“From A Translator’s Point Of View” “Bury Me With My Fathers:” A Sexist Or An Inclusive View Of Death? -- By: Arthur H. Lewis

Journal: Priscilla Papers
Volume: PP 11:4 (Fall 1997)
Article: “From A Translator’s Point Of View” “Bury Me With My Fathers:” A Sexist Or An Inclusive View Of Death?
Author: Arthur H. Lewis


“From A Translator’s Point Of View”
“Bury Me With My Fathers:”
A Sexist Or An Inclusive View Of Death?

Arthur H. Lewis

A graduate of Wheaton College (B.A.) and Brandeis University (Ph.D.), Arthur H. Lewis is professor emeritus of Old Testament Studies at Bethel College, specializing in Hebrew, Akkadian, and Ugaritic.

As a translator of the Old Testament and member of several NIV teams, I’ve had many opportunities to protest against the use of sexist language wherever ‘adam or ben-‘adam is generic and clearly refers to both men and women. For example, in the Creation account, “He created man (‘adam) in his own image... male and female, he created them” (1:26-27), ‘ac/am should read either “the human race” or “people.” The same is probably true for Genesis 2:5, 3:21,5:1 and 6:3. Certainly the ‘adam in Psalm 8:4 deserves to be rendered “human beings” or “men and women.”

A parallel example is found repeatedly in the books of the Old Testament. It is a Hebrew phrase that describes death as being “gathered to my fathers” or “buried with my fathers” (Gen 49:29). Elsewhere the Lord promised Abraham: “You will go to your fathers in peace” (Gen 15:15), and told Moses, “You are going to rest with your fathers” (Deut 31:16).

There are a number of reasons to understand “fathers” (Hebrew aboth) in these contexts as a generic term. I believe Jacob was referring not just to the male members of his family, to whom he hoped to be joined in death, but to his wives and female ancestors as well.

Physical Proximity

First, as many interpret the phrase, Jacob may have had in mind the physical burial of his body beside the bodies of his fathers “in the cave in the field of Ephron the Hittite” (49:29). If this were Jacob’s wish, then when he said, “bury me with my fathers,” he meant “bury my body at Hebron in the family tomb, the one bought by Abraham for his beloved wife, Sarah, the cave in the field of Machpelah.” Therefore, we must note, as Jacob himself recalls, this tomb was also the resting place of two other women: Rebekah (his mother and Isaac’s wife) and Leah, his own first wife, whom he buried there himself (49:31).

All tourists who have recently visited the Mosque in Hebron that is built above the (traditional) cave of ...

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