A wide-ranging study of women in ancient Israelite religion.
Susan Ackerman has spent her scholarly career researching underexamined aspects of the world of the Hebrew Bible—particularly those aspects pertaining to women. In this collection drawn from three decades of her work, she describes in fascinating detail the worship of goddesses in ancient Israel, the roles women played as priests and prophets, the cultic significance of queen mothers, and the Hebrew Bible’s accounts of women’s religious lives. Specific topics include:
the “Queen of Heaven,” a goddess whose worship was the object of censure in the book of Jeremiah
Asherah, the great Canaanite mother goddess for whom Judean women were described as weaving in the books of Kings
biblical figures considered as religious functionaries, such as Miriam, Deborah, and Zipporah
the lack of women priests in ancient Israel explored against the prevalence of priestesses in the larger ancient Near Eastern world
the cultic significance of queen mothers in Israel and throughout the ancient Near East
Israelite women’s participation in the cult of Yahweh and in the cults of various goddesses
Table of Contents
Preface Part One: Goddesses 1. “And the Women Knead Dough” 2. Asherah, the West Semitic Goddess of Spinning and Weaving? 3. The Women of the Bible and of Ancient Near Eastern Myth Part Two: Priests and Prophets 4. Why Is Miriam Also among the Prophets? (And Is Zipporah among the Priests?) 5. The Mother of Eshmunazor, Priest of Astarte 6. Priestesses, Purity, and Parturition Part Three: Queen Mothers 7. The Queen Mother and the Cult in Ancient Israel 8. The Queen Mother and the Cult in the Ancient Near East Part Four: Women and Worship 9. At Home with the Goddess 10. Women and the Worship of Yahweh in Ancient Israel Bibliography Indexes
Susan Ackerman is the Preston H. Kelsey Professor of Religion and professor of women's, gender, and sexuality studies at Dartmouth College. She is the author of Women and the Religion of Ancient Israel; When Heroes Love: The Ambiguity of Eros in the Stories of Gilgamesh and David; Warrior, Dancer, Seductress, Queen: Women in Judges and Biblical Israel; and Under Every Green Tree: Popular Religion in Sixth-Century Judah.
“Gods, Goddesses, and the Women Who Serve Them summarizes a career of research and writing on Israelite religious practice by one of the premier scholars of her generation. Taken together, these chapters advance our understanding of a myriad of topics in ancient Israelite religion and women’s religious lives. This book will become a reference work for generations of students and scholars to come.” —Prof. William Schniedewind, author of How the Bible Became a Book
“What a pleasure to explore the ritual lives of the women of ancient Israel guided by the expert hand of Susan Ackerman! More than an assortment of previous work, these essays are a carefully curated collection that is always insightful and often intriguing. Her reflections on and updates to the essays add even more depth to her already significant analysis.” —Jennifer L. Koosed, Albright College
“This volume gathers together several of Susan Ackerman’s seminal essays dealing with biblical and ancient Near Eastern materials as they relate to the study of women, gender, and sexuality. Each essay is introduced by the author’s current reflections on the issues raised and challenges suggested by her scholarship, as she explains her current thinking and the revisions she has included. This framing allows the reader insight into the development of Ackerman’s ideas over the years and is a testament to her deep creativity and valuable, ongoing cross-disciplinary contributions.” — Susan Niditch, Amherst College
“Ackerman invites her readers to a fascinating retrospective exhibition of three decades of her work on women and religion. She highlights the biblical and Levantine religious landscape from the perspective of women, whether human or divine, private or public. Ackerman turns the spotlight on female functionaries in Israelite worship—not only that of Yahweh but also of Asherah and Astarte. She investigates the religious roles of women in different texts and times, arguing that the opportunities available to women diminished in the aftermath of religious reforms in Jerusalem, enforcing the exclusive worship of Yahweh.” — Martti Nissenen, University of Helsinki
“Revised, updated, and organized to foreground major strands in her work, this splendid collection of articles by Susan Ackerman stands as an important and challenging study in its own right, as well as offering a fascinating insight into how an eminent scholar has developed and refined her thinking over some thirty years.” —J. Cheryl Exum, University of Sheffield
“Susan Ackerman’s work on goddesses, Israelite women, and religion in ancient Israel has changed how we understand gender and the past. This collection gathers essays from more than three decades, offering a comprehensive yet highly readable overview of Ackerman’s scholarship. Reading the essays together reveals Ackerman’s acuity as a historian and a scholar of gender, and her ongoing importance in the field of biblical studies. A highly recommended resource.” —Rhiannon Graybill, Rhodes College
“Any reader wedded to the exegetical quest for biblical origins must read Susan Ackerman’s new book. Steeped in comparative historical criticism that regards the Bible ‘as a window into ancient Israel’s past,’ ten essays present fascinating gynocritical reconstructions of women’s religious practices on the basis of Ackerman’s reconstructive ‘magic’ with biblical and ancient Near Eastern texts. The book as a whole argues for a differentiated reading of women as worshippers, priests, prophets, or queen mothers. Complex and thorough investigations into the significance of goddesses like the Queen of Heaven, Tiamat, or Asherah propose their popularity among the non-elite Israelite population, especially women, in opposition to the ‘minoritarian’ views of biblical writers like Isaiah, Jeremiah, Micah, or ‘the spokespersons of the Deuteronomistic school.’ Yet whether these historical portrayals are not altogether only ‘speculative’ is an important methodological issue that this collection of essays does not aim to resolve.” —Susanne Scholz, Southern Methodist University
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