Rachel Weeping: Jews, Christians, and Muslims at the Fortress Tomb

By Towner, W. Sibley | Interpretation, July 2008 | Go to article overview

Rachel Weeping: Jews, Christians, and Muslims at the Fortress Tomb


Towner, W. Sibley, Interpretation


Rachel Weeping: Jews, Christians, and Muslims at the Fortress Tomb by Fred Stricken Michael Glazier/Liturgical, Collegeville, Minn., 2007.174 pp. $18.95. ISBN 978-0-8146-5987-8.

THE RACHEL WE FIRST meet (Gen 29:9-20) is young, vibrant, and even a bit naughty (Gen 31:35)! But then come the melancholy times, the apparent barrenness, the competition with Jacob's other women, and finally her death in childbirth and her burial "on the way to Ephrath (that is Bethlehem)" (Gen 35:19). Alone among the mothers of Israel, she makes intercessory prayer and laments for her people: "A voice is heard in Ramah, lamentation and bitter weeping. Rachel is weeping for her children ... because they are no more" (Jer 31:15; cf. Matt 2:18).

Fred Strickert brings a four-part agenda to his discussion of this weeping Rachel. First, he closely examines the biblical portrait of Rachel, giving special attention to the melancholy account of her death and burial "on the way." He calls into question the identification of Ephrath with Bethlehem and asserts that Scripture more convincingly places her burial north of Jerusalem at ancient Ramah (per Jeremiah) than at the tomb shrine five miles south of Jerusalem and a mile north of Bethlehem that for at least seventeen centuries has born her name. Challenging the traditional site, made holy by the prayers and tears of the faithful, is not Strickert's main purpose, however.

Second, Strickert reviews the traditions about Rachel in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, disclosing the great respect in which the three religions hold her. Third, he traces the history of the small domed building known as Rachel's Tomb.

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