Feeling Womb-ey: The Presence and Significance of Emotion in Proverbs 31:1-9
Amy J. Chase, Carey Theological College
In recent years a selection of scholars has examined emotion in the Bible, yet considerations of gender and emotion remain largely unexplored. Prov. 31:1–9 serves as fitting text for such exploration due to its rare female speaker evidencing multiple signals of emotion. This article explores the presence and significance of emotion in Prov. 31:1–9, with special attention to gender and power dynamics at play. It identifies topical, syntactic, and semantic indicators, arguing that mention of biṭnî (“my womb”) serves as a conceptual metaphor of emotion deriving from the in utero connection experienced between the poem’s two main figures, a royal mother and son. As a conceptual metaphor of emotion, biṭnî connects with a second reference to the body, pəṯaḥ-pîḵā (“open your mouth”), to promote societal interdependence that legitimates class hierarchy. The article explores the rhetorical effect of these two maternal references upon the mother’s ethical council and upon readers, arguing that her urging of her son to imitate her maternal care with respect to his own charges can be critiqued for elevating the interests of the ruling class via silencing those who are controlled by them. The present study, then, models how attending to emotion not only impacts interpretation but also empowers readers to interrogate the feelings such texts provoke, becoming more savvy as regards embrace of a text and its focalized figures.
Proverbs 31, emotion, gender, affect, feminist interpretation