Book Review“ Consider The Women: A Provocative Guide To Three Matriarchs Of The Bible” By Debbie Blue (Eerdmans, 2019) -- By: Jeff David Miller
Journal: Priscilla Papers
Volume: PP 33:4 (Fall 2019)
Article: Book Review“ Consider The Women: A Provocative Guide To Three Matriarchs Of The Bible” By Debbie Blue (Eerdmans, 2019)
Author: Jeff David Miller
Consider The Women: A Provocative Guide To Three Matriarchs Of The Bible”
By Debbie Blue (Eerdmans, 2019)
Making my way into this book, I increasingly felt I could not write a review without knowing at least a bit about its author. Debbie Blue is co-founding minister of House of Mercy, a Christian congregation in St. Paul, Minnesota. Her earlier books affirm the Incarnation (Sensual Orthodoxy, 2004), decry bibliolatry (From Stone to Living Word: Letting the Bible Live Again, 2008), and explore the symbolism of birds in the Bible (Consider the Birds: A Provocative Guide to Birds of the Bible, 2013). Her bio at houseofmercy.org says she “approaches scripture . . . carefully but not delicately, thoroughly but not exactly cautiously.” This statement gave helpful context for reading Consider the Women.
The book has four sections: “Abrahamic Faith,” “Hagar,” “Esther,” and “Mary.” The opening chapter establishes the book’s feel, which I would describe as sermonic with more dependence on the big picture of the biblical story (and beyond) than on interpretation of specific biblical texts. Consider a quotation from p. 16: “What does it mean to claim the blessings of Abrahamic faith? It means be unsettled. Abandon safe structures. Suspend what you know in order to discover what you don’t know yet. Get lost. Have some vast and hungry questions you don’t already know the answers to.” Chapter 2 maintains a loose grip on monotheism while unveiling its “dangers.” Blue says, “The ‘mono-’ in monotheism isn’t entirely helpful. That syllable gets us thinking in terms of monolith, monoculture, monopoly. . . . A monolith is massive, solid, uniform. . . . You get where I’m going” (23). The reader is asked to accept certain statements without explanation, defense, or footnote. An example is the statement, “Monotheism had hardly been established—had barely taken hold—before the exile” (20).
Section 2 consists of four chapters on Hagar. Chapter 3 argues that Hagar, not Sarah, is a matriarch parallel to Abraham. As such, her story tempers the patriarchy of Abraham’s dominant story. As a key example, her encounter with God at the near-death of her son provides a preferable alternative to Abraham’s more famous near-sacrifice of Isaac. Chapters 4–6 describe how the Genesis account of Hagar is enriched by her story as presented in the Koran and other Islamic sources. “I can relate to [certain aspects of Hagar’s story] better than the image of the father being willing to kill his son for his god” (72).
As I read, the word “provocative” in its subtitle resonated primarily in two ways. First, many sentences begin with lead-ins such as “What if,” “Perhaps,” or “Maybe,” and then proceed as if tru...
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