Four Biblical Heroines and the Case for Female Authorship

An Analysis of the Women of Ruth, Esther and Genesis 38


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About the Book

This work examines the lives of four female characters in the Bible: Naomi, Ruth, Tamar and Esther. Their stories differ significantly from those of most female Biblical characters in that each woman is depicted without a dominant male companion and each is featured in the Bible’s more secular texts. The author evaluates each character’s role as a female protagonist, and demonstrates how each story represents an innovative view of religion and a revisionist evaluation of women’s roles. Finally, the author proposes that these narratives may have been authored by women. Appendices provide additional information about Boaz, Judah and Tamar, Greek versions of the Book of Esther, Mordecai’s decree, and literacy in ancient Israel. Includes a glossary and timeline.

About the Author(s)

Hillel I. Millgram, ordained at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, lives in Israel. He combines research and writing with teaching graduate courses in Bible.

Bibliographic Details

Hillel I. Millgram
Format: softcover (7 x 10)
Pages: 279
Bibliographic Info: maps, glossary, appendices, notes, bibliography, indexes
Copyright Date: 2008
pISBN: 978-0-7864-3081-9
eISBN: 978-0-7864-8394-5
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Preface and Acknowledgments      ix

Abbreviations Used in the Text      xiii

Introduction      1


1. A Woman’s Tale: An Introduction to the Book of Ruth      17

2. The Exiles      31

3. Amid the Alien Corn      43

4. The Winning of Boaz      53

5. At Bethlehem’s Gate      61

6. What Means This Tale?      68

7. Tamar      76


8. Understanding Esther: An Introduction      93

Act I: The Women in His Life

9. Party Time in Old Persia, or Lessons on How to Run an Empire      105

10. The Substitute      111

Act II: The War Against the Jews

11. Prologue: The Night of the Assassins      121

12. The Man Who Would Not Bow      124

13. The War Commences      133

Act III: Fighting for Their Lives

14. In the Valley of the Shadow: Looking into the Abyss      141

15. Interlude: The Theater of the Absurd      150

16. Esther Triumphant      158

17. Reversing the Engine      161

18. Judgment Day      171

19. Thou Shalt Not Forget!      178


20. The Dark Vision      188

21. The Hidden Hand      196


22. Thinking Outside the Box      207

Appendix I. From Whom Did Boaz Buy the Field?      221

Appendix II. Can Judah and Tamar Be Fitted into the Joseph Narrative?      224

Appendix III. It’s Greek to Me: The Greek Versions of Esther      227

Appendix IV. Mordecai’s Decree: A Technical Interlude      230

Appendix V. But Could She Read? The Question of Literacy in Ancient Israel      233

Timeline: Putting Things in Perspective      240

Glossary of Terms, Place Names, and Persons      243

Selected Bibliography      251

Biblical Verses Index      255

General Index      257