Monday, March 21, 2011

Book Review: Women at the Time of the Bible

book cover

Women at the Time of the Bible
by Miriam Feinberg Vamosh

ISBN-13: 978-0-687-64972-3
Paperback: 104 pages
Publisher: Palphot
Released: 2007

Source: Bought through

Book Description from Back Cover:
Welcome to the world of Biblical women, uniquely revealed in this book, a cornucopia of ancient sources, first among them the Holy Scripture, along with photographs and drawings of rare and beautiful finds unearthed in the Holy Land and other Bible lands. All are woven together with engaging and in-depth commentary. Each chapter reveals a different fascinating aspect of a woman's life in Bible times, from her fundamental contribution to family and community, her spiritual walk, the work of her hands, her dress and adornments, and more. As the stories of these long-ago women unfold, you will find yourself riveted by everything from the minutest details to the dramatic milestones of women's lives. You will discover bonds unbroken by the millennia, and a singularly enriching and inspiring path to a more thorough understanding of the sacred message of the Scriptures.

My Review:
Women at the Time of the Bible provides information about what life was like for women during Bible Times. The information tended to be general since it covered such a large time period, but it did give some period-specific or culture-specific details (usually Hebrew, sometimes Roman, occasionally another culture).

The author used clues gleaned from the Bible but also other ancient sources like the Mishnah, early Jewish commentaries on the Bible, early Christian commentaries, clues gleaned from the Apocrypha, traditional cultures in our own time, and archeology. The author did a wonderful job of combining this information in an interesting and easy to read way.

There were 14 profiles of important Biblical women. The author summarized what the Bible says about their life, but she also gave cultural insights into their lives. There were also many enlightening full-color photographs and illustrations of the information in the text, including pictures of ruins, ancient artifacts, people today performing ancient skills, models, reproductions of items, and more.

However, if you're looking for "how-to" details, like the exact details about the process of cooking bread or grinding grain or even getting betrothed, this book didn't give them. It was more a surface survey about women's lives with a few specific details scattered throughout. I recently reviewed Women of the Bible. While these two books covered many of the same overall topics, they covered them in very different ways. Little of the content overlapped.

Overall, I'd recommend this book to those wanting to know what women's lives were like based primarily on ancient writings (including the Bible).

The topics covered were: who made up a household, women's "home-making" jobs, what houses looked like, family relationships, life expectancies; women's jobs (both city and country, poor to wealthy); romance & romantic love; betrothals & weddings; marriage; divorce & widowhood; motherhood (pregnancy, birth, & raising children); women at worship; music & dance; women in mourning & professional mourners; women's clothing (parts of, how frequently got new clothing, etc.); jewelry, makeup, perfume, & hairstyles; women's education; in leadership roles; prostitutes, mediums, seductresses, & loners.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt from page 58
The Orthodox Jewish tradition of separating men and women in the synagogue during prayer is believed to have come about only during the Middle Ages. There are numerous references to women being present in the synagogue, including in Josephus (Antiquities of the Jews, 14, 10, 259-261). According to the minor Talmudic tractate Soferim 18:4, it was the custom to begin holiday services later to accommodate women who had to make sure food was ready before they left for prayers. The Talmudic tractate Avoda Zara 38a also portrays women going to the synagogue in the normal course of her day: "a woman puts her food pots upon the stove, leaving her non-Jewish servants alone at home, until she comes from the bathhouse or the synagogue."

The Talmudic tractate Megilla 23a states that women were allowed to read from the Torah: "All are qualified to be among the seven [who read publicly from the Torah in the synagogue on the Sabbath], even a minor or a woman." However, paradoxically, the sages ruled that a woman should not read from the Torah "out of respect for the congregation." This may have been the sort of social norm that governed Paul's statement about women's silence.

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