Genesis Overview: The Story of Joseph

This is the longest narrative (exceeding 24) and is composed throughout with scenes which have definite boundaries. It can be divided: 37; 39-47; 50. It is predominantly JE with "unimportant" P passages.

a) Joseph's Dreams and Sale into Egypt (37.2-36 in JE)

37.1-2: The story link is from the P Toledoth, a word whose meaning is stretched from "succession" to "family history". It is really a Jacob  story which closes with his death. 37.2 is awkward and a torso. The story of the tale-telling is abrupt and never referred to again. The half-brothers mentioned may have been mentioned to exclude the  others.

37.3-4: J takes up with the twin causes of dissension, Jacob's preferential treatment of Joseph and the dreams but the double cause may be a clue of two sources. The ages of the brothers differ more greatly than in 30.23 where Joseph is not the son of Jacob's old age. The coat is distinguished from the work-a-day mantle, is long and has long sleeves, a luxury for kings (cf. 2 Samuel 13.18 f.). "Variegated" derives from the LXX translating a word whose meaning is still unknown.

37.5-11: The dreams are simply prefigurations, although the narrator considers them "real prophesies given by God" (p351); or they might be '... notions of a vainglorious heart" (p351): grain testifies small agriculture; eleven refers to the zodiac; there is a problem with Rachel cf. 35.18, 37.3-11: "... contains what amounts to a model exposition of the whole Joseph story." (p352). Jacob cannot rid himself of the dreams; "hatred" is mentioned four times.

37.12-17: Jacob's carelessness of his son is strange.

37.18-36: The narrative is overcharged and unmethodical. Judah and Reuben propose to restrain the others (in 37.21 "Judah" is to be read for "Ruben"). In J Joseph was sold to Ishmaelites, in E he was stolen from the cistern by the Midianites which thwarted Reuben. The brothers' rebellion is against the divine which takes on potency only when expressed. The allocation of virtue to Reuben is inexplicable. Blood cannot be hidden, cf. 4.10. Eating their lunch, the brothers were careless. The caravans were largely carrying medical supplies; the Ishmaelites are an anachronism as they were Joseph's uncles. The bloody coat is a legal sign of death. "... nothing further will be said about Jacob for a long time. The timeless veil of sorrow sinks over his life for many years." (p355).

KC VI/14 

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