Wives, fears and foreskins
Early modern reproach of Zipporah and Michal
in Biblical women in early modern literary culture 1550–1700
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Early modern readings of biblical women are as full of variety and contradiction as the Bible itself. Zipporah and Michal are unusual for the challenges they pose to masculinity in literal and metaphorical ways. Though Jewish midrash unites Zipporah and Michal, the two do not appear together in any biblical narrative or text. Still, they are routinely linked in early modern discourse and in consistently unflattering ways. Zipporah's behaviour sets the stage for women's engagement in nationalistic enterprises an engagement that characterises the actions of several heroines in Exodus and in the biblical books that follow. Early modern readings echo charges of sin and injustice and include Michal in books such as God's judgments against whoring. The severe disconnection between the Bible's mix of compassion and wonder toward these women and the early modern disparagement of them invites us to consider what distinguishes these biblical women's narratives from others.

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