The Feminine Gender as a Literary Device in the Narrative of Judges
Institution Granting Degree
Grace Theological Seminary
It is believed that the judges period was more dark and bleak than commonly understood. The narrator draws attention to this fact by a carefully constructed narrative consisting of selected stories, many which significantly include woman, and pertinent literary devices that enable the reader to see more clearly the tragedy of that time. The book of Judges falls in the literary genre of historical narrative, and it shows the religious and political experience of Israel after the death of Joshua. It is proposed that the historical narrative be further classified as tragedy. Indications of tragedy are seen in the two paradigms in Judges 2 (vv 11-16, 17-19) and the artfully repeated thematic phrases as part of a formulaic introduction to the stories (e.g., "the sons of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord"). The feminine gender is viewed as an additional device to portray tragic times in Israel. Sometimes the narrator indicated unusually unsettled times by showing that badly needed leadership and action was not assumed and performed by males as expected. Gender roles have not been clearly delineated or established in scripture prior to the judges period. Biblical society was essentially patriarchal, however, and certain gender roles are expected by the reader. Through the stories of Deborah and Jael, the woman of Thebez, and Manoah's wife the narrator gives examples of role reversal. They are seen performing roles and actions that are not expected of them. These examples show that Israel experienced times that were lacking social, spiritual, and political leadership by males during the judges period. There is a focus on the three women in Samson's life: the Timnite, the Gazite prostitute, and Delilah. These women were termed "deterrents" because, though they were female associates of his choosing, they deterred him from a commitment to his calling, hindered family relationships, and shortened his career. The narrator sought to provoke a response from his contemporary and future audiences. Selected stories suggest that responses of surprise, chagrin, and outrage were expected. The narrator neither glorifies the role of women in Judges nor demeans men. Instead his use of the feminine gender illustrates the lack of political and spiritual leaders and gives evidence of the moral and theological confusion that prevailed in the personal and national life of the Israelites during the judges period.
Hartman, Harvey D., "The Feminine Gender as a Literary Device in the Narrative of Judges" (1992). Faculty Dissertations. 9.