[b-hebrew] Joseph's Brothers
JimStinehart at aol.com
JimStinehart at aol.com
Thu Dec 13 17:48:18 EST 2007
1. You wrote: “I have an idea. You could say that Genesis 37:2 means that
Joseph watched the flocks with Bilhah and Zilphah's sons, and that the rest of
the flocks were with the other sons separately.”
(a) That is one logical possibility.
(b) The other logical possibility is that Jacob’s sons took turns tending
the family’s one flock.
In any event, it is clear that at Genesis 37: 2, only the birth sons of
Bilhah and Zilpah are tending the flock with young Joseph. Joseph is age 8½
regular years at that time, and acts his age.
2. You wrote: “Otherwise, you would have to say that all of the sons were
called Bilhah and Zilpah's sons.”
No. See my prior post. There is nothing to support that view in the text.
Joseph only cared about his one true full-brother, Benjamin. Joseph’s
half-brothers by his birth mother’s female servant hated Joseph, and participated in
the attempt to murder young Joseph.
Joseph wants to be reunited with his only full-brother, Benjamin. That’s
what drives that extended sequence in the text when Jacob’s older sons go down to
Egypt twice to buy food.
If you don’t pick up on the extreme animus between half-brothers in the text,
including close half-brothers, where the birth mother of one is the female
servant of the other’s birth mother (Joseph vs. Dan and Naphtali; even more
obviously, Isaac vs. Ishmael!), then you’re missing one of the key points of the
There is a very deep dislike of half-brothers in the Patriarchal narratives.
And that applies even where the half-brother in question has great individual
merit (Ishmael and Joseph). The author of the Patriarchal narratives is
trying to tell us something important here. Somebody important at the time,
somebody who might be able to save the Hebrews from being annihilated by the
Hittites, did not like his half-brothers, regardless of his half-brothers’
And beyond that, Joseph’s full-brother, Benjamin, is 10 regular years younger
than Joseph, and never amounts to much. Benjamin gets a well-deserved
ultimate curse from his father Jacob. So that somebody important may also have been
disappointed by his own full-brother who was 10 years younger than him, even
though he ended up handing everything to that younger full-brother on a silver
platter. The text is telling us important facts about secular history like
that, if we’re alert to what is going on in the text and what was going on in
the early secular history of the Hebrews.
But here on the b-Hebrew list, we should instead focus on discussing key
issues concerning the particular Biblical Hebrew wording of the text. In
particular, it’s just about time to get back to discuss the fascinating puns in Hebrew
on the names of Jacob’s 12 sons. The great name “Judah” will be next.
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