Peritz: Woman in the Hebrew Cult

                        Journal of Biblical Literature 17 (1898) 111-48.

         Public Domain.  Digitally prepared by Ted Hildebrandt (2004)



             Woman in the Ancient Hebrew Cult.


                                         PROF. ISMAR J. PERITZ.

                                                SYRACUSE, N.Y.


1. Introduction. Current View of Woman's Relation to the



THE opinion has found considerable currency that woman, on

account of her sex, was disqualified to perform the duties of

the religious cult among the Hebrews; that in the absence of males

in the family, the cult of the deceased could not be perpetuated.

The chief representatives of this view are Stade, Schwally, Benzinger,

and Nowack. Benzinger (Hebraische Archaologie, p. 140) has given

it amplest expression; and, in order to have it clearly before us, I

quote his words in full: “Noch an einem anderen Punkt zeigt sich

die Inferioritat der Frau deutlich: die Frau war nicht fahig zur Ausu-

bung des Kultus. Die Sitte der Schwagerehe setzt die Anschau-

ung voraus, dass Frau and Tochter nicht im Stande sind, den

Kultus des Toten zu pflegen. Aus demselben Grund kam ihnen

nur ein sehr beschranktes Erbrecht zu, ebensowenig wurden der

Frau nach dem Tod kultische Ehren zu teil. Nur als Ehefrau war

ihr eine gewisse Teilnahme am Kulte des Mannes gestattet. Bis

auf den heutigen Tag hat sich bei den Juden these Vorstellung

erhalten: die Frauen durfen dem Gottesdienst in der Synagoge

anwohnen, die Madchen sind davon ausgeschlossen. Nicht minder

wird im Islam die Frau als unfahig zur Kultusubung betrachtet.

Dass schon fruhe einze ne Frauen als Prophetinnen auftreten, ist

eine Ausnahme, welche die Regel bestatigt."

            Nowack (Hebraische Archaologie i. 344 f., 348) is less sweeping

in his statements, but also affirms that the levirate law had for its

main object to provide male descent for the dead, because woman

was unqualified to participate in the cult; that this disqualification

also lay at the basis of the Hebrew laws of inheritance; and that



only the son, or the nearest male, and not the female, was qualified

to transmit the cult of the testator.

            The expression of this view reaches, it seems to me, the strangest

height, when Schwally (ZATW. xi. 176 ff.) endeavors to explain the

word rkAzA, ‘male,’ as connected with Myhlx MweB; ryKiz;hi, 'to call

in cult upon God,' and meaning therefore first 'a cultic person,'

then, on the assumption, according to the view in question, that this

cultic person can be in all Israelitish and Semitic antiquity only a.

man, meaning, secondly, 'a male.' This sexual meaning was then,

thirdly, transferred from men to animals, and reached the highest

point of development in the Arabic and Aramaic in the meaning,

fourthly, "das mannliche Glied." Leaving out of consideration the

assumption as to cult, such a view of an etymological development

from a distinct spiritual meaning to the lowest physical will never

commend itself as an improvement on the older view represented by

Gesenius, s.v.

            None of the three authorities mentioned seems to speak from

independent investigation of the subject of woman's relation to the

Hebrew or Semitic cult. All three are evidently dependent upon

Stade, and simply follow him.

            Stade reaches his conclusion in a peculiar manner. He is dealing

with the Hebrew family in pre-prophetic time, and he finds in the

customs of mourning evidences of a cult of the dead and indica-

tions of ancestor-worship. He concludes from these indications that

ancestor-worship was a prime factor in the formation of the ancient

Israelitish family. Here he begins to call attention to similarities in

the organization of the ancient Greek, Roman, and Indian families,

and to draw parallels between them and the Semitic. The ancient

Indo-Germanic family was a "Cultgenossenschaft," held together by

the common bond of worship of the ancestors of the family, whose

altar is the family altar, and whose priest is the father and the lord

of the house. This cult explains the most ancient laws of the people.

Can similar ancient Hebrew laws find a similar explanation? In

answering this question affirmatively Stade proceeds to instance the

law of inheritance. This law among the ancient Hebrews, as among

the ancient Greeks and Romans, was originally that of agnates. In

ancient Israel the son only is the heir, not the daughter. Stade

asserts that wherever this law of inheritance is found, the ground for

it is that only the son, or the nearest male relative, taking his place

as the heir, can perpetuate the cult of the testator (Geschichte i.




It is important to observe that Stade's conclusion, denying woman

her share in the ancient Hebrew cult, is not based upon any direct

evidence derived from the Old Testament itself, but upon a remote

and supposed analogy which connects a question of cult with that of

the law of inheritance, and upon an utter disregard of all phenomena

in the Old Testament that may point the other way.

            The connection of the law of inheritance with the admission to the

cult, and the explanation of the former from this source, are entirely

forced and unsatisfactory. That the inheritance in old Israel was

restricted to agnates is true enough (Nowack, Arch. i. 348f.); but

we may well ask whether there is not a simpler explanation of the

fact. The weakness of Stade's position becomes very apparent when,

in his attempt to support his view of the dependence of the right to

inherit upon admission to the cult, he refers to Gen. 15. 2f as the

solitary evidence. Now, the ancient custom that in default of a son

the slave of the master becomes heir may prove that Abraham had

no son, but how it can prove that Eliezer was the last representative

of the family cult, save on the assumption of that which Stade endeav-

ors to prove, I cannot see.

            But the fact of woman's exclusion from the Hebrew laws of inheri-

tance does not need explanation from her relation to the cult. There

is a better way. W. Robertson Smith mentions a similar law among

the Arabs. Smith shows that antique Arab society had its basis not

in the patriarchal authority, the family, but in the stock or kinship

tribe, an organization that has for its object offence and defence, and

that the whole law of the old Arabs resolves itself into a law of war,

in which blood-feud, blood-wite, and booty are the points on which

everything turns. The law of inheritance there follows the law of

booty. The tribe owned the property of which the individual had

only a usufruct, and which fell to be divided after his death like the

spoils of war. The right of inheritance belonged to the active mem-

bers of the tribe. This explains the relation of woman to the law of

inheritance, and is in accordance with the old law of Medina, quoted

by Smith, in which women were excluded from inheritance on the

principle that "none can be heirs who do not take part in battle,

drive booty, and protect property." See W. R. Smith, Kinship and

Marriage, pp. 33-58, and his note on " Law of Inheritance," p. 263.

            Now, it is a well-recognized fact that the affinity in social organi-

zation and ancient law is far greater between the Arabs and the

Hebrews than between the Semites and the Greeks and Romans.

And so woman's exclusion from inheritance finds here, it seems to



me, a natural, reasonable, and more direct explanation, and does not

need the assumption that woman was excluded from the ancient

Hebrew cult. It thus appears that the current opinion on woman's

relation to the Hebrew cult is by no means based upon a special and

direct investigation of the subject. This phase of Hebrew antiquity

has so far received no critical treatment.1  Because in later Levitical

legislation man is made prominent in the cult, and later Judaism has

in Herod's Temple a "Court of Women," and the Mishna exempts

woman from reading the Shema' and the ritual of the phylacteries

(Berakoh 33), and in the Middle Ages woman was relegated to the

galleries of the synagogues,2 and Jewish men now pray "Blessed

art thou, Lord, our God, King of the world, that thou hast not made

me a woman" (Hebrew Prayer Book: part of the daily morning

prayer), and because Islam excludes woman from the cult, it has

been taken for granted that this exclusion was from the beginning

a distinctive feature of Semitic cult. The facts on the subject, as

contained in the Old Testament, and supplied by other Semitic

religions, have not been collected and squarely looked in the face.

To supply this evident lack is the object of this essay. My method

of treatment is to collect, arrange, and explain some of the more

prominent facts in regard to woman's position in other Semitic

cults in general, but more especially, all the facts bearing upon

woman's position in the ancient and later Hebrew cult as contained

in the Old Testament. The conclusion to which the facts thus

treated have led me, if I may here anticipate, is that the Semites

in general, and the Hebrews in particular, and the latter especially

in the earlier periods of their history, exhibit no tendency to dis-

criminate between man and woman so far as regards participation in

religious practices, but that woman participates in all the essentials

of the cult, both as worshipper and official; and that only in later

time, with the progress in the development of the cult itself, a ten-

dency appears, not so much, however, to exclude woman from the

cult, as rather to make man prominent in it.3


     1 Schechter, in his Studies in Judaism, under the caption, “Woman in Temple

and Synagogue," touches lightly, and in a popular way, upon some of the surface

facts of the subject. His essay cannot be regarded as a critical contribution to

the subject, and in fact he does not lay claim to such a contribution. See p. 313-

     2 Cf. Israel Abrahams, Jewish Life in the Middle Ages, p. 25 f.

     3 I hope, at some future time, as a second part of the subject, to treat fully of

the causes of woman's later inferior position in the cult, and her final, apparently

entire, exclusion from it.



                        2. Woman in Other Semitic Cults.


            That we have reason to look to other Semitic cults for light has

been fully demonstrated by the researches of W. R. Smith, embodied

in his Religion of the Semites. The fundamental institutions of the

Israelites had a common origin with those of the other Semitic

peoples. The relation of woman to the other Semitic cults has

therefore a vital bearing on our question, and must all the more

receive some attention, since Schwally (ZATW. xi. 178) claims that

"im israelitischen, uberhaupt im ganzen semitischen Altertum," man

only possessed the qualification to perform independently the duties

of the religious cult.


            1. Woman in the Arabic Cult.


            Islam is no such ancient nor unadulterated source as to supply

much that is helpful in the investigation of the early Hebrew cult.

It is far different with pre-Islamic, Arabic heathenism. Here we

may well go with confidence for analogies and explanations. We are

not, therefore, like Benzinger, so much concerned with the relation of

woman to the cult of Islam as with her relation to the cult of Arabic

heathenism. Fortunately, meagre as the source in general is, it

yields material enough to leave beyond any question woman's rela-

tion to Arabic cult. The facts, as collected mainly from Wellhausen's

Reste arabischen Heidentumes, lead to the conclusion that this rela-

tion is one of almost perfect parity with that of man, there being not

the slightest indication that the question of sex from a religious point

of view ever comes into consideration.

            (I) Female Divinities. -- Female divinities are numerous, and

play a very important role in Arabic heathenism. The Jinns even

were mostly feminine (Wellh., Heid., p. 135). Local divinities of

Mecca were Isaf and Naila, man and wife (p. 73). In the Ka’ba at

Mecca stood a dove of aloe wood, a fact pointing to the great Se-

mitic goddess (p. 70). Suva’, one of the five "idols of the people of

Noah," was worshipped by the Beni Hamdan, and in the form of a

woman; so a late tradition says, which, however, according to Well-

hausen, is not reliable (p. 16). According to Epiphanius the worship

of Dhu IShara was associated with that of his virgin mother (p. 46).

Shams was a goddess (p. 56). But chief of all are "the three daughters

of Allah," the goddesses Al Lat, Manat, and Al ‘Uzza, whose worship

possessed more vitality and importance than that of all the male

divinities, Allah only excepted. All Arabia was most zealously



devoted to them, the polemic against them in the Koran being but a

small part of the evidence of this fact (p. 21ff., p. 71). A religion

that pays such homage to female divinities is not likely to discrimi-

nate against woman in matters of cult; at any rate only the most

positive testimony can carry any weight in the matter.

            (2) Women as Devotees.--Women frequented the places of wor-

ship.  At the annual Hajj at Mecca married and unmarried women

were present (p. 85). The reference in Yaqut to the backs of the

women jostling at Dhu lKhalasa is an indication in what throngs

the women attended the sanctuaries (Wellh., p. 43; Smith, Kinship,

p. 295).

            But the women's devotion was not confined to simple attendance

they brought their votive offerings. There is ancient testimony to

the fact that the women worshipped Al 'Uzza "daily with sacrifices

and gifts" (Wellh., p. 37 ; cf. also pp. 112, 101).

            The two principal acts of Arabic worship, the 'stroking' (ta-

massuh), and (most important of all) the tawaf, or act of encircling

the sacred stone, were participated in by the women as well as by

the men (Wellh., pp. 52, 105f., 118).

            In the cult of the dead the women had even more than their share.

It was theirs to chant the rhythmical dirge; the institution of the

professional mourning men is later than that of the mourning women

(p. 160).4 The regulation that woman during the period of her

purification must not approach the sanctuary (pp. 52 and 118) is

but the evidence of the single exception that proves her inclusion in

the cult. For an interesting story of the conversion of a Dausite and

his wife, illustrating many points of the intimate association of man

with woman in religion, see Wellh., Heid., p. 45.

            (3) Woman as Cultic Official.--Arabic heathenism had two chief

cultic officials: sadin (temple watchman), or hajib (doorkeeper), the

temple servant or priest, and kahin, seer, prophet. In the latter

class women are numerous (Wellh., p. 130); but of the woman

sadin there is not a single instance that I can find. But this fact

finds a simple explanation as soon as the nature of the office is

examined. The sadin was not a priest whose specific prerogative it

was to officiate at the altar.  Such an official the Arabs never had.

He was not needed for sacrificing, and, though the sacred lot was in

his keeping, and he, in general, officiated at the casting of the sacred


       4 Circumcision was practised, among some tribes, upon girls (p. 154f., 168).

But this custom, found also among certain uncivilized tribes in Africa, was merely

one feature in the consecration of all the members of the tribe to the deity.



lots, even that could be done without him (Wellh., p. 129). The

sadin or hajib, as the names indicate, was the watchman, the door-

keeper of the sanctuary. Arabic nomadic life had given a peculiar

form of duty to this office. In general the sanctuaries did not

wander with the tribes, but remained stationary; but there are cases

where the idol did share in the nomadic life, and was carried into

battle like the ark of Jahveh (Wellh., pp. 18 and 129). Cases of

theft of idols, even, are not unheard of (p. 18). The sadin became

in this manner the resident, the defender, and, in time, the actual

possessor of the sanctuary. By a natural law of selection, the office

of watcher, protector, and possessor would fall to man and not to

woman. The absence of woman from this office cannot therefore be

taken as implying a discrimination against woman in reference to the


            This view is confirmed by the fact that woman was not excluded

from the office of kahin, which carried with it far greater cultic

significance. This significance becomes all the more apparent when

the original position of the kahin is recognized. There is every

reason for accepting the conclusion of W. R. Smith, Wellhausen, and

most moderns, that the office of the sadin was originally included in

that of the kahin, which corresponded very nearly to that of the

early Hebrew kohen. In course of development the kahins branched

off from the general priestly body, carrying with them the principal

part of its duty and the ancient title of honor, and leaving behind

them a class of officials who sank into mere aeditui (Wellh., p. 134;

W. R. Smith, Journal of Philology xiii. 278). The kahin therefore

was originally the great official of the cult, and women, as stated, are

frequently found holding this office.

            It thus appears that the testimony of Arabic heathenism on woman's

relation to the cult is comprehensive, clear, and uniform. Whether

as divinity, devotee, or cultic official, woman shares cultic duties with

man, and in matters of religion there is no sign of any discrimination

against her on account of her sex.


2. Woman in Assyro-Babylonian, Phoenician, and other Semitic


            Babylonian and Assyrian cults do not furnish altogether as safe a

basis for comparison with the Hebrew cult as that of Arabic heathen-

ism. Babylonian and Assyrian religions, as is generally held, are

syncretistic, mixed with non-Semitic elements, and developed under

physical and moral conditions different from those which determined



the Hebrew development. This is in great measure true also of the

Phcenician cult--a result due, no doubt, to its close relation to the

Assyro-Babylonian. One feels the need, therefore, of caution in

the use of material from these sources. Yet there are certain general

features which recur with striking uniformity in all parts of the Se-

mitic field, as W. R. Smith has said (Rel. of Sem., p. 14 ff.). The rela-

tion of woman to the cult, it may be safely asserted, is one of these.

As my purpose is simply to allow a side light from this direction to fall

upon the main question, it will not require an exhaustive treatment.

            (i) Female Divinities.--It will not be necessary to name all of

the numerous female divinities of the Assyro-Babylonian pantheon.

As the representative of them all, we may call to mind the Babylo-

nian Ishtar, who was venerated as the mother goddess, the queen,

head and firstborn of all gods. (Cf. W. R. Smith, Rel., p. 56 ff.)

Among the other female divinities may be named Damkina, Nana,

Nin-gal, Gula, Anunit, and Zarpanit. In pairs often occur the divini-

ties: as, Bel and Belit; Ea and Damkina.

            The Phoenicians have by the side of lfb a tlfb, both distin-

guished by many additional names, expressing either attributes or

names of cities devoted to their worship. Besides, they worshipped

trtwf, Astarte, the great Semitic goddess, and tnt, Tanith. Cf.

Baethgen, Beitrage, pp. 29, 31, 26 ff. ; Baudissin, PRE3. s.v. Astarte,

Baal; Pietschmann, Geschichte d. Phoenizier, p. 182 ff.

            The Moabites worshipped by the side of wmk an wmk rtwf

who was most probably a female divinity. (Cf. Baudissin, PRE3.

ii. 150, 156, and Baethgen, pp. 14, 256.) To her Mesha, according

to his inscription, devoted the Israelitish captives. Cf. the inscrip-

tion of King Mesha on the Moabite stone, 1. 17.

            The Aramaeans worshipped by the side of Hadad the female divin-

ity Atargatis, who was the great Syrian goddess, even outranking

Hadad. Cf. Baethgen, 68, 74.

            (2) Women as Devotees.-- It would be safe to let this question

rest on a priori grounds: that cults which pay such homage to

female divinities cannot discriminate in matters of cult against the

female sex. But there is all the direct testimony that is needed.

Woman's intimate relation to the divinity finds expression in some of

the female names, viz. trqlmtmx and trqlmtm, “Handmaid

of Melkart"; trqlmtH,  “Sister of Melkart”; trqlmnH, ”Grace

of Melkart"; cf. Euting, Sammlung Karthag. Inschriften, 153, 320,

213, 165, quoted by Baethgen, p. 21 ; so also trtwftmx ( CIS.

46), tklmtH (CIS. 231), tklmfn (CIS. 41).



But the most abundant evidence we find in the Old Testament

itself in the numerous allusions to woman's participation in foreign

cults, of which I treat further on. See p. 120.

            (3) Woman as Cultic Official.--Meissner, in his Beitrkge zum

altbabylonischen Privatrecht (pp. 8 and I I I, § 12), speaks of financial

functions of priests and priestesses, the latter's official position in the

temple being indicated by SAL (or UD) Samas; cf. also Peiser,

Babylonische Vertrage d. Berl. Mus., pp. xvii-xxix.

            There were priestesses of Ishtar at Uruk (cf. Jeremias, Izdubar-

Nimrod, p. 59 f.).

            Prophetesses, who tell the messages of the gods, are mentioned in

connection with the 'seers' in the text of Gudea. Cf. Amiaud, "The

Inscription of Telloh," Records of the Past, New Series, i. 42, ii. 78.

To the same class of officials belong, most probably, also the

priestesses or prophetesses whose names are attached to the oracular

responses of Istar of Arbela. Cf. Pinches, "The Oracle of Istar of

Arbela," Records of the Past, New Series, v. 129 ff.; Tiele, Gesch. d.

Rel., p. 195

            These scattered references have led me to go carefully through

Delitzsch's Assyrisches Handworterbuch in quest of designations of

these female officials. To give this subject the thorough treatment

it needs would require too, long a digression, and I therefore present

these designations in a simple alphabetical order:--

(1) uhatu, eine weibliche Hierodule, naher Dienerin der Gottin Istar von Erech.

They appear also as "Klagefrauen beim Tammuz-Fest" (Del., p. 41).

(2) epistu, fem. of part, episu, Hexe (p. 119).

(3) asiptu, fem. of asipu, Beschworer (p. 247).

(4) zirznasitu, ein Epitheton, bez. Name der Zauberin oder Hexe (p. 264).

(5) harimtu auch harmatu, eine weibliche Hierodule, naher Dienerin der Gottin

            Istar'zu Erech (p. 290).

(6) kassaptu, fem. of kassapu, Zauberin, Hexe (p. 360).

(7) mahhutu, fem. of mahhu, der von Ekstase befallene, von Sinnen seiende

            (vgl. fGAwum;), Prophet, Wahrsager, ma<ntij, bez. Prophetin (p. 397).

(8) kadistu (gadistu), Hierodule, eine dem Dienste der Gottin Istar geweihte

and dadurch entweihte Jungfrau (vgl. hwAdeq;). The term is also used of

the Zauberin and Hexe (p. 581).

(9) sabratu, fem. of sabru, eine best. Berufsart, viell. Magier, Seher (p. 639).

On woman's position as official in Phoenician cult, the Eshmun-

azar inscription furnishes a word that is of the highest import. The

Sidonian king, naming his mother, calls her not only trtwfmx, but

he designates her also trtwf tnhk, the feminine form of Nhk,

found here for the first time. Cf. CIS. 3, l. 14 f.



3. Old Testament References to Woman's Relation to other Semitic


            As furnishing us with a view of the relation of woman to other and

especially Semitic cults, the allusions in the Old Testament must not

be overlooked. These allusions cover two points: (I) The worship

of strange gods by devotees who were either Canaanites or immi-

grants on Israelitish soil, and (2) the worship of strange gods by the

Hebrew women themselves. The chief means by which the first

could establish itself alongside of the Hebrew cult was intermarriage.

As Professor Moore says: "The connubium in itself involved the

recognition of one another's religion, and was naturally followed by

participation in the cultus" (Judges, p. 83). Hence, the result of

such unions is uniformly stated to have been the establishment of the

foreign cult (cf. Ju. 3:5f. 1 Ki. 11:1-8). But our chief interest here lies

in the intense zeal which the strange wives of the Hebrews mani-

fested in the observance and propagation of their native cults. Here,

of course, Jezebel will first come to mind.5  But that she was by no

means the only instance can be easily gathered from such notices as

that which speaks of Solomon's readiness to provide the means for

the worship of his "strange wives which burnt incense and sacrificed

unto their gods " (1 Ki. 11:8), and more still from the numerous Deu-

teronomic passages which ascribe the spread of idolatry to these

intermarriages, and strictly forbid them on that ground (Ex. 34:15f

Dt. 7:3f; Jos. 23:12f) . It will be seen that these facts gathered from

the Old Testament confirm the view arrived at from the more direct

sources, that woman's part in the other Semitic cults was intensely


            But this activity was not confined to non-Hebrew women. Even

before Jezebel, Maacah, the mother of Asa (1 Ki. 15:13), had mani-

fested her zeal for the Canaanitish cult of Astarte (cf. Stade, Gesch.

i. 355 ; Baethgen, Beitrage, p. 218 ; Baudissin, PRE3. s.v. Astarte,

Aschera) by erecting to her worship a tclpm, which was probably

nothing else than an hrwx, which Asa in the progress of a religious

reformation hews down, and burns in the valley of the Kidron, and

at the same time punishes his mother's idolatrous tendencies by

depriving her of the rank of the queen-mother. As the Jezebel of

the southern kingdom appears Athaliah, probably Jezebel's daughter

(cf. Stade, Gesch. i. 524, note 2). That her zealous endeavor to

establish the Phoenician cult on Judoean soil was not void of suc-


            5 Cf. 1 Ki. 16:31ff. 18:4, 13, 19; 19:2; 2 Ki. 3:13; 9:22b.



cess is evident from the bitterness with which she is mentioned (cf.

2 Ki. 8:18, 26f; 2 Chr. 21:6; 22:2f; 24:7).

In the time of the prophet Jeremiah (7:18; 44:15ff) the Hebrew women

vied with one another in their devotion to the Assyrian cult of Ishtar,

whom they worshipped under the name of Mymwh tklm (cf. Bau-

dissin, PRE3. s.v. Astarte), claiming it to be a well-established cult,

the practice of which had always been a source of prosperity, and its

neglect the cause of adversity (44:17f.). One feature of the cult is

characteristically feminine: while the children gather wood, and the

fathers kindle the fire, the women knead the dough, and bake the

cakes in the moon-shaped form to portray the goddess (cf. v. Orelli),

Jeremia, on 44:19; Wellhausen, Heid., p. 38 f.) .

To this cult most probably belongs the reference 2 Ki. 23:7b, where

the Massoretic Mytb might well be corrected (on the basis of Cod.

Alex. xettieim=Myytk probably for Myntk) to tOnTIKu (Lucian

stola<j), tunica (cf. Klostermann in loc.), pointing to an activity on

the part of some of the women (perhaps the tvwdq) in providing

garments probably used in the act of the worship of Astarte; for the

custom of changing garments in preparation for the approach of the

divinity, and of priests supplying such garments, finds illustration in

other cults (cf. Wellh., Heid., pp. 52, 106; Gen. 35:2; 2 Ki. 10:22). This

explanation of the passage, it seems to me, will furnish the best

answer to Stade's rather too ready expedient that the second half of

the verse is a "naive Glosse eines Spateren " (Gesch. i. 653, note 4).

To Ezekiel (8:14) we are indebted for the bare mention of the

Hebrew women's devotion to the worship of Tammuz.6 The phrase-

ology with which he describes the worship, "there sat the women

weeping for Tammuz," leaves its identity with that of Adonis under

his Babylonian name, the characteristic of which was lamentation,

without a doubt (cf. Baudissin, Studien i. 35, 3ooff.).

Woman's part as devotee in the worship of Melek, the sacrificing

of children in the Valley of Hinnom, which dates back as far as

Ahaz, and reached frightful dimensions in the dark days of the

seventh century,7 is not directly stated in the Old Testament. Pro-

fessor Moore, in his article, "The Image of Moloch " (in this JOURNAL,

xvi. 163), cites a passage from Plutarch (De Superstitione, c. 13),


6 That Zechariah's "mourning for Hadadrimmon " (Zech. 12:11) has no

connection with Tammuz or Adonis worship has been shown by Baudissin

(Sludien i. 295 ff.).

7 Cf. W. R. Smith, Encycl. Brit9. xvi. 696; Stade, Gesch. i. 609 f.; Driver,

Deut., p. 222 f.



according to which the Carthaginians used to sacrifice their own

children, and those who had no offspring of their own used to buy

children from the poor, and slaughter them, as if they were lambs or

birds. At these sacrifices the mother stood by, unmoved, without a

groan. That there was also no distinction of sex in that cult as far

as the victim itself was concerned is evident from the recurring

phrase "to make one's son or daughter to pass through the fire to

Moloch" (2 Ki. 23:10; Jer. 32:35, etc.). There is sufficient reason to

suppose, then, that the general terms "children of Judah" (Jer. 7:30),

"inhabitants of Jerusalem " (19:3), "this city " (19:8), used by the

prophets condemning the practice include both men and women.

(Cf. Jer. 32:32; Ez. 16:2ff, and compare Jer. 19:13 with 44:15.)8

It appears then that the facts thus collected from the Old Testa-

ment on woman's relation to the foreign cults give very clear testi-

mony, and that it is throughout to the effect that woman, whether

native or Hebrew, shared in all the religious activities, and often

excelled in manifesting religious zeal. Well might the Deuteronomic

lawgiver, aware of woman's religious interest and zeal, provide the

most drastic measures for its destruction (cf. Dt. 13:7-12(6-11); 17:2-5).


3. Woman as Devotee in the Jahveh Cult.


I. The Presence of Women at the Sanctuary and Religious


Hannah and Peninnah, as also the daughters of Elkanah, were

accustomed to go up to the yearly religious gathering before Jahveh

in Shiloh (I S. 1:1ff.; 2:19). How general this custom was among women

is indicated in the question which the husband of the Shunamite

woman asks: "Wherefore wilt thou go to him to-day? it is neither

new moon, nor sabbath" (2 Ki. 4:23) . The rape of the Shilonite

maidens is planned in expectation, and carried into effect in the

realization, of the fact of the presence of the daughters of Shiloh at

the annual feast of Jahveh (Ju. 21:6-25). At the feast that David

makes in honor of the removing of the ark of Jahveh, the religious

character of which is confirmed by the offering of sacrifices, women

are present (2 S. 6:19). The legislation of Deuteronomy definitely


         8 As the Philistine religion seems to have been strongly influenced by Semitic

religions (cf. Baethgen, Rel., p. 65), it is not altogether irrelevant to call attention

to the fact that, little as is known of the Philistine Dagon cult (cf. Baudissin,

PRE3. s.v. Dagon), it is nevertheless evident from Ju. 16:23ff. that men and women

alike mingled in the temple precincts and participated in the festive




provides for woman's presence at the sanctuary at festal seasons

(Dt. 12:12, 18; 14:26; 15:20; 16:11, 14).9  In like manner, at that great religious

gathering, the reading of the law, in the days of Ezra and Nehemiah,

woman appears side by side with man in all the solemnity and joy of

the occasion (Neh. 8:2, 3; 12:43)


2. Woman's Participation in the Sacrificial Meals.


There is full evidence that women were by no means mere idle

spectators at these religious gatherings, but that, on the contrary, they

shared in every important cultic act. Chief among these were the

sacrificial meals. When Elkanah sacrifices he gives to his wives and

daughters "portions " (1 S. 1:4).10  If it were certain that rpwx in

2 S. 6:19 and its parallel I Chr. 16:3 means "a good piece of flesh,"

A.V., or "a portion of flesh," R.V., as some ancient versions render

it, and as may well be expected here to complete the triad of such

festival occasions, bread, flesh, and wine,11  it might furnish another

instance in earlier times of woman's participation in the sacrificial

meal. But the text is altogether too uncertain.12  But we have by no

means need to depend upon uncertain data. The Deuteronomic

legislation is as full as it is explicit upon woman's participation in the

sacrificial meals and leaves it beyond any question. Regulating what

was no doubt an antique custom, it specifies in a number of distinct

passages that at the great sacrificial feast at the central sanctuary

woman is to have her share (Dt. 12:12; 14:22-29; 15:19-23; 16:9-12,13-15).

An important illustration on a large scale, that this custom existed not

simply in law but in actual practice, even in post-exilic times, is

furnished by the sacrificial meal at the publication of the law in the

time of Ezra and Nehemiah (Neh. 12:43)

Additional evidence of a similar character comes to us from a

somewhat different source. The Levitical legislation is much con-

cerned with the disposition of that part of the sacrifice which fell to

the priest. The material is divided into Mywdq wdq and wdq.


     9 In view of this definite provision, the regulation “Three times a year shall

all thy males appear in the presence of Jahveh" (Ex. 23:17; 34:23; Dt. 16:16), can

not possibly imply the exclusion of woman. But more on that subject below.

     10 The word  hnm is a technical term almost exclusively used of the portion of

sacrifice that falls to the priest, or of the sacrificial meal that falls to the wor-

shipper (Ex. 29:26; Lev. 7:33; 8:29; 2 Chr. 31:19; 1 S. 9:23). When in later usage

the term is widened to cover portions of other meals, the festival character of the

meal is still apparent (Neh. 8:10, 12; Esth. 2:9; 9:19, 22).

     11 Cf. Klostermann, Samuelis, in loc.

     12 Cf. Driver, Text of Samuel, p. 207 f.



The first class may be eaten by the male members of the Aaronic

family only; the second class may be eaten by the female members

as well (Lev. 10:12-15; 22:1-16; Nu. 18:8-19).  The question, why in the later

legislation the women of priestly families were excluded from sharing

in the most holy things, need not detain us at this point. The fact

that they were permitted to share in the holy things, which was

strictly forbidden to outsiders,13 is in line with the fact of their sharing

in the sacrificial heals in general.

Woman's participation in the festal meals has, of course, always

been recognized; but its relation to her position in cult has so far

not been deemed worthy of notice. The tendency has been to speak

of these sacrificial meals, either in a general way, as of a ‘family’

feast, without recognizing specially, or else ignoring, the female ele-

ment, or else as of  'feasts' without any particular religious signifi-

cance (Keil, Deut., 359 f.; Oehler, O. T. Theology, Engl. Transl.,

p. 291; Driver, Deut., p. 143; Benz., Arch., 438 ; Nowack, Arch. ii.

213). Woman's share in them clearly defined, it is yet necessary to

call attention to and emphasize the cultic significance of these sacri-

ficial meals.

Eating as an act of worship in connection with sacrifice is a familiar

fact in Semitic as well as in other religions. W. R. Smith has made

it probable14 that Semitic religion, as it appears in historical times, is

founded on the conception of kinship between the god and the wor-

shipper,15 and the leading idea in the animal sacrifices of the Semites

is that of an act of communion in which the god and his worshipper

unite by partaking of the flesh and blood of a sacred victim.16 This

idea finds its fullest expression in the Hebrew ritual. As is known, a

distinction is made there between sacrifices which are wholly made

over to the god and sacrifices which the god and the worshipper share.

To the latter class, with which we are mostly concerned, belonged

the MyHbz and Mymlw, that is, all the ordinary festal sacrifices,

vows, and free-will offerings, of which the deity received the blood

and the fat of the intestines, while the rest was left to the worshipper

for a social feast.

The participation in these sacrificial meals, it is to be noticed, is

hedged about with severe restrictions, and invested with the utmost


13 Cf. Lev. 22. This stands out all the more clearly when the exceptions are

taken into account; viz., when the priest's daughter had married a stranger, or

was a widow, or divorced and had a child, and so had retired outside of the

priestly circle. Cf. Lev. 22:12f.

14 Rel. of Sem., Lectures vi.-viii.          15 Ibid., p. 51.           16 Ibid., p. 209.



solemnity. Levitical legislation emphatically provides that the food

must be eaten within a specified time, that is, before there was any

danger of putrefaction;17 otherwise it is to be burned; nothing

ceremonially unclean must touch it; the person, ceremonially un-

clean, who eats of it "shall be cut off" (Lev. 7:15-21; 19:6-8; 22:30). Similar

precautions surround the eating of the priest's portion. That the

eating of the priest's portion of every sacrifice constituted a sacrificial

meal like that of the worshipper may well be questioned (cf. Benz.,

Archaol., p. 456 f.), but is of no essential importance in our inquiry.

Apart from that, there is every evidence of the sanctity of the food.

It is called wdq, it must be eaten in a holy place, the ceremonially

unclean are forbidden to eat it, and members of the Aaronic family

and household only are allowed to partake of it.

The reason for all these precautions is obvious: sacrifice and the

sacrificial meal were acts of communion between the god and the

worshipper, and approach to it, or partaking of it, was surrounded by

all the possible safeguards that surrounded the approach to the god.

Yet woman, as has been shown, had free access to it. It is obvious

that the participation in an act of such cultic importance finds a far

better explanation in woman's inclusion in the cult than any ignoring

or belittling of such inclusion can possibly furnish.


3. Woman's Participation in the Sacrificial Act.


In approaching this phase of the question it is necessary to call to

mind what is now well recognized, that the act of sacrifice in the

Hebrew cult had its own history of development.18  At first all

slaughter was sacrifice; no priest was needed to perform the sacri-

ficial act, the worshipper was in this respect his own priest. Later,

with the growth of the ritual and a priestly caste, sacrificing becomes

the business of the priest, the worshipper recedes from the altar, and

his share in the sacrificial act is confined to the laying of the hand

upon the victim,19 which, if we may judge from the analogy of Lev.


      17 The reason that W. R. Smith assigns for this requirement, viz., that the old

sacrificial feasts occupied but a single day, or at most two days, and as the act of

eating is part of the service it is to be completed before men break up from the

sanctuary (Rel. of Sem., P. 221), does not seem to me to be altogether plausible,

and I prefer to follow his view on the same point as expressed in another connec-

tion. See p. 203, note 8.

       18 Smith, Rel. of Sem., p. 199f.; Nowack, Arch. ii. 87, 211, 218 f.; Benz, Arch.,

405 f.

      19 Lev. 3:2, etc. On the meaning of the custom cf. Smith, Rel., pp. 135 and

401f.; Benz., p. 453.



16:21, was, accompanied by a confession of sins. But, whether in its

earlier simplicity or in its later limitation, the share of the worshipper

in the act of sacrificing cannot but be regarded as an act of the

highest cultic significance.

That women brought sacrifices in old Israel and also in later time

is so evident that an attempt to prove it seems an act of supereroga-

tion. But it is with this point as with many others connected with

the whole question: facts otherwise well known have been either

forgotten or ignored.

An illustration from old Israel is the sacrifice of Manoah and his

wife (Ju. 13:15-23), the latter's share in which is expressed in her words

[hHnmv]20 hlf vndym hql-xl (vs. 23). Of like import perhaps

are the words about Hannah (I S. 2:19) Hbzl h.wAyxi-tx, h.tAOlfEBa21

Mymyh Hbz tx. A valuable testimony to the prevalence of the cus-

tom is furnished by the prophet Jeremiah, who speaks of the women

of his time as performing the various acts pertaining to sacrifice

they bake cakes, pour out drink offerings, and burn incense (Jer. 7:18;

44:15, 17ff). It is true they do not do this in the service of Jahveh;

but it will be observed that they are censured by the prophet, not

because they as women overstep their prerogative, but rather because

they do it "unto other gods."22

For later times we have the clearest testimony to the custom in the

Levitical legislation which provides, as is well known, for sacrifices

of purification for women (Lev. 12 and 15:19-33).

In the absence of definite information on the point, it is not easy

to say precisely with what action on the part of the worshipper in

bringing a sacrifice according to the Levitical ritual the strictly cultic

act began. Oehler, with good reason, as it seems to me, maintains

that the sacrificial act began with the presentation of the victim.

Benzinger considers it to begin with the laying on of the hand. But

in view of the fact that in the sacrifice when the victims are birds the

"pressing on of the hand" vdy jms (Maimonides, HaKo-lkAB;) was

omitted, as Benzinger rightly supposes, and as the priest in that case

also did the slaughtering (Lev. 1:15), and there would so be left

nothing of cultic significance for the offerer, it seems better to regard


20 Cf. Moore, Judg., in loc.

21 The construction of the sentence, it seems to me, makes Hannah the subject of HaBoz;li.

22 That the emphasis is on this is evident from the terms of 44:3 and the

numerous repetitions of the phrase "unto other gods" (4:45, 8, 15, 25; 7:18).

23 Oehler, O. T. Theology, p. 274.



the presentation itself as a part of the sacrificial act.24  But whether

the presentation itself was a cultic act or not, it is agreed by all that the

laying on of the hand was. If there were any need of evidence on

this point, it might be furnished by the fact that the Mishna25  explic-

itly denies woman the right to perform this act. This is characteristic

of the Mishna's treatment of woman's position in the cult, on which

more will have to be said in another connection. Here it is sufficient

to say that however valuable the Mishna is as a witness to the views of

the tradition, it is not a safe guide in the exegesis of any particular

passage of Scripture. There is no basis in the text for such a dis-

crimination against woman. The laying on of the hand is the regular

feature of the hlf (Lev. 4:24), and woman's offering is an hlf

which, judging from the words xybt and hHql, she herself was to

present dfvm lhx htp lx (Lev. 12:6-8). The absence of the

specific mention of the laying on of hands cannot be urged against

it here any more than it can where the offerer is a man (Lev. 14:19, 20)

From a source of greater value on this particular point than the

Mishna it would seem that we have direct testimony that women

did touch their sacrifices. In the complaint over the idolatry and

sinfulness of the women (Baruch 6:29, the Epistle of Jeremy), the

statement occurs: "The menstruous woman and the woman in

child bed touch their sacrifices." The reference here is evidently26

to what is prohibited in Lev. 12:4, and may point to the custom

that the women like the men laid hands on the sacrifices which

they offered. It is possible, however, that the term "touch," as

Professor Toy suggests to me, may have reference to the eating of

the sacrifices by the women of priestly families. But neither the

context, which deals with such a variety of cultic acts, nor the term

itself, a!ptomai (in LXX generally for fgn, fygh), necessarily requires

that meaning. We find, therefore, in ancient Israel and in the time

to which the Levitical legislation bears witness that in the act of

sacrifice women enjoyed equal rights with men.


4. Woman's Participation in the Vow, Naziritism, and the Func-

tion of the Kedesha.


The intimate relation which the terms wdqth and the Arabic


     24 The difficulty raised by Kohler (quoted by Professor Day in Oehler's O.T.

Theol., p. 275), that the fitness of the animal was not decided until after the pres-

entation, is easily overcome by the simple supposition that such examination pre-

ceded the more formal presentation.                      25 Menachoth 9:8.

     26 Cf. Zockler, Kugef. Kom., on Baruch 6:29



nadhara (Heb. ryzn, rzn, rdn), sustain to each other, as Wellhausen.

has pointed out,27 makes it best to consider them together.28

The cultic significance of the vow, Naziritism, and the Kedesha

are too well acknowledged by all to require restatement; we simply

confine ourselves to woman's relation to them.

I begin with the Nazirite vow as furnishing the fullest and clearest

illustration of woman's participation in the cult. The Levitical legisla-

tion contained in Nu. 6 aims evidently to regulate a custom that is very

ancient (cf. Dillmann, in loc.). Now it is a remarkable instance of the

truth of my contention that no discrimination is made against woman

in her relation to the cult that the whole elaborate ritual with its solemn

requirements, its abstinence from all products of the vine, the conse-

cration of the hair, the separation from all defilement, the appear-

ing before the door of the tabernacle with offerings, txFHl hlf

Mymlw, and hHnm, and more especially the hair offering (vs.18), all

this is introduced with hwx vx wyx (vs. 2). The same fact meets

us in the regulation of the estimation" by which a vowed male or female

may be redeemed. The female is there, indeed, valued less than the male,

but that this has no bearing on the question of cult is very evident.

In view of this clear evidence of woman's participation in the

Nazirite vow, we have reason to suppose that woman is included in


     27 Heid, p. 118.

     28 In doing this, and doing it here, I deviate, in the interest of what seems to me

correcter method, from Stade, followed by Benzinger and Nowack, who treat of

vows under the head of cultic actions, and of Nazirites and Kedesha under the head

of holy persons. This is evidently due to a tacit following of the opinion that

the Nazirite and the Kedesha were officials. Oehler, who favors such a view (O. T.

Theol., p. 295), asserts clearly that Naziritism involved no priestly service, but

urges Philo's and Maimonides' inference that there is an intimate relation between

the Nazirite vow and the commands of abstinence imposed upon the priesthood.

But this similarity appears to me slight ground on which to base the official

character of Naziritism. These restrictions are evidently of the nature of taboos

incident to a state of consecration, and similar to others, viz., the abstinence from

women. (Cf. W. R. Smith, Rel. Sem., p. 462 ff.) They are of too general a

character, covering the cases of worshipper and priest alike, to allow such an

inference. On the other hand, the evident absence of any priestly service in

Naziritism, the tenor of the laws, and the historical illustrations, point to the

Nazirite as a devotee rather than an official. The single instance of Samuel, where

the Nazirite vow is found in combination with prophetic and priestly functions is

counterbalanced by the case of Samson and the Rechabites. The case is somewhat

different with the Kedesha. Yet on foreign soil the Kedesha was mainly a devotee,

and only in some cases became an official, of which there is no illustration in

Hebrew cult.

      29 Lev. 27:2ff.



the legislation of the ordinary vow (Nu. 15:1-16), although we find it

in a general way addressed to man without specific mention of

woman. In fact, this must be the case of the legislation in general,

unless we should suppose that the decalogue which is addressed to

man has no application to woman. That woman made the ordinary

vow is not only seen in the case of Hannah (I S. 1:11), but is taken

for granted and regulated in Nu. 30. The restriction this legislation

places upon woman's power to vow is of interest in that it affords a

glimpse of a contrast between her relations to society and to the

cult. If woman is independent, that is, a widow or divorced, her vow

is as binding as that of man; if she is still unmarried in her father's

house and her father hears her vow without opposing it, or if she be

married and her husband hears her vow without opposing it, it is

equally binding, but if her father or husband "disallow her in the day

that he heareth; none of her vows, or of her bonds wherewith she

hath bound her soul, shall stand; and Jahveh shall forgive her, because

her father (or husband) disallowed her" (vs.6). The meaning of all

this is clear: the cult knows here no distinction between man and

woman; it is the position of woman in society that introduces the


While it is very evident that the institution of the Kedeshim owes

its existence in the Jahveh cult to adoption, its prevalence is well

attested.30 It is not necessary to our purpose to do more at this

point than to call attention to the fact that in this lowest and most

unnatural form of devotion, as we have found it already in some of

the higher, woman appears side by side of man, the tvwdq by the

side of the Mywdq.


5. Woman's Participation in Prayer.


If, as Stade does (Gesch. i. 487 ff.), we regard prayer equally

ancient with sacrifice, usually accompanying the latter, and while

permitted and practised elsewhere, properly offered at the sanctuary,

it is another important cultic act in which women participated. And

I gladly follow Stade in referring to Hannah (I S. 1:10ff.; 2:1) as an

example illustrating a number of important points connected with

the ancient custom of prayer.

And if again we may follow Stade in associating with prayer as


30 Cf. Stade, i. 479 f.; Benz., p. 428; Nowack, ii. 132; Driver, Deut., p. 264;

Dillmann, Deut., p. 349; W. R. Smith, Rel. of Sem., p. 133; Baudissin, REP3, S.V.

Aschera, etc.



cultic acts fasting, the blessing, the curse, and the oath,31 we find

woman again participating in them.32


6. Woman's Participation in Consultation of the Oracle and in


That the oracle and its consultation occupied a very important

place in the ancient Hebrew cult is a matter of course.33  The

intimate relation in which the oracle stood to the priesthood speaks

for the act of consultation as a cultic rite. That women were accus-

tomed to go to inquire of the oracle is shown by the story of

Rebekah (Gen. 25:22f), which furnishes us not only with the statement

hvhy tx wrdl jltv, but also with the quotation of a very ancient

oracular response that could have been addressed to a woman only.

Even if Stade's view,34 that the oracular response represents simply

the legend of the origin of the oracle at Beersheba, could be estab-

lished, which is rather doubtful,35  the legend itself would remain

equally forceful as an evidence of the custom of women's participa-

tion in the consultation of the oracle.

In this connection, and as pointing to the same fact, that in the

conception of the writers of the period no hindrance existed to

the free approach of woman to the divinity, may be mentioned the

theophanies to women, of which we have not a few illustrations

(cf. Gen. 3:13ff.; 16:8ff; 18:9f, 15; 21:17ff.; Ju. 13:3ff.).


7. Other Indications.

There are some other facts in the Old Testament which, while not

dealing directly with woman's relation to the cult, yet furnish indi-

rectly an evidence that is very valuable. They are the evidences of a

religious consciousness and influence of woman that are difficult to

account for on the supposition of woman's exclusion from the cult,

and, on the other hand, best accounted for by the fact that she shared

in the general religious life.

(I) The Women's Naming of their Children.--It seems to have

been a somewhat general practice in Old Testament times for women

to give the names to their children.36


     31 Cf. Stade, Gesch. i. 489 ff.; Nowack, Arch. ii. 259-263, 270 ff.

     32 Cf. Jer. 36:6; Lev. 16:29; 23:26-32; Est. 4:16; Gen. 24:60; 1 S. 1:17; 2:20;

Ruth 1:9.

     33 Cf. Stade, i. 471 ff.; Nowack, ii. 272; Benz., 407 ff.

     34 Gesch. i. 474, note 2.

     35 Cf. Dillmann, Genesis, in loco.

     36 The following statistics on the point may not be without some interest.



The reason for this custom we need not here discuss. For we

are interested at this point not so much in the fact of the naming

itself as in the contents of the names given. A number of the

names given by the mothers contain a decided religious element

lxvnmf, lxvmw, lxfmwy.37  But the most striking illustration is the

naming of dvbkyx (1 S. 4:21). A very early tradition represents the

wife of Phineas as being crushed by the news of the capture of

the ark, and the death of her father-in-law and her husband. And

when, in the moment of her death, she gives birth to a son, she names

him with her dying breath dvbkyx, “Inglorious,"38 saying dvbk hlg

lxrWym. Three times in the short passage is the emphasis laid

upon the loss of the ark. There is no good reason to doubt this

feature of the tradition. But, to say the least, we have here clear

evidence that in the thought of the narrator of this early tradition it

was quite natural for a woman so to feel the loss of the ark as to

hand down to posterity her pain in the very name of her son. Can

such deep religious feeling be associated with an exclusion from the cult?

      (2) The Influence ascribed to Hebrew Women in Matters of

Religion.--The Deuteronomic sentiment against women's prose-


Out of 44 cases in which the naming of the children is mentioned in the Old

Testament, in 26 it is ascribed to women, in 14 to men, and in 4 to God.

    Women name in Gen. 4:25; 16:11; 19:37, 38; 29:32f., 35 (all J) 30:6, 8 (E)

30:11.13 (J) 18, 20 (E) 21, 24 (J); 35:18a (JE); 38:3, 4, 5 (J); Ju. 13:24; I S. 1:20;

4:21; I Chr. 4:9; 7:16; Is. 7:14; Ruth 4:17; ( hnAxr,qTi ).

    Men name: Gen. 4:26; 5:29 (J); 5:3; 16:15; 17:19; 21:3 (P); 35:18b (JE); 41:51,

52 (E); Ex. 2:22 (J); 2 S. 12:24; I Chr. 7:23; Job 42:14; Gen. 25:25 (Uxrpyy) (J).

      God names: Is. 8:3; Hos. 1:4, 6, 9.

      From the fact that P in the only three cases uniformly ascribes the naming to

the father, and does so in the case of Seth (Gen. 5:3) in contradiction to J, who

ascribes it to the mother (Gen. 4:25), it might be supposed that P represents a

later custom or tendency. But J and E, and the other early sources, are by no

means uniform in ascribing the naming to the mother, as may be seen from the

enumeration above. All that can he justly claimed is that in the majority of cases

the naming was done by the mother.

      37 Since writing this my attention has been called to Mr. Gray's valuable

Studies in Hebrew Proper Names.  I find my view on the value of the Hebrew

names as expressive of religious thoughts, and as throwing "light on the Hebrew

religion, and more especially on the popular religion," fully corroborated by him. Cf. p. 10 ff.

      38 It seems to me far better to take the yx as the negative than with Kloster-

mann (in loc.) as the exclamation yx.  Cf. Driver, Text of Samuel, in loco.

Gray, Studies, expresses it as his opinion that it is not quite clear what yx, as an

element in a proper name, means. Cf. p. 246, note I.



lytism (spoken of more fully elsewhere) is here in point. While, of

course, this proselytism is in behalf of foreign cults, it yet indicates

an intense religious interest and influence, scarcely conceivable apart

from her share in the cultic life.

Neither may we pass over lightly such expressions as Ruth's

yhAlox< j`yihaloxve. It was hardly an empty phrase. If it may be taken,

as well it ought to be, and as is so generally done, as an evidence of

the early conception of the close union of the god with his land, the

personal pronouns are an equally strong indication of woman's share

in the religious life.


4. Woman's Relation to the Jahveh Cult as affected by Some

            Ritualistic Legislation.

I. The Female in Sacrificial Victims.


According to the researches of W. R. Smith, a very vital principle

underlies the selection of the sacrificial animal, which determines not

only the species of the animal but also its sex.39  It is therefore not

without meaning to our inquiry to note whether the sacrificial animal

in the Hebrew cult was limited to the male.40 We should expect that a

cult that proscribes woman on account of her sex would also not per-

mit the use of a female victim in sacrifice. But that the latter is not

the case in the Hebrew cult is very evident. In earlier practice the

female victim predominates (Gen. 15:9[E] 1 S. 6:14; 16:2). In the Leviti-

cal legislation a discrimination is made in favor of the male in that it

is preferred in the more solemn sacrifices, but even there the female

victim is by no means excluded. A male is required as a passover-

lamb (Ex. 12:5), for the hlf (Lev. 1:3, 10; 22:19); in the txFH a male

is required from an "anointed priest" (Lev. 4:3), from the whole

people (vs.14), from the ruler (vs. 23), while in the case of an ordinary

Israelite a female is accepted (vs. 28. 32 and 56); in the Mymlw the

victim may be either male or female (Lev. 3:1, 6; cf. Mal. 1:14). I defer

the discussion of the reason for this discrimination; for the present,

let it suffice to mention this as simply another fact pointing to the

conclusion that the Hebrew cult is not pervaded by any principle

that excludes the female sex.


2. Woman as ceremonially "defiling."


Both the sexual approach to woman and her condition in childbed

or during her courses are regarded in Hebrew custom and legislation,


      39 Rel. of Sem., Lecture viii.

      40 As was the case among the Harranians, quoted by W. R. Smith, p. 280, note 2.



as among many other nations, as ceremonially defiling (I S. 21:5f

Ex. 19:15; Lev. 12; 15:19ff.; Ez. 36:17; Is. 64:6 Baruch 6:29). The original

ground for this legislation lies most probably, as is suggested by

Stade,41 in animism, which regards as unclean and defiling all such

persons who are under the influence, that is, possessed by spirits,

viz., those that suffer from certain diseases or have done certain acts

that stand under the protection of certain spirits. It is, however,

perfectly evident that this condition of ceremonial unfitness is only

temporary: its removal can be effected. And the very exception of

woman's fitness for the cult under those conditions proves the rule of

her ordinary inclusion.


3. Woman not excluded from the Three Yearly Feasts.


"Three times in the year shall all thy males see42 the face of the

Lord Jahveh" (Ex. 23:17; 34:23; Dent. 16:16). That this is an old law,

and has reference to the three yearly feasts, is evident from the

connection in which it is found. But it may well be remembered

that its origin, like the origin of all the earliest legislation, was not

theoretic but consuetudinary, the result of actual cases presented to

the priest for decision. And it may well have had its occasion in the

fact that such a law could not be put in effect in the case of woman

as easily as in the case of man, and not without contravening the

other custom and legislation that excluded her from the approach of

holy things at certain periods, just considered. To infer, therefore,

from this law woman's exclusion from all cult would be more than it

can bear, and is contradicted by all the facts so far adduced. Neither

is it a parallel case, as it seems to me, to be cited in connection with

the custom that certain holy parts of an ox must not be eaten by

women. Smith, Rel. of Sem., p. 281, note 3.


4. The Law of the Firstlings.

The law of the firstlings with its emphasis upon the firstborn male

might at first sight appear as a very formidable objection to woman's

inclusion in cult; but upon careful examination the facts here will be

found in harmony with those already adduced.

That the later legislation counts the males only as firstlings cannot

be questioned (Nu. 3:40ff. [P]). But it seems to me altogether doubt-


     41 Gesch. i. 483 f.; cf. also Smith's "Notes on Holiness, Uncleanness, and

Taboo," in Rel. of Sem., p. 426 ff., and "Taboos and the Intercourse of the Sexes,"

ibid., p. 435 ff.; Wellhausen, Heid., p. i t6.

     42 Not "appear before"; cf. Driver on Deut. 16:16.



ful whether this was also the case in the earlier legislation. But as

this has been assumed, without a dissenting voice, to have always

been so, one feels the need of much courage to call it in question.

Yet there are weighty considerations against this assumption that

have a right to a hearing.

            The origin of the consecration of the firstlings is found, as W. R.

Smith has pointed out (Rel. of Sem., p. 444), in something of the

nature of taboo of the first produce, having its proper parallel in the

vegetable kingdom in the law of Lev. 19:23ff, which ordains that for

three years the fruit of a new orchard shall be treated as ‘uncircum-

cised' and not eaten. This being the case, and as we have found no

discrimination against female victims in offerings in general, we might

argue on general grounds against the probability of an original dis-

crimination here. There is, however, far more direct evidence that

no such discrimination existed in earliest times. I mention

            (a) The term MH,r, rF,P,, or rG,w, rF,P,. It is repeated so often

that we can scarcely go amiss in seeing in it the central idea of the

custom and the law. But if this be so, its limitation to a rkAzA prac-

tically annuls it by introducing an entirely different element which

takes its emphasis. If there be any meaning or force in the rFp,

the rkz dissipates it. It does, therefore, seem improbable that they

both belonged to the original idea, and far more probable that that

was contained in the rFp, irrespective whether it was male or female,

in agreement with the idea of the taboo of the first produce. Cf.

also the lKA in MHr rFp lk (Ex. 13:12; Ez. 20:26).

            (b) W. R. Smith has also called attention to the fact that "in the

period immediately before the exile, when sacrifice of firstborn chil-

dren became common, these grisly offerings were supposed to fall

under the law of firstlings (Jer. 7:31; 19:5; Ez. 20:26)." 43 But, this being

so, the passage in Jeremiah, stating that that which was done to

Mhynb was also done to Mhytnb shows that still at that time the

female was included in the law of the firstling.

            (c) A careful examination of the wording of the texts of the law

reveals the fact that the word rkz has only a very doubtful place in

them. To facilitate such examination, I present the following tabu-

lated form of the law


            1-- JE. Ex. 13:2:

:xvh yl hmhbbv Mdxb lxrWy ynbb MHr lk rFP rkb lk yl wdq

            43 Ibid., p. 445.



2. -- JE. Ex. 13:12, 13:

:hvhyl [Myrkzh ] jl hyhy rwx hmhb rgw rFp lkv hvhyl MHr rFp lk trbfhv

:hdpt jynbb Mdx rvkb lkv vtprfv hdpt xl Mxv hwb hdpt rmH rFp lkv

3. -- E. Ex. 22:28:    :yl Ntt jynb rvkb

4. -- JE. Ex. 34:19, 20:

            :hwv rvw rFp [rkzt ] jnqm lkv yl MHr rFp lk

:hdpt jynb rvkb lk vtprfv hdpt xl Mxv hwb hdpt rmH rFpv

5. -- D. Dt. 15:19:

:jyhlx hvhyl wdqt [ rkzh ] jnxcbv jrqbb dlvy rwx rvkbh lk

6. -- P. Nu. 3:40ff:

   :vgv lxrWy ynbl rkz rvkb lk dqp hwm lx hvhy rmxyv


            It is to be noticed, in the first place, that in passages 3 and 1,

evidently the oldest form of the law, no specification is made that the

consecrated firstborn must be a male. For I take it that jynb may

stand for "thy children" as well as for "thy sons," and, as the term

rkb has a feminine as well as a masculine plural, it may be either

masculine or feminine. Cf. Ges.-Kautzsch, ed. 26, § 87, 3; and the

feminines in vgv NhblHmv vnxc tvrkbm xvh Mg xybh lbhv in

Gen. 4:4

            We note, secondly: If the syntactical position of Myrkzh in 2 and

the corrupt rkzt in 4 be examined, and compared with the position

of rkz in 6, it will be seen that in the first two passages, as well as

in 5, the word has all the appearance of not being an original part of

the sentence but of being an afterthought, a gloss.

            And, thirdly, the term rkz is peculiar to P. JE, it is well known,

uses vtwxv wyx in the place of P's hbqnv rkz (comp. Gen. 7:2 and 9),

and the term nowhere else occurs in JE (cf. Brown and Driver's

Gesenius's Lex., s.v. rkz).44 The three facts together, as it seems to

me, can lead to but one conclusion, namely, that the term rkz in

Ex. 13:12; 34:19, and probably also in Dt. 15:19, is due to a later glossing

by a source related to P, and that its object was to bring into har-

mony the earlier with the later custom.

            And altogether our examination of the law of the firstlings, far

from pointing to an exclusion of the female from cult, is but another

indication that in early times no discrimination was made against the

female, but that perfect parity existed between the sexes in matters

of the cult.


            44 This does not apply to the peculiar form rUkz; found in Ex. 23:17; 34:23.



            5. Circumcision in its Relation to Woman's Position in Cult.


            The prominence given to the rite of circumcision in the Old Tes-

tament will scarcely permit us to pass it without an inquiry as to such

a relation. Von Orelli is probably right in his contention that cir-

cumcision was practised among the Hebrews in the pre-Mosaic times

(cf. PRE3, s.v. " Beschneidung," against Nowack, Arch. i. 168).

But, as Smend says (Alttest. Rel., p. 37), it was not in ancient Israel

a sign of a servant of Jahveh, nor did Moses make it such. Its mean-

ing and application in Arabic heathenism is of service to us here.45

            The Arabs circumcised the girls also, and made a feast as at a

boy's circumcision (Wellh., ibid.). Wellhausen's supposition, that the

circumcision of girls was not as generally practised as that of boys,

seems very likely. But why it may not be regarded in the same light,

and why it "hat eher eine naturliche Veranlassung and einen medi-

cinischen Nutzen gehabt," is not apparent. In the absence of definite

evidence on this point, the most reasonable supposition is that what-

ever cultic significance the act had in the case of man it also had in

the case of woman. All the evidence we have to form our judgment

on the question whether circumcision was practised on girls in early

Israel or not is the analogy of the Arabic custom and the analogy,

it seems to me, is stronger than the silence. At any rate, there is no

ground to construe that silence into exclusion from the cult. Cir-

cumcision, with its religious significance as the sign of Jahveh's cove-

nant with Israel, is a late, exilic view,46 and is no more a criterion,

than the preceding case of the law of the firstborn, for the condition

of ancient Israel. And in the same light we must regard all such

exclusive prominence given to "males" in the priestly genealogies47

and laws of temple service.48


5. The Hebrew Woman's Relation to the Cult of the Dead and the

                        Worship of Ancestors.

            Attention has long since been called to the traces of an extensive

cult of the dead in the ancient Hebrew religion, originating most


    45 According to Wellhausen (Heidenth., p. 154 f.; cf. also W. R. Smith, Rel.,

p. 319), the etymology of NtH and its Arabic equivalent points to a connection

of circumcision with bridegroom. But perhaps the practice is, like the hair-offer-

ing, a representative sacrifice, by which recognition is made of the divine owner-

ship of human life (cf. T. K. Cheyne, Encycl. Britannica, s.v. "Circumcision").

In either case we may suppose it to be of cultic significance.

      46 Cf. Smend, Rel., p. 38 f.; Nowack, i. 169 f.

      47 Jos. 17:2; Ezra 8:3ff.; 2 Chr. 31:16, 19.

      48 Lev. 6:18, 29; 7:6; Nu. 3:15,22; 1 Macc. 2:18ff., etc.



probably in ancestor worship (Stade, Gesch. i. 387 ff. ; Nowack,

Arch. ii. 300 f.; Benzinger, Arch., p. 165 ff. ; Smend, Alttest. Rel.,

p. 112 f.), and finding its analogies in other religions, and particularly

in Arabic heathenism (Wellh., Heidenth., pp. 159-164; Goldziher,

"Ueber Todtenverehrung im Heidenthum and im Islam," Muham-

rnedanische Studien i. 229 ff.).49


            I. Woman's Participation in the Various Mourning Rites.

            Apart from such actions as were the natural expressions of grief

over the dead, there are certain features in the prevalent mourning

customs that had evidently cultic significance, in which women promi-

nently participated.

            Jer. 16:6-8 gives us a pretty complete list of the numerous mourning

customs in vogue in Israel. Taking them up in that order we find

(a) The Lamentation.. The variety of terms used for the act of

lamentation over the dead, hnx, lbx, dps, hhn, hmh, points to its

general practice, but the specific technical meaning of hnyq, with its

peculiar rhythm and exclamatory beginning hkyx, jyx, yx, which has

furnished the technical term a tvnnvqm (Jer. 9:16) for the professional

mourning women,"50  met with both in ancient and modern Arabia

(cf. Goldziher, p. 251; Trumbull, Studies in Oriental Life, p. 153 ff.;

Stade, Gesch. i. 388), and in ancient Babylonia in the female kalu

(Records of the Past, Second Series, ii. 78; Maspero, Dawn of Civil-

ization, p. 684), points particularly to woman's principal share in

the act.

            (b) Laceration, ddeOGt;hi (Dt. 14:1; I Ki. 18:28; Jer. 16:6; 41:5; 47:5; Mic.

4:14), finding its parallel in the custom of Arabic heathenism, where

the women beat or scratched their faces till the blood flowed.51

            (c) The Hair-offering, hHrq (Am. 8:10 Mic. 1:16; Dt. 14:1 and others),

especially of women (Is. 3:24). See Goldziher, p. 247 ff.; Wellh.,

Heid., p. 161 ; Smith, Rel., p. 306 ff.

            (d) The Sacrifices to or for the dead, and the sacrificial meal con-

nected with it (Jer. 16:7, 8). See Stade, Gesch i. 388 f., 425; Driver,

Deut., p. 291 f. ; Benz., Arch., 165 ff.; Nowack, Arch. i. 196 f.

            That these cultic rites were performed by men and women alike,

and for men and women alike, is already clear from the references

adduced.  It will, however, not be altogether superfluous to empha-


            49 Add W. R. Smith, Rel. of Sem., p. 304 ff.

            50 Cf. also the term    (2 Chr. 35:25), and yhin, yfed;Oy (Am. 5:16).

            51 Cf. Goldziher, p. 246f., 253; Wellh., Heid., p. 160; W. R. Smith, Rel. of

Sem., p. 304 ff.; Driver, Deut., p. 156; Smith, Kinship, 214 ff.



size the force of Jeremiah's words on this point. The calamity of

unceremonial burial of which the prophet speaks is one "concerning

the sons and concerning the daughters that are born in this place,

and concerning their mothers that bare them and concerning their

fathers that begat them" (vs.3), and for their fathers or for their

mothers (vs .7).

            If, while at this point, I may also call attention to the care and

interest ascribed by tradition to the patriarchs in the burial of their

wives (Gen. 23:2; 25:10; 35:8, 19f.; 48:7; 49:31f), and to Barzillai's words to

David: "Let thy servant, I pray thee, turn back again, that I may

die in mine own city, by the grave of my father and my mother" ( 2 S.

19:38), it will appear how utterly unfounded and erroneous Benzinger's

statement is that “ebensowenig wurden der Frau nach dem Tod

kultische Ehren zu teil" (Arch., p. 140). It will appear also that

the phrases like "to be buried with one's fathers " (1 Ki. 14:31; 2 Ki

12:22 (21), etc.) may be too narrowly interpreted.

            The mourning customs just considered, on account of their being,

cultic rites, have been taken as the evidences of early ancestor wor-

ship among the Hebrews. See the references cited on p. 137. It

is not at all of moment to our inquiry to come to a decision on this

question one way or the other. But as Stade, followed by Nowack

and Benzinger, invariably and specifically asserts woman's exclusion

from the cult of the ancestors," I shall endeavor to show that every

fact taken by him as pointing to ancestor worship at all points with

equal force to woman's inclusion in it. To woman's participation in

the various cultic mourning rites, I add now


            2. The Sanctity of the Tombs of Female Ancestors.

            The grave, as is well known, became in some cases a religious

shrine in ancient Israel; that it even became an asylum, and its pre-

cincts a te<menoj (hima) as in Arabic heathenism (Goldz., p. 235 f.),

we do not know. As this sanctity of the grave is taken as pointing

strongly to ancestor worship, it is important to call attention to the

fact that prominently by the side of the accounts of the sacred burial

places of the patriarchs, of Joseph, of Moses and Aaron, we read of

the grave of Rachel with its hbcm (Gen. 3520), of Miriam in Kadesh

(Nu. 20:1), and of Deborah under the sacred tree near Bethel, the

Allon-bacuth being most probably identical with the Deborah-Palm

in Ju. 4. See Dillmann, Genesis, in loco, and Moore, Judges, in


            52 Stade, Gesch. i. 390 f.; Nowack, Arch. i. 154, 344, 348 ; Benz., Arch., p. 140.



loco. In fact, there are more graves of female ancestors mentioned

of pre-Mosaic times than of male, including besides those already

mentioned those of Sarah, Rebekah, and Leah at Machpelah (Gen.

49:31). It is evident, therefore, that whatever religious significance

there is, in the sanctity of the graves of the ancestors, woman shares

in it. This appears also in another fact that may be mentioned here.

If we may, with Nowack (i. 177), consider that the ceremony of

boring the ear with an awl to the doorpost (Dt. 15:12ff.; Ex. 21:2ff),

whereby a slave becomes a permanent member of the family, is best

explained as a remnant of ancestor worship, the Myhlx in these pas-

sages referring to the ancestors of the family, we have but another

instance of woman's share in the cult, for Dt. 15:17b prescribes: "And

also unto thy bondwoman shalt thou do likewise."


            3. Woman's Access to and Possession of the Teraphimn.

            While it may be true that the evidence that the teraphim were the

images of the ancestors of the family, and their consultation a species

of manes oracle (Stade, Gesch. i. 467; Nowack, ii. 23; Baudissin,

Studien i. 57), is not altogether full enough to be conclusive, yet it

seems to be going too far to the other extreme to say (Moore, Judges,

p. 380) that there is no evidence. The inference from Gen. 31:19, 30, 34

I S. 19:13; Ju. 17:5 that the teraphim were household gods seems to me

not much weakened by the reference to Ez. 21:21. At any rate, that

they were images legitimately used in divination in ancient Israel

(I S. 19:13; Ho. 3:4; Zech. 10:2; Ez. 21:21) is generally admitted. It is in

this, after all, that the significance of the teraphim in our inquiry lies.

Twice women are mentioned in the Old Testament in connection

with the teraphim. Of course, Michal's use of the teraphim (1 S.

19:13) contains nothing of cultic significance; all that we may legiti-

mately gather in this direction is that she evidently had free access

to the image. But it is entirely different with the case of Rachel

(Gen. 31:19, 30, 34). Why did Rachel steal the teraphim, the god (it was

probably only one image, cf. Dillmann, in loc.) of her father (yhlx,

vs. 30)? We may hardly ascribe it to any other than a religious motive,

finding its most plausible explanation in the similar case of the

Danites (Ju. 18), whose spies had consulted the oracle of Micah

and had received a favorable reply (vs. 5, 6), and then had given the

hint to the rest of the tribe to carry it away with them (vs. 14). The

teraphim was employed as an oracle53: this explains Rachel's interest


     53 Zech. 10:2; Ez. 21:21



in it, and so we meet here the Hebrew woman for the first time in

our investigation not only as a worshipper but in the possession of the

sacred objects employed in oracular inquiry.

            This leads us to consider next the intimately related question,


            4. Woman's Relation to the Oracle of the Dead, Necromancy, and

the other Cognate Forms of Divination.

            As performing oracular functions cf. Wellh., Heid, p. 126 f.;

Stade, i. 505 ; but especially W. R. Smith, Journal of Philology xiii.

276 ff.) of the oracle of the dead (described in Is. 8:19; Dt. 18:11 as

Mytmh lx wrd) woman appears officially, as the bvx tlfb one

who has a familiar spirit, in the woman of Endor (I S. 28). This

official character of woman is worthy of special notice. That necro-

mancy was a religious cult is clear from the terms which are used in

connection with it. The woman of Endor describes her vision as

seeing Myhlx (vs.13), wrd and Msq are the terms used in speaking

of the consultation; the opposition to the cult brands it as a hbfvt

(Dt. 18:12) and its approach with the technical terms ll.eHi (Ez. 13:19)

and xmF (Lev. 19:31) as ceremonially defiling.54  The opposition it

met with and its frequent mention show how widely and how deeply

the cult had entrenched and retained itself in the popular faith.

Whether its origin lies in ancestor worship, as Stade supposes, need

not be here discussed. This is certain, that we find woman acting

in a widespread popular cult in an official capacity, and, judging

from the fact that Saul's order is bvx tlfb twx yl vwqb, occupy-

ing the leading position. The latter is confirmed also by the fact

that in the often recurring phrase Mynfdyhv tvbvxh (Lev. 19:31; 20:6;

Is. 8:19; 19:3 etc.) the feminine tvbvxh invariably comes first.55

            The ‘wise woman,’ hmkH hwx, and the use made of her (2 S. 14:2;

20:16, also Ju. 5:23; Ex. 35:25), contains nothing of cultic significance (cf.

Smend, Alttest. Rel., p. 91).

            But here unquestionably belongs the practice of divination by


     54 For these reasons I cannot follow Driver (Deut., p. 226) when he says that

the opposition to the cult was not due to its being considered idolatry but a super-

stition. It was a rival cult that the opposition fought, and one that was not

altogether of foreign origin. Cf. Stade, Gesch. i. 425; W. R. Smith, Jour. of Phil.

xiii. 273 f.

     55 Schwally arrives at the original meaning of rkz, viz. "Todtenbeschworer,"

by a combination of it with the Targumic the translation of the Hebrew

bvx, ynifod;yi; and Mynin;fom; (ZATW. xi. 179 ff.), but he never mentions the Hebrew

bvx tlfb and the numerous references to woman's activity in this religious




some women mentioned in Ez. 13:17ff. Upon this obscure form of

divination the investigations of W. R. Smith (Jour. Of  Phil. xiii. 286 f.)

have thrown considerable light. The object of the practice was

oracular. According to vs. 22, it was the means of obtaining responses,

which according as they were assurances of divine favor or the oppo-

site made man glad or sorry. The means employed were some kind

of appurtenances tied to the arm and put on the head. The word

tvtsk Ephrem Syrus explains as ‘amulets,’ and o[  [Ebrai?oj in the

Hexapla renders it fulakth<ria. Now, as the Jewish phylacteries

were amulets to make prayer more powerful, "we must take it here,"

says Smith, "that these women invoked the deity--obviously for an

omen." Of the nature of the omen the explanation is found in the

words: "Ye profane me with my people for (or with) handfuls of

barley and crumbled pieces of bread" (vs.19). These were the

a]parxai<, the altar gifts, or, perhaps more likely, the pay for divining,

of the same elements as in Syriac divination, and pointing as in that

case to "a kind of omen which in its first origin was drawn from

the gift of firstfruits at a--Canaanite or Hebrew--sanctuary, with

the aid of prayer, such as habitually accompanied rites from which

an oracle was sought" (Smith, ibid.). If we now associate with this

official capacity as the dispenser of the oracle that of the bvx tlfb

and Rachel's possession of the teraphim, we have found strong indi-

cations, to be corroborated later on, that not only did woman share

in the cult as worshipper, but that she also occupied an official

position in it.

            The term tvxbntmh used by Ezekiel to describe this activity of

the women suggests naturally a probable connection of it with the

most important phenomenon in the question of woman's relation to

the cult, namely, the order of the prophetesses.


                        6. Women as Officials in the Jahveh Cult.


            I. The Prophetesses.


            While the existence and activity of women as prophets in Hebrew

religion cannot but be recognized by all, it is of interest to note how

variously the fact is treated by moderns. Nowack, in his paragraph

on "Seher and Propheten," passes it in silence (Arch. ii. 130 f.).

Stade (Gesch. i. 178) and Montefiore (Hibb. Lect. 1892, p. 75) doubt

its existence in ancient Israel. The former calls Deborah "eine

wirkende weise Frau," and the latter says, " if Deborah was a seer."

Professor Moore regards Deborah as a prophetess in the older sense



of the word, an inspired woman, and compares her with the German

Veleda and Joan of Arc. Smend (Alttest. Rel., p. 90f) more readily

acknowledges the religious character of the earlier prophetesses. Of

Miriam he significantly says that she was probably more prominent

than the tradition represents. The only mention of the prophetess in

relation to woman's position in religion is made by Benzinger (Arch.,

p. 140), and he dismisses it with the curt remark that it is the excep-

tion that only proves the rule of woman's exclusion from the cult.

But it is a matter of course that no view of woman's relation to the

cult can have any weight that leaves out of due consideration such

an important fact. And it is no wonder, on the other hand, in view

of the isolation with which the phenomenon of the prophetess has

been treated, that it should appear as it does to Professor McCurdy

(Hist. Proth. and the Monuments ii. § 423) as an anomaly (which

he mentions only with a word), yielding itself only a little more

readily to an explanation (which explanation, however, he does not

attempt to give) than her position as judge and queen. It will,

therefore, prove no mean confirmation of the correctness of my view

of the relation of woman to the cult if it furnishes an explanation,

and the only one offered, of this anomaly. That we must in the

consideration of this question draw the important modern distinction

between the earlier and the later character of prophetesses is very

evident. There is exactly the same difference between a Huldah

and a Deborah as there is between a Jeremiah and a Samuel.

            Of later prophetesses Huldah is the principal example. Noadiah

is simply known to us by name (Neh. 6:14)

            (1) Huldah (2 Ki. 22:14ff).--This prophetess comes into the

foreground as the chief religious authority at the time of a most

intense religious excitement, and in connection with an event that

stands without a parallel in its effect upon the development of the

religious thought and life of Israel. It is a remarkable fact that

the person to whom, at the order of the King of Judah, Hilkiah the

priest and Shaphan the scribe, and others equally prominent in state

and church, should direct themselves to inquire concerning the

meaning of the discovery of the Book of the Law, should be a woman.

Equally significant is the nature of the oracular response. For, it

must be remembered, it is not a political or moral issue that is up;

neither does it concern religion in general. Deuteronomy has chiefly

to do with the cult; it is therefore a question of the cult that is

brought before the prophetess, and her response is altogether con-

cerned therewith. This interest and authority of the prophetess



Huldah in such a question, being also in perfect accord with the leg-

islation of Deuteronomy itself, which, as has been pointed out above,

recognizes woman's share in worship, has a momentous bearing on

the question at issue. But important as this testimony is, the full

force of it will be best perceived when the office of the prophetess is

viewed as it existed in its earlier stages.

            (2) Office of the Earlier Prophetesses.--There seems to me no

sufficient ground to call in question the activity of women as seers in

the pre-monarchic period in Israel's history, as has been done by

Stade, Montefiore, and others. If early Hebrew tradition is of any

historical value whatever, it certainly speaks of a prophetess Deborah

as distinctly as of a prophet Samuel, whatever meaning that term may

have. In like-manner do the earliest traditions prominently associate

with Moses and Aaron as head of the Israelitish community their

sister, the prophetess Miriam (Mi. 6:4 Ex. 15:20f. [E] Nu. 12; 20:1  [JE]).

But how are we to interpret the term hxybn as used here? There

can be but the one way, it seems to me, which has its basis in the

explanation in 1 S. 9:9, and according to which the earlier Hebrew

xybn was a hx,ro or hz,Ho. To say this in the case of Samuel, and to

call Deborah “eine weise Frau,” seems an inconsistent choice of

terms in order to convey a different meaning of the word when used

in speaking of woman. There is not the slightest reason for such a

distinction, and, in fact, none is assigned; so it seems but fair to ask

that the word be allowed to mean the same thing in both cases, in

that of Deborah as in that of Samuel. And all the more so because

the principal function of 'judge,' whether in the earlier sense of ‘vin-

dicator’ or in the later sense of  ‘giving judicial decisions,’ is ascribed

to the one as much as to the other (compare Ju. 4:5 and 1 S. 7:16ff.;

cf. Moore, Judges, in loco). If, as may be therefore justly claimed,

Deborah was a seer, then all the light which recent investigation

has thrown upon the origin and function of the seer is at our service.

If the office of seer, as is held by Stade (Gesch. i. 468-473), had its

origin in the belief that some persons were specially possessed by the

divinity; if its function was, by means of visions, to reveal the divine

will; if, as is illustrated by the case of Samuel, it was intimately con-

nected with the sanctuary; if, as is indicated by the relation of the

Hebrew and Arabic terms, Nhk, kahin, the offices of priest and seer

were once identical, and the old Israelitish priesthood originated in

the settlement of some seers at a permanent sanctuary (cf. Wellh.,

Heid., p. 130 ff., 167), then the function of the prophetess had an

origin in common with the highest cultic function in Israel, the priest-



hood, and this function was, at one time, open to some extent to

women. To claim this for Samuel seems perfectly natural, for, of

course, we find in his case clear indications of such a fusion of seer

and priest. But the inference that such was the case also when

woman filled the same office is perfectly reasonable, and by no means

lacks more definite confirmation. Woman's relation to the teraphim,

the oracle of the dead, and divination, as developed above, is here in

point, but additional evidence in the same direction and within the

jahveh cult comes to us in the case of Miriam.

            (3) Miriam.--In Nu. 12 (referred to also in Dt. 24:9), belonging

to the earliest tradition (JE), we have a detailed account of an inci-

dent which purports to involve the question of the relative official

rank of Moses, Aaron, and Miriam. The contention was occasioned

by the marriage of Moses with a Cushite woman, and partakes of the

nature of a family quarrel. "Hath Jahveh indeed spoken only with

Moses? hath he not spoken also with us?" (vs. 2), say Miriam and

Aaron; and as Dillmann has pointed out (in loc.), the feminine

rbdtv would show that Miriam was the instigator. The claim that

her words imply is prophetic rank and authority for herself and Aaron

equal to those of Moses. In the settlement of the dispute by the

intervention of Jahveh, it becomes apparent that her claim of pro-

phetic rank is not denied, and she, as well as Aaron, bears the title

of ‘prophet’; only to Moses is ascribed the official preeminence,

while she, as the instigator of the insubordination, has to bear the

brunt of the punishment. While the incident thus brings out Moses'

preeminence, it at the same time asserts the official equality of

Miriam with Aaron. That the whole incident is brought into inti-

mate connection with the dfeOm lh,xo the centre of the religious cult,

is certainly significant. If to this be added the facts, that occasion is

taken to state that Miriam is the sister of Aaron (Ex. 15:20), and that

in the earlier genealogical list her descent is traced back to Levi (Nu.

26:59; 1 Chr. 6:3; Ex. 6:20 [P] does not mention her), while throughout

she is conspicuously associated with Aaron and Moses as a leader of

the religious community, the conclusion can scarcely be avoided that,

as Deborah like Samuel, so Miriam like Moses and Aaron, is an

example of a seer in whom, in the manner of that time, the functions

of prophet and priest are combined. The probability of this infer-

ence is heightened, if in this connection again we call to mind the

activity of prophetesses in other Semitic religions, and woman's part

as diviner in connection with the oracles later proscribed by the relig-

ion of Jahveh.



            2. Women as Officials in the Tabernacle and the Temple.


            I must now call attention to the direct testimony on woman's

official position in the Jahveh cult as contained in the repeated men-

tion of woman's service in the tabernacle.

            The passages are dfEOm lh,xo Htap, Uxb;cA rw,xE txob;c.oha (Ex. 38:8)

and dfeOm lh,xo HtaP, txob;c.ha MywinAha (I S. 2:22b). The text in

Samuel beginning with rwx txv is almost unanimously regarded

as an interpolation. (See Driver, Text of Sam., p. 26; Kittel in

Kautzsch's Heilzge Schrift d. A. T.; Klostermann's Samuel; Budde's

Samuel.) The evidence that the context speaks of a lkAyhe and not

of an lhexo, and that the passage in question ascribes to the sons of

Eli a sin entirely different from that of vs. 12ff. (see Stade, Gesch. i.

199, note 2), is far stronger than the absence of the passage from the

LXX in Codex Vaticanus, which is, moreover, somewhat counterbal-

anced by its presence in Codex Alexandrinus and in Lucian's recen-

sion. The fact of the insertion of the passage in Samuel seems best

explained as originating in a marginal note suggested by Ex. 38:8.

            There is no such question of text connected with the reference in

Exodus; it belongs to P, and is definite and clear enough for our


            We must first determine, as far as possible, the meaning of the

word xbc as used here. The versions exhibit a marked variation in

translating the word. The LXX has for vxbc rwx txbch in Ex.

38:8 tw?n nhsteusasw?n ai{ e]nh<steusan; Cod. Alex. translates Mywnh

txbch in I S. 2:22b by ta>j gunai?kaj ta>j parestw<saj (Swete, in loc.).

The Vulgate translates in Ex. quae excubabant and in S. quae observa-

bant; in Targ. and Pesh. it is paraphrased ‘who prayed’ and ‘who

came to pray’ (see Driver, in loc.). But there can be no question

that xbc has in the Priest's Code the very decided technical signifi-

cation of ‘to render service in connection with, the tabernacle in a

Levitical capacity’ (cf. Nu. 4:23, 30, 35, 39, 43, 47;  8:24, 25); by its side

is usually found the synonym hdAbofE, and the LXX translates it by leitourgei?n

and leitourgi<a. The attempts, therefore, of the ancient versions, as

also the A.V.'s  ‘assemble’ (the R.V. correctly renders in Ex. 38:8

“the serving women which served at the door of the tent of meet-

ing,” and refers in the margin to Nu. 4:23 and 8:24), must be regarded

as inadmissible, and evidently due to a hesitancy to allow the word to

mean the same thing when used in reference to women as when used

in reference to men. And such attempts are not any more admissible

when the term is limited to express the performance of "menial



duties" by the women (Driver); or when there is simply added to

these the duties of performing the sacred dances and choral songs

(Dillmann, Strack). The fact is, we do not know in what particular

the service of the women consisted, but we do know that, whatever

the nature of the service, it is described by the same term used for

the Levitical service rendered in connection with the tabernacle.

            The remark of Nowack (Arch. ii. 69, note) that we do not hear in

the older accounts of women who serve in the sanctuary, suggests.

the inquiry whence the information contained in Ex. 38:8 and per-

petuated in 1 S. 2:22b originated. To regard it as haggadic, late Jewish

fiction (Popper; Wellhausen, Composition des Hexateuchs u.s.w.,

1889, p. 147) is out of the question. There is in late Jewish history

no indication of a tendency to place women in positions of the

cult; both the low estimation in which woman is held and the high

estimation with which increasingly the ritual is regarded are against

such an idea; the tendency is all the other way. It seems to me

that the reference to the service of woman in the passage in Exodus

is to something antiquated, something that had long passed even in

the time in connection with which it is mentioned. It seems a futile

effort to contend, like Dillmann and Keil, over the notion of time

the participle txob;co conveys: Keil claiming that it does not imply

that they had served there before the erection of the sanctuary, but

only from that time forward they did perform service there ; and

Dillmann, that it does not mean that they served later, but that they

served until now. It is the Uxb;cA that will more readily render ser-

vice here, yielding itself easily to the tense of the pluperfect ; the

passage can be rendered: "And he made the laver of bronze, and

the base thereof of bronze, of the mirrors of the serving women

which had served at the door of the tent of meeting." In accord-

ance with this, it is not to be supposed that the txbc contributed

their hand-mirrors as a hmAUrT; (Dillm.), but on the analogy of Nu.

17:2-5 (Eng. Ver. 16:36-40), where the censers left by the Korahites,

because of their sanctity through former use, are beaten out into

plates for a covering of the altar, and are so turned into another

sacred use, so here, the mirrors left behind by the women are put

to another sacred service. It is very probable that in both cases we

have to do with reminiscenses, embodying Levitical traditions;

attached to the sacred utensils of the sanctuary, which were in some

cases termed NOrKAzi (Nu. 17:5). And, although this notice is found

in P and is probably a later addition even there, that does not pre-

clude its being based upon very ancient tradition. The dfvm lhx



in the Priest's Code is an elaborate affair and not historical, but E

knows of an dfvm lhx, tells us of its erection, and gives its name

(Ex. 33:7-11), and also, as has been shown above, brings Miriam in

close connection with it. In view of these facts, it is safe to say that

the passages in Exodus and Samuel, though late themselves, are in

perfect harmony with, and probably embody, an ancient tradition

according to which, in early times, women held some official position

in the sanctuary of Jahveh.

            A side light upon woman's official position in the Jahveh cult

comes to us also from the references in the Old Testament to the

women singers. There are four distinct classes of these, one of which,

the tOrwA, mentioned in passages like 2 S. 19:35; Jer. 31:4; Ec. 2:8 and

Is. 23:16, sang evidently only for social amusement, and may here be

passed by with the mere mention. The other three classes will find

the simplest explanation when considered in their relation to the

religious cult.

            (I) The tOnn;Oqm; who chant the tOnyqi.--Their official relation to,

and prominence in, the cult of the dead have been considered above.

See p. 137.

            (2) The  tr,W,.bam;, eu]aggelizome<nh, is mentioned by that name only

in Ps. 68:12(11), and the term is also applied to Jerusalem in Is. 40:9;

but the function of the trwbm to announce and celebrate a victory

by vocal and instrumental music and dances, finds frequent mention

in the Old Testament (Ex. 15:20; Ju. 5:1; 11:34; 1 S 18:6; Ps. 68:26 (25); cf. also

2 S. 1:20). That these choral dances were at least of a semi-religious

character will scarcely admit of doubt. These were the "wars of

Jahveh," and He Himself is tvxbc hvhy: the celebration of victory56

must have partaken of a religious character. This becomes all the

more evident from the religious element contained in some of these

songs preserved to us (see Ex. 15:21; Ju. 5:3ff. Ps. 68; Judith 15:12ff.; 16:1f.)

These facts have naturally enough led some to suppose that the par-

ticular service that the women according to Ex. 38:8 and 1 S. 2:22

rendered was the sacred choral dances. It is very probable that the

term xbc may cover, but there is no reason to suppose that it

exhausts, this part of woman's service.

            (3) Women Singers in the Temple Choir.--Neh. 7:67 and the par-

allel passage in Ezra 2:65 furnish a more direct reference to woman's

participation in public religious song. In Neh. 7:67, a register which

has every appearance of having been drawn up under Zerubbabel


       56 "The Hebrew phrase for opening war is ‘to consecrate war’ (hmHlm wDq),

and warriors are consecrated persons."--W. R. Smith, Rel. of Sem., p. 383.



and incorporated by Nehemiah in his Memoir (cf. Driver, Introd.,

p. 513, and Stade, Gesch. ii. 98), the statement occurs that among

the returning exiles were found "245 singing men and singing

women." (In the parallel passage in Ezra, probably derived imme-

diately from Neh., the number given is 200.) There is not the

slightest reason to suspect the text, and Oettli's suggestion (Kurzgef.

Komm., Die geschichtlichen Hagiographen, Ezra, in loco) that the

context would lead us to expect `animals' viz. Myrvw which, by a

misunderstanding, was corrupted into Myrrwm and to which was

then added the feminine, is entirely uncalled for and too clumsy.

Neither is it a happy suggestion that the function of these singers

was secular. Is it likely that this company of religious enthusiasts,

returning to a desolate home, had carried with them this number of

singers for secular amusement? Rashi supposes that they furnished

the music during the glad procession in the return from the exile.

If this be not more ideal than real, their service would scarcely have

ceased with their arrival at Jerusalem.

            This reference to women singers, it seems to me, finds its simplest

explanation in the supposition that not only did women in early

Hebrew history participate in religious song, but that they furnished

such sacred music as was used in sacred worship, and that, even in

this later time, women still held positions in the temple choirs.

There is some Jewish tradition to this effect. Schechter (Studies in

Judaism, p.. 316) makes the statement that "if we were to trust a

certain passage in the ‘Chapters of R. Eliezer,’ we might perhaps

conclude that during the first temple the wives of the Levites formed

a part of the choir." (Unfortunately Schechter's reference is too

indefinite for verification.) It is therefore altogether probable that

when we read of music at the religious festive occasions, e.g. the

dedication of the walls of Jerusalem (Neh. 12:27ff.), it will best har-

monize with the statement concerning those ‘singing women’ to

suppose that they contributed their share of music as members of

the singer's guild, the Myrir;wom;.ha yneB; of that time. We have here,

therefore, an additional indication of women's official position in the

Jahveh cult.





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