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Why Not Her?

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


Hye Kyung Park

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.

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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...

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