Redis­cov­er­ing Eve: Ancient Israelite Women in Context

Car­ol Meyers

  • Review
By – March 20, 2013

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.

Rachel Sara Rosen­thal is an envi­ron­men­tal attor­ney in Wash­ing­ton, DC. Orig­i­nal­ly from Greens­boro, North Car­oli­na, she grad­u­at­ed from Duke Uni­ver­si­ty in 2003 and Colum­bia Uni­ver­si­ty School of Law in 2006.

Discussion Questions