Published online by Cambridge University Press: 04 August 2010
PREFACE: JACK GOODY ON ISRAELITE MARRIAGE GIFTS
This chapter examines the social structure of ancient Israel from the time of its emergence at the beginning of the Iron Age to the downfall of the kingdom of Judah in the sixth century bce. By social structure, I refer to such social features as residential patterns, structures of kinship, modes of production, and patterns of social stratification. Such an examination is necessitated by the work of Jack Goody, which was treated at length in the previous chapter, and his thesis that different types of social structure will result in the exchange of different forms of marriage gifts. It is in light of this thesis that he explains the particular distribution of various marital prestations throughout Africa and Eurasia.
This examination is necessitated, too, by a part of Goody's work that was not addressed in the previous chapter – the brief treatment of ancient Israelite marriage customs found in The Oriental, the Ancient, and the Primitive. This treatment is one of the weakest in the entire book, lengthy as that work is. In it, Goody muddles together citations and assessments of a rather random assortment of scholarly works on Israelite marriage customs with his own exegesis of certain relevant biblical passages. He also adds to the mélange a plethora of generalizing statements about Israelite practices in which he conflates the biblical evidence with later Jewish law, as well as with other nonbiblical sources.