Nineteenth-century female authors loved "the beautiful and pastoral story of Rebekah." They approached this narrative looking for lessons and applications for their own lives and the lives of their readers. King's exhortation to her readers encapsulated this interpretive approach: "Let us pause an instant here, and apply this to ourselves, with the important question, Do we, in a similar case, 'do likewise?'" Most of these authors would agree with King that all readers could find points at which Rebekah's story resonated with their lives:
All females, and indeed all human beings, have a very excellent example in this
part of the history; all examples should produce in us self-examination, how
far we imitate, or depart from, the pattern before us. Are we always anxious
to shew kindness and civility to strangers? Do we even study to do so to our
friends and neighbours? Are we constantly seeking occasion to assist and ben-
efit all whom we meet with; hasting to employ the means in our power in sup-
plying their wants, and contributing to their comfort; encountering any degree
of labour we are capable of, and submitting to any inconvenience, where the
necessities of our fellow-creatures, or even a poor animal may require it? If
we have hitherto been deficient in these virtues, let us humbly beseech the
Almighty to take from us "this heart of stone, and put his holy and benevolent
Spirit within us."
Although the lessons women authors drew from Rebekah's story varied, a number of common themes emerged. First, Rebekah's virtuous qualities (modesty, industry, generosity, hospitality) made her a positive model for women called to take up their appointed domestic duties. Second, Rebekah's negative qualities (preferential parenting and deception) allowed women to address issues related to parenting and family life and forced them to wrestle with such theological questions as divine guidance and providence, and the relationship of ends and means. Their teaching and preaching of the Rebekah story revealed their high view of "the pure simple truths of Scripture." They used the Bible to authorize their applications of the story to the present, especially in their conclusions. They knew the Bible very well, and many authors felt free to cite verses out of context if they proved their point. But since the writers who did this viewed all Scripture as true, they regarded its principles as true regardless of context.
These selections also show that women used a number of different interpretive strategies in their approach to the text. Most women drew on the resources
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Publication information: Book title: Let Her Speak for Herself: Nineteenth-Century Women Writing on the Women of Genesis. Contributors: Marion Ann Taylor - Editor, Heather E. Weir - Editor. Publisher: Baylor University Press. Place of publication: Waco, TX. Publication year: 2006. Page number: 321.
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