April 02, 2007

Breadcrumb: How much is that baby in the window?

Lev. 27 discusses how to redeem various things that have been dedicated to the lord. Among these things are "people." (Lev. 27:1-8) In a manner reminiscent of other ancient and medieval law codes, the text gives a monetary value for various types of people, divided by age and gender. The most valuable people, monetarily, are men between the ages of 20 and 60, valued at 50 silver shekels. Females of the same age are only worth 30 shekels. The least valuable members are girls aged 1 month to 5 years, valued at only 3 shekels. Throughout the passage, men are more valuable than women, and adults in the prime of life are more valuable than children or the elderly.

Contrarily, in the early-medieval laws of the Salian Franks, pregnant women are the most valuable, followed by boys under ten, women of childbearing age, and free Frankish men in the king's service. Ordinary, free Frankish men were only worth a third of the value of their female counterparts of childbearing age. If only the Israelite women had waited a few centuries, they would have found themselves much more highly valued.

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