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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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The primary task of this study has been to analyze the women-related narratives in the Elijah and Elisha traditions. The result of this study may be summarized by reviewing the interpretations of my selected biblical texts.

My scholarly research began with questions regarding the relationships between the women and two prophets in the DtrH, and about their individual characteristics and functions in each narrative. The prophetic roles were undoubtedly important in the biblical traditions. Since the beginning of the study of the DtrH, the relationship between the DtrH and the prophetic narratives has been an issue in both synchronic and diachronic studies. The Israelite prophets have been known by four titles—seer (), visionary (), man of God (), and prophet ()—in the Hebrew Bible. Each title has its own characteristics.

David L. Petersen examines the four titles of the prophets to find the roles associated with each of the titles.1 According to Petersen, first, the seer, a kind of holy man, provides “interaction between the intermediary and those who want information from the deity.”2 The seer () of 1 Samuel 9, and elsewhere, can be classified as a major figure on the Israelite society. Second, the visionary () is related to vision reports such as Amos’ five visions (7:1–9, 8:1–3, 9:1–4).3 Third, the man of God (), as in the references to both Elijah and Elisha, holds the power of the sacred such as in 2 Kings 4:1...

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