The Bible both prizes Sarah and disparages her. Her high valuation is reflected by the following events:
- In Egypt, Abraham does not order Sarah but pleads for her to pretend she is his sister;
- Sarah demands that Abraham impregnate Hagar for the benefit of building up Sarah;
- Abraham complies with Sarah’s demand for the expulsion of Hagar and Ishmael;
- God tells Abraham to listen to Sarah;
- Sarah’s name was changed from Sarai, just as Abraham’s was from Abram, with the accompanying promise that “she shall give rise to nations; kings of peoples shall come from her” (17:16) – in other words the covenant blessings and promises apply to her (Evans);
- a whole chapter is devoted to Sarah’s burial.
In addition, the rabbinical tradition was eager to see Sarah as a prophetess whose spirit of prophecy was even greater than Abraham’s!
Women as Property
As part of a whole section of rape legislation, Deut. 21 outlines the laws for taking women as booty during war. Sometimes it is difficult to read the Bible, particularly the rape texts and it’s easy to relegate the Bible to “long ago and far away.” Vastly different from our time, so the argument goes; most ancient cultures stole wives and the Israelites were just fitting in with their neighbors. “[T]he abduction of women by men for marital purposes is a familiar feature in nation-building myths of the ancient world” (Zlotnick, p.47). Furthermore, most often the rape laws and stories are classified as seduction, marriage or love. A traditional commentator “emphasizes the need for marriage as the law’s noble intention. That the marriage is coerced does not become problematic for the commentators” (Scholz, p.109). Here is a typical example of this kind of thinking: Continue reading