Women in Biblical Tradition
Azusa Pacific University
Dr. Kathryn Smith
January 22, 2003
"Women as Matriarchs"

I.   Sarah
A.   The Ancient Israelite Family
1.   Patriarchy
a.   The head of the household is the king
b.   This of course makes the primary wife the queen
c.   The women has a huge role of carrying on the family (kingdom)
2.   Family concerns first for the narrator
3.   Thus women have great importance
B.   The Promise
1.   God wants to establish a covenant with Isaac
2.   To Abraham and Sarah (Gen 17:21)
a.   Sarah doubts the promise
i.   She has a voice
ii.   She blames God
iii.   She takes this issue on herself
b.   Sarah orders her husband to take it into their own hands (Gen 16:1-3)
c.   She may have thought that God was going to provide a child in one manner, but really wanted to provide a child in a different manner (the old well God gave us a mind and the ability to solve our own problems)
d.   When Sarah is given power and authority she definitely misuses it (Gen 16:6)
e.   They have a fairly "equal" relationships
C.   The "Sacrifice of Sarah"
1.   Gen 12 and 20 (Isaac & Rebekah Gen 26)
Gen. 12:10 Now there was a famine in the land; so Abram went down to Egypt to sojourn there, for the famine was severe in the land. 11 And it came about when he came near to Egypt, that he said to Sarai his wife, "See now, I know that you are a beautiful woman; 12 and it will come about when the Egyptians see you, that they will say, This is his wife'; and they will kill me, but they will let you live. 13 "Please say that you are my sister so that it may go well with me because of you, and that I may live on account of you." 14 And it came about when Abram came into Egypt, the Egyptians saw that the woman was very beautiful. 15 And Pharaoh's officials saw her and praised her to Pharaoh; and the woman was taken into Pharaoh's house. 16 Therefore he treated Abram well for her sake; and gave him sheep and oxen and donkeys and male and female servants and female donkeys and camels. 17 But the LORD struck Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai, Abram's wife. 18 Then Pharaoh called Abram and said, "What is this you have done to me? Why did you not tell me that she was your wife? 19 "Why did you say, She is my sister,' so that I took her for my wife? Now then, here is your wife, take her and go." 20 And Pharaoh commanded his men concerning him; and they escorted him away, with his wife and all that belonged to him.
2.   Why does it happen twice? And once again with Isaac?
a.   Maybe it only happened once and they got adapted into their tradition so they used it over and over again to describe certain problems in their history
i.   Whose name you put in there aren't very significant
ii.   The story may be archetype - what is the imagery (God's relationship with Israel)
a)   They went into Egypt with nothing and came out of Egypt with a lot
b)   Plagues were dealt to Egypt in response to their evil
c)   Sarah is 65 years old, why is she so beautiful
1.   Illustrates that she is desirable as Israel is desirable to God
2.   Does this mean it happened
d)   Abraham = God (Guardian of Sarah)
iii.   What does it say about Patriarchy?
a)   Andy's Interpretation: the narrative is neutral on this issue because it would be like using capitalism as an example of today (there are both pros and cons)
b)   Stories like these may be a form of check and balances
c)   The focus of stories like this is survival, so social injustice takes a back seat to survival
1.   When you are in an oppressed culture, patriarchy works
2.   When you are not in an oppressed culture, patriarchy should not work
iv.   The story with out the names
a)   She is taken into captive
b)   The house that takes her suffers because of it
c)   She is eventually set free
d)   This is the story of the Exodus
b.   Maybe God actually inspired the writers to tell the truth, and Abraham and Isaac were just stupid (just like Paul)
II.   Hagar
A.   Receives "a promise," not the "the promise"
B.   She is the oppressed of the oppressed
1.   Gender oppression because she is a woman
2.   Social oppression because she is a slave
3.   National oppression because she is a foreigner
C.   Another archetype for Israel
D.   Hagar's Promise (Gen 16:7-14)
Gen. 16:7 Now the angel of the LORD found her by a spring of water in the wilderness, by the spring on the way to Shur. 8 And he said, "Hagar, Sarai's maid, where have you come from and where are you going?" And she said, "I am fleeing from the presence of my mistress Sarai." 9 Then the angel of the LORD said to her, "Return to your mistress, and submit yourself to her authority." 10 Moreover, the angel of the LORD said to her, "I will greatly multiply your descendants so that they shall be too many to count." 11 The angel of the LORD said to her further, "Behold, you are with child, And you shall bear a son; And you shall call his name Ishmael, Because the LORD has given heed to your affliction. 12 "And he will be a wild donkey of a man, His hand will be against everyone, And everyone's hand will be against him; And he will live to the east of all his brothers." 13 Then she called the name of the LORD who spoke to her, "Thou art a God who sees"; for she said, "Have I even remained alive here after seeing Him?" 14 Therefore the well was called Beer-lahai-roi; behold, it is between Kadesh and Bered.
1.   God tells her to go and submit to her authority (He does not overturn her)
2.   God is talking and promising to a gentile woman a child
a.   This is drastically out of "character"
b.   He talks about multiplying your seed - this is increasing her status
c.   Abram obeys Hagar by naming him Ishmael
III.   Rebecca (Rivkah)
A.   An endogamous marriage is the destiny
1.   Marriage within a close kinship
2.   You knew what you were getting into - you knew what God they worshipped
3.   This was considered an optimal marriage (the most desirable)
4.   The maids were not endogamous marriages/relationships
B.   Rebecca must agree to the marriage - what does this tell us?
1.   This was something her father should have setup
2.   Maybe this implies there are different kinds of patriarchy
3.   There opinions counted - this was not Athenian Patriarchy of the 1st century BC
4.   This story very much mimics the story of Abraham - having to step out in faith and leave the family for God's will for His life
C.   The motif of barrenness
1.   Israel sees themselves as a people of promise but then it really isn't working out
2.   Israel's very existence is dependent upon these women producing more children
D.   Rebecca receives a promise (Gen 25:22-23)
Gen. 25:22 But the children struggled together within her; and she said, "If it is so, why then am I this way?" So she went to inquire of the LORD. 23 And the LORD said to her, "Two nations are in your womb; And two peoples shall be separated from your body; And one people shall be stronger than the other; And the older shall serve the younger."
E.   Rebecca the Trickster
1.   Rebecca did not have the authority to tell her husband who will serve who (not like today where she could be like, "Honey, I love you, but you are wrong," etcÉ)
2.   God never tells her it is up to her to carry out this plan, she takes it upon herself
3.   How you read the story is deeply rooted in your social location
a.   Come from a society of power = does not support scheme or deceit
b.   Come from an oppressed society = like the underdog coming through
F.   Rebecca's Legacy