Women’s Lives at that Time
You can see from Rebecca’s story that she is in charge of her own destiny – and in shaping the future of her clan.
Women were necessary for the survival of the tribe, and they knew it. They did a wide range of tasks, without which the clan or family could not have managed.
The stories in Genesis and Exodus showed them as independent and strong, smart and tough. They showed leadership and initiative, and almost always got what they wanted.
Childbirth in ancient times
Birth rates in the modern world are dropping, even though it’s safer and easier to give birth than ever before. People are choosing to have fewer children.
This would have puzzled people in the ancient world. They loved children – the more, the better.
Why? Because children meant security:
- as protection in your day-to-day life; the more people (especially men) there were in your family group, the safer you were from an attack
- as workers; more children meant more mouths to feed, but it also meant more workers to help with the herd or in the fields
- as security in your old age; the only people you could really count on were family members.
Go to Childbirth in the ancient world for pictures and more information
Women were marvellous story-tellers, and though the stories in the Bible were edited later by male priests, but it is clear that women had a thriving tradition of their own.
Many of the stories dealt with families, children, food supplies, security/safety and home-places.
All were matters related to women’s interests, and scholars suggest that many of the stories of Genesis were originally women’s stories, preserved by women in the clan.
Women and Ancient Religion
As well, women played an active role in religious matters.
The concept of monotheism was just beginning to develop, but many women probably worshipped a fertility goddess, the Great Mother, source of plant, animal and human life.
Ancient Near Eastern religions certainly had fertility of the soil and animal life as one of their main focuses, with priestesses who served the forces of Nature (the power of river and rain water, abundance of crops and animals, etc.)
Women and the Law
The laws of Hammurabi, a famous law-maker and king of Babylonia, provide insights into the lives of women in this period. There were laws to
- protect the rights of women in marriage
- protect women against rape
- define the punishment for adultery
- define the just treatment of women who were slaves
- regulate the behaviour of sacred women who served in the temples
- lay down conditions for divorce, etc.
Another source of information about women and their lives was provided by love poems and lullabies of this period.
For additional information on the lives of women in the Bible, see the links to
Family, Work and Religion: the tribe, the family, slaves, women’s tasks, beliefs
Milestones in a Woman’s Life: Puberty, menstruation, marriage, childbirth, death, burials
Modern movies are often about the destruction a lie can cause. In ‘Shawshank Redemption’ a man’s life is changed forever because of a lie.
Make up a list of movies with similar themes.
Looking for a meditation on Rebecca’s story?
Try Tough decisions