Seeking a Homeland

Sojourn and Ethnic Identity in the Ancestral Narratives of Genesis


Sojourn is a Leitwort in the ancestral narratives of Genesis, repeatedly accentuated as an important descriptor of the patriarchs’ identity and experience. This study shows that despite its connotations of alienation, sojourn language in Genesis contributes to a strong communal identity for biblical Israel. An innovative application of Anthony D. Smith’s theory of ethnic myth utilizes the categories of ethnoscape, election, and communal ethics as analytical tools in the investigation of the Genesis sojourn texts. Close exegetical treatment reveals sojourn to strengthen Israel’s ethnic identity in ways that are varied and at times paradoxical. Its very complexity, however, makes it particularly useful as a resource for group identity at times when straightforward categories of territorial and social affiliation may fail.
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Biographical Note

Elisabeth Robertson Kennedy received her Ph.D. in Hebrew and Old Testament Studies from the University of Edinburgh. She serves as Professor of Old Testament at the Evangelical Theological Seminary in Cairo, Egypt.

Table of contents

Introduction: A Place for Sojourn
Parameters and Method
Related Works

1 Theoretical Tools: Anthony D. Smith
Ethnic Myth
Sojourn and Ethnic Myth

2 Mapping an Ethnoscape: Sojourn in the Itinerary Notices
Sojourn in Egypt (12:10)
Sojourn in Gerar (20:1; 21:34)
Sojourn in Paddan-aram (36:27; 36:7; 37:1)

3 Bolstering Ethnic Election: Sojourn in the Promise Speeches
Genesis 15:13
Genesis 17:8
Genesis 26:3
Genesis 28:4

4 Constructing Relational Ethics: Sojourn in the Dialogues
Genesis 19:9
Genesis 21:23
Genesis 23:4
Genesis 32:5
Genesis 47: 4, 9

5 Conclusions: Journeying On Trajectories for Reflection


Readers interested in biblical studies, founding myths, ethnic dimensions of the Hebrew Bible, and sociological approaches to sacred texts.

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