A synthetic reconstruction of women’s religious engagement and experiences in preexilic Israel
“This monumental book examines a wealth of data from the Bible, archaeology, and ancient Near Eastern texts and iconography to provide a clear, comprehensive, and compelling analysis of women’s religious lives in preexilic times.”—Carol Meyers, Duke University
Throughout the biblical narrative, ancient Israelite religious life is dominated by male actors. When women appear, they are often seen only on the periphery: as tangential, accidental, or passive participants. However, despite their absence from the written record, they were often deeply involved in religious practice and ritual observance.
In this new volume, Susan Ackerman presents a comprehensive account of ancient Israelite women’s religious lives and experiences. She examines the various sites of their practice, including household shrines, regional sanctuaries, and national temples; the calendar of religious rituals that women observed on a weekly, monthly, and yearly basis; and their special roles in religious settings. Drawing on texts, archaeology, and material culture, and documenting the distinctions between Israelite women’s experiences and those of their male counterparts, Ackerman reconstructs an essential picture of women’s lived religion in ancient Israelite culture.
Susan Ackerman is the Preston H. Kelsey Professor of Religion at Dartmouth College, where she has taught since 1990. She is the author of several books, including Warrior, Dancer, Seductress, Queen: Women in Judges and Biblical Israel. She lives in Lebanon, NH.
Finalist for the 2023 American Academy of Religion- Excellence in the Study of Religion Book Award, in the category of Historical Studies “This monumental book examines a wealth of data from the Bible, archaeology, and ancient Near Eastern texts and iconography to provide a clear, comprehensive, and compelling analysis of women’s religious lives in preexilic times.”—Carol Meyers, Duke University
“Ackerman’s expertise as a leading historian of Israelite religion is on full display, as she weaves expert analysis of Hebrew Bible and extrabiblical sources with material culture. She grounds her extensive study of the religious traditions of ancient Israelite women with rigorously close readings of our partial and complicated texts, situating her analysis within a keen understanding of the cultures and practices of the ancient Near Eastern and Mediterranean worlds. This book is an impressive contribution filling a critical need—a must read.”—Theodore J. Lewis, author of The Origin and Character of God: Ancient Israelite Religion through the Lens of Divinity
“In this richly illustrated and meticulously researched book, Ackerman invites us into the homes and sacred sites of ancient Israel to witness unexpected roles for women—guarding temple entrances, making pilgrimages, and preparing offerings for the household gods.”—Cynthia R. Chapman, author of The House of the Mother: The Social Roles of Maternal Kin in Biblical Hebrew Narrative and Poetry
“The culmination of decades of scholarly study, this landmark work illuminates the important and varied roles of women in ancient Israelite religion. Ackerman thoughtfully probes the where, when, and who of women’s religious life in pre-exilic Israel, insightfully situating the biblical evidence within the cultural and religious life of Iron Age Israel, as revealed by extra-biblical texts, iconography, and the archaeological record. Clearly written and richly documented, this book is most highly recommended.”—Mark S. Smith, Princeton Theological Seminary
“This book will change the way you have long thought about women in the world of the Bible. It reads like a conversation with a brilliant scholar. Susan Ackerman has written wonderful things before, but this is her magnum opus. Full of intelligence and insight, it tells the story of women and Israelite religion in a new and completely compelling way.”—Karel van der Toorn, University of Amsterdam
“This superb book, distilling a lifetime of scholarship, presents a fine-grained picture of women’s religion in the pre-exilic period. Innovative and erudite, it illuminates the world of the Bible in unexpected and profound ways. Ackerman’s book is a classic.”—Ronald Hendel, University of California–Berkeley
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