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Encounters in the Dark: Identity Formation in the Jacob Story
Noel Forlini Burt
SemeiaSt 96
Publication Date
November 2020



An interdisciplinary study of a familiar patriarchal narrative

Encounters in the Dark: Identity Formation in the Jacob Story traces the many moments of darkness in the life of Jacob. From the darkness of his mother’s womb, to the darkness Jacob uses to deceive his father and his brother, to the night he sleeps on the ground with just a stone for a pillow at Bethel, and to the triumphant scene of wrestling God by the Jabbok River, the biblical story frequently situates Jacob in the darkness. Through an exploration of key moments in Jacob’s story, Noel Forlini Burt follows Jacob’s journey from home to exile and back home again. His story symbolizes the larger story of Israel’s own wrestling with God in the darkness of exile and return.


  • An exploration of the poetics and rhetoric of the Jacob story
  • An examination of characterization in its ancient and modern contexts
  • An analysis of individual and collective identity

Noel Forlini Burt is a lecturer in the Department of Religion at Baylor University, where she teaches courses in Biblical Studies and Hebrew. She is the author of Wilderness as Autobiography (forthcoming) and “‘To Do You Good in the End’: The Wilderness Experience in Israel’s Communal Memory (Deuteronomy 8),” in Biblical and Theological Visions of Resilience: Clinical and Pastoral Insights (2019).

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