27 Oct 2008 5:00pm - 6:30pm CRASSH Seminar Room, 17 Mill Lane


Dr. Diana Lipton (Theology and Religious Studies, King’s College, London)


In Exodus 23:26, God makes a significant promise, conditional on Israel’s rejection of Canaanite worship: ‘No woman in your land shall miscarry or be barren’.   Presumably, Israel failed to keep her part of the bargain; there were barren women in the land, before Sinai (Sarah) and after (Hannah).  But why did God specify women when he made this promise?  Were there no impotent or infertile men in ancient Israel?  We know about men who had daughters, but failed to produce a male heir.  Zelophehad had daughters but no sons, and his daughters negotiated a hereditary holding among their father’s kinsmen (Num. 27:7).  Sheshan gave his daughter to his Egyptian slave, Jarha, and her son Attai continued Sheshan’s family line (1 Chron. 34-35).  And we know about men who died childless, perhaps infertile, perhaps not.  Ideally, their brothers married their wives, and the first son they had was accounted to their dead brother’s name (Deut. 26:5-6).  We know, too, that levirate marriages such as these sometime failed, leading women to take more extreme measures to secure descendants for their dead, childless husbands (Gen 38:12-19, Ruth 4:7-10). But were there options for childless men who did not die?  I read the story of Joseph's encounter with Potiphar's wife as the exploration of one option: Potiphar the Egyptian eunuch employs Joseph the Hebrew slave to impregnate his wife, mirroring Sarah's enlisting of Hagar the Egyptian slave to provide a child for Abraham (Genesis 16).
Diana Lipton's chequered career includes an English degree at Oxford, investment banking, full-time motherhood, and a Cambridge PhD on dreams in Genesis. In 2007, she left Newnham College, Cambridge for a Lectureship in Hebrew Bible and Jewish Studies at King's College London. Her approach to the Bible reflects her background in Literature, a passion for rabbinic texts, a practical education 'on the Bima' in the Jewish community, and insights gleaned from the many students she has been privileged to teach. She is co-editor with Janet Soskice of an Oxford Reader in Feminism and Theology (2003), and her most recent book is Longing for Egypt and Other Unexpected Biblical Tales (Sheffield Phoenix Press, 2008).


All welcome. No registration required.

Part of the Cambridge Interdisciplinary Reproduction Forum (CIRF)  




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