The Shalvi/Hyman Encyclopedia of Jewish Women

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Rachel Adelman

Rachel Adelman is Associate Professor of Hebrew Bible at Boston’s Hebrew College. She holds a Ph.D. in Hebrew Literature from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and is the author of The Return of the Repressed: Pirqe de-Rabbi Eliezer and the Pseudepigrapha (Brill 2009) and The Female Ruse: Women's Deception and Divine Sanction in the Hebrew Bible (Sheffield Phoenix, 2015). Adelman is now working on a new book, Daughters in Danger from the Hebrew Bible to Modern Midrash (forthcoming, Sheffield Phoenix Press).

Articles by this author

Avivah Gottlieb Zornberg

Avivah Gottlieb Zornberg is a highly regarded Torah scholar and author. Her complex interpretive lens is both contemporary, in drawing from literary sources, philosophy, and psychoanalytic theory, and very traditional, in reading the Bible through the lens of classic commentaries and rabbinic midrash.

Daughter Zion (Bat Tzion)

“Daughter Zion” or “Fair Zion” (in Hebrew bat tzion) is the personification of Jerusalem in poetic and prophetic literature. Initially, the city is positively likened to a daughter, protected under God’s special regard, but later, under the Babylonian siege, she is devastated, even ravaged. However, when Jerusalem is rebuilt, the daughter is forsaken no longer, returning to God’s grace in the prophecies of consolation.

Ministering Women and Their Mirrors

Women who ministered at the entrance of the Tabernacle gathered around to donate their copper mirrors (Exodus 38:8), which were then smelted down to make the basin where the priests would wash before entering the sanctuary. The women may have served as guards, warding off evil with their mirrors. Midrash, however, conjectures that the women used these mirrors to seduce their husbands in Egypt, raising up the hosts of Israelites.

Barren Women in the Bible

The Hebrew Bible tells six stories of barren women: three of the four matriarchs (Sarah, Rebekah, and Rachel); the unnamed wife of Manoah/mother of Samson; Hannah, the mother of the prophet Samuel; and the Shunnamite woman, an acolyte of the prophet Elisha.  Each woman suffers a period of infertility, in some cases exacerbated by the presence of a fertile, though less beloved, rival wife. Eventually, God intervenes and the woman conceives, but the beloved son is then dedicated back to God, either in service or in sacrifice.

Tamar 2

The story of the rape of Tamar, the daughter of King David, by Amnon, her half-brother (2 Samuel 13) is told in the wake of the king’s sins of adultery and murder. Tamar’s is the only woman’s voice in the Bible to be heard in resistance to rape, though she is ultimately silenced by her full brother, Absalom. He murders Amnon in vengeance and stages an insurrection against the king, his father, while she lives the rest of her life forlorn in Absalom’s house.

Dinah: Bible

The story of Dinah, the only daughter of the patriarch Jacob, recounts an episode in which she goes out to see the “daughters of the land” but is raped, seduced, and/or abducted by Shechem, a Hivite prince, who subsequently falls in love with and wishes to marry her. The story ends in the slaughter of Shechem and his townsmen and may be read as a condemnation of intermarriage.

Bathsheba: Bible

Bathsheba is the married woman whom King David takes in adultery and who, though initially passive, becomes the pivotal figure in his downfall. The king has Bathsheba’s husband, Uriah, slain in battle and then takes her as a wife. While her first child, conceived in adultery, dies, the second, Solomon, becomes heir to the throne as a consequence of Bathsheba’s maneuverings.

Abigail: Bible

Abigail, the intelligent and beautiful wife of the wealthy but boorish Nabal, intervenes to prevent David from committing a bloodbath and eventually becomes one of David’s wives (1 Samuel 25). She prophesies that David will establish a dynasty, but neither she nor her son play a role in future struggles over rule or succession.

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Rachel Adelman." (Viewed on September 23, 2021) <https://jwa.org/encyclopedia/author/adelman-rachel>.

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