Sex Rewarded, Sex Punished: A Study of the Status "Female Slave" in Early Jewish Law

Sex Rewarded, Sex Punished: A Study of the Status "Female Slave" in Early Jewish Law

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Diane Kriger

Series: Judaism and Jewish Life
ISBN: 9781934843482 (hardcover)
Pages: 424 pp.
Publication Date: May 2011

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A masterful intersection of Bible studies, gender studies, and rabbinic law, Diane Kriger explores the laws pertaining to female slaves in Jewish law. Comparing biblical strictures with later rabbinic interpretations as well as contemporary Greco-Roman and Babylonian codes of law, Kriger establishes a framework whereby a woman’s sexual identity also indicates her legal status. With sensitivity to the nuances in both ancient laws and ancient languages, Kriger adds greatly to our understanding of gender, slave status, and the matrilineal principle of descent in the ancient Near East.


A lawyer by training, Diane Kriger (PhD University of Toronto, 2001) had a strong interest in the classics, ancient languages and Talmudic studies. Dr. Kriger wrote or contributed to several articles on slavery and the status of women in ancient Judaism and in the surrounding societies. In 1997-1998, she co-founded and served as associate editor of Women in Judaism: A Multidisciplinary Journal, an academic journal published electronically. Dr. Kriger edited texts and articles on biblical studies, and–most recently–she edited a new Siddur for Holy Blossom Temple in Toronto. Dr. Kriger died in December 2008.


Diane Kriger’s theoretical foray into the thick of the debate on how to study the legal systems of antiquity, how to compare them, and how to distinguish external influences from internal development, will prove to be a landmark in academic discourse. The work is also a testament to her personal courage, integrity, and pursuit of justice.
— Harry Fox, Department for the Study of Religion, University of Toronto
Diane Kriger’s work offers a dynamic model of the range of female status from slave to free found in classical and late antiquity. Her legal training and her expertise in ancient law and rabbinics combine to demonstrate functional equivalence between legal systems, clarify legal oddities and promote a new theory of the transition from patrilineal to matrilineal decent in Jewish law.
— Tirzah Meacham, Department of Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations, University of Toronto
Diane Kriger’s scholarship was meticulous and perceptive. Her unique academic background in both law and the ancient Near East provided her with unparalleled means to understand the alwa and the position of slave women in ancient Israel. Her work not only fills a vital space for studies in ancient Jewish law, but also has a place in the interpretation of modern Jewish law.
— Jennifer Hellum, Department of Classics and Ancient History, University of Auckland