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5 - The Social Structure of Palestine in the Second Temple Period

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  04 August 2010

T. M. Lemos
Affiliation:
Rhodes College, Memphis
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Summary

“The daughters of Israel are beautiful but poverty destroys their beauty.”

– R. Ishmael

The previous chapter examined the social structure of ancient Israel from the time of Israel's emergence to that of the Babylonian exile, and demonstrated that stratification grew markedly more pronounced in the region over the course of the several centuries preceding the exile. This chapter extends the analysis of social stratification from the latter time until the Roman period. The reason for separating these two chapters as such is quite obvious: Israelite society underwent many radical changes as a result of the destruction of the First Temple, the forced migration of Israel's elite to Babylon, and the general devastation wrought by the Babylonian military's incursions into Judah, incursions that left clear signs of damage at many sites. This chapter, however, does not focus on the exilic period itself, for in a longue durée study of this kind, seventy years is an exceedingly brief span of time, nor does it address all of the changes that the exile brought about, or – perhaps better – set in motion. As was the case with the previous chapter, it focuses instead on the issue of social stratification and on the following question: did the political and social changes of the postexilic period, which affected so many spheres of life in ancient Palestine, influence levels of social stratification as well?

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2010

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