The Story of Cain and Abel: Why did God Reject Cain’s Sacrifice?

Cain the elder becomes a farmer and Abel the younger becomes a shepherd (Gen 4:2). Each brings an offering: Cain brings to the LORD an offering of the fruit of the ground (Gen 4:3); and Abel brings the firstlings of his flock (Gen 4:4). But God accepts Abel’s offering. Accordingly, Cain is troubled (Gen 4:5-7), and kills his brother Abel (Gen 4:8). The story ends with God’s punishment of Cain (Gen 4:9-15). Why did God reject Cain’s sacrifice? Does God love a meat sarifice rather than a vegetable offering?

The text does not tell us the reason why God prefers to Abel’s offering. Thus, there have been several inferential attempts to answer the question:

  1. Both Luther and Calvin explained that Cain did not present his gift by faith. Their interpretation was based on Heb 11:4 (cf. 1 John 3:12; Matt 23:35). C. Westermann suggests that the opinion of New Testament writers is based on the Rabbinic traditions of late Judaism: “Abel is ‘the just one’ his sacrifice is offered ;out of faith” (Westermann, 319).
  2. The offering itself was insufficient, either becuase Cain was stingy or becuase he violated some implicit liturgical regulation (Skinner, 105).
  3. There is a cultural conflict between farmers and shepherds. R. de Vaux argues that Cain’s story affirms pastoralism of the patriarchs (de Vaux, 13-14).
  4. The story reflects that YHWH prefers a younger to an older sibling (Goldin, 32).

The first suggestion seems to be totally out of context since the text never metions the word “faith”; thus, this is an interpretation of the story. The second suggestion is plausible. The text says that Abel’s sacrifice was accepted becuase he offered “the firstlings of his flock, their fat portions” (Gen 4:4), while Cain brought “fruit of the ground.” Cain is being condemned for failing to bring first fruits (Deut 26:1-11). But it is also a conjecture. The third suggestion needs to be reconsidered in light of recent studies of nomadisim and its relationship to settled zones in the ancient Near East. It scarcely seems so. The fourth suggestion is restated by Joel S. Kaminsky who suggests that it is about divine favoritism and the exclusivism which repeats in the cases of Ishmael and Isacc, Jacob and Esau, and Joseph and his ten older brothers (Kaminsky, 23). He argues that “the Genesis narratives are well-suited as an introduction to biblical election theology.” He focuses on the divine favoritisim rather than the issue of offering:

Cain’s failure is not in relation to the offering he brought, but in his reaction to God’s mysterious favoritism of Abel. He allows his jealousy to get out of control, even after God has warned him of this danger. Rather than accept God’s choice of Abel, he tries to overcome Abel’s election by killing him (25).

But I’m convinced by F. A. Spina’s suggestion (“The Ground for Cain’s Rejection [Gen 4]: יadāmāh in the Context of Genesis 1-11″ ZAW 104/3 [1992]) that we need to consider the issue of the text in the larger context of Genesis 1-11. Cain’s offering has to do with its source: the ground which had been coursed by God (Gen 3:17-19) so that Cain’s offering is unacceptable. Indeed, the term “ground” is the key word in Genesis 1-11. Cain was a farmer who followed in the footsteps of his father Adam, the first farmer (Gen 2:5, 15). Spina further argues that human beings continued to to sin even after the flood that is the main theme of Genesis 1-11. But the cursed “ground” became the source of blessing and and a suitable offering to God (Deut 7:12-16). 

Reference List

De Vaux, R. Ancient Israel: Social Institutions I. 1965.

Goldin, J. “The Youngest Son or Where Does Genesis 38 Belong,” JBL 96/1 (1977).

Kaminsky, Joel S. Yet I Loved Jacob: Reclaiming the Biblical Concept of Election. Nashville: Abingdom Press, 2007.

Skinner, J. Genesis. ICC. 2nd. 1930.

Spina, F. A. “The Ground for Cain’s Rejection (Gen 4): יadāmāh in the Context of Genesis 1-11″ ZAW 104/3 (1992): 319-32.

Westermann, C. Genesis 1-11. Trans. John J. Sculion S. J. Minneapolis: Augusburg Publishing House, 1984.

Gustave Doré

Gustave Doré, 1866

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A Biblical Response to “Test Case for Libertarian Free Will”

A couple days ago Denny Burk published an interesting essay entitled Test Case for Libertarian Free Will. It is a reflection on YHWH’s commission to Moses (Exod 3:18-19). Burk points out YHWH’s two predictions:

(1) The Israelites will choose to follow Moses. [and] (2) Pharoah will choose to reject Moses’ directives.

With these two predictions Burk discusses the issue of “free will.” He invites readers to think about the following quesitons: “Were the Israelites and Pharoah free to choose other than what they did?”

I’d like to answer the questions from the teaching of the Wisdom of Ben Sira (Sirach). Richard J. Clifford denotes that one of the main teachings of Sirach is “divine sovereignty and human freedom [my emphasis].” It emphasizes an “obligation to reassert human freedom and responsibility” (Clifford, 130):

Do not say, ‘It was the Lord’s doing that I fell away’; . . . ‘It was he who led me astray’ (15:11-12); ‘Do not say, I am hidden from the Lord, and who from on high has me in mind?’ (16:17).

Ben Sira’s emphasis on human freedom is based on the nature of human beings (15:15) and the character of God (15:11-20). So my answer to Burk’s quesions is simply “yes.” Both the Israelites and Pharoah were free to choose what they would have chosen.

Reference List

Clifford, Richard J. The Wisdom Literature. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1998.

The Continuum History of Apocalypticism

I’m currently reading the book, The Continuum History of Apocalypticism, edited by Bernard J. McGinn, John J. Collins, and Stephen J. Stein (2003). This book consists of three main parts: (1) 8 article on the origins of apocalypticism in the ancient world; (2) 7 articles on apocalyptic traditions from late antiquity to cs 1800 C.E.; and (3) 10 articles on apocalypticism in the modern age. This book is a condensation of The Encyclopedia of Apocalypticism, 3 vols (1998). As the title of the book indicates, the topic of apocalyptic or apocalyptic movements may be the most continuous literary genre from ancient to modern times.

Continuum History of Apocalypticism (2003)

Continuum History of Apocalypticism (2003)

Since the word “apocalypticism” is ambiguous, the authors of this book have not attempted to impose a strict definition of apocalypticism, but to include a broad range of materials that may be regarded as apocalyptic in various aspects. For example, Richard J. Clifford traces the roots of apocalypticism in ancient Near Esastern myth, whereas Anders Hultgard provides an exposition of Persian apocalypticism.

In my view, the articles in this book do an excellent work on the variety of the genre “apocalypticism.” Their works invite us to think about the following questions: “How would you define the genre of apocalypticism?” “What do you see in both ancient and modern writings that could be cateorized to the genre?” Like all other encyclopedia contribute to their own fields, this book contributes to the discussion on the literature of apocalypticism.

The editors see that apocalypticism, throughout the history, not only has been the source of hope and courage for the oppressed, but also has given rise to fanaticism and millenialism. The following quotation may explain well their goal for collecting the articles to this book:

The essays in this volume seek neither to apologize for the extravagances of apocalytic thinkers nor to excuse the perverse actions of some of their followers. Rather, they strive to understand a powerful, perhaps even indipensable, element in the history of Western religions that has been the source of both good and evil, and still is today.

 Contents 

Part 1: The Origins of Apocalypticism in the Ancient World

1. The Roots of Apocalypticism in Near Eastern Myth (Richard J. Clifford, S.J.)

2. Persian Apocalypticism (Anders Hultgard)

3. From Prophecy to Apocalypticism: The Expectation of the End (John J. Collins)

4. Apocalypticism in the Dead Sea Scrolls (Florentino Garcia Martinez)

5. Messianism and Apocalypticism (James C. VanderKam)

6. The Eschatology of Jesus (Dale C. Allison, Jr.)

7. Paul and Apocalyptic Eschatology (M. C. de Boer)

8. The Book of Revelation (Adela Yarbro Collins)

Part 2: Apocalyptic Traditions from Late Antiquity to ca 1800 C.E.

9. Apocalypticism in Early Christian Theology (Brian E. Daley, S.J.)

10. Byzantine Apocalypses (David Olster)

11. Apocalypticism and Church Reform, 1100-1500 (Bernard McGinn)

12. Radical Apocalyptic Movement in the Late Middle Ages (Gian Luca Potesta)

13. Images of Hope and Despair: Western Apocalypticism ca. 1500-1800 (Robin Barnes)

14. Jewish Apocalypticism, 670-1670 (Mishe Idel)

15. Isalamic Apocalypticism in the Classic Period (Said Amir Arjomand)

Part 3: Apocalypticism in the Modern Ages

16. Apocalypticism in Central and South American Colonialism (Alain Milhou)

17. Apocalypticism in Colonial North America (Reiner Smolinski)

18. Apocalypticism in Mainstream Protestantism, 1800 to the Present (James H. Moorhead)

19.  Apocalypticism Outside the Mainstream in the United States (Stephen J, Stein)

20. The Growth of Fundamentalist Apocalyptic in the United States (Paul Boyer)

21. Apocalyptic Movement in Latin America in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries (Robert M. Levine)

22. The Messianism of Success in Contemporary Judaism (Aviezer Ravitzky)

23. The Resurgence of Apocalyptic in Modern Isalm (Abba Amanat)

24. Apocalypticism in Modern Western Europe (Sandra L. Zimdars-Swartz and Paul F. Zimdars-Swartz)

25. Apocalypticism in Eastern Europe (J. Eugene Clay)

Greek and Hebrew Devotional in BibleWorks 8

I recently installed BibleWorks 8 into my computer. Whenever I open the program an annoying pop-up windows shows up. I hate pop-up windows. But I have learned that it is a new tool in BibleWorks 8 callled “Greek and Hebrew Devotional.” I found it is a very helpful tool (not just a pop-up windows) for keeping my reading of Greek and Hebrew everyday. Here is what the BibleWorks Classroom Resources comments on Greek and Hebrew Devotional:

A new tool in BibleWorks 8 is the Daily Light devotional. This new tool can not only provide daily inspiration from the Bible, but can also be used to refresh and enhance knowledge of Greek and Hebrew.

Click Tip 2.2: Greek and Hebrew Devotional for details.

The Stories of Daniel: Are They Midrashim?

Some scholars have characterized the genre of Daniel 1-6 as a kind of midrash because the stories in Daniel are very similar to that of the story of Joseph in the book of Genesis. Hartman and DiLella, for example, say that the “wise courtier” is a “specific type of midrash” (Hartman and DiLella, 55). If so, we need to ask the question: What does midrash mean? The wikipedia defines Midrash as follows:

The term midrash can also refer to a compilation of homiletic teachings (commentaries) on the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible), in the form of legal and ritual (Halakha) and legendary, moralizing, folkloristic, and anecdotal (Aggadah) parts.”

This definition indicates that midrash can be understood as an interpretation of older scripture. The book of Jubilees would be regarded as an exegetical midrash. John J. Collins states that the reference of the Seventy Weeks (Dan 9:24-27) can be only considered as a midrash on the Jeremiah’s prophecy (Jer 25:11-12) in the book of Daniel, and argues that the stories of Daniel 1-6 are not midrash (Collins, 40). Thus, the question is this: Do the stories in Daniel 1-6 reinterpret or retell the Joseph story? 

Collins argues that the stories of Daniel are neither an interpretation nor a retelling of the Joseph story. He concludes that “the influence of Genesis is only one factor among many in the shaping of the tales” (Collins, 40). I agree with Collins’ conclusion that the stories in Daniel 1-6 are NOT an interpretation of the Joseph story, BUT they represent an influence of the Joseph story. This is not same as we can see in the case from the book of Jubilees. It is noteworthy, therefore, to notice the similarities between the two stories with the verbal correspondences which indicate that the author of Daniel was influenced from the story of Joseph. The affinities between the Joseph story and the stories of Daniel can be seen as follows:

  • Both Joseph and Daniel are taken into captivity
  • Both are courtiers of foreign kings
  • Both are good-looking (Gen 39:6; Dan 1:4)
  • Both are siad to have a divine spirit (Gen 41:38; Dan 5:11)
  • The interpretation of dreams rests with God (Gen 40:8; Dan 2:28) 8)
  • God makes known what will come to pass (Gen 41:25; Dan 2:28) 8)
  • Both are decorated with a chain around their neck (Gen 41:42; Dan 5:29)

Reference

Collins, John J. Daniel. Hermeneia.  Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1993.

Hartman, Louis F. and Alexander A. DiLella, The Book of Daniel AB. 23; Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1978.

The Formation of Ancient Israel

Who were the Israelites and where did they come from? The biblical archaeologist William Dever also asked those qustions in his recent book as reflected in the title of his book: Who Were the Israelites and Where Did They Come From? (2003). In recent decades, one of the most debated issues among both biblical scholars and archaeologists is the origin of ancient Israel. The Bible tells us that Abraham’s descendants escaped from the slavery in Egypt and crossed the Jordan River conquering the Canaanite cities. But there is a contradiction between the two books, Joshua and Judges. The book of Joshua reports the complete conquest (Josh 11:16-17) listing the conquered kings and cities; Jerusalem (Jebus), Hebron, and Taanach, whereas the book of Judges does not support the book of Joshua’s claim of an “all-at-once” military conquest of Canaan listing the unconquered territory (Judg 1:9); Jerusalem (Jebus), Hebron, and Taanach. How do we deal with this contradiction? In his book, What are They Saying About the Formation of Israel? (1998), John J. McDermott offers an excellent discussion on the contradiction of the two biblical accounts in which he discusses the “Three Classic Models.” It is well written, in my view, this is one of the best books on the issue of the formation of ancient Israel. I will summarize the “Three Classic Models” based on McDermott’s discussion on the models and then move to the recent scholarly view that the early Israelites were indigenous to Canaan.

The Three Classic Models

1. The Conquest Model

(1) Evidences

W. F. Albright and his students are mainly responsible for articulating the Conquest Model. Albright insisted that the Israelites were a people religiously and ethnically distinct from the Canaanites. This model most follows the biblical story: the Israelites came out of slavery in Egypt and invaded Canaan. The main process of the conquest was a successful military invasion by a unified people distinct from the Canaanites as the book of Joshua describes.

Albright cited archaeological evidences to support the historicity of the conquest. In the 13th century B.C.E., a pattern of city destructions, such as Debir, Bethel, Hazor, and Lachish, supports the conquest model. Albright attributed the destruction of those cities to the Israelites’ invasion.

W. F. Albright

W. F. Albright

(2) Evaluation of the Model

As I stated above, the literary evidence of Joshua and Judges contradict each other. Also, this model does not explain the similarlity and continuity between the Canaanites and the early Israelites because this model views the Israelites as a group distinct from the Canaanites. It is clear that the earliest written expressions of Israelite religion had much in common with Canaanite religion. The location of the new settlements (Israelite highland settlement) is difficult for this model to explain. If a group of people came in from the outside and successfully defeated the previous inhabitants, they would be expected to take over the best land.

2. The Peaceful Infiltration Model

(1) Evidences

Albrecht Alt and Martin Noth were responsible for the peaceful infiltration. According to Alt, the stories in Genesis about Abraham, Isaac and Jacob preserve some genuine historical memories of the nomadic people who became the Israelites. These nomads or semi-nomads had migrated into Canaan. They had previously worshiped different gods, who are reflected in the different titles used for the divine name in the stories of the patriarchs. At first they settled in the empty spaces away from the Canaanite cities, that is, in the highlands. With the decline of the Canaanite city-state system, they were able to occupy the lowlands as well. According to Noth, Israelites could not have been indigenous to Canaan because the location of their settlements, the hill country away from the Canaanite cities (Israelite highland settlement) and their way of living clearly indicate patterns of peaceful migration and the preservation of desert tribal traditions as reflected in the patriarchal stories (M. Noth, The History of Israel, 2nd ed. [New York: Harper & Row, 1960], 53, 68). The peaceful infiltration model appealed to people who were convinced that a more gradual process and it is also more compatible with the idea that the Israelites came from mixed background. A significant piece of evidence for this model is the presence of the shasu in the region who were mentioned frequently in Egyptian documents. The stories of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob having a similar lifestyle to the shasu, may support this model.

Martin Noth

Martin Noth

(2) Evaluation of the Model

The location of the new settlements (the highland settlements) is consistent with this model. Nomadic people setting down in new villages would prefer taking unoccupied land. Like the conquest model, however, this model must explain the similarities in culture and religion between the Israelites and the Canaanites because the materials of the new settlements show clear continuity with Canaanite material culture.

3. The Social Revolution

(1) Evidences

George Mendenhall and Norman Gottwald were responsible for the social revolution model. According the Mendenhall, the lower-class Canaanites were heavily taxed by the Canaanite kings, so they rose up in a violent revolt. The revolt was successful, and these people then established a new decentralized, egalitarian society in the highlands. Mendenhall attested that the Amarna letters, written by Canaanite kings to their Egyptian rulers during the 14th century B.C.E., mention a group of people called the hapiru. These hapiru had politically separated themselves from the city-state society and lived as outlaws in the countryside. Thus, there was a precedent for some form of social upheaval occurring in Canaan shortly before the beginnings of Israel. When the Israelites of the Exodus entered Canaan, Canaanites dissatisfied with the rule of the cities did what the hapiru had done earlier- they withdrew, except that this time they joined forces with the Israelites.

Goerge Mendenhall

Goerge Mendenhall

(2) Evaluation of the Model

This model says that the Israelites did not come in from the outside but were Canaanites themselves. Therefore, the evidence of continuity supports this model. Like the conquest model, however, this model does not explain why the new settlements were located in the poorer land. If these people successfully defeated the Canaanite kings, why did they not take over the best land? This model also need to explain why the Bible tells such a different story.

After the analysis of the three classic models, McDermott asks two major questions on which they differ: (1) Were the early Israelites indigenous to Canaan, or were they people who came from elsewhere? Both the conquest and peaceful infiltration models maintain that they came from elsewhere, while the social revolution model holds that they were Canaanites; and (2) Was the beginning of Israel mainly a violent or a peaceful process? Both the conquest and social revolution models say that it was violent, whereas the peaceful infiltration model says that it was mainly peaceful. I think that these two questions lead us to new theory that the indigenous origins of the early Israelites.

The View that the First Israelites Were Canaanites

Regarding the identity of the Israelites’ ancestors, there is a basic agreement among some scholars that the early Israelites were Canaanites. McDermott divides the scholars of this view into three groups: (1) the views of William Dever, Niels Peter Lemche, and Gösta Ahlström; (2) the view of N. Gottwald; and (3) the view of R. Coote. Among these three categories, I will summarize the views of scholars in the first category who describe a complex resettlement of Canaanites from the cities and rural areas into the new settlements of the highlands.

1. William Dever

William Dever maintains that the conquest model should be ruled out (William Dever, Recent Archaeological Discoveries and Biblical Research [Seattle: University of Washington, 1990], 56-61). He also disagree with the peaceful infiltration model because the material culture of the new settlements shows clear continuity with the Canaanite material culture.

William Dever

William Dever

Dever agrees with Volkmar Fritz (“the symbiosis model”) that many of the early Israelites (“the proto-Israelites”) could have been people who lived near the Canaanites for a long period of time (William Dever, “How to Tell a Canaanite from an Israelite,” in The Rise of Ancient Israel: Lectures presented at a symposium sponsored by the Resident Associate Program, Smithsonian Institution October 26, 1991 [Biblical Archaeology Society, 1992], 30). Based on Fritz’s argument, Dever concludes that it is best to see Israel as emerging from various backgrounds, namely, those of urban and rural Canaanites, some nomadic people, and a small number of escaped slaves from Egypt. Thus, the emergence of the Israelites should be seen as part of a transformation within the Canaanite society.

2. Niels Peter Lemche

Niels Peter Lemche

Niels Peter Lemche

Niels Peter Lemche sees that the beginning of Israel as an internal change within the Canaanite society (Niels Peter Lemche, Early Israel: Anthropological and Historical Studies on the Israelite Society Before the Monarchy [Leiden, Netherlands: E. J. Brill, 1985]; Ancient Israel: A New History of Israelite Society  [Shefield, England: Sheffield Academic Press, 1990]). He discusses the social and economic situation of Late Bronze Age Canaanites in the cities and on the farmland controlled by the cities. Like Dever, Lemche uses an internal process to explain the origin of the Israelites showing the continuity in material culture. According to Lemche, apart from the Sea Peoples on the coast, there is no direct evidence of waves of immigrants coming into Canaan. Lemche argues that the new settlements that became Israel as consisting mainly of the peasant farmers around the cities, who would have made up 90 percent of the population of Canaan.

3. Gösta Ahlström

Gösta Ahlström discussed the identity of the first Israelites in his 1986 book, Who Were the Israelites? and in The History of Ancient Palestine (1993). Ahlström rejected the three classic models, maintaining that the first Israelites were mostly Canaanites from the cities and rural lowlands. He drew information from the Merneptah Stele (See Ralph W. Klein’s (my teacher) explanation on The Merneptah Stele).

He pointed out that the names of the defeated peoples listed on the mounment are arranged in a ring structure. The first and last places are large regions; the next ring inside includes Canaan and Israel, representing smaller territories; at the center of the structure, individual city-states are mentioned- Ashkelon. Gezer and Yeno’am. Canaan and Israel, therefore, represent the two parts of Palestine. The word Canaan normally refers to the urban lowlands, then the use of the term Israel must be a designation for the highlands. Additionally, Israel is written with the sign for a people rather than a city or nation, meaning that this group of people was seen by Egypt as more loosely organized. Robert Coote also argues that the reference of Israel is the indication of people rather than a state. Coote discusses that Israel must have been a tribal organization that existed alongside the city-state of Canaan. Ahlström concluded that the pottery and architecture of the Israelites is in continuity with Canaanite material culture. The following chart shows the ring structure (chiastic structure) of the Merneptah Stele as Ahlström argued:

Ring Structure of the Merneptah suggested by Ahlstrom

Ring Structure of the Merneptah suggested by Ahlstrom

 Reference List

Callaway, Joseph A. Callaway and J. Maxwell Miller, “The Settlement in Canaan: The Period of the Judges,” in  Ancient Israel From Abraham to the Roman Destruction of the Temple. Revised and Expanded Edition  (Biblical Archaeology Society, 1999).

McDermott, What are They Saying About the Formation of Israel? (New York, Mahwah: Paulist Press, 1998).

Hagar’s Story as a Story of Class Conflict

One of my favorite stories in the Old Testament is the Hagar’s story found in Genesis 16. This story has been read as an etiological tribal story of the Ishmaelites after H. Gunkel suggested, but it is a story on “the struggle between the two women” (Van Seters, 192-96). What struggle is this story? Is this a class struggle or a family struggle? The story demonstrates a family struggle of Abram’s two wives as presented in the story. It reflects an ancient family conflict, consisted of a beginning, a body, and a resoultion. The three main characters in this story, Hagar, Sarai, and Abram, are husband and wives. John Goldingay sees that the story falls into three scenes: (1) Sarai’s scheme of surrogate motherhood (vv 2-6), (2) Hagar’s encounter with the angel (vv 7-14), and (3) the birth of Ishmael (v 15). He diagrams the structure of the story as follows:  
The Story Structure of Hagar's Story
The Story Structure of Hagar’s Story (Goldingay, Genesis 16-50, 4)

Abrams’ family conflict begins with the problem of his wife Sarai’s barrenness because of her “old age” and ends with the solution stating Abram’s “old age.” In the midst of the story, however, Hagar is portrayed as a pivotal character in all three scenes: Scene 1- Hagar and Sarai; Scene 2- Hagar and an Angel; and Scene 3- Hagar and Ishmael.

What does this story of family conflict disclose about the life of ancient Israel? In ancient civilization, a woman’s self-worth and social status revolved around her family. While Sarai is considered superior in many aspects, her barrenness brings shame to her family. Sarai’s dialogue with Abram in Gen 16:2 demonstrates well this ancient custom: “You see that the LORD has prevented me from bearing children; go in to my slave-girl; it may be that I shall obtain children by her” (NRSV, my emphasis). Sarai sees this as the social custom of having a child through a surrogate (see C. F. Fensham, “The Son of a Handmaid in Northwest Semitic,” VT 19 [(1969]: 312-21).

But the story reveals more a class conflict than a family struggle; it seems that a family struggle comprises many social aspects of conflict. In her article, “A Mistress, A Maid, and No Mercy” in Just A Sister Away (San Diego, California: 1988), Renita J. Weems describes the different social status of the two women: 

Comparision between Sarai and Hagar

Comparision between Sarai and Hagar

Hagar is more higher status in that of the ancient society as reflected in the story by contrasting Hagar’s fertility and Sarai’s barrenness. However, Hagar is Sarai’s property. The story could be understood as a story of ethnic prejudice that was made worse by economic and social exploitation as Weems states as follows:

Like our own situation, the stroy of the Egpytian Hagar and the Hebrew Sarai encompasses more than ethnic prejudice. There is a story of ethnic prejudice by economic and sexual exploitation. There is a story of conflict, women betraying women, mother conspiring against mothers. Theirs is a story of social rivalry (p. 2).

Weems stresses that the social equality has always been problem not just for black against white women, but all races, colors, and ethnic background, as Sharon P. Jeansonne proposes to read Hagar’s story as a story of “powerless foreigner.” In American history, this would be comparable to the rich white landowner and the poor black slave.

I assigned my students to write a reflection paper on Weems’ article in the inaugural week of the first black president, Barack Obama. Most students appreciated that they were assigned to read the article since they currently face to the transitional period from the Bush administration to the Obama administration. One of the parts of the paper should be included the concepts/ideas of the article for analyzing our contemporary society. Many students mentioned the major successes by electing their first black president, Barack Obama. I quote one of the students’ refleciton on the article:

I have pondered since the inauguration on how significant of an event this is, and in the Middle East, and terrorism in our nations to elect this man as president, and hope for a new way of life.

The students believe that America is in store for a new begining after the inauguration of their new president.

Reference List

Jeansonne, Sharon Pace. The Women of Genesis: From Sarah to Potiphar’s Wife. Minneaspolis: Fortress Press, 1990: 43-52.

Van Seters, John. Abraham in History. Yale Univ. Press, 1975.

Weems, Renita J. “A Mistress, A Maid, and No Mercy,” Pages 1-21 in Just A Sister Away. San Diego, California: Lura Media, 1988. 

Wenham, Gordon J. Genesis 16-50. WBC. Dallas : Word, Incorporated.