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. 



  1. Benjamin, The Social World of Deuteronomy: A New Feminist Commentary. 2
  2.  Benjamin, Don C., The Social World of Deuteronomy: A New Feminist Commentary, 1.
  3. Carol Meyers, Rediscovering Eve: Ancient Israelite Women in Context, (NY: Oxford University Press, 2012),
  4.  Meyers, “Gender and the Heterarchy Alternative for Re-Modeling Ancient Israel, 8.
  5.  Mcclenney-Sadler, Re-Covering the Daughter’s Nakedness: A Formal Analysis of Israelite Kinship Terminology and the Internal Logic of Leviticus 18. 62.
  6. 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), 7.

  7. Ben-Barak, “Inheritance by Daughters in the Ancient Near East,” 22-23.
  8. Benjamin, “The Impact of Sargon & Enheduanna on Land Rights in Deuteronomy,” 22-31.
  9. Ben-Barak, “Inheritance by Daughters in the Ancient Near East,” 22-23.
  10.  Ben-Barak, “Inheritance by Daughters in the Ancient Near East,” 22-23.
  11.  Benjamin, “The Impact of Sargon & Enheduanna on Land Rights in Deuteronomy.” 22-31.