Original Research

Just emotions: Reading the Sarah and Hagar narrative (Genesis 16, 21) through the lens of human dignity

Juliana Claassens
Verbum et Ecclesia | Vol 34, No 2 | a787 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ve.v34i2.787 | © 2013 Juliana Claassens | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 31 August 2012 | Published: 04 September 2013

About the author(s)

Juliana Claassens, Department of Old and New Testament, University of Stellenbosch, South Africa


This article seeked to read the interconnected narratives of Sarah and Hagar (Genesis 16, 21) in terms of the hermeneutical lens of human dignity. For the purpose of this article, recent studies on the performative nature of emotions, which considered the central role of emotions such as pain, disgust and hatred in shaping the lives of individuals as well as the ways in which people relate to one another, were helpful in contemplating the situations of dehumanisation faced by both Sarah and Hagar as well as the broader question regarding upholding human worth in a context of indignity. This article furthermore considered the role of emotions in a conversation on ethics and particularly the way in which the narrative offered a fruitful avenue for considering Israel’s relationship to their neighbours – a line of interpretation that holds potential for reflecting on complex interracial and interethnic relationships in today’s global context.


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