Mar 22, 2008

Introduction to Biblical Women Series

Here are a few salient points from our class on Jan 24 2008.   If anyone has questions or comments, whether you  attended or missed please let me know.
Note that after talking to a few folks after class, I have moved the start time to 7:30.
Next class will be Feb 7.  Class schedule is on the second page.

Our focus of study will be the women of Ruth, so that in the month of May we can study the book of Ruth in preparation for Shavuot.   A hoped for outcome of the class will be that those students who wish to will present a teaching at our community Shavuot celebration.   Rabbi Liza is looking forward to presentations on the women of Ruth.   We’ll talk more about this later.  Beth will help with that preparation..

We will try and cleanse our palettes of rabbinic and modern commentary so that we can come at the biblical text with fresh eyes.

Penina distributed a biblical family tree and we discussed it.  This family tree will remain a useful tool as we continue our studies.  Later, in Deuteronomy, the men heed a council – here the patriarch reigns supreme.  Abraham kicks out all his kids but Isaac.  In Deut, a man is not allowed to favor any son over the first born.  When individual patriarchs are supreme, often the women can have considerable influence.   When society is tightly bound with legal hierarchies, women are not so able to be effectual.

Our first class focused on the branch from Lot, leading through the Moabites to Ruth.   When we study Ruth we will want to have some understanding of the meaning of Ruth as a Moabitess. 

We looked at the following texts or briefly went over the content
  • Gen 13: 1-13:  Abraham and Lot separate.  Lot chooses Sodom, which appears to him to be the best land.  In this section it is already mentioned that Sodom is wicked.   Is there a hint that Lot is making bad choices?
  • 14:12:  War on Sodom and Lot is captured
  • 14:16  Abram rescues Lot
  • 18:16  Lord will destroy Sodom
  • 19:8:  Lot tells his townspeople “You may do what you please with my daughters.”  Lot is perhaps not such a good guy?
  • 19:23 and ff  Sulfurous fire on Sodom and Gomorrah.  Sodom is destroyed, but Lot escapes to a cave the hills with his two daughters.  They must be very young.  It’s possible that Lot and his daughters dwell in the cave for some time before the daughters lie with their father.
  • Gen 19:30-38:  the story of Lot’s daughters.  If you did not attend class, read this verse in particular.
    • What causes the daughters to lie with their father?   Are they wicked, are they trapped in societal demands that they be mothers, are they trying to preserve society?   Do they have agency or are they helpless?   It does not seem that their mind is on their own pleasure.
    • Is it possible Lot would not have recognized his own daughters?   How could he have produced seed if he was really drunk?   This is in fact known type of phenomena in mythology and other religions.
    • Do we see men in the bible being tricky?  Maybe not – they generally have the power and don’t need to be tricky.
    • Is this a story a woman would have told, or a man?   
    • Is the story actually an attempt to fill in history, i.e. to explain why the Israelites disparage the Moabites and Ammonites?
  • Deut 2:9-11, 18-23: God gave children of Lot their own land, never calling for extermination., but they must be separate, both Moabites and Ammonites.
  • Deut 2:29 – it appears the Moabites did aid the Israelites
  • Deut 23:4-7  No Moabite or Ammonite will be admitted to congregation of the Lord because they  did not offer water to Israel during desert wanderings and hired Balaam to curse.   We noted that this passage is preceded by rules about members and men not lying with their fathers’ wives.   Does this tie the injunction against Moabites to the incest of Lot and his daughters?  Not clear.
  • Num 25  The people profaned themselves by whoring with Moabite women who caused the Israelites to worship Baal-peor.  (Phineas spears a Midianite woman).   Is this a man’s or a woman’s story?  Note that there is some conflation of Midianite and Moabite, which we did not try to sort out.  We noted that is it the Israelites who die, not the Moabite or Midianite women, except for one.

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