Rediscovering Eve: Ancient Israelite Women in Context

Oxford University Press  2012

 

This excellent work of scholarship and instruction presents an in-depth and captivating look at the probable life experiences of “Everywoman Eve.” Using the analytical tools from the fields of archaeology, ethnography, and Feminist anthropology, Meyers offers a realistic portrayal of the activities and responsibilities of ordinary women living in ancient Israel. Her descriptions of household and community roles are well-supported and even-handed, acknowledging the positive features and also the challenges of food processing, textile production, and reproduction, among other tasks. Meyers is particularly skilled at providing the context for these activities, including, for example, the geographical and social settings of Iron Age communities.

Of course, the Hebrew Bible is a foundational source throughout, sometimes central to Meyers’s analysis and oftentimes not. Particularly intriguing are the author’s close readings of Genesis 2-3 and 3:16, in which Meyers reconstructs – carefully and deliberately, with reference to and reliance on a range of other interpretations – translations of two well-known Biblical sections. Though technical and detailed, the two chapters in which these reconstructions appear are accessible to a general audience, thanks to the author’s clear prose and logical, step-wise approach.

Readers may want a Hebrew Bible close by in order to get the most out of the myriad of quick references to Biblical verses and personas. These references are especially common in the chapters on religious activities and the work of professional women. Both chapters explain and distinguish the Biblical universe and reality as archeological and ethnographic evidence suggests it might have been. For example, the explanations about women’s use of plants in healing activities, as mentioned in the Bible and as indicated in other sources, give a view of how women were involved in health care in ancient Israel.

Meyers does not lose sight of the consequences – to the academy and to contemporary life – of interpretations that mischaracterize Everywoman Eve’s experience. She has endeavored – with success – to avoid bringing modern assumptions to her analysis, and readers will come to appreciate her skill in making complicated topics manageable. Rediscovering Eve is thus an enlightening update of a classic work of Biblical and Feminist scholarship as well as a worthwhile read for sophisticated and casual readers alike.

Bibliography; Epilogue; Index; Index of Biblical and Other Ancient Texts; Notes; Notes on Translations, Transcriptions, and Documentation; and Preface



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