Why Not Her?

A Form and Literary-Critical Interpretation of the Named and Unnamed Women in the Elijah and Elisha Narratives

by Hye Kyung Park (Author)
©2015 Monographs XX, 291 Pages
Series: Studies in Biblical Literature, Volume 164


In this book, Hye Kyung Park examines the functions and roles of the women who appear in the Elijah and Elisha narratives. The named and unnamed female characters in the Elijah and Elisha cycles frequently drive the plot of these narratives, giving a voice to important theological, historical, and social concerns that are otherwise overlooked. Consequently, this book elaborates upon the critical meaning of women’s voices through a close interpretation of the roles and functions attributed to women in 1 Kings 17:8–24; 2 Kings 4:8–37, 5, and 8:1–6.
These female figures and presences include the Zarephath woman in 1 Kings 17:8–24, twenty-nine third-person feminine verbs to emphasize the Shunammite woman’s frequent appearances in 2 Kings 4:8–37, the Israelite girl as a prophetess in 2 Kings 5, and the Shunammite woman’s return in 2 Kings 8:1–6. Even though the various women in 1 Kings and 2 Kings have not been named throughout the biblical traditions, their presence and actions were crucial for advancing the prophetic narratives concerning Elijah and Elisha. Indeed, the women are crucial to the Elijah and Elisha narratives, both in terms of advancing the plot of the narratives and defining the roles of the prophets presented within.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • Advance praise
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of Contents
  • Acknowledgments
  • Editor’s Preface
  • List of Abbreviations
  • Introduction
  • Chapter One: Methodology
  • Form Criticism
  • Narrative Criticism
  • Chapter Two: The Named Prophets: Elijah and Elisha
  • Scholarship on the Deuteronomistic History
  • Martin Noth
  • American School
  • Frank M. Cross
  • Richard Nelson
  • Gary N. Knoppers
  • Göttingen School
  • Rudolf Smend
  • Walter Dietrich
  • Timo Veijola
  • Mark O’Brien
  • Marvin A. Sweeney
  • Scholarship on the Elijah and Elisha Traditions
  • Martin Noth
  • Alan Hauser
  • Steven L. McKenzie
  • Marsha C. White
  • Susanne Otto
  • Chapter Three: The Named Queen: Jezebel in 1 Kings 18, 19, and 21
  • Introduction
  • Historical Studies on Jezebel
  • Jezebel and the DtrH: Why Is She Named?
  • Jezebel in 2 Kings 9:30–39
  • Feminist Interpretation of Jezebel
  • Jezebel as an Israelite Queen
  • Jezebel as a Foreign Queen
  • Jezebel in 1 Kings 18:1–19:21
  • Structure
  • Genre
  • Setting
  • Intention
  • Jezebel and Naboth’s Vineyard in 1 Kings 21
  • Structure
  • Genre
  • Setting
  • Intention
  • Chapter Four: The Unnamed Woman 1: The Zarephath Woman, the Foreign Prophetic Announcer, in 1 Kings 17:8–24
  • Introduction
  • Structure of 1 Kings 17
  • Genre
  • Setting
  • Intention
  • Chapter Five: The Unnamed Woman 2: The Shunammite Woman, the Narrative Leader, in 2 Kings 4:8–37
  • Introduction
  • Historical Studies on the Shunammite Woman
  • Rabbinic Tradition
  • Feminist Interpretation
  • Structure
  • Genre
  • Setting
  • Intention
  • Chapter Six: The Unnamed Woman 3: The Israelite Girl, as the Prophetess, in 2 Kings 5
  • Introduction
  • Historical Studies on the Naaman Narrative
  • Structure
  • Genre
  • Setting
  • Intention
  • Chapter Seven: The Unnamed Woman 4: The Shunammite Woman’s Return in 2 Kings 8:1–6
  • Introduction
  • Historical Studies on 2 Kings 8:1–6
  • Structure
  • Genre
  • Setting
  • Intention
  • Conclusion
  • Notes
  • Bibliography
  • Index
  • Series index

← x | xi → Acknowledgments

This book is a revised version of my doctoral dissertation completed at Claremont Graduate University in the spring of 2011. My deepest gratitude is due to the members of my dissertation committee for their supervision, insightful engagement, and warm-hearted support and encouragement. My profound gratitude goes to Dr. Marvin A. Sweeney, my doctor father, for opening my eyes to the conceptualization of the Hebrew Bible, for encouraging me to share my insights as a Korean woman in my work, and for guiding me with endless support until my efforts finally succeeded. It is difficult for me to find appropriate words to express my great indebtedness for his care in both academic and ministerial guidance. His foundational work in form criticism allowed me to highlight the unnamed women narratives in the Hebrew Bible and helped me to reveal their presence in the modern world.

I am also grateful to Dr. Kristin De Troyer who taught me textual criticism at CGU before moving to the University of St. Andrews. From her, I have learned the techniques for fruitful understandings of texts. She also suggested insightful criticisms in her prompt responses to my drafts. I would like to thank her for all her time and long distance help for me. Dr. Tammi J. Schneider usefully directed me to study ancient Near Eastern literature and history, which formed the basis for my exegetical chapters. I have benefited from her substantive comments on this project and advice on my doctoral program from start to finish. Special thanks ← xi | xii → are due to Dr. Carleen Mandolfo for her passionate participation as a committee member. Her suggestions encouraged me to reshape my methodological thinking and to improve my work for readers in both academic and pastoral settings.

Much gratitude is also due to the faculty at San Francisco Theological Seminary, who helped me to seek my pastoral calling which allowed me to become an ordained minister of the Presbyterian Church. In addition, this work has begun to sprout from the academic environments at Ewha Womans University in Seoul, South Korea. My thanks go to my professors at Ewha: Drs. Soon Kyung Park, David Kwang-sun Suh, Won Ki Park, Seung Hee Sohn, Jae Ock Jeon and Sang Chang. I am especially indebted to Dr. Kyung Sook Lee, my graduate advisor at Ewha. She gave me a foundational understanding of biblical theology, which has been the bedrock of my scholarly ability until now.

My studies in the USA were made possible by grants and fellowships from organizations, churches and my friends as well as their spiritual support—Claremont Graduate University, Shin Il Presbyterian Church, Brea Korea United Methodist Church, the Synod of Southern California and Hawaii, the Korean American Scholarship Foundation, the International Foundation for Ewha Womans University, Alameda Korean Presbyterian Church, Jeong Hwan Do, Sung Jeon and Eunjung Felsner. Their support made it easier to concentrate on my studies during the difficult times of my doctoral program. I would like to express my sincere gratitude to my English consultants—Fay Ellwood, Caroline Carpenter, Eric Hall, Katie Van Heest, Shayda Kafai, Richard Newton, and Kat Veach in the Writing Center at CGU—and my editor, Genevieve Beenen. Their concentrated efforts helped me to polish my dissertation.

I am also deeply grateful to my colleagues and students at Chan Jung Christian University in Tainan City, Taiwan: Profs. Ya-Tang Chuang, C. S. Song, M. P. Joseph, Po-Ho Hwang, Hui-Chung Tsuang, Chen Huang Li-Chun, Grace Wu, Fu-Ya Wu, Grace Shen, and Pei-Wen Chao. I would like to put on record my gratitude to them for their academic discussions and friendship.

I wish to express my appreciation to Prof. Hemchand Gossai for accepting this work for publication and writing the preface not only for me but also for the unnamed women in the Elijah and Elisha narratives.

Not only have I been fortunate to have world-renowned professors to advise me academically, but also I have enjoyed the support of wonderful friends who shared my successes and helped me through difficult times. Their joyous laughter refreshed my mind and spirit, and always prodded me to move on to the next project.

Last but not least, much appreciation is owed to my family in South Korea and Brazil. I always feel very proud of my parents, the Late Mr. Heum Beom Park and Mrs. Soo Ja Kim, who patiently endured my absence, continuously inspired me, and strongly sustained me throughout my life. The early morning prayer of my ← xii | xiii → mother for me is beyond description. I am also deeply thankful for my two brothers, Yong Seok Park and Yun Seok Park, and their families for their incomparable love and the hilarious joy they give to my parents and me.

All my thanks are due to God. God keeps showing me the right path and always provides me with wonderful people to support me along the way.

June 2015
Tainan City, Taiwan
Hye Kyung Park← xiii | xiv →

More than ever the horizons in biblical literature are being expanded beyond that which is immediately imagined; important new methodological, theological, and hermeneutical directions are being explored, often resulting in significant contributions to the world of biblical scholarship. It is an exciting time for the academy as engagement in biblical studies continues to be heightened.

This series seeks to make available to scholars and institutions, scholarship of a high order, and which will make a significant contribution to the ongoing biblical discourse. This series includes established and innovative directions, covering general and particular areas in biblical study. For every volume considered for this series, we explore the question as to whether the study will push the horizons of biblical scholarship. The answer must be yes for inclusion.

In this volume, Hye Kyung Park explores the role of the women in the Elijah and Elisha narratives. In particular Park is attentive to what she argues is the indispensable role of the unnamed women in these narrative cycles. It is clear from this study that while the central figures in the narratives, namely Elijah and Elisha have been the focus of many studies, the women for the most part have been neglected in scholarly circles. “At the very least, these women confirm the prophetic roles of Elijah and Elisha” (p. 14). In this regard Park uses Form Criticism and Narrative Criticism as a means of identifying and bringing into the foreground of research the roles of these women. The result is a copious and detailed study that will ← xv | xvi → assuredly add to the rich texture of these narratives. This study is certain to generate ongoing discourse, and will not only further expand the biblical horizon, but will do so in a direction that invites further conversation.

The horizon has been expanded.

Hemchand Gossai
Series Editor


Anchor Bible


Anchor Bible Dictionary, ed. David Noel Freedman, 6 vols. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1992


American Journal of Semitic Languages and Literatures


Ancient Near Eastern Texts, Relating to the Old Testament, 3rd ed. with Supplement, ed. James B. Pritchard, 3rd ed. with Supplement. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1969


Alter Orient und Altes Testament


Abhandlungen zur Theologie des Alten und Neuen Testaments


Arbeiten zu Text und Sprache im Alten Testament


American University Studies


Biblical Archaeology Review


Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research


Before the Common Era


Francis Brown, S. R. Driver, and Charles A. Briggs, A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament with an Appendix Containing the Biblical Aramaic Oxford: At the Clarendon Press, 1959




Biblical Interpretation

← xvii | xviii → BibThBul

Biblical Theology Bulletin


Bible and Literature Series


Brown Judaic Studies


Bible Translator


Biblische Zeitschrift


Beihefte zur Zeitschrift für die alttestamentliche Wissenschaft


Catholic Biblical Quarterly


Catholic Biblical Quarterly Monograph Series


Currents in Theology and Mission


Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible, 2nd rev., ed. Karel van der Toorn, et al. Leiden: Brill, 1999


Encyclopedia Judaica 14, 2nd ed. Fred Skolnik. Detroit: Thompson Gale. Keter, 2007


Expository Times


Form of the Old Testament Literature


Gesenius’ Hebrew Grammar, ed. E. Kautzsch, rev. ed., Clarendon Press: Oxford, 1909


Hebrew Annual Review


Hebrew Studies


Harvard Theological Review


Interpreters’ Bible


International Critical Commentary


Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible, ed. George Arthur Buttrick 4 vols. Nashville, Abingdon Press, 1976


Israel Exploration Journal


Journal of the Ancient Near Eastern Society


Journal of Biblical Literature


Journal of Near Eastern Studies


Journal of the Palestine Oriental Society


Jewish Quarterly Review


Journal of Religion


Journal for the Study of the Old Testament


Journal for the Study of the Old Testament Supplement Series




New Century Bible Commentary


New International Biblical Commentary


New Revised Standard Version


Orbis biblicus et orientalis


Old Testament Library


Review and Expositor

← xviii | xix → SBL

Society of Biblical Literature


Society of Biblical Literature Dissertation Series


Studies in Biblical Theology


Scandinavian Journal of the Old Testament


Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament, vol. 13, ed. G. Johannes Botterweck, et al., trans. David E. Green, Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans, 2004


Theology Today


Tyndale Bulletin


Tyndale Old Testament Commentary


Vetus Testamentum


Supplements to Vetus Testamentum


Word Biblical Commentary


Westminster Bible Companion


Zeitschrift für Assyriologie und vorderasiatische Archäologie← xix | xx →

← xx | 1 → Introduction

This study traces the named and unnamed women of the Elijah and Elisha narratives in the Deuteronomistic History1 (hereafter the DtrH). In so doing, this study will argue that many of the women of the Elijah and Elisha narratives in 1 and 2 Kings were important figures, and that their relationships with both kings and prophets had a significant impact on Israelite history. Using form criticism to examine the heretofore ignored characters within traditional biblical narratives, this study intends to define a new basis for theological and literary interpretation of the Elijah and Elisha narratives with implications for the entire Hebrew Bible. Women’s narratives have already been included by the Israelite traditions. Yet, they have been largely overlooked in DtrH studies. Scholars have consistently highlighted the roles and functions of prophets, such as Elijah and Elisha in the DtrH. Scholars do not focus on women’s roles and functions in the Elijah and Elisha traditions. This study significantly differs from the studies of the prophets, Elijah and Elisha, that focus on the male figures as the primary characters of importance. I argue that it is difficult fully to appreciate the named prophets’ roles without understanding the appearances and purposes of the unnamed women in 1 Kings 17:8–24; 2 Kings 4:8–37, 5 and 8:1–6.

Because Elijah and Elisha are named, their functions and roles have been over-emphasized in the modern story of the biblical traditions. Meanwhile, women’s roles, in particular the roles of those who have not been named, have ← 1 | 2 → failed to attract much notice. Their lack of a name causes them to be regarded as insignificant and therefore to be overlooked and to disappear into the text before their roles have been examined. The unnamed women were treated as not having any functions in the narratives. At the very least, these women confirm the prophetic roles of Elijah and Elisha. Without these women, the prophetic titles are useless. Furthermore, these women sometimes reveal their identities as prophetesses or priestesses in their own narratives. Unlike those scholars who overlook these women when discussing the Elijah and Elisha traditions, I argue that the unnamed women play key roles in these traditions in the DtrH. This book will examine these nameless women in detail.

In order to discover the importance of the unnamed women, it will be necessary to analyze the selected narratives that refer to them by using the methodologies of form criticism and narrative criticism. In this respect, this work highlights the significant results of the two forms of criticism. Scholarly understandings of both the DtrH, and the Elijah and Elisha traditions, provide the background for my selected texts.

The presence of names often initiates and characterizes a given biblical text. The regnal accounts in the books of Kings begin with the king’s name and his reigning years.2 The names function to demarcate the structures of each regnal narrative. In the same way, the named prophets Elijah and Elisha traditionally represent the main characters within their narratives. However, the narratives’ structures and plots depend not only of these named characters. Unnamed characters appear and function at key points to drive the narratives; it is these characters that reveal the theological understanding between God and the named characters.


XX, 291
ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2015 (August)
1 Kings 17:8 zarepath shunammite
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, Oxford, Wien, 2015. XX, 291 pp.

Biographical notes

Hye Kyung Park (Author)

Hye Kyung Park received her PhD in religion from Claremont Graduate University in California. She is Assistant Professor in the Department of Theology at Chang Jung Christian University in Taiwan. Some of her previous publications include: «Violence and Resistance: A Hermeneutical Dialogue between ‘A Shoot’ in Isaiah 11 and ‘The Sun-moon’ in Asian Narratives for Justice», «The Tekoite Wise Woman and Her Prophecy: A Reading of 2 Samuel 14:2 – 20 for Korean Feminist Reunification Theology», and «The Confluence of the Israelite Girl in 2 Kings 5 and Baridegi in a Korean Myth: Toward Hanpuri Hermeneutics for Korean Women» in Madang; «Jamehn Paljang-ee Yoesung Jeehea-wa Ahn Byung Moon-we Sunchungdaek-ee Daehan Haesukhakjek Daehwa (The Hermeneutical Interpretation of the Wise Lady in Proverbs 8 and Sunchundaek by Ahn Byung Moo)», in Shin Hak Sah Sang; and «Sharing Food and Confirming Faith: A Shift in the Meaning of the Eucharist from the Traditional Protestant Perspective to the Modern» in The Foreign Language Journal of Korean Association of Christian Studies.


Title: Why Not Her?