Much has been written about Sarah and I have done my best to read as much as possible, particularly feminist scholarship. Not that other types of interpretation aren’t valuable as well. I do not argue for the primacy of any one critical methodology, be it literary, historical, structural, etc. I use a good insight where I find one.
I also assume, with most biblical scholars that the Bible is a communal product. Although I often refer to the “narrator” for the purposes of simplicity, I do not think that the Bible reflects a single viewpoint. Nowhere in the Bible is the multiplicity more evident than in the Sarah saga. And that is the challenge in understanding this very complex character.
The Documentary Hypothesis claims to have separated out the various strands of oral tradition and layers of editing. Those who subscribe to this theory find that the final canon collects these different strands without necessarily harmonizing them. The story of Abraham and Sarah is the case book example of how the various editorial layers were drawn together. Recent scholarship has become skeptical of the value of source analysis in understanding the Bible. The stories acquire new significance at each stage of Israel’s history. It is becoming clear that the different literary strands of the Bible were carefully knit together, each resonating with the others in word play, themes, symbolism and other literary devices. Rather than focus on each strand of the tradition separate from the others, I find the text more meaningful when examined as a whole. And the more I study the book, the more I have to agree that whoever the final redactors were, they were highly skilled in the art of making literature. And they had a great deal of meaning to convey.
Prior to Genesis 17 the names “Sarai” and “Abram” were used. However, I will use the more familiar names “Sarah” and “Abraham” throughout my article for purposes of clarity. Read more…