[b-hebrew] Joseph's Brothers

JimStinehart at aol.com JimStinehart at aol.com
Thu Dec 13 17:48:18 EST 2007

Kenneth Greifer:
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 
Patriarchal narratives.
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’ 
individual merit.
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.
Jim Stinehart
Evanston, Illinois

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