On the Women of Genesis

Don’t miss the story of the women of Genesis. There is no escaping the observation that the Old Testament comes from a patriarchal culture where men were the composers, the transmitters and the intended audience of most literature. Let me suggest that while the Old Testament does come from and display the characteristics of a patriarchal culture, it is subversive of the male dominant worldview in important respects.

You can see this most clearly by looking at who is dominant in shaping several key turning points in the Genesis story. Think for a moment about Genesis 16, the story of Abram, Sarai and Hagar. It isn’t Abram who initiates the Hagar and Ishmael part of the family tree; the coming together of Abram and Hagar is the brainchild of Sarai. Abram is the passive character in the chapter as first Sarai then later Hagar shapes the events of the chapter. Abram is almost a passive bystander in his own story.

The same thing happens with respect to Isaac and Rebecca in Genesis 27. When it is time for Isaac to pass down the family blessing to his son, it’s Rebecca who takes events into her own hands and makes sure the blessing goes to Jacob rather than Esau. The family line running through Jacob was her decision, Isaac is simply an instrument in her hands.

The women of Genesis, when compared to other great stories in antiquity, are at times dynamic and powerful characters in their own right. They suggest that Father doesn’t always know best, and that God brings about Divine ends through all kinds of people. You have to take the time to see them, but they are an important part of the story of the Old Testament.