Bible Review 13:6, December 1997

Forgotten Heroines of the Exodus

The exclusion of women from Moses’ vision

By Tikva Frymer-Kensky

The beginning of the Book of Exodus introduces us to a world of men’s affairs. Jacob and his descendants, numbering 70 men and their families, come down to Egypt. The men are named and counted; their wives and daughters remain anonymous. The tale then unfolds: A new king arises who, unaware of Joseph, is frightened by the ever-multiplying alien group in his land. He enslaves the Israelites and then orders their male children killed at birth—a strange injunction, for to eliminate a population surely its future birth-givers should be killed. But Pharaoh is only worried about the men, who, he fears, might join with his enemies and fight against him. The women are insignificant. Without Israelite men around, their wombs would remain unclaimed and unbranded. They would be forced to marry Egyptian men and bear Egyptian children.

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