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This week we are exploring the origins/emergence of Israel as a distinct ethnic group/people throughout a period of about two hundred years in the

This week we are exploring the origins/emergence of Israel as a distinct ethnic group/people throughout a period of about two hundred years in the highlands of central Canaan, and the Israelite (and Judahite) stories of origins/emergence that later would become among the first layers of biblical literature.  This includes ancestral stories that, as eponyms, helped forge a sense of common unified identity for the disparate groups that coalesced into ‘Israel’.  And although the creation stories were probably composed during the much later exilic period, we address them here this week and in this first discussion in conjunction with our reading from Hayes on the fascinating and complex origins of biblical/Jewish monotheism.        

Both Hayes and Conway & Carr (as do biblical scholars for the last two centuries) reconstruct the story of biblical Israel, its ideas and beliefs, and its literature, within the context of the historical and political, societal and cultural, cosmological and religious, ideological and literary, contexts of framed and shaped its life.  These ongoing interactions between Israelites and their ancient Near Eastern neighbors can be identified in the biblical text both in stories and ideas.

The extent (brevity or development) of your responses can vary as you choose.  

  1. Basing yourself on Hayes and Conway & Carr, list and describe examples of how understanding the intersections between Israelites and their neighbors account for the similarities and differences found between them.  Specifically address in your discussion new insights and questions about: (a) the emergence of Israelite ‘monotheism’, (b) the emergence of a monarchy/state, (c) biblical literature (wisdom literature and creation stories), and (d) the central biblical themes of exodus/liberation and covenant (for example, in relation to Assyrian covenants).
  2. For further discussion, as a classic example, you may want to further consider creation stories: the prevalence in the ancient Near East, their functions, how they were vehicles for conveying ideas.  How did the Jewish versions of creation stories function as vehicles for Jewish ideas?  Which ones?
  3. Similarly, why write ancestral stories?  What is the function of eponyms?  How are the ancestors (patriarchs and matriarchs) portrayed in Genesis and what can we learn about ourselves from these stories?  How does the portrayal of the ancestors as “tricksters” be read different if read either from the social location of marginality vs. that of privilege?
  4. Read Genesis 16:1-16.
    1. What are your initial interpretation of this story and your ideas of Sarah and Hagar.
    2. Then read “Hagar” by Wil Gafney ( and “Hagar: She Who Speaks With God” by Elizabeth Tracy (
    3. What new insights into the character of Hagar have you gained as a result of this interpretive approach to her story?
    4. Based on these two articles, how can stories like those of Hagar speak to women and to people on the margins today?

Submission Instructions:

  • Your post should be at least 250-300 words for each discussion post, formatted and cited in the current APA style.

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