ABSTRACT: The Voice of Women: From Near and Afar

Shamir Yona (ed.), Or Le-Mayer: Studies in Bible, Semitic Languages, Rabbinic Literature, and Ancient Civilizations Presented to Mayer Gruber on the Occasion of his Sixty-Fifth Birthday, Beer Sheva 2010, pp. 33-86  Meir Bar-Ilan


The discussion aims to analyze the Ancient Jewish literature from the of perspective gender, that is to examine that literature, Biblical and Post-Biblical alike, to find out whether some of it may have been composed by women and to check the methodology of this analysis.

First will be discussed well known historical “feminist” literature from pre-modern times in order to check its femininity. From the well-known, the discussion turns to the unknown, texts from afar that bear, to some extent, a feminist background.

After taking a look at the song of Deborah the prophetess, the discussion goes on to the Scroll of Lamentation, showing that some part of it (chapters: 1, 2, 4) were composed by women. The Scroll of Ruth was composed by a woman as is apparent by 12 different aspects that accumulate to lead to quite a good conclusion: Ruth was composed by a woman though some men made slight additions to the text.

Of the Post-Biblical literature some books are discussed, showing the possibility of their feminine origin: Sibylline Oracles, Judith, Shoshana (additions to Daniel), Jewish Antiquities (Pseudo-Philo) and The Testament of Job.

In Talmudic literature the Aramaic elegies by women of Babylonian Shechnesiv are discussed, as well as some Targumic songs, some of which are characterized as ‘women’s songs’.