessed May 9, 2021. .   

Matthews, Victor H., and Don C. Benjamin. Old Testament Parallels: laws and stories from the ancient Near East. NY: Paulist Press, 1991.

Matthews, Victor H., and Benjamin, Don C. Social World of Ancient Israel: 1250 – 587 BCE. 1st Edition, Ada, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1993. 

McClenney-Sadler, Madeline Gay. Recovering the Daughter’s Nakedness a Formal Analysis of Israelite Kinship Terminology and the Internal Logic of Leviticus 18. Library of Hebrew Bible/Old Testament Studies; 476. New York: T & T Clark International, 2007.

Meyers, Carol L. “Gender and the Heterarchy Alternative for Re-Modeling Ancient Israel,” in The Oxford Handbook of Feminist Approaches to the Hebrew Bible, edited by. Susanne Scholz, 1-20. Oxford: Oxford University Press, USA, OSO, 2020).

Meyers, Carol L. Rediscovering Eve: Ancient Israelite Women in Context. NY: Oxford University Press, 2012. 

Meyers, Carol L. “Was Ancient Israel a Patriarchal Society?” Journal of Biblical Literature 133, no. 1 (2014): 8-27. .

Nelson, Sarah M. Women in Antiquity: Theoretical Approaches to Gender and Archaeology. Gender and Archaeology Series. MD; UK: Alta Mira Press, 2007.

Oden, Robert A. “Jacob as Father, Husband, and Nephew: Kinship Studies and the Patriarchal Narratives.” Journal of Biblical Literature 102, no. 2 (1983): 189-205. .

Quick, Laura. “The Book of Ruth and the Limits of Proverbial Wisdom.” Journal of Biblical Literature 139, no. 1 (2020): 47-66. 

Russell, Stephen C. “Abraham’s Purchase of Ephron’s Land in Anthropological Perspective.” Biblical Interpretation 21, no. 2 (2013): 153-70. 

Russell, Stephen C. “The Legal Background of the Theme of Land in the Book of Joshua.” Hebrew Studies. 59, no. 1 (2018): 111-28.

Sakenfeld, Katharine D. Journeying with God: A Commentary on the Book of Numbers. International Theological Commentary. MI: Handsel Press, 1995.

Scholz, Susanne. The Oxford Handbook of Feminist Approaches to the Hebrew Bible. Oxford Handbooks Online. NY: Oxford University Press, 2020.

Stiebert, Johanna. Sex in the Family: First-Degree Incest and the Hebrew Bible. The Library of Hebrew Bible/Old Testament Studies. LDN: Bloomsbury T&T Clark, 2016. .

Steinberg, Naomi. Kinship and Marriage in Genesis: A Household Economic Perspective. (Minneapolis: MN: Augsburg Fortress, 1993). 

Stol. “Women in Mesopotamia.” Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient. 38, no. 2 (1995): 123-44. 

Tucker, Gene M. Form Criticism of the Old Testament. Guides to Biblical Scholarship. Old Testament Series. PH: Fortress Press, 1971.

Ulrich, Dean A. “The Framing Function of the Narratives about Zelophehad’s Daughters.” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 41, no. 4 (December 1998): 529.

Wells, Bruce. “What Is Biblical Law?” The Catholic Biblical Quarterly 70, no. 2 (2008): 224-43.

Winslow, Karen Strand. “Ethnicity, Exogamy, and Zipporah.” Women in Judaism 4, no. 1 (2006): 1-13.


Patricia’s ACU Honours Thesis Test 1 (of 3)

Task 1: Thesis statement and annotated bibliography: The assessment strategy is intended to allow you to display development of thesis writing and research methods skills appropriate for an Honours thesis. All three assessment tasks are linked together so that the feedback received from each task also acts as a feedforward to help you prepare for the next task.

Assessment task 1 enables you to display achievement of LO 1 by asking you to compile an annotated bibliography of relevant key resources for your proposed thesis topic and drafting a thesis statement, outlining the argument of your proposed thesis

Requires students to demonstrate the skills of writing a thesis statement and compiling an annotated bibliography of relevant sources.

Due Friday 26th March 2021

For this task, you are asked to write an annotated bibliography of ten selected relevant sources for your thesis project. Your annotations should be approximately 100 words each. Each annotation should explain what that resource is about and why it is an important resource for your thesis. You are also asked to include a draft thesis statement written at the top of the document. There is a guide to writing Annotated Bibliographies in Appendix A.

Length and/or format: 1200 words: A single sentence thesis statement plus ten 100- word annotations.

To enable you to gather ten key sources for your project and explain why they are relevant; and to support you in writing a thesis statement, which will provide direction for your thesis project. The annotated bibliography also provides a basis from which you can develop your Literature Review.

Patricia Erlandsen Draft Thesis Statement and Annotated Bibliography

The land of Canaan was divinely promised to Israel through their fore-parents, Abraham and Sarah. Due to acts of divine deliverance, Israel was now poised to enter the promised land.

Moses appointed to each tribe their portion of land. A discrepancy arose and the daughters of Zelophehad approached Moses. Their petition was twofold: “Why should our father’s name disappear from his clan because he had no son? give us property among our father’s relatives.” 1 To ensure the women remained with their land, endogamous marriage was instituted. A statute was passed that showed the land belonged to Yahweh: “the request of the daughters of Zelophehad is justified; you shall certainly give them a possession as an inheritance among their father’s brothers, and you shall transfer their father’s inheritance to them.” 2

This thesis attempts to answer the question, “what motivated the ancient Israelite custom reported in Numbers 27:7 of permitting daughters to inherit?; and is therefore, the matter of women inheriting land in Ancient Israel more of a theological justification about divine ownership of the land?; further, “did the women of Israel typically inherit land? and is this interrelated with widows inheriting land through the endogamous Levirate marriage law?”; so that, in reality, “was inheriting land by all members of the tribes and endogamous marriages a distinctive feature of Israelite society?”

Below: 100 words each Annotated Bibliography.

Ackerman, Susan. 2003. “Digging Up Deborah”. Near Eastern Archaeology 66, no. 4: 172-184.

Biblical scholar, Susan Ackerman, a biblical scholar, draws from Carol Meyer’s work using archaeology as a tool to uncover the sub text. This opens up indicators of deeper meaning between Iron I period in the book of Judges and Israel’s pre-monarchic era of Iron 11. Close attention is given to the way the ordinary everyday tasks of the women opened up ways for them to influence the society’s economical, judicial and legal affairs and to participate in religious observances. Ackerman also compares the ancient Semitic language and includes extra-biblical source materials, all adding valuable weight to my thesis.

Benjamin, Don C. 2015 The Social World of Deuteronomy: A New Feminist Commentary. Wipf and Stock Publishers.

Both legal traditions and cultures in the bible world are brought together in Don Benjamin’s work. He brings to the reader empathetic insight into the social world of Israel’s women and their household members. Yahweh’s patronage allowed all Israel to receive a divine land grant: “The land that Yahweh is giving.” 3 The author engages feminist criticism, law, social life and customs. Benjamin explains simple lineages, segmented lineages, and genealogies. He uses social – scientific criticism to reconstruct the social institutions that appear in Deuteronomy’s traditions. Along with this, the book’s bibliography is of value in developing my thesis.

Brenner-Idan, Athalya. 1993. Feminist Companion to Genesis. London, Bloomsbury.

Brenner’s approach of feminist criticism and interpretation examines sexism and sex in the bible. Wives controlling their husband’s sexual activity through the wife’s directive led to controlling childbirth. Women therefore were central to building up their clan leading to the growth of the tribe. Brenner concludes it does not infer domination. However, that is questionable. This is relevant to my thesis in showing the way women had autonomy in critical issues and decision making. It also ensured a woman’s relative freedom in preventing sexual harassment. It infers they were not overtly patriarchal households.

Brenner-Idan, Athalya, and Brenner,Athalya. 1993. Feminist Companion to Ruth. London, Bloomsbury.

An explicitly feminist approach is adopted as Brennan shows the way in which the Levirate law in Israel is applied on behalf of widows in Israel. Redemption is the theme. Its central issue is twofold: retention of land and name which works through endogamous matrilineal kinship ties. Brenner insight defines the way in which the matriline is the strength of the society they live in as it provides the source of female authority to help cull the potential of aggressive male domination.

Bridge, Edward J. 2014. A Mother’s Influence: Mothers Naming Children in the Hebrew Bible. Vetus Testamentum 64, no. 3: 389-400.

Edward Bridge shows during the pre-Israelite pre monarchic and monarchic periods women exhibit significant standing and influence in Israel. They predominantly named their children, educated and chose their children’s language. They expressed preference for children over husbands; singularly inquired of God; some were recognised as wise. One saved a city, another built them; others were prophets and mediums, others served at the tabernacle. The Shelomith seal, late fifth early sixth century BC, has a woman acting in the capacity of government official or functionary. Overall, Bridge demonstrates it is a gross misrepresentation to interpret Israelite women as docile which is in keeping with my thesis.

Chapman, Cynthia R. 2016. The House of the Mother: The Social Roles of Maternal Kin in Biblical Hebrew Narrative and Poetry. New Haven, Connecticut.

To provide a lens to magnify ancient Israelite kinship ties, Chapman combines biblical and extra-biblical linguistic analysis with anthropological theory, ethnographical insights, and archaeological data. These serve to help the readers’ gaze converge on what Chapman calls “horizontal lines”. These are matrilineal lines leading to far more complexity in the patriarchal structure of the tribes of Israel than might once be thought. Chapman refers to these as a “more complex maternally subdivided household”. These are identified as “the House of the Mother”. Chapman’s study supports the argument that one-dimensional patrilocal marriage and male only line of descent is inaccurate.

Meyers, Carol L. 2014. Journal of Biblical Literature; Atlanta Vol. 133, Iss. 1, 8-27.

Carol Meyers scholarly feminist critique: “Was Ancient Israel a Patriarchal Society?” seeks to reexamine the concept of patriarchy as a negative descriptor of ancient Israel. Employing historical text analysis, anthropology, archaeology, Hebrew language, science and society, the author highlights the social problems associated with patriarchal interpretation. Meyers says other scholars such as third-wave feminists, social theorists and feminist archaeologists agree. Meyers disagrees with the way theorists use the Roman “paterfamilias” as an example to compare with the families of Ancient Israel. This archaic view has never been entirely corrected. I agree with Meyers: it is too long a time period to make any relevant comparison.

Meyers, Carol. 2013. Rediscovering Eve: Ancient Israelite Women in Context. New York: Oxford University Press.

Meyer’s feminist study investigates the popular view of Israelite women in their households being at the bottom of a blatantly patriarchal social structure in Iron Age 1 Israelite society. Meyer considers the mundane lives of such ordinary women agrarians residing in matrilineal kinship groups. It reveals a micro-view of their economic, social, political, and religious significance in the tribe’s internal and external cohesion. The author draws upon archaeological discoveries from that period. In support my thesis in as much as it allows a broader picture of Ancient Israelite women’s roles, their worth in the family as well as their interactions amongst themselves and the broader community.

Oden, Robert A. 1983. “Jacob as Father, Husband, and Nephew: Kinship Studies and the Patriarchal Narratives”. Journal of Biblical Literature 102, no. 2 189-205.

Robert Oden’s emphasis in the study of biblical literature is about modern analysis of kinship studies. This offers the reader the opportunity to research the Hebrew texts in greater depth. In this instance, Jacob and Laban are brought to the fore to examine the special relationship between a man and his maternal uncle. Its most prominent features concern kinship studies and genealogy in the family of Abraham, Sarah and their descendants, allowing preservation of its system of land tenure. The author helps me articulate my argument in the way in which endogamy served Israel.

Zafrira, Ben-Barak. 1980. “Inheritance by Daughters in the Ancient Near East”, Journal of Semitic Studies 25, no. 1, 22-33.

Zafrira’s approach is one of bible criticism and interpretation It deals with ancient Assyro-Babylonian literature and Semitic Languages of this period. It ascertains that the situation of women’s right to land also occurred in the course of establishing justice in Middle Eastern society. Certain documents from there show widows orphans and daughters become heirs; this occurs when there is no son. The author explores Job’s daughters inheriting land. The endogamous marriage arrangement is also considered. Zafrira’s study enables comparison between law cases listed here to the one concerning the five daughters of Zelophehad.


Hey! I have been accepted into Bachelor of Theology (Hons) at ACU!

ACU Books

Congratulations, Patricia – you’re in!

It’s time to celebrate – your application was successful and we’re delighted to offer you a place to study at Australian Catholic University (ACU). Your offer details:

Name: Patricia Erlandsen
Course: Bachelor of Theology (Honours)
Place: Commonwealth Supported
Faculty: Faculty Theology & Philosophy
Campus: Brisbane (check out their campus)
Intake: 2021 Academic Year

Bachelor of Theology (Honours): A one-year programme for high-achieving students who have completed the Bachelor of Theology pass degree or equivalent; students undertake a focused research project framed by one-on-one supervision with one of our internationally-recognised academic staff, and engage in an in-depth study of an area of theology or biblical studies.

More news soon… Watch this space!