Archives of Reception of the Bible

Past blogging in more ways than one.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Paper for Genesis 18-19 Seminar, International SBL, Vienna

Here is the abstract for my paper for Vienna. A return to my thesis topic for only the second time (see Psalm 137 paper for the other).
Lot at the Threshhold

William John Lyons
University of Bristol

This paper argues that Genesis 18-19 is dominated by global themes that are inextricably inter-twined with its particularist story: (i) The promised son to Sarah is contextualised by the deity within the universal context of Abraham as a blessing to all nations (Gen.12.3; cf. 18.17-19); (ii) The limitations of Abraham’s ‘god’ are raised by the patriarch, but rebutted by a divine claim of unlimited power (18.14); (iii) The judgement of a ‘nation’ by the deity serves as an example for Israel (18.17-21); And (iv) the deity’s universalising moves are echoed by Abraham’s appeal to the ‘Judge of all the earth’ .

The paper examines the porous boundary between universal and particular through the liminal figure of Lot. Though not included in the deity’s particularist directive to Abraham to go to Canaan (12.3,7), Lot is brought along by the patriatrch, presumably as his heir. Despite the patriarch’s attempts to keep him close by, however, Abraham’s nephew moves away from him—geographically and religiously—as the narrative progresses. His residence and actions in Sodom indicate his identification with that nation’s universality, and by rights he should die with its inhabitants. Yet he is saved by the deity for the remembrance of Abraham (19.29). Though his choice for the universal is now made concrete in that he becomes two ‘nations’—Moab and Ammon (19.30-38)—his status remains ambiguous. His ‘sons’ are given land by YHWH alongside Israel (Deut 2.9,19), and—through the Moabitess, Ruth—he is given a role by the deity in the particularist story of David (Ruth 4.17-22). What Abraham started by bringing Lot with him to Canaan is brought to particularist fruition—somewhat ironically, given the latter’s own preference for the universal and the repeated appeals made to it in Genesis 18—by Israel’s deity.


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