MARTHA , daughter of Boethus, mentioned in Mishnah Yev. 6:4 (cf. Sifra, Emor ch. 2:6) as a widow who was betrothed to *Joshua b. Gamla. According to this Mishnah, Joshua, who was subsequently appointed high priest, was nevertheless permitted to consummate the marriage. Martha's sons are mentioned in Tosef. Yoma 1:14 as priests serving in the temple, but it is not clear whether these are the children of Joshua b. Gamlia, or of her first husband, who may also have been a priest. A tannaitic midrash already uses Martha as a paradigmatic figure of an extremely wealthy widow (cf. Yer. Ket. 5:11, 30b), and the Talmud (Yev. 61a) relates that she paid King Yannai a small fortune in order to assure that Joshua b. Gamlia would be appointed as high priest. In the aggadot concerning the fall of Jerusalem (Git. 56a), Martha is portrayed as one of the wealthiest women in the period preceding the destruction of the Temple (70 c.e.), who was forced during a time of famine to venture out on her own to seek a morsel of food. When some excrement came into contact with her skin she died, thus fulfilling the prophecy of Moses in Deut. 28:56. Presumably the traditions concerning Miriam, daughter of Boethus (Lam. R., 1:47), whose family rose to a position of prominence in Herod's time, are also a later literary development of the tannaitic traditions concerning Martha, daughter of Boethus.
Schuerer, Gesch, 2 (19074), 273; Graetz, Hist, 2 (1949), 249, 306; Klausner, Bayit Sheni, 5 (19512), 22–23, 291.
[Stephen G. Wald (2nd ed.)]