Genesis Overview: Joseph e-k

e) The Brothers' First Journey to Egypt (42)

There is a marked caesura between 41 and 42 with a reversion to Palestine and a shift from Joseph alone to the family relationships. The text is mixed. in 42.13-26 and 42.29-35 Joseph suspects his brothers as spies and wants to send only one back to bring Benjamin and prove their story (42.14-16) but ultimately only holds Simeon hostage and the others, going home, find their money, either on the first night of their journey (42.27) or at the end of it (42.35-37). Improbably in  43.1 ff. the brothers do not immediately return to Egypt but wait until their food runs out. 43.3-7 (where Simeon's detention is not mentioned) duplicates 42.29-34. This is explicable if 43.1 ff. is from a different source (J rather than the predominant E). There are numerous examples of duplication of sources.

42.1-12: Joseph saw his brothers in the wheat market; they would not have recognised him, not least because of his Egyptian oath (42.15). Egyptians chronically feared infiltration. Joseph moves from offensiveness to a hint of affection; his dreams have been realised and God is still with him.

42.13-24: The text skilfully handles complex emotions on all sides. "It is more the moral in man which reacts in the brothers than that very ancient terror before the avenging deity." (p384).

42.25-38: Money in sacks is a sign that the brothers are his guests, a sign of veiled love, but to his brothers it was both enigmatic and frightening.

f) The Brothers' Second Journey to Egypt (43 EJ)

J and 43.14, 23b harmonise the material with Chapter 42.

43.1-10: The balance of famine and losing Benjamin. Joseph (41.46) was at least 37 and therefore Benjamin just a few years younger but the narrator depicts him as very young: "lad" is either a reference to youth or simply familiarly affectionate.

43.11-15: "The melancholy conclusion in in v. 14b shows the sad resignation of a man who has long resisted but who no longer wants to set his will against the course of events, and who still cannot bring himself to any real assurance." (p387). The narrator depicts three distinct scenes with very brief linking material.

43.16-25: It appears that Joseph briefed his steward in advance for such unusual hospitality; the brothers are terribly anxious; "The master of ceremonies' gracious answer is the jewel in this masterful scene. It is reassuring and intended to distract the upset men from the object of their fear; but its dark ambiguity touches the innermost mystery of the whole  Joseph story: God's concealed guidance." (p388). Simeon's release in 42.23b links the chapter with 43.

43.26-34: Joseph does not wait for an answer to his second question. To get drunk in a festive environment was acceptable.

g) The Final Test of the Brothers (44 EJ)

44 follows the pattern of 43.16 ff.

44.1-2: "(Joseph) is playing an insolent, almost wanton game with the brothers." (391). Stealing sacred objects (cf. 31.30 ff.) is very serious.

44.3-17: The steward is very lenient; but the discovery of the cup strikes as a mortal judgment from God, an irony as the cup is a pagan ritual object. "Here is the most important part of the test that Joseph made his brothers endure: he wants to isolate them from Benjamin; he wants to prove them, to learn whether they will seize the opportunity to go free without Benjamin." (p393). The test was whether they had changed.

44.18-34: "... Judah utters a speech into which he pours everything that could perhaps still alert the misery which has befallen the brothers and Jacob. It is one of the most beautiful examples of that lofty rhetorical culture that was in full blossom at the time of our narrator, i.e., in the early days of the kingdom." (p394). Judah depicts Joseph's demand for Benjamin as an act of kindness. "To set one's eyes upon" is courtly language for "to show favour". "Because Joseph has gone, Jacob does not want to let Benjamin go." (p394). From Judah's point of view, the dead Joseph's shadow lies across his speech.

h) The Recognition (45 in JE)

J: 1,4,5a; E: 2-3, 5b. cf. 45.9 ff., 45,16 ff.; 45.9 and 45.18, 20; 45.17 and 45.23, 45.19, 45.27. 45.19-21 often considered a later addition.

45.1-7: In spite of the psychological impact, the narrator's main concern is still Yahweh's role; it was 'he' who brought the brothers to Egypt.

45.8-28: The narrator does not mention the confession of the brothers.

i) Jacob's Removal to Egypt (46 in p with je)

46.6-27 is P, from a subsequent compilation, with the  balance JE.

46.1-5: e places the initiative to leave the 'promised land' which is not human but is Yahweh's.

46.6-27: In the older narrative 46.28 ff. immediately followed 46.5 between which the redactor inserts P's account of Jacob's emigration, the inconsistency is shown in 46.7 where women are plural as opposed to the list where they are singular. The traditional round number of 70 is achieved by adding Joseph, his two sons and Jacob. Pedantry requires Benjamin already to have two sons; this is a work of "... very late and theoretical erudition." (p403).

46.28-30: "The meeting between  Joseph, believed dead twenty-two years, surrounded by a great retinue, and the father should move the reader profoundly." (p403). But the climax is not here but at 50.20.

46.31-34: For both security reasons, and apparent abhorrence of sheep - Pharaoh wants Jacob and his family to live in Goshen, on the edge of his land, a strip approximating to the course of the Suez Canal.

k) Jacob before Pharaoh (47.1-27)

47.1-7 directly follows 46.34. There is a gap in the Masoretic text made good by the LXX in 47.7-11.

47.1-12: The LXX, adds to the Masoretic text:

Jacob and his sons came to Joseph in Egypt, and when Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, heard about it he spoke to Joseph."

If this is followed by 47.5b and 47.6a it is parallel to 47.1-4, 47.5a, 47.6b. The ancient proposed settlement was realistic but the later P in 47.5-12 is much more spacious. Given the P orientation: "What Jacob means in answer to Pharaoh's question is this: the circumstances of this life of sojourning became much more unfavourable in his generation. In comparison with his father's his life has been briefer and more difficult." (p408). Decreased longevity linked with complexity and the advance of evil.

47.13-26: This section usually attributed to J; some commentators believe it should follow Chapter 41; in this position it makes the narrative lose its familial focus. The narrative is in phases: First, the people buy grain, cf. 41.56; secondly, cattle are exchanged for grain but whether physically or as security is not clear; thirdly, the people offer land for seed, as if the crisis is near its end. 47.17 implies a two-year rather than a seven-year famine. "... there pervades the narrative a naive pleasure in the possibilities of human wisdom which can conquer economic difficulties ..." (p410). The narrative is accurate, recalling the documented decline of the peasantry with land transferred to the monarchy.

KC VI/14

Buy this book from

Related Study Sheets…