ABSTRACT: Marriage and Other Basic Problems in Ancient Jewish Society

Cathedra, 121 (2006), pp. 23-52  Meir Bar-Ilan


The aim of this study is to analyze several aspects of Jewish Society in Antiquity, especially in regard to Jewish marriage. The study begins with a short description of Social Historiography and its importance to understanding the Jewish people in Antiquity.

The change of the payment for the bride from Mohar to a Ketubah is discussed from three aspects: 1) How the payment was changed from payment to the father to a payment to the bride. 2) Why the obligation changed its medium: from oral commitment to a written bill. 3) Why the payment was changed from a cash payment to a postponed payment.

Several aspects of Jewish demography in Antiquity are discussed: sex-ratio, child exposure, literacy, urbanization, standard of living, agriculture, and more. Special attention is given to analyze the age at marriage of males, showing that this “age” was not a given figure but rather a dynamic factor reflecting a society in change. The age at marriage was relatively high in “Biblical times” though it fell in the first century C.E. and later it rose due to the collapse of the Roman Empire.