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Violence and Personhood in Ancient Israel and Comparative Contexts$
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T. M. Lemos

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780198784531

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: February 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198784531.001.0001

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Visiting the Iniquity of the Father on the Son

Visiting the Iniquity of the Father on the Son

Violence and the Personhood of Children in Ancient Israel

Chapter:
(p.132) 5 Visiting the Iniquity of the Father on the Son
Source:
Violence and Personhood in Ancient Israel and Comparative Contexts
Author(s):

T. M. Lemos

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/oso/9780198784531.003.0005

This chapter assesses whether infants and children were considered persons in ancient Israel. The chapter demonstrates that biblical evidence for the personhood of children is sometimes contradictory. While many texts show that the securing of progeny was highly valued and that children were cared and mourned for, other texts lead one to question whether children were seen as persons at all. First, the evidence that some Israelites sacrificed infants raises questions about the personhood of children, as do texts that speak of fathers having the ability to sell their children and of children being punished for the sins of their fathers. On the whole, while the evidence for the personhood of children is mixed, there are good reasons to argue that, of the major social groups in ancient Israel, children were seen as having the least claim to personhood.

Keywords:   history of childhood, child sacrifice, slavery, sexual abuse, personhood, family, biblical law

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