Social and Economic Life in Second Temple Judea. By Samuel L. Adams. Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2014. ISBN: 978-0-6642-3703-5. xiii and 252 pages. Paper. $35.00.
The task Adams accepted is a difficult and crucial one: how do we understand the social and economic realities in Judea, from about 530 B.C.E. to the destruction of the Second Temple (dedicated in 516 B.C.E., remodeled and expanded by King Herod, and destroyed by the Romans in 70 C.E.). During these six centuries Judea fell under the following imperial powers: the Persians, Alexander the Great, the Ptolemies, the Seleucids, and the Romans. The only exception to imperial domination was the century during which the Maccabees and their successors ruled.
Adams arranges his results in five chapters: family life and marriage, the status of women and children, work and financial exchanges, taxation and the role of the state, and the ethics of wealth and poverty in wisdom literature and apocalyptic. His principal sources are the Bible, including the Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha, Josephus, the Elephantine archive (fifth century), the Zeno Papyri (third century), the Dead Sea Scrolls, and archaeology. The biblical evidence is very helpful, but of course social and economic information is often incidental to the biblical authors' agendas.
Family life was patrilocal (the wife moved into the husband's household) and patrilineal (inheritance passed from father to son). Originally the husband paid a bride price to the wife's father, but eventually a dowry system developed, with payments from the wife's family to the husband's family. In addition to theological issues, there were also financial consequences to intermarriage with outsiders, with a potential of net loss of financial resources. Adams notes the significant roles played by women in subsistence farming and also in cubic matters. Children...