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Book: The Hunt for Ancient Israel

Chapter: Remembering the Roles of Mother, Wives and Daughter in the Formation of the Identity and Story of Israel in Genesis 25–36

DOI: 10.1558/equinox.41636


In the Hebrew Bible, there are certain characters that plays a significant role in the development of social memory and national or ethnic identity in ancient Israel. A typical example is the patriarch Jacob, who also is identified as Israel and is used as a representation for the nation and people of Israel. This association between the patriarch and the nation makes him a stand out as main figure of cultural memory and the formation of a national identity in ancient Israel, forming what Edelman has coined a “core central site of memory”. A feature I have observed in the narratives in the so-called Jacob cycle in Gen 25-36, is that the female characters in Jacob’s family seems to play a prominent role and have considerable influence on the life direction and choices of the main protagonist. Thus in this article, I therefore want to explore how the three generations of women – his mother Rebekah, his wives Leah and Rachel and his daughter Dinah – each make their active contributions in shaping the destiny, and development of the character of Jacob in these stories. Through the employment of memory studies and intersectionality, I want to look at how the involvements of these female characters alludes to the larger thematic issues regarding Israel in the Hebrew Bible, such as divine selection, fertility and wealth, experience of exile and the relationship with neighboring people. By doing so, I hope I can recognize certain shared memories of the community and what it can tell us about its perceived identity, how it faced its challenges in the past and near present, and what it can expect to face in the present and the near future.

Chapter Contributors

  • Steinar Skarpnes ( - sskarpnes) 'Norwegian School of Theology, Religion and Society (PhD student)'