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Education in ancient Israel : from earliest times to 70 A.D. online

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"Immediately after the immolation came a service of
prayer with music and song. This was followed by the
burning of incense upon the golden altar, at which the
priestly blessing was pronounced. The sacrificing priest
then performed his functions at the altar of burnt-offering,
while the Levites sang psalms, accompanied by the sound of
trumpets. Two hours and a half from mid-day the evening

81 By a decree of the Council issued in the reign of Salome
Alexandra, every Israelite, proselytes and freed slaves included, was
required to pay at least one half shekel a year to the support of the
temple. H. Graetz, History of the Jews, II, 52.

82 G. A. Smith, Jerusalem:. .. .to 70 A.D., II, S22d-523b.

83 For Biblical descriptions see 2 Chronicles xxix. 19-36; Eccle-
siasticus 1. 1-21 ; Ezekiel xl-xli.


worship began with the slaughter of the sacrificial lamb.
Immediately after sunset the evening service of prayer was
closed." 84

Not only was the temple service fraught throughout with
symbolism, but the structure and organization of the temple
Educational made it a monumental object lesson teaching
Significance. the holiness, majesty and omnipotence of Yah-
weh. "If Josephus be right, the vast entrance of the porch
symbolized heaven ; the columns of the first veil, the ele-
ments ; the seven lamps, the seven planets ; the twelve loaves
of the Presence, the signs of the zodiac, and the circuit of

the year; the altar of incense that God is the possessor

of all things." 85

The multitude of private sacrifices required of every
Jew resulted in making the influence of the temple indi-
vidual as well as national. To visit Jerusalem and worship
in the temple became a life desire of every Jew. Thousands
of pilgrims journeyed thither each year. The three great
annual festivals, the Passover, the Pentecost, the Feast of
Tabernacles brought together Jews from all over the world.
Many such returned home inspired and strengthened in their
faith, and better instructed in the approved methods of re-
ligious observances. Thus through the temple religion and
religious education were unified, standardized and national-

The effect of the temple service in the first century of
the Christian era upon a Hebrew child has been beautifully
set forth by Edersheim and forms a fitting close to the dis-
cussion of the educative influence of the temple.

"No one who had ever worshiped within the courts of
Jehovah's house at Jerusalem could ever have forgotten the
scenes he had witnessed or the words he had heard. Stand-
ing in that gorgeous, glorious building, and looking up its
terraced vista, the child would watch with solemn awe, not

84 Condensed from M. Seidel, In the Time of Jesus, pp. 119-120.

85 G. A. Smith, Jerusalem:.. . .to 70 A. D., II, p. 257.



unmingled with wonderment as the great throng of white-
robed priests busily moved about, while the smoke of the
sacrifice rose from the altar of burnt-offering. Then, amid
the hushed silence of that vast multitude, they had all fallen
down to worship at the time of incense. Again, on those
steps that led up to the innermost sanctuary the priests had
lifted their hands and spoken over the people the words of
blessing ; and then, while the drink-offering was poured out,
the Levites' chant of psalms had risen and swelled into a
mighty volume ; the exquisite treble of the Levite children's
voices being sustained by the rich round notes of the men,
and accompanied by instrumental music. The Jewish child
knew many of these words. They had been the earliest
songs he had heard almost his first lesson when clinging
as a 'taph' to his mother. But now, in those white-marbled.
gold-adorned halls, under heaven's blue canopy, and with
such surroundings, they would fall upon his ear like sounds
from another world, to which the prolonged threefold blasts
from the silver trumpets of the priests would seem to waken
him. And they were sounds from another world; for, as
his father would tell him, all that he saw was after the exact
pattern of heavenly things which God had shown to Moses on
Mount Sinai ; all that he heard was God-uttered, spoken by
Jehovah Himself through the mouth of His servant David,
and of the other sweet singers of Israel." 88

86 A. Edersheim, In the Days of Christ, pp. 108-109.




"House and riches are an inheritance from fathers:
But a prudent wife is from Jehovah."

Proverbs xix. H

"A worthy woman who can find?
For her price is far above rubies."

Proverbs xxxi. 10.

Summary of Chapter.

The evidence seems to point to the fact that woman occupied a
relatively higher place in earlier than in later times. For the most
part, however, in and outside the home, her place was subordinate to
that of man. Her duties and her education were distinctly domestic.
In Biblical times no schools of any sort appear to have been open to
girls or women. Aside from the home, the institutions exerting an
educational influence upon girls and women were the synagogue, the
temple and festivals.

That woman held a relatively higher status in earlier
than in later times seems evident from the custom, then in
Woman in the vog 116 * of tracing the descent through the
Home and in mother 1 and from the part played in public
affairs by such women as Deborah, 2 Jael, 8 by
the "wise woman" of Tekoa 4 and by the wise woman of
Abel. 5 But even in the period of nomadism woman was
-distinctly a chattel and a servant, first of her father and

1 The descent of Esau's children is traced through their mothers,
Gen. xxxvi. Abraham married Sarah, the daughter of his father, but
not of his mother. See above, pp. 52 and 55, paragraphs on Rites of
Infancy and Circumcision (naming of children).

2 Judges iv and v. 3 Judges iv. 18-24.
*2 Samuel xiv. 1-23. *2 Samuel xx. 16-22.


then of her husband, who bought her from her father.
Progress in civilization which brought an ever-enlarging in-
tellectual sphere to man confined woman more and more to
narrow fields of religious and domestic duties, and in each
of these fields placed upon her restrictions which stamped
her as man's religious, intellectual and social inferior.

It is impossible to say when these restrictions began.

Some of them probably date back to tribal days and customs.

Among the most conspicuous restrictions of

Social Status. , , *, , r

later times were those debarring women from
wearing the phylacteries, from reciting the Shema, from en-
tering the main space of the synagogue. 6 Any consideration
of the religious restrictions and privileges of women must
take into account the principle which finds later development
in the Talmud, that women are excused from fulfilling all
positive commandments the fulfilment of which depends on
a fixed time or season. The reason for the exemption is
obvious. Woman, on account of domestic and physical con-
i ditions, would at certain times be incapacitated for per-
forming rites the observance of which is dependent upon a
particular time.

Peritz maintains that these restrictions we^e distinctly
a later development. He writes : "The Hebrews .... in the
earlier periods of their history, exhibit no tendency to dis-
criminate between man and woman so far as regards partici-
pation in religious practices, but woman participates in all
the essentials of the cult, both as worshiper and official ; only
in later time, with the progress in the development of the
cult itself, a tendency appears, not so much, however, to
exclude woman from the cult, as rather to make man prom-
inent in it." T

6 Carl H. Cornill, The Culture of Ancient Israel, p. 99.

7 I. J. Peritz, "Woman in the Ancient Hebrew Cult," Journal of
Biblical Literature, XVII, 114d. Peritz opposes the commonly ac-
cepted views of Stade, Benziger, Npwack and others. It is doubtful
whether the evidence he presents will be considered convincing at all


Even if Peritz's view be accepted, the fact remains that
in the home as well as in the synagogue the position of
woman was a subordinate one. The father was given the
chief place in religious services and rites. The training and
instruction of the sons from their earliest years were in his
hands. The mother might assist in the education of the sons
but only as a subordinate ; her primary duties were the edu-
Daughter cation of the members of the inferior sex, her

Less Esteemed daughters, and the care of her household,
than sons. Daughters were less esteemed and less wel-

come than sons: "In the Talmud we find three times the
saying: 'Well to him whose children are boys, woe to him
whose children are girls/ In the Old Testament there is
Reverence and nothing like this directly expressed, but with-
Respect for out doubt this is what the Israelite of old
Women. thought." 8 It must not be supposed, however,

that love and respect were lacking. Many passages reveal
the love and tenderness in which wife and mother were
held. A loving wife is declared to be a gift from Yahweh, 9
and a worthy woman is more precious than rubies. 10 To
express the highest degree of sadness the poet writes, "I
ideal of bowed down mourning, as one that bewaileth

womanhbod. his mother." 11 The following extract from
Proverbs xxxi contains the most complete formulation of
the ancient Hebrew ideal of womanhood. 12

"A worthy woman who can find?
For her price is far above rubies.

"The heart of her husband truSteth in her,
And he shall have no lack of gain.

8 C. H. Cornill, The Culture of Ancient Israel, p. 97a.

9 Proverbs xix. 14.

10 Ibid., xxxi. 10.

11 Psalms xxxv. 14; C. H. Cornill, The Culture of Ancient Israel,
p. 93.

12 Proverbs xxxi. 10-31.


"She doth him good and not evil
All the days of her life.

"She seeketh wool and flax
And worketh willingly with her hands.

"Slue is like the merchant-ships;
She bringeth her food from afar.

"She riseth also while it is yet night,
And giveth food to her household,
And their task to her maidens.

"She considereth a field, and buyeth it:
With the fruit of her hands she planteth a vineyard.

"She girdeth her loins with strength,
And maketh strong her arms.

"She perceiveth that her merchandise is profitable ;
Her lamp goeth not out by night.

"She layeth her hands to the distaff,
And her hands hold the spindle.

"She spreadeth out her hand to the poor ;
Yea, she reacheth forth her hands to the needy.

"She is not afraid of the snow for her household ;
For all her household are clothed with scarlet.

"She maketh for herself carpets of tapestry;
Her clothing is fine linen and purple.

"Her husband is known in the gates,
When he sitteth among the elders of the land.

"She maketh linen garments and selleth them;
And delivereth girdles unto the merchant.

"Strength and dignity are her clothing;
And she laugheth at the time to come.

"She openeth her mouth with wisdom ;
And the law of kindness is on her tongue.

"She looketh well to the ways of her household,
And eateth not the bread of idleness.


"Her children rise up, and call her blessed;
Her husband also, and he praiseth her, saying:

"Many daughters have done worthily,
But thou excellest them all.

"Grace is deceitful, and beauty is vain :
But a woman that feareth Jehovah, she shall be praised.

"Give her of the fruit of her hands ;
And let her works praise her in the gates."

In the above passage, the home is represented as woman's
highest sphere. There is not the slightest hint of the recog-
nition of any need for higher intellectual development. This
is all the more significant as the passage belongs to the Greek
period. The most extolled virtues of the woman here de-
scribed are piety, mercy, industry, foresight, thrift, sound
practical judgment and devotion to her husband's interests.
She spins and weaves wool, linen, silk and tapestry. She
carries on commercial enterprises such as buying a field
and selling linen garments. She superintends her house-
hold and is devout in the performance of her religious duties.

The home was par excellence the institution where girls
received their education. The schools, elementary and higher,
Educational were open to boys and men only. In some
instances girls may have received advanced in-
struction through private lessons given in the home, but if
such cases occurred at all they were undoubtedly rare.
Festivals, the temple and the synagogue were the chief in-
stitutions which exerted an educative influence upon girls
and women outside the home. Although women were not
counted as members of the synagogue and were not per-
mitted to lead in any of its services, nevertheless they were
zealous attendants at its services. Many recorded incidents
bear witness to the familiarity of the Jewish women with the
Scriptures. The term mater synagogae appears as a title
of honor beside the term pater synagogae among inscrip-
tions found in southern Italy. 13

13 W. Bacher, "Synagogue," Hastings' Bible Dictionary, IV, 640b.


Woman's chief functions were to honor God, care for
Aier home, train her children, serve and please her husband.
]Aim and Content The aim of girls' education was to produce
I jof Education. efficient and industrious home-makers, obe-
Ijdient, virtuous, godfearing wives and daughters. The de-
ll tails of girls' education varied from generation to generation
with changes in habitat, modes of living, social and religious
institutions and laws, but the principles determining its scope
and limits were to a large extent unchanging. From earliest
times it included domestic duties, music, dancing, industrial
\ occupations, religion, manners and morals. The importance
'of many of these activities and the nature and method of
the instruction and training has been sufficiently set forth
in preceding paragraphs to make any further presentation
here unnecessary. The sex division of labor and the ex-
clusion of women from many religious duties and respon-
sibilities resulted in many differences in the education of
boys and girls. The domestic and industrial occupations of
girls and women included cooking, spinning, weaving, dye-
ing, caring for flocks, guarding vineyards, gathering har-
vests, grinding grain, caring for children and managing

Later times added in some cases at least reading, writing
and enough knowledge of reckoning, weights, measures and
money to enable the prospective wife to carry on the busi-
ness of her household. It is impossible to state how early
and to what extent a knowledge of the three R's became
prevalent. The fact that Queen Jezebel is stated to have
written letters in Ahab's name to the elders of Naboth's
village 14 might seem an argument for a knowledge of these
arts by the women of the monarchical period. But as has
already been pointed out, Jezebel may have employed a
scribe, and the facts that she was a queen and that she was
a foreigner, a Phoenician, forbid any general inferences.

" 1 Kings xxi. 8.



The following brief bibliography has been selected with a view to
meeting the needs and interests of the general reader. It has been
felt that the accounts in such general histories of education as om-
payre, Graves, Laurie, Monroe are too well known to call for their
inclusion here. Owing to the limit set to the present account only a
few works dealing with post-Biblical times are given. Roman nu-
merals (unless preceded by the abbreviation Chap.) indicate the
number of the volume referred to; arabic numerals refer to pages;
the small letters, a, b, c and d, refer to the first, second, third and
last quarter of the page, e. g., I, 24d means Vol. I, p. 24, last quarter
of the page.


The Holy Bible, Containing the Old and New Testaments, (American
Revised Version), New York, 1898.

Apocrypha, 2 vols., edited by Henry Wace, D.D., London, 1888. [Es-
pecially Ecclesiastics and the Books of the Maccabees.]

The Babylonian Talmud, edited by M. L. Rodkinson, 11 vols., New
York, 1900. [Not a satisfactory translation but the only Eng-
lish text available.]


Barton, George Aaron, A Sketch of Semitic Origins, Social and Re-
ligious, New York, 1902.

Cornill, C. H. History of the People of Israel, 4th ed., Chicago, 1909.

Cook, Stanley Arthur, Old Testament History in article on "Pales-
tine," The Encyclopedia Britannica, -llth ed., XX, 605c-617b.

Ewald, Georg Heinrich August, The History of Israel (tr. from the
German), 8 vols., London, 1878-86.

Graetz, H., Geschichte der Juden von den altesten Zeiten bis auf die


Gegenwart, 11 vols., Leipsic, 1870-88. [New edition begun

Graetz, H., History of the Jews, From the Earliest Times to 1870,
6 vols., Philadelphia, 1891-98. [Not merely a translation of the
author's German work, but a revision and an extension, see I,
p. vi. VI contains complete Index and Tables. Footnotes are
omitted in the English work.]

Hommel, Fritz, The Civilization of the East, (tr. from the German
by J. H. Loewe), London, 1900.

Hosmer, J. K., The Jews in Ancient, Medieval and Modern Times,

New York and London, 1889.
Kent, Charles Foster, A History of the Hebrew People, New York,


Kent, Charles Foster, Narratives of the Beginnings of Hebrew His-
tory, New York, 1904.

Kent, Charles Foster, Israel's Historical and Biographical Narratives
New York, 1905.

Kent, Charles Foster, The Sermons, Epistles and Apocalypses of
Israel's Prophets, New York, 1910.

Kent, Charles Foster, Biblical Geography and History, New York,

McCurdy, James Frederick, History, Prophecy and the Monuments,

3 vols., New York and London, 1894-1901.

Olmstead, A. T., Western Asia in the Days of Sargon of Assyria,
722-705 B. C., A Study in Oriental History, New York, 1908.

Ottley, R. L., A Short History of the Hebrews to the Roman Period,

New York, 1901.

feritz, Ismar J., Old Testament History, New York, 1915.
Renan, Joseph Ernest, History of the People of Israel, 5 vols., (tr.

from the French by J. H. Allen and E. W. Latimer), Boston,


Sayce, Archibald Henry, Light from Ancient Monuments, 10th im-
pression, London, 1909. [Always interesting but to be used
with caution.]

Schiirer, Emil, History of the Jewish People in the Time of Jesus
Christ, 5 vols., 2d ed., New York, 1891.

Smith, Henry Preserved, Old Testament History, New York, 1906.

Wellhausen, J., Sketch of the History of Israel and Judah, 3d ed*
London, 1891.



Blach-Gudensberg, Das Pddagogische im Talmud, Halberstadt, 1881.

[A lecture, 26 pages.]
Cheyne, T. K., and Black, J. S., Articles on "Education" and on

"Government," Encyclopaedia Biblica.
Cornill, Carl Heinrich, The Culture of Ancient Israel, (tr. from the

German by various writers), Chicago, 1914. [Especially "The

Education of Children in Ancient Israel," pp. 68-100.]
Edersheim, Alfred, In the Days of Christ : Sketches of Jewish Social

Life, New York, 1876. [Chapters VI-VIII deal specifically

with education and related topics.]
Ellis, A. C, "Growth of the Sunday School Idea," Fed. Seminary,

1896, III, 375-377.
Ellis, G. Harold, "Origin and Development of Jewish Education,"

Fed. Seminary, 1902, IX, 50-62.
Ellis, G. Harold, "The Pedagogy of Jesus," Fed. Seminary, 1902, IX,

Giidemann, M., Quellenschriften zur Geschichte des Unterrichts und

der Erziehung bei den deutschen Juden. Von den dltesten,

Zeiten bis Mendelssohn, Berlin, 1891.
Guttmann, J., Die Scholastik des XIII. Jahrhunderts in ihren Be-

ziehungen sum Judentum und zur j'iidischen Liter atur, Breslau,


Imber, N. H., Education and the Talmud, Report of the U. S. Com-
missioner of Education, 1894-95, II,' 1795-1820. [Interesting
but not reliable.]

Imber, N. H., The Letters of Rabbi Akibah, or The Jewish Primer
Two Thousand Years Ago, Report of the U. S. Commis-
sioner of Education, 1895-96, I, 701-719.

Kandel, Isaac L., and Grossmann, Louis, "Jewish Education, Ancient,
Mediaeval, Modern," Monroe's Cyclopedia of Education, III,

Kennedy, A. R. S., "Education," Hastings' Bible Dictionary, I, 646b-

Kent, Charles Foster, The Great Teachers of Judaism and Christian-
ity, Boston and Chicago, 1911.

Kohler, Giidemann, Deutsch and Jacobs, (joint authors), "Educa-
tion," The Jewish Encyclopedia, V, 42a-48c.


Leipziger, H. M., Education Among the Jews, New York, 1890, (=
Vol. Ill, No. 6 of Educational Monographs, published by the
New York College for the Training of Teachers). [This
monograph is mainly an adaptation of Dr. Samuel Marcus's
essay "Zur Schulpadagogik des Talmud."]

Levy, Clifton H., "Education Among the Ancient Hebrews," Educa-
tion, XVII, 457-462. [Too general to be of much value. Prone
to moralizing for the benefit of modern educators.]

Lewit, J., Darstellung der theoretischen und praktischen Pddagogik
itn judischen Alter tume nach dem Talmud. Berlin, 1896.

Marcus, Samuel, Die Pddagogik des israelitischen Volkesi Part I,
"Die Bibel ein Buch der Erziehung"; Part II, "Zur Schul-
padagogik des Talmud," 2 vols., Vienna, 1877.

Raphall, Morris J., "Education Among the Hebrews, An Introduc-
tory Sketch," Barnard's American Journal of Education, 1856,
I, 243-246. [Too brief to be of much value. Uncritical]

Schechter, Solomon, Studies in Judaism, First Series, chapter on
"The Child in Jewish Literature," Philadelphia, 1911.

Simon, Joseph, L'education et I' instruction des enfants chez les an-
ciens Juifs d'apres la Bible et le Talmud, Leipsic, 1879.

Spiers, B., School System of the Talmud, London, 1898.

Strassburger, B., Geschichte der Erziehung und des Unterrichts bei
den Israeliten, von der vortalmudischen Zeit bis auf die Gegen-
wart. Bibliographie der judischen Pddagogik, Breslau, 1885.

Wiesen, J., Geschichte und Methodik des Schulwesens im talmudi-
schen Alter tume, Strassburg, 1892.



Abbot, G. F., Israel in Europe, New York and London, 1907.
Abrahams, Israel, Jewish Life in the Middle Ages, (chapters on

Games and the Theater), New York and London, 1896.
Askowith, D., The Toleration and Persecution of the Jews in the

Roman Empire, New York, 1915.
Baudissin, Wolf Wilhelm, Graf, Die Geschichte des alttestament-

lichen Priestertums, Leipsic, 1889.
Baudissin, Wolf, "Priests and Levites," Hastings' Bible Dictionary,

IV, 67-97.


Benny, P. B., Criminal Code of the Jews According to the Talmud,
London, 1880.

Briggs, Charles Augustus, The Higher Criticism of the Hexateuch,

New York, 1897.
Briggs, Charles Augustus, General Introduction to the Study of Holy

Scripture, New York, 1899.
Buhl, Frants Peder William, "Feasts and Festivals," The New Schaff-

Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, IV, 287c-289b.

Cheyne, T. K., Jewish Religious Life After the Exile, New York and
London, 1901.

Cornill, C. H., Prophets of Israel, (tr. by S. F. Corkran), Chicago.

Crozier, John Beattie, History of Intellectual Development on the
Lines of Modern Evolution, 2 vols., London, 1897-1901. [Es-
pecially Part III, "The Evolution of Judaism," Chaps. II, IV,
V, VI.]

Davidson, A. B., Old Testament Prophecy, edited by J. A. Paterson,
Edinburgh, 1904.

Day, Edward, The Social Life of the Hebrews, New York, 1901.
["The best single book in English covering the whole subject."]

Delitzsch, Franz Julius, Jewish Artisan Life in the Time of Jesus
According to Oldest Sources, (tr. by B. Pick), New York, 1885.

Doughty, C. M., Travels in Arabia Deserta, 2 vols., Cambridge (Eng-
land), 1909. [Very valuable for local color.]

Driver, S. R., An Introduction to the Literature of the Old Testa-
ment, New York, 1914.

Drew, G. S., "On the Social and Sanitary Laws of Moses," Contem-
porary Review, 1866, II (May to August), 514-534.

Duff, Archibald, The Theology and Ethics of the Hebrews, New
York, 1902.

Edersheim, Alfred, In the Days of Christ : Sketches of Jewish Social

Life, New York, 1876.
Engel, C., Music of the Most Ancient Nations, Particularly of the

Assyrians, Egyptians and Hebrews, London, 1864.

Fenton, John, Early Hebrew Life, A Study in Sociology, London,

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