Discourse and Intercourse

Women’s Speech and Sexuality in the House of the Father


  • Sarah Fein Brandeis University




Women, gender, speech, house of the father, Patrimonial Household Model


In this article, I consider three narratives, Genesis 38, 2 Samuel 13, and Judges 19, in which biblical authors deploy women’s speech at moments of crisis in the plot. These moments are caused by women’s precarious location in the bêt ʾāb, which I theorize using the framework of the Patrimonial Household Model (PHM). I assess the women characters’ speech through the lens of Laura Mary Elizabeth Hare’s sociolinguistic analysis of gendered speech in biblical narrative.  While Tamar in Gen 38 uses manipulation and “masculine” speech to successfully re-insert herself into the bêt ʾāb, Tamar in 2 Sam 13 is the victim of mens manipulation and her feminine speech fails to protect her. The secondary wife in Judges 19 has no verbal speech, only speech-acts, which leaves her almost but not entirely at the mercy of men’s discourse. I argue that the biblical authors understood women characters as able to exercise some amount of agency through their leveraging of normatively masculine speech, but only for the purpose of re-establishing the social order of the PHM.


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How to Cite

Fein, S. (2023) “Discourse and Intercourse: Women’s Speech and Sexuality in the House of the Father”, Avar: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Life and Society in the Ancient Near East . London, UK, 2(1), pp. 111–152. doi: 10.33182/aijls.v2i1.2059.