Re-membering the Dismembered

Piecing Together Meaning from Stories of Women and Body Parts in Ancient Near Eastern Literature

In: Biblical Interpretation
Julie Faith Parker Colby College, USA

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This article examines the function of dismemberment in four stories of female figures from ancient Near Eastern literature. Using the tools of feminist literary analysis, I explore the tales of Levite’s concubine (Judges 19), Jezebel (2 Kgs 9:30-37), Anat (KTU 1.3 ii; iii 1-2; 1.6 ii 28-37), and Isis (myth of Isis and Osiris). Comparison between the demise of the Levite’s concubine and Jezebel points to the shared significance of their dismemberment, despite the women’s vastly different societal positions. The discussion then focuses on two goddesses: Anat in Ugaritic narrative poetry and Isis in Egyptian mythology, showing their strength in scenes of dismemberment. Despite differences in divinity and power, all four women can be joined by their connection to dismemberment, whether as a victim, perpetrator, or restorer. This article reveals how dismemberment in these stories serves to strengthen androcentric hegemony while nonetheless challenging assumed gender stereotypes.

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