Re-Examining Israelite Patriarchy through Marriage Laws of Deuteronomy

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Hyun-Joo Lim

Abstract

The book of Deuteronomy in the Hebrew Bible contains an extensive list of laws, from cultic regulations to
laws addressing everyday affairs. As a legal collection, it can be observed as a symbol of practices and values
of the ancient Israelites (the people by and for whom the Hebrew Bible was formed). Many prescriptions
in the Bible are perplexing and controversial according to our modern Western standards, especially those
regarding gender equality in marital provisions. This essay examines the marriage laws of Deuteronomy
within its specific geographical, cultural, and historical context (the ancient Near East) including comparisons
to various law codes of nearby regional and other Biblical traditions, to argue that perspectives found in
Deuteronomy are relatively progressive in protecting women’s rights. I challenge the common and often
unquestioned assumption amongst scholars, religious followers and general readers that the Bible is sexist
and misogynistic. More broadly, I advocate for the need to assess historical and religious works on gender in
their appropriate context, in order to obtain a more complex and earnest understanding of ancient traditions.1

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Social Sciences & Humanities