Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 42.djvu/350

This page has been validated.

servant Jarha, an Egyptian, and the offspring of this union were regarded as Israelites (I Chronicles, ii, 34, 35)—that is to say, they traced descent and nationality through the mother. Here, then, we have three cases, one in which the male parent is an Israelite, and two in which the female parent is. In the former case the son is not considered an Israelite, and in the two latter he is—that is, in each case he is regarded as belonging to the nation of his mother. In this connection it is curious to note that in the list of the kings of Edom given in Genesis, xxxvi, 31-39, no king is the son of his predecessor; and in verse 39 we have a clear case of descent being traced through females: "His wife's name was Mehetabel, the daughter of Matred, the daughter of Mezahab."

All these examples are found prior to the Babylonian captivity, after which the custom was changed. In Ezra, ii, 61, and Nehemiah, vii, 63, we read that the children of a daughter of Barzillai, the Gileadite, were called after her family name, and were reckoned as not of Israel, because "they could not show their father's house, and their seed, whether they were of Israel" (Ezra, ii, 59).[1] Before the captivity Amasa, the son of an Israelitish woman by an Ishmaelite, and Attai, the son of an Israelitish woman by an Egyptian (I Chronicles, ii, 35), were reckoned as of Israel, the maternal descent was sufficient; but after the captivity it was considered necessary to show "the father's house." This seems to indicate that the change from a system of descents through females to one through males, which had no doubt been gradually taking place for some generations, was fully accomplished by the time that the two tribes returned from Babylon.

A point not to be overlooked is the inferior position held by women in post-captivity times. When kinship is traced through females, the position of women is necessarily high, for they are the heads of families; but when they lose the latter position through a change in the system of descents, they are commonly reduced to a condition more or less servile. Now we have some cases of women holding high positions before the captivity, notably Miriam, Deborah, and Huldah. The first is mentioned in Micah, vi, 4, as the equal of Moses and Aaron: "For I brought thee out of the land of Egypt, . . . and I sent before thee Moses, Aaron, and Miriam." In Exodus, xv, 20, she is styled a prophetess, and in Numbers, xii, 2, she and Aaron rebel against the leadership of Moses. She was evidently a person of authority, and so was Deborah the prophetess, for she judged Israel (Judges, iv, 4).

  1. In I Esdras, v, 38, this family is called "the sons of Addus, who married Augia, one of the daughters of Berzelus, and was named after his name."