Be Your Own Bible Scholar
All you have to do is think like a Bible character.
BY: Interview by Laura Sheahen
When I read other exegetes' explanation of this, they concentrated on poor Abraham, poor Isaac, look what a fix they're in. Not one said anything about how the women felt.
I thought about it. It's true that no ruler has ever desired me (laughs). But twice it's happened that my husband and I have been dining out, and a man at a different winked at me repeatedly. Such that I had to say to my husband, "there's a man over there winking at me." I don't know what I expected my husband to do, and I'm sure his life didn't feel threatened. But I do know that I didnot
expect him to walk over to the man and say "You want her? You can have her."
Or "She's my sister."
Right. Once you're married, there's some possessorship, some obligation that develops. When Abraham said yeah, you can have her, she's my sister, and the king gave him a lot of oxen or whatever, I think those women feltbad
. So when I realized that, I thought "I wonder how they made their husbands pay." Because in the economy of marriage, you don't just forget about things like this.
When I looked at the text from that point of view, I could see not only how the women made them pay, but how the people they tricked made them pay--in one case, the Egyptians, in another, the Philistines. I could see how that trick worked out on the domestic level and national level. Also, I could see how it worked on the literary level. I understood why all three stories were necessary., It's very difficult to make people believe that this incident happened three times.
When you're just reading the Bible youdo
think, along with the source critics, that "uh oh, there must have been just several sources, and they were all put together. The redactor didn't feel competent to privilege any one over the other, so he threw in all three of these stories." But I worked it out that all three stories were necessary. It's like a game of 3-D chess: how players move on the top chess board also affects how they move on the second and third board. The three stories work together as a device. And I could understand why source critics were at a loss to explain why three different, but so similar, stories were included. The Bible's author has such a brilliant and subtle mind
You give the author a great deal of credit. In some places, you take issue with the notion that the Bible's author was just a bumpkin incapable of sophisticated stylistic devices like foreshadowing.
Absolutely. The more people look at the Bible, the more they see. It's just so brilliant. I'm in love with it.
Are there passages where you haven't been able to explain what seems like very crude writing, where you say "that must be a scribal error"?
I never say that. I say "I must be such a cluck."
There are passages where I say "I don't understand this but I don't reallycare
so much"--a war scene or whatever. And there are passages where I say "I don't understand this yet, but maybe someday something will happen in my life that will resonate, and I'll say 'Oh, that's what that meant.'"
I do think my explanations cover more of the ground without relying on scribal errors or saying, "this must be by a different author. "