This contribution reviews the various interpretations offered to understand the obscure pronouncement in Jer 31,22b: “A woman will encompass a man”. One of the most popular proposals, which is also the most plausible, is to regard the utterance as an example of gender role reversal. What the proponents of this viewpoint fail to demonstrate satisfactorily, however, is how this saying in Jer 31,22b relates to the multiple other ancient Near Eastern cultural contexts (literary, social-political and religious) where the same mundus inversus principle is likewise attested. It is argued that this broad backdrop is a sine qua non for the proper understanding of this enigmatic passage.
Clues from rabbinic literature suggest that several factors were at play in establishing the early Jewish canon, including the dating, theology, and language of disputed texts. Another vital yet overlooked criterion is adherence to patriarchy, and a careful analysis of the Books of Judith and Tobit illustrates how these texts failed to meet rabbinic standards for gender roles. Most notably, the countercultural figures of Judith and Anna would have scandalized the rabbis by their encroachment on traditionally male spheres of activity, their freedom of movement inside and outside the home, and their ability to chastise male characters without repercussions.