Saturday, August 7, 2010
Sarai and the sparcity of female characters
Up until now, women have gotten short shrift in the Bible. Sarai is only the second female character of any significance after Eve. At first, I thought she was only the second one to even have a name mentioned in the Bible. But I was wrong. If you skip back to Genesis 4 you will see that Lamech, a sixth-generation descendant from Cain, is said to have married two women - Adah and Zillah - and then it even goes on to mention that Zillah had a daughter named Naamah. But there is nothing else said about them and it is unclear why they are given names in the Bible and all other women are just listed as "wife" or "daughter", if they get mentioned at all.
One woman who really gets no respect is the wife of Noah. If you believe as the literalists do that all mankind was wiped out by the Great Flood and the human race had to start over again, then Noah's wife is essentially the second Eve. And yet, she doesn't even get a name. She is just "wife" and is largely ignored throughout the entire Noah story.
So Sarai, wife of Abram, is the first woman since Eve to get any real narrative attention in the Bible, and she will set a pattern that will be repeated over and over and over again.