Dangerous Sisters of the Hebrew Bible

Paperback
Fathers, sons, and mothers take center stage in the Bible's grand narratives, Amy Kalmanofsky observes. Sisters and sisterhood receive less attention in scholarship but, she argues, play an important role in narratives, revealing anxieties related to desire, agency, and solidarity among women playing out (and playing against) their roles in a patrilineal society. Most often, she shows, sisters are destabilizing figures in narratives about family crisis, where property, patrimony, and the resilience of community boundaries are at risk. Kalmanofsky discusses the ideal sister (represented by Miriam and by Rebecca), sister pairs (Rachel and Leah; Michal and Merav; Israel and Judah), incestuous sisters (Lot's daughters; Abraham's representation of Sarah; Tamar, victim of her brother's rape), and the dynamics of sisterhoods, including the daughters of Adam, Moab, the Land, Israel, Jerusalem, and at last the sisterly solidarity of Ruth and Naomi. In all these narratives, Kalmanofsky demonstrates, the particular role of sisters had important narrative effects, revealing previously underappreciated dynamics in Israelite society.