[b-hebrew] The Name "Joseph": Patriarchal Successions

JimStinehart at aol.com JimStinehart at aol.com
Mon Jan 7 08:38:14 EST 2008

Based in part on our analysis of the name “Joseph”, we can now go back and 
determine what specific rules govern all three Patriarchal successions.  (The 
secondary literature on the Patriarchal narratives does not discuss this 
critically important issue.)
In all three Patriarchal successions, the winning candidate always meets the 
following three key requirements, and the main contender who fails to be named 
the leader of the next generation of the new monotheists always fails to meet 
one or more of these requirements:
1.  The winning son cannot be his father’s firstborn son.
2.  The winning son cannot be his father’s favorite son.
3.  The birth mother of the winning son must be his father’s original main 
wife #1.
Now let’s see how these three simple, odd rules govern all three Patriarchal 
I.  Ishmael vs. Isaac
Ishmael fails all three of the above tests.  Ishmael is his father’s 
firstborn son (or is at least his father’s firstborn son of importance).  Ishmael is 
his father Abraham’s favorite son.  We see this when Abraham pleads Ishmael’s 
case with YHWH (Genesis 17: 18), and Abraham is stated to be grieved when 
Ishmael must be exiled (Genesis 21: 11).  By contrast, Abraham never pleads Isaac’
s case to YHWH, particularly during the binding incident, and Abraham is not 
stated in the text to be grieved when Abraham almost kills Isaac in the binding 
incident.  Most importantly, however, in this first Patriarchal succession is 
the obvious fact that Ishmael’s birth mother is Hagar, who is not Abraham’s 
main wife #1.  Ishmael was borne on Sarah’s behalf, but Sarah is not Ishmael’
s birth mother.
Isaac, who is the winning son, meets all three tests.  Isaac is not his father
’s firstborn son, Isaac is not his father’s favorite son (Ishmael is), and 
Isaac’s birth mother, Sarah, is Abraham’s original main wife #1.
II.  Esau vs. Jacob
Esau fails the first two requirements.  Esau is his father Isaac’s firstborn 
son.  And Esau is obviously his father’s favorite son, as Isaac likes Esau 
much better than Isaac likes Jacob.  (Jacob never forgave his older twin brother 
Esau for so obviously being their father’s favorite son.)  The focus in this 
second Patriarchal succession is on birth order.  Esau is repeatedly stated to 
be Isaac’s older son (even though Esau and Jacob are twins).  Their mother 
Rebekah’s famous dream about the twin sons struggling in her womb is ambiguous, 
but one thing is clear:  that dream clearly relates to birth order.  Esau’s 
fatal flaw is to be his father’s firstborn son.
By contrast, winning son Jacob meets all three tests.  Jacob is not his father
’s firstborn son, and clearly is not his father’s favorite son.  The third 
factor is neutral here between the two sons, as the twins obviously have the 
same birth mother, who is their father’s original main wife #1.
III.  Judah vs. Joseph
Joseph fails the second and third requirements.  Joseph is probably O.K. on 
the first requirement, in that Joseph is not his father’s firstborn son (though 
Joseph is the firstborn son of Jacob’s favorite wife).  But Joseph is his 
father’s favorite son, being the only son to receive the “coat of many colors”.  
And most critically, Joseph’s birth mother is Rachel, who although a fine 
mother with high standing, nevertheless is not Jacob’s original main wife #1.  
Jacob married Leah 7 days before Jacob married Rachel, so it is Leah who has the 
honor of being Jacob’s original main wife #1.
Judah meets all three tests.  Judah is not his father’s firstborn son, Judah 
is not his father’s favorite son (Joseph is), and Judah’s birth mother is 
Jacob’s original main wife #1:  Leah.  (Note that Leah, but not Rachel, is buried 
in Hebron with the other Patriarchs and Matriarchs.  Each Matriarch buried in 
Hebron is, unlike Rachel, her husband’s original main wife #1.)  
In the end, it was impossible for Joseph to avoid Ishmael’s sad fate.  Since 
the birth mother of neither Ishmael nor Joseph was the father’s original main 
wife #1, neither Ishmael nor Joseph had a chance.  Rachel tried to avoid that 
by calling her son “Joseph”, meaning “gathered, added”, to position Joseph 
as being just “another son”, who is “added” to the already large “gathering” 
of Jacob’s sons by his collective main wife #1, Leah-Rachel.  But that daring 
gambit failed.
*       *       *
We can now go on to ask how the above Patriarchal succession requirements 
relate to secular history.  (Such question is never addressed, in any way 
whatsoever, by the secondary literature on the Patriarchal narratives.)  
Who is the target audience for the Patriarchal narratives?  Is there a ruler, 
who historically was important to the early Hebrews, who would have been 
greatly pleased to see the foregoing odd rules of succession apply to the 
leadership of the new monotheists?
Consider what type of man would like those odd rules.
1.  He must be a younger son.  In the Patriarchal narratives, the firstborn 
son always gets the shaft, and properly so.  So the target audience must be a 
younger son.
2.  He must not have been his father’s favorite son.  In all three 
Patriarchal successions, the father’s favorite son fails to win the grand prize.  The 
target audience must be a younger son who resented his father’s favoritism of 
the father’s firstborn son.
3.  And finally, he must have had half-brothers, whom he perceived to be a 
bona fide threat.  Relations between half-brothers are not good in the 
Patriarchal narratives.  Isaac never sees his half-brother Ishmael after Isaac is 
weaned, except for the occasion of their father Abraham’s funeral.  Jacob’s older 
sons famously try to kill their young half-brother Joseph.  The target 
audience must have been a son of his father’s original main wife #1, who feared that 
his father might choose as the father’s successor a manly son by a minor wife.
In my next post, we will examine what ruler in secular history was important 
to the early Hebrews, who meets all the above three odd factors in spades.  
Rather than being mid-1st millennium BCE fiction, as university scholars have 
been trying to tell us (unsuccessfully) for 100 years now, the Patriarchal 
narratives instead are very closely tracking the well-documented secular history of 
the mid-14th century BCE, which in my controversial view is the historical 
Patriarchal Age.  It is impossible that J, E, P or D could be making this stuff 
up, over a period of several centuries in the mid-1st millennium BCE, because 
JEPD knew nothing, and cared less, about the secular history of the mid-14th 
century BCE.  
Jim Stinehart
Evanston, Illinois

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