ABSTRACT: Major trends in Jewish Society in the Land of Israel: From the 5th century BCE till the 7th century CE

Trumah, 15 (2006), pp. 1-23  Meir Bar-Ilan


The aim of this paper is to analyze major trends in Jewish society in the Land of Israel during the Second Commonwealth and the Mishna and Talmud Era, a study that has not been done so far. Much is known about the major political events that affected the Jewish people but contemporary social developments should not be overlooked. These trends are discussed, though some only briefly, to give an idea of the basic changes in Jewish society during a millennium.

The major non-events were as follows: 1) The population increased in number and in geographical space for several centuries, and then decreased in a “reverse” mode. 2) The society became more urban though in later times, during its decline, became rural again. 3) Under Roman rule, Jewish society was in the process of improving its standard of living. 4) The family structure was changed from a clan type to a more nuclear type, the age of marriage decreased while the number of children per family increased. 5) The society was highly divided under a social stratification system and under sectarianism, not to speak of inequality of the people’s welfare. 6) Traditional society order was collapsing and there was an increase of crime while the community couldn’t enforce its values. 7) There was a decrease in Woman’s status. 8) The status of children was improved in comparison to Biblical times. 9) A change in values: increase in the value of human life; 10) Social justice: more to the poor. 11) Spiritual changes: tradition and change

It is believed that drawing attention to all these social aspects can increase the understanding of Jewish society in Antiquity.