Let Her Speak for Herself: Nineteenth-Century Women Writing on the Women of Genesis

By Marion Ann Taylor; Heather E. Weir | Go to book overview

§40 Sarah Town Martyn
(1805–1879)

Sarah Martyn, an American Congregationalist, was a social activist and writer. She edited a number of religious and women's magazines, and published more than twenty books.14 Martyn lived and wrote at the same time as Warner, but wrote for an older and primarily female audience, and addressed theological issues much more subtly than Warner. Martyn's book, Women of the Bible, was an illustrated gift book that retold biblical stories in a gentle romanticized way. She filled out the characters in the text and emphasized the emotions she imagined they must have experienced. Building on her experience as a writer of historical fiction, she fleshed out the story through creative extrapolation. Martyn saw Hagar as typical of everyone. Like Warner, Martyn was an abolitionist. However, unlike Warner, she did not interpret the Hagar story in light of the American slavery issue.

From S. T. Martyn, Women of the Bible (New York: American Tract
Society, 1868), 32–36, 45–49.


–Sarah and Hagar–

ON his entrance into the promised land, Abram passed on to Bethel; and from that place turned southward as far as Mamre, or Hebron, twenty miles south of Jerusalem, where he fixed his abode. Lot, his nephew, being obliged to leave his relative because of the constant bickerings between the herdsmen of the two patriarchs, chose the rich vale of Sodom as his place of residence, moved to the step more by the love of mammon than a regard to the glory of God. This unwise choice resulted most disastrously for Lot and his family, none of whom escaped the moral contamination of the guilty and devoted city "Gen. 19, Josh. 6:17".15

Soon after Lot's departure, Sarah, who had brought with her from Egypt a young maiden named Hagar as a personal attendant, and who still continued childless, offered Hagar, according to the custom of those times, to Abram as his concubine, hoping by means of children thus obtained, to escape the

14 For more information on Martyn, see part 1, "Eve—The Mother of Us All."

15 Martyn called Sodom a "devoted city," though it is not called that in Genesis. A "devoted
city" was to be completely destroyed so that Israelites would not be contaminated by it. See
Leviticus 27 for regulations around devoted things.

-207-

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