Primogeniture in the Old Testament : towards a theological-ethical understanding of patriarchy in Ancient Israel

Fachhai, Laiu (2007-12)

Thesis (DTh)--Stellenbosch University, 2007.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: As the title suggests, this research is a study of primogeniture in the Old Testament towards a theological-ethical understanding of patriarchy in ancient Israel. Using the Ancient Near East as a wider context of the Old Testament, the research first analysed the Ancient Near East texts relating to primogeniture, i.e., texts relating to inheritance and succession. In so doing the research reveals that primogeniture was a generally practiced custom of most of the Ancient Near East societies, serving as a cornerstone for their patriarchal culture. The research also demonstrates that there were exceptions to the rule. For example, the Elamites practiced matrilineal and matrilocal customs. Within the general practice of primogeniture among most of the Ancient Near East societies, firstborns were often displaced in favour of younger sons. In some cases, daughters and wives could also inherit and own properties, although succession to the throne by daughters was rare. The central focus of the research is a socio-rhetorical criticism of the primogeniture text of Deuteronomy 21:15-17. Like in the Ancient Near East, this study also discovers that primogeniture was a generally practiced custom as well as a cornerstone of ancient Israel’s patriarchy. However, exceptions to this rule in ancient Israel seemed to be even more notorious than in those of other ancient Near East societies. The custom was often not followed. Daughters could also inherit. Firstborns were displaced by their younger brothers for prime heirship of the family as well as succession to the throne. This violation of primogeniture custom was theologically and ethically qualified and politically and ideologically appropriated. The research thus concludes that these theological-ethical qualifications as well as political-ideological appropriation of the violation of primogeniture based on socio-economic and religious-political changes of society indicate that patriarchy according to the Old Testament is not a static divine blueprint for all societies of all generations. Rather, patriarchy in ancient Israel was a dynamic socio-historical and theologicalethical process which was subjected to change, modification, reinterpretation, and re-appropriation according to socio-economic and religious-political developments of a given society. In the name of patriarchy, women had been denied their rights, robbed of their dignity and worth, and regarded as a second class image of God in many societies, then and now. Committed to correcting these wrongs, this research – arguing that patriarchy in the Old Testament is not so much a privilege as it is to a responsibility – challenges the contemporary hierarchical patriarchal ideologies, and contends for gender equality in all walks of life, remembering that we are all created equally in the image of God.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Soos die titel aandui, dek hierdie studie eersgeborenheid in die Ou Testament om 'n teologies-etiese begrip van die patriargie in antieke Israel te bewerkstellig. Teen die Antieke Nabye Ooste (ANO) as wyer konteks van die Ou Testament, analiseer die navorsing ten eerste die ONO-tekste wat betrekking het op eersgeborenheid, met ander woorde tekste wat verwys na vererwing en opvolging. In die proses het die navorsing aan die lig gebring dat eersgeborenheid 'n wydverspreide praktyk in die meeste ANOgemeenskappe was en as hoeksteen vir hul voortbestaan en patriargale stelsels gedien het. Die navorsing het ook aangetoon dat uitsonderings op hierdie reël voorgekom het. So het die Elamiete byvoorbeeld matriliniêre gebruike gehad, asook waar die man by die vrou se familie gaan woon het. In die algemene gebruik van eersgeborenheid onder meeste van die ANO-gemeenskappe, is eersgeborenes dikwels vervang ten gunste van jonger seuns. In sommige gevalle kon dogters en eggenotes ook erflatings ontvang en vaste eiendomme besit, alhoewel troonopvolging deur dogters baie selde voorgekom het. Die sentrale fokus van die navorsing is 'n sosioretoriese kritiek op die eersgeborenheidsteks in Deuteronomium 21:15-17. Soos ten opsigte van die ANO, het die studie ook vasgestel dat eersgeborenheid 'n algemeen aanvaarde praktyk en ook hoeksteen van antieke Israel se patriargie gevorm het. Maar die uitsonderings op hierdie reël in antieke Israel was skynbaar selfs meer opspraakwekkend as in ander ANOgemeenskappe. Die gebruik is dikwels nie nagevolg nie. Dogters kon ook vererf. Eersgeborenes is deur hul jonger broers vir die belangrikste erfporsie van die familie vervang, asook vir troonopvolging. Hierdie verbreking van die eersgeborenheidsgebruik is teologies en eties gekwalifiseer en polities en ideologies toegepas. Die navorsing kom dus tot die gevolgtrekking dat hierdie teologies-etiese kwalifikasies, asook die polities-ideologiese toepassing van die verbreking van eersgeborenheid, gebaseer op sosio-ekonomiese en religieus-politieke veranderinge in die gemeenskap, aandui dat patriargie volgens die Ou testament nie 'n statiese, godgegewe bloudruk vir alle gemeenskappe van alle generasies daarstel nie. Patriargie in antieke Israel was eerder 'n dinamiese sosiohistoriese en telogies-etiese proses, wat onderworpe was aan verandering, aanpassing, herinterpretasie en hertoepassing ingevolge soio-ekonomiese en religieus-politieke ontwikkelinge van 'n gegewe gemeenskap. In die naam van patriargie is vroue in baie gemeenskappe, destyds en vandag nog, ontneem van hul regte, van hul waardigheid en van hul waarde gestroop en beskou as 'n tweede klas beeld van God. Hierdie navorsing is toegewy aan die regstel van hierdie onregte en is van mening dat patriargie in die Ou testament nie sodanig 'n voorreg was nie as 'n verantwoordelikheid en daag daarmee die hedendaagse hiërargiese patriargale ideologieë uit. Dit spreek hom uit ten gunste van geslagsgelykheid in alle gebiede van die lewe, met in ag neming dat ons almal gelyk geskape is in die beeld van God.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/17750
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