Hagar and the Levite's concubine: reclaiming Biblical women through employing a womanist lens

Masters Thesis

Shehla Ahmad 2022. Hagar and the Levite's concubine: reclaiming Biblical women through employing a womanist lens. Masters Thesis Canterbury Christ Church University School of Humanities and Educational Studies
AuthorsShehla Ahmad
TypeMasters Thesis
Qualification nameMasters by Research

In this study, two separate biblical narratives, Genesis 16 and Judges 19, are interpreted from a womanist perspective. The study builds on the principles of feminism and black theology by prioritizing the voices, experiences, and traditions of women of colour. This allows us to re-read these texts to emphasize the role and significance of women in them, in contrast to a tradition of patriarchal readings which overlook and sometimes distort these characters. The writers of the texts were themselves writing from a presumed
patriarchal culture, and I do not intend to justify the mistreatment of these women. However, I believe that
these stories, read carefully, can still be liberatory texts in their implicit condemnation of the mistreatment
of these women.

In Genesis 16, we are told of the hardships and sufferings Hagar endured due to her gender, race, and forced
position within society; however, throughout my thesis, I have demonstrated how God raised her status from that of a slave girl to the mother of nations. Previous interpretations tended to victimise or demonise Hagar's character; however, I propose that although the narrator does not explicitly condemn the actions, s/he appears to be implicitly disapproving of Abraham and Sarah and instead shows that God is looking after Hagar. I do not dismiss the mistreatment that she endured, but I demonstrate how it led to a positive
outcome since that was God's plan for her, not the mistreatment.

Judges 19 ends with a worse outcome for the woman involved than Genesis 16, but I use it as evidence that patriarchy is still problematic. Judges 19 recounts the story of the concubine, which speaks volumes about the fate of women in a patriarchal society, in which misogynistic values prevail. The narrative presents an unnamed woman who has been betrayed, abused, raped, murdered, and dismembered and, as a result, the story ends with the terrible consequences of civil war. According to the narrator, if this particular incident is described as having truly horrendous consequences, then it appears that the narrator believes that it is a truly horrendous incident. This implies moral disapproval from the narrator. In this dissertation, a womanist viewpoint is used to interpret both passages to demonstrate how rereading them from a womanist perspective offers a stronger understanding of difficult passages in the Bible.

KeywordsGenesis 16; Judges 19; Womanist perspective; Hagar
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Deposited07 Nov 2022
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