The Transgression of Maacah in 2 Chronicles 15:16: A Simple Case of Idolatry or the Threatening Poesis of Maternal ‘Speech’?

Julie Kelso


In this essay, I shall argue that in Chronicles Maacah is not simply deposed because she is an idolater. Rather, in an important sense Maacah’s act of producing an idol for the goddess Asherah threatens patrilineal, patriarchal social order itself, as it is constructed and understood in Chronicles. Specifically, her act undermines the dominant (unconscious) phantasy at work in Chronicles: that of masculine, monosexual (re)production. To sustain itself, this phantasy requires the ‘silence’ or non-representation of the maternal body. In other words, it is not simply Maacah’s idolatry that sees her punished; it is her daring production of the feminine divine and the associated female genealogy it evokes (the goddess/mother, worshipper/daughter) – the repressed of patriarchal discourses according to Luce Irigaray – that such a creative act effects. I wish to show that Maacah’s productive, creative act may be considered as visual and tactile maternal ‘speech’. When read alongside the naming speech of Jabez' mother in 1 Chr. 4:9, and the murderous speech of Athaliah in 2 Chr 22:10, Maacah’s ‘speech’ is more than just a transgression of the law against the image. Maacah’s act may be read as a threat to the continuity of partilineal succession and patriarchal social order. Attempting to represent the maternal body as divine arrests, even perhaps ‘clots,’ the ‘fluidity’ of this masculine order of representation because it contradicts what constitutes the ‘reality’ of this masculine discourse: a world of (self-producing) men.


Chronicles; Maacah; feminism

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Bible and Critical Theory: ISSN 1832-3391