CORVÉE

CORVÉE
CORVÉE, forced labor imposed by a conqueror on the conquered, or by a government on the citizens under its jurisdiction. Corvée labor is one of the most obvious features of the centralism in ancient Near Eastern states; it manifests itself in vast building projects requiring the labor of large forces of manpower over lengthy periods. The type of labor differed from place to place and from period to period. Various terms indicative of this function are also to be found in the context of landownership, occupations, conditions of tenancy, etc. Women as well as men could be drafted for forced labor, and even animals were requisitioned for some purposes. On the other hand, certain individuals, members of certain crafts, and various social strata and settlements might be exempted from the corvée, as a personal or collective privilege. The diversity in the forms, terminology, and origins of the corvée is likewise reflected in the biblical text. Three separate terms are used, but they are sometimes juxtaposed, a sign that the original distinctions have become blurred (see Ex. 1:11–12): (1) mas oved (Gen. 49:10; Josh 16:10, etc.; "compulsory labor"), and sometimes mas alone (e.g., I Kings 4:6; 5:27). This expression is derived from Canaanite massu, "corvée worker," attested at el-amarna and alalakh . A Hebrew seal dating from the seventh century B.C.E. reads "belonging to Pelaiah who is in charge of the mas." (2) sevel (= Akk. sablum), a term found in the Mari documents (18th century B.C.E.). Its particularized meaning is a labor unit for emergency use. It appears three times in the Bible, I Kings 11:28; Psalms 81:7; and Nehemiah 4:11. Cognate nouns from the same stem are also found in scripture: sivlot ("burdens": Ex. 1:11; 2:11; 5:4–5; 6:6–7); sabbal ("burden-bearer": I Kings 5:29; II Chron. 2:1, 17; 34:13); subbolo ("his burden": Isa. 9:3; 10:27; 14:25). (3) perekh, sometimes said to be a term, Mesopotamian by origin, for forced labor; but its general meaning in the Bible seems to be "harshness" or "ruthlessness" (Ex. 1:11–12; Lev. 25:43, 46; Ezek. 34:4). The children of Israel became familiar with corvée labor (Ex. 1:11, et al.) in the course of their wanderings, inasmuch as the slavery in Egypt was a prolonged period of compulsory labor. During the Israelite conquest corvée labor was one of the indications of the nature of relations between the Canaanite population. According to the biblical account, sometimes the Israelites were tributaries of the Canaanites and sometimes the position was reversed (Gen. 49:15; Judg. 1:33, et al.). There are those who think that by compelling the Gibeonites to become "hewers of wood and drawers of water" (Josh. 9:21) Joshua was in fact imposing on them corvée labor. Corvée labor became a permanent institution only in the period of the monarchy. According to II Samuel 20:24, the minister who was "over the levy" was one of the highest officials in David's regime. It seems that he was a foreigner, attached to the royal staff for his expertise. The same official served Solomon and Rehoboam (I Kings 4:6; 12:18; II Chron. 10:18). Possibly, at first, only foreign elements in the country were obliged to submit to corvée labor (I Kings 9:20–22; II Chron. 8:7–9); only later was Solomon forced to demand compulsory labor from the population to carry out the vast building projects he had undertaken. Some scholars have supposed that mas oved was the term applied when foreign manpower was used and that sevel was indicative of an Israelite labor force. Yet such a distinction is not sufficiently evident, even if the corvée imposed by Solomon upon the tribes of the House of Joseph was called sevel (I Kings 11:28). Mendelsohn suggested that mas (or sevel) was the corvée exacted for short periods from freemen. According to his view, the term mas oved means "state slavery." The Bible states that Solomon sent thirty thousand men to hew cedars in Lebanon for the building of the Temple, in monthly shifts of ten thousand (I Kings 5:26–28). Similarly, he had at his disposal some seventy thousand "corvée workers" and eighty thousand "hewers in the mountains" (I Kings 5:29ff.). There is a hint of the continuation of the corvée tradition in the reign of Asa (I Kings 15:22). Asa built Geba Benjamin with stones taken by his subjects from Ramah: "Then King Asa made a proclamation unto all Judah; none was exempted.…" (i.e., none could refuse the corvée). According to II Chronicles 34:13, King Josiah repaired the Temple with the labor of sabbalim ("corvée workers"). There was also corvée labor during the period of the return to Zion. The wall around Jerusalem was built by corvée laborers (Neh. 4:11). -BIBLIOGRAPHY: Artzi, in: BIES, 18 (1954), 66–70; Biram, in: Tarbiz, 23 (1951/52), 127–42; Maisler (Mazar), in: BJPES, 13 (1947), 105–14; Evans, in: Revue d'Assyriologie, 57 (1963), 65–78; Mendelsohn, in: BASOR, 167 (1962), 31ff.; J. Nougayrol, Le palais royal d'Ugarit, 3 (1955), index; Oppenheim, in: JQR, 36 (1945/46), 171 ff.; de Vaux, Anc Isr, 126–7, 138–40, 218–20; Held, in: JAOS, 88 (1968), 90–96. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: M. Powell (ed.), Labor in the Ancient Near East (1987); CAD M/I I: 327; S. Ahituv, Handbook of Ancient Hebrew Inscriptions (1992), 126; S.D. Sperling, The Original Torah (1998), 54–56. (Hanoch Reviv)

Encyclopedia Judaica. 1971.

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  • corvée — [ kɔrve ] n. f. • 1160; lat. pop. corrogata (opera), de corrogare « convoquer ensemble » 1 ♦ Dr. anc. Travail gratuit que les serfs, les roturiers devaient au seigneur. Astreint à la corvée. ⇒ corvéable. 2 ♦ (v. 1460) Fig. Obligation ou travail… …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • Corvée — seigneuriale La corvée (du latin corrogare, « demander ») est un travail non rémunéré imposé par un seigneur/maître à ses dépendants, qu ils soient de statut libre ou non. Elle est un rouage essentiel du système politico économique… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • corvée — CORVÉE. sub. fém. Certain travail et service dû par le Paysan ou Tenancier à son Seigneur, soit en journées de corps, soit en journées de chevaux, de boeufs et de harnois. Corvée ordinaire. Grande corvée. Fâcheuse coryée. Il doit tant de corvées… …   Dictionnaire de l'Académie Française 1798

  • corvée — CORVÉE. s. f. Il y en a qui prononcent Courvée. Certain travail & service, que le sujet ou tenancier doit à son Seigneur, soit en journée de corps, soit en journée de chevaux, de boeufs & de harnois. Corvée ordinaire. grande corvée. fascheuse… …   Dictionnaire de l'Académie française

  • corvée — mid 14c., day s unpaid labor due to a lord by vassals under French feudal system (abolished 1776), from O.Fr. corvee (12c.), from L.L. corrogata (opera) requested work, from fem. pp. of L. corrogare, from com with (see COM (Cf. com )) + rogare to …   Etymology dictionary

  • corvee — corvée mid 14c., day s unpaid labor due to a lord by vassals under French feudal system (abolished 1776), from O.Fr. corvee (12c.), from L.L. corrogata (opera) requested work, from fem. pp. of L. corrogare, from com with (see COM (Cf. com )) +… …   Etymology dictionary

  • corvée — /fr. kɔʀˈve/ [vc. fr., corvée «(opera) richiesta»] s. f. inv. 1. servizio 2. (fig.) fatica, ufficio, commissione, sfacchinata, faticata, strapazzo, sgobbata, tour de force (fr.) CONTR. riposo …   Sinonimi e Contrari. Terza edizione

  • Corvee — Cor vee (k?r v or v? ), n. [F. corv[ e]e, fr. LL. corvada, corrogata, fr. L. corrogare to entreat together; cor + rogare to ask.] (Feudal Law) An obligation to perform certain services, as the repair of roads, for the lord or sovereign. [1913… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Corvee — (fr., spr. Korweh), 1) Frohndienst; 2) Last, Beschwerde …   Pierer's Universal-Lexikon

  • Corvée — (franz.), Frondienst; daher Corvéedienst in Österreich der Pikettdienst (gewisse Dienstverrichtungen, die der Wachtoffizier nicht übernehmen kann) an Bord …   Meyers Großes Konversations-Lexikon

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