Bible Review 7:4, August 1991

How Desert Culture Helps Us Understand The Bible

Bedouin law explains reaction to rape of Dinah

By Clinton Bailey

When Abraham sends his concubine Hagar and their son Ishmael into the “wilderness of Beersheba” (Genesis 21:14), he hangs from Hagar’s shoulder “a skin of water.” In Sinai and the Negev, Bedouin shepherdesses today still carry to pasture the same type of container, made from the skin of a butchered goat, because its porosity helps to retain the coolness of the water under the hot sun.

Abraham’s servant, Eliezer, affixes a nose-ring to Rebecca’s nose when he meets her at the well while in search of a wife for Isaac (Genesis 24:47). This is the same article of jewelry that Bedouin girls bedeck themselves with today to draw attention to themselves in a way deemed more modest than exposing their mouths, which they keep veiled so as not to evoke thoughts of the vagina.

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