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The World of the Child in the Hebrew Bible

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This fascinating study, in which the author draws fruitfully on her personal cross-cultural experience of children’s lives in Guatemala, exposes the reality that childhood in the Hebrew Bible was radically different from present-day childhood.

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SKU: 978-1-907534-76-8

The question ‘What is a child?’ is not easily answered. To make us aware of the multiple factors that contribute to the social construction of childhood in the Hebrew Bible, Naomi Steinberg draws on ethno-historical evidence and incorporates the insights of contemporary social studies of childhood. Through close readings of Genesis 21, 1 Samuel 1 and Exodus 21.22-25, she argues that chronological age and biological immaturity do not determine the boundaries of childhood in biblical Israel.

The social constructions of childhood in the Hebrew Bible were based on what the child could do for the parent, not vice versa. Children were their parents’ property and were used to fulfil their parents’ desires and needs. Not all children had the same experiences of childhood, of course. For example, whether a child was born into a monogamous or polygamous family shaped the course of its future. Other relevant factors in the construction of the multiplicities of childhoods included gender, birth order, and the socio-political historical contexts of ancient Israel. Steinberg convincingly corrects the notion that childhood is a static category in the human life cycle, showing that meanings of childhood are not generic and cannot be carried over from one society to another.

This fascinating study, in which the author draws fruitfully on her personal cross-cultural experience of children’s lives in Guatemala, exposes the reality that childhood in the Hebrew Bible was radically different from present-day childhood.

Additional information

Table of Contents

Settings and Interpretations: From Guatemala to Biblical Israel

PART 1. BACKGROUND AND THEORY

1. CHILDREN AND CHILDHOOD AS CATEGORIES OF ANALYSIS
The Influence of Philippe Ariès
Post Ariès: A Paradigm Shift
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Children

2. WHAT IS A CHILD?
The Term ‘Child’: A Chronological Category
The Term ‘Child’: A Social Category
What is Childhood? Emic and Etic Perspectives

3. WORDS FOR CHILDREN IN THE HEBREW BIBLE
Na‘ar
Yeled
The Masoretic Compared to Greek and Later Jewish Texts

PART 2. REGARDING CHILDHOOD IN THE HEBREW BIBLE

4. THE ISRAELITE FAMILY AS AN ECONOMIC UNIT AND CHILDREN’S ROLES
The Social Structure of the Biblical Family
Patrilineal, Patrilocal Endogamy and Family Economics
Socioeconomic Distinctions between Wives and their Children: Monogamy and Polygyny
Factors of Infant Mortality, Gender and Socioeconomic Status in Childhood
Other Issues: Illegitimates, Orphans and Cast-Offs

5. THE ISRAELITE LIFE CYCLE: ARE THERE ANY CHILDREN HERE?
The Cultural Construction of Human Development
When Does Childhood Begin?
Becoming a Person: How Do Children Develop?
Leviticus 27.1-8 and Other Biblical Texts
Scholarly Constructions of the Biblical Life Cycle

6. GENESIS 21: MONOGAMY, POLYGAMY, AND CHILDHOOD EXPERIENCES
The Terms na‘ar, yeled, and ben in Genesis 21
Ishmael
Isaac

7. 1 SAMUEL 1
Child Abandonment and the Best Interests of the Child
History of Scholarship
Taking Samuel’s Rights Seriously: Whose Life Is It, Anyway?

8. EXODUS 21.22-25: IS THE FETUS A LIFE?
Exodus 21.22-25 and the History of Scholarship
The Hebrew Phrase wĕyāsĕ’û yĕladēhā
Who Was Hurt? The Meaning of יāsôn
Conclusions

PART 3. FROM THE HEBREW BIBLE TO TODAY: STASIS AND CHANGE

9. SOCIALLY CONSTRUCTED CATEGORIES OF CHILDHOOD

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Book information

Author
Naomi Steinberg
List Price
£50 / $80 / €60
Series
Hebrew Bible Monographs, 51
Scholars' Price
£25 / $40 / €30
ISBN 13 hardback
978-1-907534-76-8
Paperback price
£18.50 / $25 / €22.50
ISBN 13 Paperback
978-1-910928-07-3
Format
Hardback / Paperback
Page Extent
xxv + 146
Publication Date
October 2015
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