Tamar and the Patriarchy: a Feminist Analysis of Genesis

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Tamar and the Patriarchy: A Feminist Analysis of Genesis

To the modern day reader, The Bible greatly exemplifies an oppressive patriarchal social structure. Women are often raped and otherwise objectified with no consequence. Typically in the Bible, when a woman is a victim of misfortune due to her husband or father's lack of virtue, God has little pity for her, as she is portrayed as something owned by one or the other. However, the story of Tamar and Judah in Genesis 38 deviates from this typicality, and often times has a feminist interpretation. The passage details the perversion of this system in the privileged males own interest, yet ultimately reinforces it, showing that God is the ultimate Patriarch.

In a social system that glorifies one sex over the other in addition to relying on a hierarchy, it is not uncommon for an individual with a significant amount of social power to begin to think that he is above the law or even above God. Judah has already been established as a man who thinks himself above Hebrew tradition, especially when it comes to the laws of family and marriage; The Bible sets out to deliberately to make an example out of Judah's hubris, beginning with his name. At his birth, his mother, Leah, proclaims, "I will give praise, such that Judah means I will give praise to Yahweh" (Genesis 29:35). Judah's name contains within it a name of God – in this way, it is interpreted that Judah equates himself with God, which gives reason to his near constant disobedience, and why it is necessary for God to intervene. Judah is born into affluence as a result of Hebrew law and social structure, but often disregards these codes, as with his betrayal of his brother Joseph – he defies the social structure by selling his brother into slavery, which is an example of the transcending of class, since Joseph is the favorite son of a wealthy tribe leader. He again defies this by marrying a Canaanite, despite the fact that he and his family...
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