Near-Eastern Nomad Tribes
The patriarch had undeniable authority over the members of his family. His wife carried his name and lived on his property. She called him "Ba'al" (master). In the Ten Commandments, a wife was listed as property along with slaves, cattle and donkeys (Exodus 20:17), just as the children were, whereby the sons were welcomed as heirs and successors. In contrast, the father was permitted to sell his daughter into slavery or prostitution.
The man enjoyed his sexual freedom, but not the woman. He could take second wives. The sons of his second wives and prostitutes could be recognized as legitimate and take on all rights if his first wife failed to bear a son. If the man died without leaving a son who had come of age, his widow had to marry one of his uncles or brothers, so that his property remained in the family. The woman was highly respected as a mother however. Women were initially able to reach a high status as priestesses in the cult surrounding the goddess of fertility. But these cults were forced into non-existence by the rise of the monotheic religions.
Following the end of armed conflicts, it was the custom to kill the defeated men, while their women were raped and put into slavery, so that their productive powers (work) and their reproductive powers (bearing children) could be misused for the benefit of the individual tribe.
[Author: Dorette Wesemann, Editor: Ragnar Müller]