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Give Me Children or I Shall Die

Children and Communal Survival in Biblical Literature

By Laurel W. Koepf-Taylor

Publication Year: 2013

In the subsistence agricultural social context of the Hebrew Bible, children were necessary for communal survival. In such an economy, children’s labor contributes to the family’s livelihood from a young age, rather than simply preparing the child for future adult work. Ethnographic research shows that this interdependent family life contrasts significantly with that of privileged modern Westerners, for whom children are dependents. This text seeks to look beyond the dominant cultural constructions of childhood in the modern West and the moral rhetoric that accompanies them so as to uncover what biblical texts intend to communicate when they utilize children as literary tropes in their own social, cultural, and historical context.

Published by: Augsburg Fortress Publishers

Series: Emerging Scholars


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pp. C-C

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. i-vi


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xii

This book would never have reached its current form without the contributions of several people. Those who have supported and encouraged me along the way, as well as those who offered their criticism, have pushed me to put my best effort into expanding my research and articulating my arguments. The scholars who have read my work and shared theirs have given me depth and focus in...


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pp. xiii-xiv

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Biblical Children, Biblical Childhoods

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pp. 1-32

Biblical studies has increasingly come to understand itself as an interdisciplinary field. It engages the tools of archaeology, Assyriology, ideological and literary theories, philology, and a number of other areas of study so as to better access the biblical text. Each of these fields’s perspectives has left a mark on the academic study of the Hebrew Bible. This increasing disciplinary pluralism has...

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Interpreting (In)fertility

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pp. 33-64

Infertility is a common theme throughout the Hebrew Bible. Many families prominent in biblical narratives struggle with varying degrees of childlessness. This theme is not unique to the Hebrew Bible. Not only is it present in both testaments and across ancient mythologies, but it is also a challenge for many modern families. Because infertility is a familiar subject to the contemporary...

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The Value of Education and Enculturation

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pp. 65-92

The association between children and education is familiar for many. Modern Western young people from age three to eighteen, sometimes extended by postsecondary education at the upper age limit and daycare programs with educational elements at the lower, spend most of their day in some form of school. Educational theorist Elliot Eisner calculates, “Children spend a major...

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The Child and the Community at Risk

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pp. 93-124

In previous chapters, we have seen how offspring were essential for the survival of both the mišpaha (“family”) and the broader community of Israel in a very practical sense. The effect of the ancient association of children with livelihood that I have noted in texts regarding (in)fertility and education/enculturation is also evident in images of the loss of a child throughout biblical texts. The...

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pp. 125-130

The necessity of children for communal survival in the ancient world stands in contrast with the compulsory restriction of children’s value to the emotional realm that has come to dominate modern Western culture. Although the place of privilege that permits adults to retain a strict separation between children and the assumedly adult world of labor and suffering is limited to a very...


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pp. 131-144

Index of Subjects

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pp. 145-150

Index of Names

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pp. 151-154

E-ISBN-13: 9781451469790
E-ISBN-10: 1451469799
Print-ISBN-13: 9781451465631
Print-ISBN-10: 1451465637

Page Count: 224
Publication Year: 2013

Series Title: Emerging Scholars
See more Books in this Series

OCLC Number: 863824695
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Give Me Children or I Shall Die