While we talk today of the fluid and tangled nature of the many “blended” families in our society, the complexity of modern family dynamics does not even approach that of Jewish antiquity. The marital paradigm was the first marriage, and this paradigm was expressed in cultural, mythic, and ritual terms. Despite the meagre evidence, the demographics alone make it clear that most marital situations were not paradigmatic. Widowhood and divorce, both followed by remarriage, would have been common among Jews in antiquity. The possibility of levirate marriage and continuation of polygyny would have created families far more complex than we find in our own society. Our evidence even attests to stable nonmarital relationships, although their quantity and the details of they worked are obscure.

Michael L. Satlow, Jewish Marriage in Antiquity (Princeton, NY & Oxford, UK: Princeton University Press, 2001), 195.

Advertisements