The Woman Who Named God: Abraham's Dilemma and the Birth of Three Faiths [NOOK Book]

Overview

The saga of Abraham, Sarah, and Hagar is the tale of origin for all three monotheistic faiths. Abraham must choose between two wives who have borne him two sons. One wife and son will share in his wealth and status, while the other two are exiled into the desert. Long a cornerstone of Western anxiety, the story chronicles a very famous and troubled family, and sheds light on the ongoing conflict between the Judeo-Christian and Islamic worlds.

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The Woman Who Named God: Abraham's Dilemma and the Birth of Three Faiths

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Overview

The saga of Abraham, Sarah, and Hagar is the tale of origin for all three monotheistic faiths. Abraham must choose between two wives who have borne him two sons. One wife and son will share in his wealth and status, while the other two are exiled into the desert. Long a cornerstone of Western anxiety, the story chronicles a very famous and troubled family, and sheds light on the ongoing conflict between the Judeo-Christian and Islamic worlds.

How did this ancient story become one of the least understood and most frequently misinterpreted of our cultural myths? Gordon explores this legendary love triangle to give us a startling perspective on three biblical characters who--with their jealousies, passions, and doubts--actually behave like human beings.

THE WOMAN WHO NAMED GOD is a compelling, smart, and provocative take on one of the Bible's most intriguing and troubling love stories.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

The story of Abraham, Hagar and Sarah stands at the threshold of the three great Western religions-Christianity, Judaism, Islam-although each appropriates the story differently. Although God's command of Abraham to sacrifice his son, Isaac, is an oft-told story, his expulsion of his concubine, Hagar, and the son he had by her, Ishmael, is often ignored. In this sometimes provocative, though often pedestrian, rereading of the Hagar story, Gordon (Mistress Bradstreet) gives new power to a woman often left in the shadows. Focusing on Hagar's vision of God in the desert (Genesis 16:13), Gordon argues that Hagar is a prophet and a mystic who names God El-Roi, or "the God of my seeing." Because of her experience of God, Gordon argues, Hagar's relationship with God is one that Abraham might envy, for God offered Hagar clear and direct guidance, while God offered Abraham no clarity or guidance about his future but simply expected Abraham to obey. Although her prose is often plodding, Gordon provides some glimpses of the power of Hagar's story for modern religions. (July)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal
Gordon (Mistress Bradstreet) offers a unique look at the Old Testament relationships between and among Abraham; his wife, Sarah; and his mistress, Hagar. Gordon approaches the biblical text as a literary study as opposed to a literal divine revelation. With no theological ax to grind, she draws upon the work of theologians, scholars, archaeologists, and historians to unpack a widely misunderstood and misinterpreted saga. Most interesting is her focus on the exiled, shamed, and shadowed Hagar, whom Gordon elevates to a mystic and prophet. Gordon ultimately shows that these biblical characters are complex and multilayered; they behave, in short, like human beings who wrestle with foibles, passions, and jealousies. Most important, the story speaks to the 21st century and its marital ambivalence, dysfunctional family systems, pervasive divorce, as well as to 9/11, the so-called "Axis of Evil," and West Bank unrest. The author's vision is that the retelling of this ancient tale might awaken the world to redemption. The sons of Hagar and Sarah, after all, came together in peace at their father Abraham's funeral. General readers with even a casual interest in religion and its impact on history, as well as on current events, will appreciate the lens through which the author peers.—C. Brian Smith, Arlington Heights Memorial Lib., IL
Kirkus Reviews
Literary study of the story of Abraham, Sarah and Hagar. Gordon (English/Endicott Coll.; Mistress Bradstreet: The Untold Life of America's First Poet, 2005, etc.) makes it clear that her book is not another theological or historical excavation of ancient texts. "This book," she writes, "proffers an exploration of the stories that have been passed down to us as stories." Considering the texts as a set of important, intriguing stories, the author provides a refreshing viewpoint unconcerned with critical minutiae of authorship or theological reverberations. Gordon focuses on the roles of Sarah and Hagar, Abraham's wife and concubine, and mothers to two great nations. Acknowledging the short shrift given these two remarkable women, the author provides a closer examination of their roles. Gordon moves slowly, sometimes a bit laboriously, through the brief story of Abraham's life, beginning with his decision to leave his homeland and finishing with his death. Referencing passages from the Koran, the author provides readers with points of reference as to the importance of the story to all three monotheistic traditions. Gordon's major contribution is the chapter on Hagar's encounter with God in the wilderness, at which point Hagar "names" Him. The author points out that "no one had ever invented their own [name for God], and no one else ever would." She goes on to posit that Hagar's description of God as one "who sees me" is a major basis for the theology and morality of all three Abrahamic traditions. The author speculates at length on periods of "silence" in the text. Given the paucity of detail provided by scripture, much of this discussion borders on conjecture. Nonetheless, Gordon addssomething new to an already full body of scholarship on Abraham. Fresh take on an old topic. Agent: Brettne Bloom/Kneerim & Williams
Judith Chettle
Thoughtful...Gordon examines all the familiar features of the story but pays particular attention to the human feelings of jealousy and distrust that affected the trio....She offers perceptive insights into an ancient story whose consequences continue to reverberate.
Richmond Times-Dispatch
C. Brian Smith
A unique look at the Old Testament relationships between and among Abraham; his wife, Sarah; and his mistress, Hagar....Most interesting is Gordon's focus on the exiled, shamed, and shadowed Hagar, whom Gordon elevates to a mystic and prophet....Complex and multilayered....The story speaks to the 21st century....General readers with even a casual interest in religion and its impact on history, as well as on current events, will appreciate the lens through which the author peers.
Library Journal
Jonathan Kirsch
Here and there on the front lines of the clash of civilizations, we can glimpse a few pockets of compassion....Gordon implores her readers to ask one of those "what-if" questions that reframe all of our conventional wisdom: "What if Abraham had chased after his mistress and firstborn son, begged Sarah to forgive his betrayal, and urged Hagar to forgive Sarah's jealousy, so that they might raise their sons together? Would we be any better at living in peace?" Gordon's provocative question hints at a more intimate aspect of the story of Hagar. .....The Bible, it has been said, is the least-read best-seller of all times. But there is a whole literature devoted to reconsidering the ancient text, a literature that is full of shocks and surprises, wholly unexpected cross-wirings of religious traditions, and illuminating flashes of insight and wisdom. On that shelf you will find Gordon's book, a superb example of how to approach the Bible.
truthdig.com
Ray Olson
A vibrant, engaging, realistic portrayal of early colonial Massachusetts and of its fascinating biographical subject.
Booklist
Michael Kenney
Gordon has a clear engagement with Bradstreet, and the major accomplishment of this lively biography is in showing that she is as exceptional a person as the 17th-century New England she lived in.
Boston Globe
Jonathan Kirsch - truthdig.com
"Here and there on the front lines of the clash of civilizations, we can glimpse a few pockets of compassion....Gordon implores her readers to ask one of those "what-if" questions that reframe all of our conventional wisdom: "What if Abraham had chased after his mistress and firstborn son, begged Sarah to forgive his betrayal, and urged Hagar to forgive Sarah's jealousy, so that they might raise their sons together? Would we be any better at living in peace?" Gordon's provocative question hints at a more intimate aspect of the story of Hagar. .....The Bible, it has been said, is the least-read best-seller of all times. But there is a whole literature devoted to reconsidering the ancient text, a literature that is full of shocks and surprises, wholly unexpected cross-wirings of religious traditions, and illuminating flashes of insight and wisdom. On that shelf you will find Gordon's book, a superb example of how to approach the Bible."
M.S. Mason and Rebecca Salomonsson - Christian Science Monitor
Praise for Mistress Bradstreet:

"Gordon tells Anne Bradstreet's gripping tale, including hardships and delights, in a clear, lively style."

Judith Chettle - Richmond Times-Dispatch
"Thoughtful...Gordon examines all the familiar features of the story but pays particular attention to the human feelings of jealousy and distrust that affected the trio....She offers perceptive insights into an ancient story whose consequences continue to reverberate."
Ray Olson - Booklist (starred)
"A vibrant, engaging, realistic portrayal of early colonial Massachusetts and of its fascinating biographical subject."
Michael Kenney - Boston Globe
"Gordon has a clear engagement with Bradstreet, and the major accomplishment of this lively biography is in showing that she is as exceptional a person as the 17th-century New England she lived in."
From the Publisher
"Thoughtful...Gordon examines all the familiar features of the story but pays particular attention to the human feelings of jealousy and distrust that affected the trio....She offers perceptive insights into an ancient story whose consequences continue to reverberate."—Judith Chettle, Richmond Times-Dispatch

"A unique look at the Old Testament relationships between and among Abraham; his wife, Sarah; and his mistress, Hagar....Most interesting is Gordon's focus on the exiled, shamed, and shadowed Hagar, whom Gordon elevates to a mystic and prophet....Complex and multilayered....The story speaks to the 21st century....General readers with even a casual interest in religion and its impact on history, as well as on current events, will appreciate the lens through which the author peers."—C. Brian Smith, Library Journal

"Here and there on the front lines of the clash of civilizations, we can glimpse a few pockets of compassion....Gordon implores her readers to ask one of those "what-if" questions that reframe all of our conventional wisdom: "What if Abraham had chased after his mistress and firstborn son, begged Sarah to forgive his betrayal, and urged Hagar to forgive Sarah's jealousy, so that they might raise their sons together? Would we be any better at living in peace?" Gordon's provocative question hints at a more intimate aspect of the story of Hagar. .....The Bible, it has been said, is the least-read best-seller of all times. But there is a whole literature devoted to reconsidering the ancient text, a literature that is full of shocks and surprises, wholly unexpected cross-wirings of religious traditions, and illuminating flashes of insight and wisdom. On that shelf you will find Gordon's book, a superb example of how to approach the Bible."—Jonathan Kirsch, truthdig.com

"A refreshing viewpoint...Gordon focuses on the roles of Sarah and Hagar, Abraham's wife and concubine, and mothers to two great nations. Acknowledging the short shrift given these two remarkable women, the author provides a closer examination of their roles....Gordon adds something new to an already full body of scholarship on Abraham."—Kirkus Reviews

"Provocative...Gordon gives new power to a woman often left in the shadows. Focusing on Hagar's vision of God in the desert, Gordon argues that Hagar is a prophet and a mystic who names God El-Roi, or "the God of my seeing"....Gordon provides some glimpses of the power of Hagar's story for modern religions."—Publishers Weekly

Praise for Mistress Bradstreet:

"Gordon tells Anne Bradstreet's gripping tale, including hardships and delights, in a clear, lively style."—M.S. Mason and Rebecca Salomonsson, Christian Science Monitor

"A thorough, occasionally whimsical, and hearteningly feminist take on the life of early Puritan pioneer and pundit Anne Bradstreet.—Kirkus Reviews

"A vibrant, engaging, realistic portrayal of early colonial Massachusetts and of its fascinating biographical subject."—Ray Olson, Booklist (starred)

"Gordon has a clear engagement with Bradstreet, and the major accomplishment of this lively biography is in showing that she is as exceptional a person as the 17th-century New England she lived in."—Michael Kenney, Boston Globe

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780316040662
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
  • Publication date: 7/28/2009
  • Sold by: Hachette Digital, Inc.
  • Format: eBook
  • Sales rank: 1,113,399
  • File size: 2 MB

Meet the Author

Charlotte Gordon graduated from Harvard College and received a Master's in Creative Writing and a Ph.D. in History and Literature from Boston University. She has published two books of poetry and, most recently, the biography Mistress Bradstreet, which was a Massachusetts Book Award Honor Book. From 1999-2001, she taught at Boston University's School of Theology. Currently, she is an assistant professor of English at Endicott College.
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Sort by: Showing all of 7 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 15, 2010

    Inspirational

    This book was very good. It was enjoyable to read and gave Islamic and Christian perspectives equal attention. This novel actually left me feeling inspired. Although, some of the things that inspired me offended another reviewer. That person thought that the assumption that God and Abraham did not have further discussion about leaving his father's city, slighted God. To me, it was an inspiration that this man had faith to continue on even though there wasn't more direction. How many times have people of faith felt that God was not directing them... this shows that even the 'father' of monotheistic religions probably experienced some of that feeling of hesitation and abandonment... Did Jesus slight God when he cried out, "My God, My God, why hath thou forsaken me?" No, he was a man expressing his feelings, not relinquishing his faith. These are stories of encouragement for those of us that don't always find God's path easy. In the context of history, it is simply amazing how Abraham did things different than what was accepted during that time period. This is a testament to him as a man and the power of God. I think open minded readers of all religions will enjoy it. Also, people that enjoy history will like the historical information dispersed in this fictional novel.

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  • Posted September 26, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Very Informative

    This book is full of facinating information on Abraham, Sarah and Hagar. It is full of insights into their relationships, their day to day lives, and their impact on history. I thought I knew a lot about them from reading the Bible, but there is information in this book that I didn't know. There is a Note, Dictionary and Bibliography section at the back of the book that is very informative. It is a book that anyone, of any faith can read and enjoy.

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  • Posted July 27, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Don't be fooled, this is not a Christian book.

    I am struggling to figure out how anyone can consider this a Christian book. The introduction started out interestingly enough - it almost read like a novel. Which was what I thought this book was. I read three chapters and it chaffed the whole way through.

    Certainly this book deals with figures/heroes of our Christian faith, but I would not characterize it as a Christian book. In fact there are statements and assumptions that I find illogical and irreverent.
    (For examples please see my review at http://www.notesofjubilee.com/2009/07/woman-who-named-god-review.html)

    In the introduction it's clear that the book is not an endorsement of a particular religion or religious text and I can handle that, but I will not tolerate the not-so-subtle jabs at the Book I hold most dear.

    I felt that in the description of this book we were lead to believe that this was a novel, a historical and fictional account of the story of Abraham, Sarah and Hagar. The description on the back of the book "A brilliant and timely retelling of the biblical story of Abraham, Sarah, and Hagar" even leads one to believe this is the case. Though, admittedly, in never uses the word novel. When I realized the error, I was still intrigued and read further because I am interested in the history and customs of Biblical times.

    This could be called a retelling, in the loosest of terms. It is a gathering of information - a compilation, if you will - of beliefs and oral legends of many different books from many different religions culminating in what the author believes happened in the lives of Abraham, Sarah and Hagar.

    But, again, it was difficult to dig through the criticisms toward God and jumps in logic just so I could get a feel for the history of Biblical times.

    Also, just as much - and sometimes more - credence is given to the Koran and non-canonical religious books as the Bible itself. That may be laudable from a secular standpoint, but not mine. I prefer a Christian world view. And I filter everything through that.

    My point is that I cannot give a positive review in terms of a Christian book. Because it is not. Even though there were interesting statements about culture and heritage.

    I would be remiss if I did not mention that the author has an extensive knowledge of various historical and religious writings. And a great deal of work went into this book. And from a secular historical standpoint it's impressive.

    But since I cannot trust the way the Bible and the God of the universe is handled in this book, who is to say that there aren't the same assumptions and mistakes in the researching of other parts of The Woman Who Named God?

    I am not willing to take that chance. Are you?

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  • Posted July 25, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Excellent study book

    This is an absolutely wonderfully researched historical study book. It is not a historical fiction story. It is written in a thesis/dissertation manner with careful references to how the 3 different religions have viewed the relationship between Abraham, Sarah, and Hagar. I discovered many things that I didn't realize about them and by "humanizing" them, Ms Gordon has brought to mind many emotional points that makes one ponder. Like, how did Sarai really feel about being offered to the Pharaoh. Was Hagar a member of Pharaoh's family or an Egyptian serving girl? Did Sarah ever regret sending Hagar out of the camp? Did Abraham? How have the different religions treated the relevence of God's prophecy during the night of the animal sacrifice. She has studied the different books of the Bible, Torah, and Koran as well as the many articles that have become part of the religions over the centuries. I found it well written, thought provoking, and being a woman, I was also pleased that someone took the time to investigate their relationship from a woman's point of view. Although it is about Sarah and Hagar and their relationship with Abraham, there are also chapters devoted to only Abraham and how his actions and experiences helped or hindered his relationship with his family and followers. Because it left me wanting to go off and explore some of the points for myself, I give this 4 stars.

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    Posted January 28, 2011

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 19, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted September 19, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

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