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Abstract

This dissertation is interested in the metaphorical construction of female figures in the Hebrew Bible, specifically addressing why but, especially, how feminine literary imagery is utilized repeatedly, across biblical texts and genres, to figure the collective identity, values, and concerns of Israel and Judea. While the image of personified Israel or Jerusalem, often portrayed in several prophetic texts as the battered wife of Yahweh (such as Hosea or Ezekiel), is more widely discussed in scholarship, this project expands the range of texts, modes of figuration, and forms of identity usually analyzed. I look beyond the prophetic texts to discover a more diverse and extensive female figuration that makes use of not only the female body but also the female voice. Unlike the prophetic portrayals of personified Israel or Jerusalem, the constructed female figures under examination here speak. They give voice to community values, such as romantic love (Song of Songs) and wisdom (Proverbs), as well as their relationship with Yahweh (Lamentations). The purpose of this study, then, is to examine these speaking female figures of the Hebrew Bible, analyzing how they have been constructed and to what literary function they have been put. This dissertation demonstrates that these female figures are persuasive metaphorical expressions of communal values and anxiety.

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