Rawlings School of Divinity


Master of Arts in Biblical Studies (MA)


Jillian Ross


Affliction, Genesis, Biblical Theology, Oppression, Motif, Rescue


Christianity | Religion | Religious Thought, Theology and Philosophy of Religion


The book of Genesis mainly centers on the fulfillment of God’s patriarchal promises. However, the book presents characters who first experience hardship before they receive blessings from God. Many of the hardships are described in Genesis as “afflictions” (√ענה), the same word used to describe Israel’s suffering in Egypt (Exod 3:7). Although the motif of affliction receives attention for its appearance in Exodus, few scholars note the significance of this motif in Genesis. The purpose of this thesis is to trace the motif of affliction in Genesis and to determine the pattern of its appearance. The motif serves the larger theology of the book of Genesis by highlighting God’s attention to the struggles of his people and his responses to their wrongful mistreatment. This theology is founded in Gen 15:13–16 with God’s announcement to Abram that his seed will be afflicted, but then God would rescue them and punish the afflicters. Genesis 15:13–16 anticipates the exodus, but the remainder of Genesis portrays individuals who are afflicted and subsequently rescued by God. These individuals’ experiences foreshadow the exodus and provide confirmation of God’s character as it is presented in Gen 15:13–16. The characters who suffer from affliction in Genesis are: Hagar (Gen 16), Leah (Gen 29–30), Jacob (Gen 29–31), Dinah (Gen 34), and Joseph (Gen 37–41). Each time the root ענה appears in Genesis, God carries out the resolution to the victim’s suffering and blesses them with progeny and/or safety. By rescuing and prospering victims of affliction in Genesis, God reveals how he will respond to his children in Egypt. The motif of affliction in Genesis provides a theological understanding of God’s presence with his children, awareness of their experiences, and his intentional actions to rescue and grow his children through hardship.