1 Pages

"She Is _'_ My Sister”

My Sister” 20.12
ByEndangered Ancestress))?

Scholars generally deal with Abraham's claim that Sarah really is his half-sister in Genesis 20.12 by asking whether or not it is a lie. Clines and Miscall think Abraham is lying;37 Westermann, von Rad, Speiser, and Skinner think he is telling the truth. 38 Some apologists call Abraham's claim that Sarah is his sister a "white lie. ,,39 Regardless of whether or not Sarah and Abraham are sister and brother, we know it is not true of Isaac and Rebekah. From a psychoanalytic-literary perspective, the important issue is not the veracity ofAbraham's claim but the fact that in all three versions the brother-sister relationship is imagined. All three accounts raise the issue of consanguinity simply by having the patriarch tell the foreigners that the matriarch is his sister. Might we not see in this latent incest fantasy a desire to achieve unity with the other? In the Song of Songs, for example, the man uses the epithet "sister, bride" to refer to the woman as a sign of intimacy. Clearly the matriarch's kinship ties to the patriarch are important to these stories in Genesis 12-36; she must come from his own people, his own kind.40 As a sibling, the matriarch is more "self" than "other"-more like the patriarch than different. Fantasizing her as his sister may represent a narcissistic striving toward completeness or wholeness, whose realization can only be imagined in his mirror-image from the opposite sex (she is what he would be ifhe were a woman). Oedipal desire, ofwhich, according to Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, the Girardian triangle is a schematization,41 may be at work here as well. As his close female relative, the sister is a stand-in for the mother as object of desire (and Sarah is the arch mother). In this case, Abraham will have married a girl as much like the girl who married dear 01' dad as possible. Fear of the father's wrath may explain his willingness to give her back, symbolically, to the father-the subject position held in our tale by the powerful, foreign ruler-authority figure. In the end, his relationship to his mother-substitute is legitimized by the father. This is the significance of the fact that Abimelech sees Isaac and Rebekah engaged in sexual play: it represents the father's acknowledgment that this woman rightfully belongs to the "son" and the father's permission for him to have sex with her.