Engendering the Israelite Harvests

Harvest Scene. Detail from “Harvesting and threshing floor scenes in the story of Ruth & Boaz.” Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, [LC-DIG-matpc-10136].

Near Eastern Archaeology 79:3 article, “Engendering the Israelite Harvests,” by Jennie Ebeling, Associate Professor of Archaeology at the University of Evansville in Indiana and co-director of the Jezreel Expedition in Israel.

It is commonly believed that women were the preparers of food and drink in the Iron Age (ca. 1200–586 B.C.E.) Israelite household while men were primarily responsible for agricultural field activities. Various lines of evidence suggest, however, that this indoor female/outdoor male dichotomy as related to food production was not always the reality, especially during the crucial harvest seasons. The Hebrew Bible and other textual sources, iconography, and Middle Eastern ethnography suggest that women not only took part in the cereal grain, grape, and olive harvests, they were also valued for their participation in these seasonal field activities and the festivals that celebrated them. In this article, Ebeling examines the evidence for male and female participation in ancient Israelite harvests and challenge popular assumptions about how men and women contributed to the production of food and drink in ancient Israel.