Tikva Frymer-Kensky

Tikva Frymer-Kensky (1943–2006), a professor of Hebrew Bible and the History of Judaism in the Divinity School at the University of Chicago, also taught in the Law School and the Committees on the Ancient Mediterranean World and Jewish Studies. She held an M.A. and Ph.D. from Yale University. Her areas of specialization included Assyriology and Sumerology, biblical studies, Jewish studies and women and religion. Her books include Reading the Women of the Bible, which received a Koret Jewish Book Award in 2002 and a National Jewish Book Award in 2003; In the Wake of the Goddesses: Women, Culture and the Biblical Transformation of Pagan Myth; and Motherprayer: The Pregnant Woman’s Spiritual Companion. She was also the English translator of From Jerusalem to the Edge of Heaven by Ari Elon. At the time of her death in 2006 she was working on a commentary on Ruth and a book on biblical theology.

Articles by this author

Tamar: Bible

Tamar, whose story is embedded in the ancestor narratives of Genesis, is the ancestress of much of the tribe of Judah and, in particular, of the house of David.

Sarah/Sarai: Bible

Sarah is the wife of Abraham, the mother of Isaac, and thus the ancestress of all Israel. The Bible explains that Sarai was her earlier name and that she was renamed at the annunciation of the birth of Isaac (Gen 17:15).

Rachel: Bible

The younger daughter of Laban and wife of Jacob, Rachel is the mother of Joseph and Benjamin, who become two of the twelve tribes of Israel (Gen 35:24; 46:15–18). Rachel, who died young, becomes an image of tragic womanhood. After the biblical period, “Mother Rachel” continued to be celebrated as a powerful intercessor for the people of Israel.

Leah: Bible

Leah is the elder daughter of Laban and the wife of Jacob, father of twelve sons who will become the twelve tribes of Israel. Leah and her sister Rachel, whose names mean “cow” and “ewe,” give Jacob many sons; and their father gives him actual live-stock Leah is described as having “soft (lovely) eyes” (Gen 29:7). Some translations (such as NJPS, RSV, NEB, and REB), perhaps influenced by Jacob’s preference for Rachel, render this as “dull-eyed” or “weak eyes,” but the more appropriate translation is “soft eyes” (as in NRSV and NAB)—what we might call “cow eyes.” She has six sons, who become six of the Israelite tribes (Gen 35:23; 46:5, 14).

Hagar: Bible

Hagar is Sarai’s Egyptian slave girl, whom Sarai (later Sarah) gives to Abram (later Abraham) as a wife who would bear a child that would be considered Sarai’s (Gen 16:3). Although it bears a resemblance to modern technological surrogate motherhood, this custom may seem bizarre. However, cuneiform texts of the second and first millennia b.c.e. attest to this custom in ancient Mesopotamia.

Deborah: Bible

Deborah is one of the major judges (meaning charismatic leaders, rather than juridical figures) in the story of how Israel takes the land of Canaan.

Elisheba: Bible

Daughter of Amminadav, sister of Nahson, Elisheba is the wife of the high priest Aaron and the mother of four sons, Nadab, Abihu, Eleazar, and Ithamar.

Zipporah: Bible

Zipporah is a Midianite woman who becomes the wife of Moses.

Shelomith 1: Bible

Daughter of Dibri of the tribe of Dan and wife of an Egyptian, Shelomith is the only woman mentioned by name in the Book of Leviticus. She appears in the narrative about her son, a man who pronounces the name of God in blasphemy during a fight with another Israelite man.

Rahab: Bible

A Canaanite woman living in Jericho, Rahab is a prostitute who is also a biblical heroine. Rahab, who begins as triply marginalized—Canaanite, woman, and prostitute—moves to the center as bearer of a divine message and herald of Israel in its new land. She is remembered in Jewish tradition as the great proselyte, as ancestress of kings and prophets, and, in the New Testament, as ancestress of Jesus.

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Tikva Frymer-Kensky." (Viewed on October 21, 2019) <https://jwa.org/encyclopedia/author/frymer-kensky-tikva>.

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