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Womens Spirituality: the Biblical figure of Sarah - Research Paper Example

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This paper examines the importance of the figure of Sarah (also called Sarai and Sara), who appears in various ancient scriptures including the Hebrew Bible and the Quran as the wife of Abraham…
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Womens Spirituality: the Biblical figure of Sarah
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Download file to see previous pages Three separate approaches are taken in order to tease out the different dimensions of meaning that attach to this complex character. First there is an examination of her origins and the incestuous terms of her marriage to Abraham. Secondly there is a study of the miraculous birth of her son Isaac and the difficult issue of her role in relation to Abraham’s second wife Hagar. The there are tensions in this relationship both in terms of the customs of that ancient time, and in terms of modern moral and spiritual interpretations. Thirdly there is a brief exploration of the meaning that Sarah has in later times, with reference to feminist theories. This essay concludes with a summary of why Sarah’s is one of the most significant women figures in the Hebrew Bible. Sarah’s origins and marriage to Abraham Sarah is introduced in the Hebrew Bible as Abraham’s half-sister and at first she bears the name Sarai. They share the same father, but they each have a different mother. Hepner (2003) points out that there is a prohibition against incest of this nature in Leviticus 20:17, although this ruling involves a concept that is difficult to define: “And any man who takes his sister, the daughter of his father or mother and sees her nakedness and she sees his nakedness, it is ???, loving-kindness-disgrace, and they shall be cut off before the eyes of their people. He uncovered the nakedness of his sister; he must bear his punishment” (Hepner, 2003, p. 148) This concept of loving kindness which is also disgrace is referred to by Hepner as a “Janus word” because like the Greek god with the two faces, it indicates two opposite meanings at the same time. In the Biblical narrative, Abraham certainly relates to her as a wife, and they set off together on their journey towards Canaan. Several times it is mentioned that Sarai is barren. It is clear that Sarai is very beautiful, because Abraham is worried about other men being jealous, and potentially seeing him as a rival in their attraction to Sarah. In order to minimize this possibility, he advises Sarai to tell the any powerful suitors that she is Abraham’s sister. This subterfuge and it works for a while until Abraham finally reveals the truth to the Egyptian Pharaoh, explaining that she was indeed his sister, as well as his wife. The couple travels their way, having been promised by God that one day Abraham will father a son and be the head of many generations of descendants. This issue of incestuous marriage can be explained with reference to the different types of Jewish prohibition that occur in Leviticus. Some crimes, such as murder, are so serious that they are punishable by death. Others, on the other hand, are regarded as not being subject to the justice of a human court, but rather are reserved for a divine penalty that is between the individual and God. The phrase at the end of the law which states that the person must bear his own punishment is an indication that this secondary kind of transgression applies (Hepner, 2003, p. 154). In terms of the larger scale narrative of the origins of the tribes of Israel, it is possible to read this passage as an object lesson in the different purposes that operate on earth among ordinary human beings, and on a divine place, between God and his chosen people. Sarai is from the same paternal line as Abraham, and together they will provide the foundation for the whole of Jewish history to come. This divine purpose is higher than the customary rules for ordinary people. Birth of Isaac and the relationship with Hagar This brings us to the miraculous birth of Isaac, which is another indication that the relationship between Sarai and Abraham is not just an everyday case ...Download file to see next pages Read More
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