פרא אדם/‘An Onager Man’ (Gen 16:12α) as a Metaphor of Social Oppression

In: Vetus Testamentum
Ekaterina E. Kozlova University of Oxford UK

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This essay focuses on the presentation of Ishmael as an ‘onager man’ in Gen 16:12α and shows that conventional readings of Ishmael’s profile are wrong about the direction in which aggression is channelled in his material—he is not the aggressor, he is on the receiving end of aggression. It argues that the first statement in the oracle in Gen 16:12α receives its resolution in the act of Abraham’s banishment of Ishmael in Gen 21. This reading is predicated on the fact that animalisation was a widely-used cultural tool of mediating violence (political, economic, and social) with onagers representing a lowest register of the abused and disadvantaged segments of ancient societies (cf. Job 24, 30; Sir 13). In addition, it shows that animals, equids in particular, are featured in contexts of socially unacceptable types of interments, and Ishmael’s designation as an onager points to his disinheritance and ‘non-burial’ in Gen 21.

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