SBLAAR20: Day Eight

Hermeneutics & the Hebrew Bible—Eighth Day of an Academic Conference in 2020

This morning’s session at SBLAAR20 focused on a specific area of biblical studies that intersects directly with my biblical research, Biblical Hebrew Poetry. The presentations sought to explore substantial evidence of blessing and curses within Hebrew Poetry. In addition, many of these presentations also explored gender in biblical poetry.

Johanna Rönnlund, Beth Elness-Hanson gave an interesting paper that explored gender with divine blessings. Their analysis described the nature of divine blessings given by women in two passages of the Hebrew Bible. The first is Deborah, in Judges 5, and the second is Ruth, in the book of Ruth. Though I had not put much thought into it before, I was intrigued that there are very few examples of women offering divine blessings in the Hebrew Bible. By extension, this brings to light a question about women’s religious authority in the ancient world. The respondent added that the marginalization of women in matters of religious authority expanded after the exile with further limitations of access to the priesthood.

The Agency of women is a theme that has been raised in scholarship quite a bit in recent years. During this conference, I have heard a paper on the wisdom of women in the Hebrew Bible that identified figures in historical books, like the women of Tekoa and the women at Abel Beth Maacah. I have heard about the peacemaking wisdom of Abigail, one of King David’s wives. I have listened to this paper about Deborah and Ruth offering divine blessings as females with the priestly agency in their time. Agency of women preserved in biblical Hebrew poetry is an interesting topic, so I am pleased to learn that next year’s conference will host a joint session bringing together Biblical Hebrew Poetry with Feminist Hermeneutics (#sblaar21), which will also likely focus on tangent matters of gender in biblical poetry.

For the remainder of the morning, I join the session on Ecological Hermeneutics. I am struck by a reading of Isaiah 34 and 35 that emphasized nature in its prosperity as well as its marginalization. It is even more intriguing to read on; the next chapter presents a narrative featuring King Hezekiah and the king of Assyria. The presenter, Dominic Irudayaraj, mused about the potential for significant meaning because of the proximity of these two very differently-themed sections. Unfortunately, time was up, and furthering that topic must be taken up in some future discussion.

As for my evening activities, my partner drove me to the Oregon coast to let the ocean sing new life into my soul. In the morning, I will begin fresh.

About this event

Society of Biblical Literature/American Academy of Religion (SBLAAR) is an Annual Academic Conference that extends Nationally, Internationally, and Regionally. This is the first year it is running online as a virtual conference. Usually, it is held in a large metropolitan city in the United States. Read about #SBLAAR presentations. Also, read about other academic conferences.

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