[b-hebrew] Portrait of Joseph in Chapter 40 of Genesis

jimstinehart at aol.com jimstinehart at aol.com
Mon Mar 26 07:53:50 EDT 2012


Dave Washburn:

You wrote:  “The focus of the story is Joseph's ability to interpret dreams. The Pharaoh could have the baker impaled for burning the morning toast, because the Pharaoh was pretty much all-powerful. You're creating a cure for which there is no known disease.”

1.  If that were the case, then why does the text describe the fine baskets of which the Baker dreams as being XRY, being a word which university scholars say in their published works never appears elsewhere in the Bible, but which has the same three letters as XRY at Genesis 14: 6?

2.  When you write “The Pharaoh could have the baker impaled for burning the morning toast, because the Pharaoh was pretty much all-powerful”, that seems to imply that Pharaoh often took arbitrary actions that in many cases may have been ill-advised, and that in particular the Baker may not have actually been guilty of anything much more serious than “burning the morning toast”.  But how does that approach square with what we read in the very next chapter of Genesis?

“And the thing was good in the eyes of Pharaoh, and in the eyes of all his servants.  And Pharaoh said unto his servants, Can we find [such a one] as this [is], a man in whom the Spirit of God [is]?  And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, Forasmuch as God hath shewed thee all this, [there is] none so discreet and wise as thou [art]:  Thou shalt be over my house, and according unto thy word shall all my people be ruled: only in the throne will I be greater than thou.  And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, See, I have set thee over all the land of Egypt.  And Pharaoh took off his ring from his hand, and put it upon Joseph's hand, and arrayed him in vestures of fine linen, and put a gold chain about his neck”.  Genesis 41: 37-42

Is Pharaoh being portrayed as doing that arbitrarily in an action that could easily have been ill-advised, perhaps because Pharaoh was confident that unlike the Baker, Joseph would be sure not to “burn the morning toast”?  No, both in chapters 40 and 41 of Genesis, the early Hebrew author is portraying Pharaoh as doing the right thing for the right reason.

In order for us the audience to understand that in chapters 40 and 41 Pharaoh is doing the right thing for the right reason, we must know what the nature of the Baker’s treason was in chapter 40.  The fact that the fine baskets/CLY were XRY is the key clue.  That reveals that the Baker was planning to contravene Pharaoh’s new Year 12 anti-XRY policy of breaking with the XRY state of Naharim.  The early Hebrew author goes out of his way to show solidarity with Pharaoh’s controversial Year 12 anti-XRY policy:  (i) YHWH guarantees Canaan to the Hebrews as against the XRY at Genesis 15: 18-21;  (ii) Rebekah reams out Esau’s XRY wives at the end of chapter 27 of Genesis;  and (iii) the family statues that should have been returned to Naharim are never so returned, and in fact Rachel sits on them at the wrong time of the month!  Genesis 31: 34-35

Your view that Pharaoh was all-powerful, period, misses the essence of these stories.  Everyone knew that Pharaoh was all-powerful in Egypt.  The critical question, however, was whether Pharaoh’s controversial anti-XRY policy that he had inaugurated in Year 12, and which was much discussed, often negatively, in Year 13, was the right thing for Egypt to do.  [Note also the Amarna Age ambience of the phrase “Pharaoh…put a gold chain about his neck”, which is one of the best-known images coming out of Amarna, and which recalls only Amarna, not any other era.]

3.  The critical issue here, upon which no one but me has made a single comment, is the meaning of the Biblical Hebrew word XRY at Genesis 40: 16.  In my opinion, that word explains the nature of the Baker’s treason, and nicely sets the stage for us the audience to know that Pharaoh will do the right thing for the right reason when he elevates Joseph in the next chapter.  The key to an historical understanding of the Patriarchal narratives is to focus on the Biblical Hebrew word XRY at Genesis 40: 16.

Jim Stinehart
Evanston, Illinois





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