The Myth of Birthing the Hero: Heroic Barrenness in the Hebrew Bible

The Myth of Birthing the Hero: Heroic Barrenness in the Hebrew Bible Biblical Interpretation 16 (2008) 154-178 www.brill.nl/bi Biblical Interpretation orn © Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, 2008 DOI: 10.1163/156851508X262948 e Myth of Birthing the Hero: Heroic Barrenness in the Hebrew Bible Rachel Havrelock University of Illinois at Chicago Abstract Motherhood in the Hebrew Bible has been celebrated as indicative of female strength as well as derided as patriarchy’s primary entrapment. Somewhere between the two, birth figures as a moment of narrative focus on female characters during which they reformulate their status. Birth seems to travel with its companion theme of barrenness as most central biblical characters undergo a prolonged period of infertility and an attendant struggle to conceive. Employing theories of the hero pattern, this essay argues that the movement from barrenness to fertility is a mode of female initiation into a relationship with the divine. While an explicit covenant promises men innu- merable descendants and founder status, it is not realized until a parallel female cove- nant is forged. Where God makes the covenantal overture to men, women demand recognition through speech and deed. Barrenness motivates articulations that reveal concern with female memory and legacy and actions that distill the characters of indi- vidual women. Female volition draws divine http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Biblical Interpretation Brill

The Myth of Birthing the Hero: Heroic Barrenness in the Hebrew Bible

Biblical Interpretation, Volume 16 (2): 154 – Jan 1, 2008

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Publisher
Brill
Copyright
© 2008 Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, The Netherlands
ISSN
0927-2569
eISSN
1568-5152
DOI
10.1163/156851508X262948
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

Biblical Interpretation 16 (2008) 154-178 www.brill.nl/bi Biblical Interpretation orn © Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, 2008 DOI: 10.1163/156851508X262948 e Myth of Birthing the Hero: Heroic Barrenness in the Hebrew Bible Rachel Havrelock University of Illinois at Chicago Abstract Motherhood in the Hebrew Bible has been celebrated as indicative of female strength as well as derided as patriarchy’s primary entrapment. Somewhere between the two, birth figures as a moment of narrative focus on female characters during which they reformulate their status. Birth seems to travel with its companion theme of barrenness as most central biblical characters undergo a prolonged period of infertility and an attendant struggle to conceive. Employing theories of the hero pattern, this essay argues that the movement from barrenness to fertility is a mode of female initiation into a relationship with the divine. While an explicit covenant promises men innu- merable descendants and founder status, it is not realized until a parallel female cove- nant is forged. Where God makes the covenantal overture to men, women demand recognition through speech and deed. Barrenness motivates articulations that reveal concern with female memory and legacy and actions that distill the characters of indi- vidual women. Female volition draws divine

Journal

Biblical InterpretationBrill

Published: Jan 1, 2008

Keywords: WOMEN; MYTHOLOGY; MATRIACHS; HEROINES; FERTILITY; HEBREW BIBLE; HERO PATTERN

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