Patriarchal Narratives

Jonathan D. Safren yonsaf at
Wed Mar 14 06:01:47 EST 2001

Some thoughts while preparing course descriptions for next year:
As you all know, the righteousness of the Patriarchs is one of the central motifs of the Patriarchal Narratives. But have you given any thought to the possibility that trickery and deceit is also one of the central motifs?
There's a Hebrew article and much other literature on the subject in the Jacob cycle, so I need not go into detail (except to point out that Jacob and his mother are both punished for their deceitful acts) . But the motif also exists in the Abraham-Isaac narratives. Both claim (Abraham on two different occasions) that their wives are their sisters in order to save their necks. Sarah eavesdrops on the conversation of the three angels with Abraham, lies when accused of laughing, and is reprimanded.
Though the great faith of the patriarchs is also a central motif, they do exhibit lack of faith as well. Both Abraham and Sarah laugh when told by God that Sarah will bear a child in old age. In Gen. 15, Abraham demands proof of God that his descendants will inherit the Land.
Jonathan D. Safren
Dept. of Biblical Studies
Beit Berl College
44905 Israel 
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