[b-hebrew] Joseph's Age II

JimStinehart at aol.com JimStinehart at aol.com
Thu Dec 13 14:56:19 EST 2007


We now return to our story of Joseph going up north to meet his older 
half-brothers. At long last, we are starting to get to the points that you 
specifically raised in your question.
 
(g)  If Joseph were a grown adult, age 17 or 18 regular years or so, there is 
no way that Joseph would have insisted that his older brothers must hear his 
latest dream, which to his older brothers sounded as if Joseph is foretelling 
that all of his older half-brothers will have to bow down to Joseph.  Note 
that relating that dream at Genesis 37: 9-11 makes sense for an innocent, naïve 
boy age 9 regular years, but would be obvious fighting words, and would 
basically be dumb, if related by a grown man age 17 or 18 regular years.
 
(h)  Jacob’s oldest son is Reuben, age 15 regular years.  None of Jacob’s 
sons has married yet.  If Joseph were age 17 regular years, several of Joseph’s 
older half-brothers would be married and would have their own children, but in 
fact nothing along those lines has happened yet.  Simeon and Levi in 
particular do not have wives to calm them down, nor do they have their own children, 
which might have made them think twice about killing their own brother Joseph.  
Each of Simeon and Levi is awkward age 13 regular years, and acts it.  If 
Simeon and Levi were in their 20s, married with children, they would not be 
acting like such hotheads.  
 
(i)  Jacob now determines that young Joseph should be sent up to Shechem to 
see how Jacob’s other sons are doing with tending the valuable flock in Jacob’
s absence.  Genesis 37: 12-14  Since the bloody Shechem incident has not 
happened yet, Jacob does not forsee any trouble.  Jacob naturally sends several 
servants with Joseph.  There had been no trouble traveling south from Shechem to 
Hebron, so why should there be any trouble now, in going north from Hebron 
back up to Shechem?  Indeed, there are no problems on the road.
 
Jacob, consumed with his own worries, does not realize how angry his older 
sons are with him and Joseph for Jacob’s obvious favoritism of Joseph.  Nor 
could Jacob have anticipated what plucky young Joseph went and did.
 
(j)  Note the odd, but telling, detail that Joseph was sent up to Shechem to 
meet up with his older half-brothers and the family flock, but Joseph does not 
actually meet his brothers until he has gone much farther north than that, 
all the way past Shechem to Dothan.  And the circumstances under which Joseph 
finds out where his brothers have gone are odd.  A man finds Joseph wandering in 
a field near Shechem.  Genesis 37: 14-17  What must have happened is this.  
Joseph must have been all alone, with his father’s servants some distance away 
in the field, when Joseph found out at Shechem that his brothers were tending 
the flock at Dothan.  Joseph, age 9½ regular years, thought he would play a 
harmless prank, that would show his older half-brothers that young Joseph was on 
the cusp of becoming a man now, and did not have to be handled by servants 
any longer.  Joseph apparently tells that man in the field not to tell the 
servants where Joseph’s brothers are.  Plucky young Joseph then gives the slip to 
his father’s servants at Shechem, and lights out on the double for Dothan.  
Joseph has at least a few hours’ lead time on the servants, who do not know what 
has happened, and who do not yet know where the family flock is being tended 
by Joseph’s brothers.
 
Joseph then grandly waltzes into the Dothan area to see his older 
half-brothers all by himself, wearing his infamous “coat of many colors”, and having 
given the slip to his father’s servants back at Shechem.  Joseph is truly all 
alone at this moment, with no servants around.  This is the one moment of 
opportunity for Simeon and Levi.  If something bad happened to Joseph, there were no 
servants of Jacob around to see it, and to report back to Jacob.  This was a 
one-time opportunity, that would not likely come around again.
 
Here is the text:
 
“And Joseph went after his brethren, and found them in Dothan.  And they saw 
him afar off, and before he came near unto them, they conspired against him to 
slay him. And they said one to another:  'Behold, this dreamer cometh.  Come 
now therefore, and let us slay him, and cast him into one of the pits, and we 
will say:  An evil beast hath devoured him;  and we shall see what will become 
of his dreams.'”    Genesis 35: 17-20  
 
Now here is the same text, to which I have added my editorial comments in 
brackets:
 
 “And Joseph[, having given the slip to his father’s servants back in 
Shechem,] went after his brethren [all alone, without a single servant accompanying 
him at this point], and found them in Dothan.  And they saw him afar off, 
[waltzing into Dothan all alone, without a single servant, acting like a big-shot 
who, at the tender age of 9½ regular years, no longer considered that he 
needed to be accompanied by servants,] and before he came near unto them, they 
conspired against him to slay him.  And they said one to another:  'Behold, this 
dreamer cometh.  [This is our one and only chance to kill young Joseph and get 
away with it, because there are no servants around, and such an opportunity 
will probably never come around again.  And behold, we must act very fast, 
before our father’s servants find out that we are at Dothan and come looking for 
their wayward charge.]  Come now therefore, and let us slay him, and cast him 
into one of the pits, and we will say:  An evil beast hath devoured him;  and we 
shall see what will become of his dreams.'”    Genesis 35: 17-20
 
I realize that this has been a much longer explanation than you bargained 
for.  But this is my considered view of how the author of the Patriarchal 
narratives wants us to view this famous, chilling story.  It really only makes sense 
if (i) Joseph is only age 9½ regular years (or else Joseph would never have 
told those incendiary dreams to his older half-brothers, and then given his 
father’s servants the slip in going to meet his older half-brothers), and (ii) the 
bloody Shechem incident has not happened yet (or else none of this story 
would be happening in the Shechem area).
 
Jim Stinehart
Evanston, Illinois




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