Delight, Desire and Drag: The Saga of the Gibeonites and the Queering of Covenant Theology
Stephanie Day Powell
Walter Brueggemann (1999) describes the biblical covenant relationship as the realization of two partners’ (the “self” and the “other’s”) authentic “delight and desire.” When defined as the task of relating to one another in an effort of mutual accountability, covenant is an understandably attractive concept. Yet an analysis of covenant-making in the Hebrew Bible reveals a paradoxical practice founded on an exclusionary arrangement between Israel and Yahweh in which the underlying binary assumptions of ethnicity, class, and sexuality undermine the principles through which covenanting with other “others” outside of this relationship may be possible. Bringing these dynamics to light necessarily calls into question the efficacy of the covenant model for diverse communities today seeking more egalitarian models for community building. This paper interrogates the eroticized foundations of covenant theology from its biblical foundations to its reception in biblical scholarship, followed by a queer reading of Joshua 9 that illuminates how the Gibeonite use of “drag” both challenges and amplifies the notions of “self” and “other” upon which the biblical covenant turns most heavily. “Cross-dressing” their way into covenantal relationship with Israel, the Gibeonites expose the nominal nature of covenantal identity and provide the raw material to begin to covenant differently.