This work brings literary-aesthetic and socio-historical considerations into a meaningful synergy that illuminates both the literary features and the social functions of Genesis 12–36. Heard rigorously examines the ambiguities (some long known, some heretofore unrecognized) in the characterizations of Lot, Ishmael, and Esau. He painstakingly charts the range of possible resolutions for those ambiguities, noting the lack of guidance provided by the narrator for readers negotiating these options. Heard argues that the narrator’s penchant for leaving these ambiguities unresolved is neither accidental nor a generic feature of language but is instead a strategy of the narratives’ ideological function in promoting ethnic exclusivity in postexilic Judah. Heard’s study yields a richer understanding of why Genesis 12–36 was written as it was, and gives new depth and vigor to studies of the form and function of the book of Genesis.
R. Christopher Heard is Assistant Professor of Bible at Milligan College.