Terror of texts: Orality and the reclaiming of daughters' land rights (numbers 27:1-11 and 36:1-12)

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Havea offers a reading of the story of five sisters: Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Tirzah. The reading highlights the courage of these women to keep their dead father’s name (Zelophehad) and memory alive (Num 27:1–11) and the issues that arise due to legal revisions (Num 36:1–12). The reading is presented in four letters (following West’s theoretical positioning) addressed to Havea’s Tongan relatives: a dead niece, a dead sister-in-law, a living four-year-old daughter, and an elder from the Kulin nations. These letters take advantage of the workings of orality and, in the process, expose how the two-part story of the five sisters manifests the “terror of texts.” For example, what the sisters accomplished in Num 27 is rewritten in Num 36 in the interests of the tribal leaders. Among the upshots of these letters combined with the workings of orality is the realization that what happened to the five sisters is similar to the dispossession of the five indigenous nations—the Wurundjeri, Boonwurrung, Taungurong, Dja Dja Wurrung, and Wathaurung—that make up the Kulin nations and the proposal that the unnamed mother of the five sisters be given the name “Kulin.” Havea emphasizes that these two moves are necessary re-sponses to the terror of texts.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationTerror in the Bible
Subtitle of host publicationRhetoric, gender, and violence
EditorsMonica Jyotsna Melanchthon, Robyn J. Whitaker
Place of PublicationAtlanta
PublisherSBL Press
Number of pages14
ISBN (Electronic)9781628375008
ISBN (Print)9781628374216
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2021

Publication series

NameInternational voices in biblical studies


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