[b-hebrew] Robert Alter on Joseph

JimStinehart at aol.com JimStinehart at aol.com
Fri Jul 24 18:15:50 EDT 2009

Benjamin’s age must be derived.  It is not expressly stated in the 
Patriarchal narratives.
Jacob works 6 more 12-month years for Laban out at Harran after siring 
Joseph.  Genesis 31: 41  Then Jacob moves back to Canaan.  Jacob’s family 
sojourns at and near Shechem for a while.  Then Jacob’s family flees Shechem after 
the bloody Shechem incident.  Then Benjamin is born.
It turns out that Benjamin is born 4 years (in 12-month years) after Jacob 
leaves Harran.  Since Joseph was born 6 years before Jacob leaves Harran, 
Benjamin is 10 regular years younger than his only full-brother.  [Joseph is 
born 120 regular years after Abraham’s birth, whereas Benjamin is born 130 
regular years after Abraham’s birth.  Benjamin is born in an unlucky year, 
since the number 13 is inauspicious in the Patriarchal narratives (being the 
stated age at which Ishmael is circumcised, and 130 being Jacob’s stated age 
when Jacob awkwardly leads all the Hebrews  o-u-t  of beloved Canaan).]
We know that Joseph is age 25 regular years when Benjamin and the other 
Hebrews move to Egypt.  Joseph had been stated age 30 “years” when he became 
Pharaoh’s vizier.  Genesis 41: 46  That is un-doubled age 15 years, in 
regular, 12-month years.  30/2 = 15.  (When Pharaoh’s top official had known 
Joseph in jail 2 regular years earlier, Joseph had been a N(R.  So Joseph was age 
13 regular years at that point, being a N(R, rather than Joseph being a 
middle-aged man at that point, being age 28 in 12-month years.)  1 year later, 
the 7 years of feast come, as Joseph had predicted.  Then after the first 2 
of the 7 years of famine have transpired, Benjamin comes to Egypt with all 
the other Hebrews, in order to escape famine-ravaged Canaan.  That is 10 
years after Joseph became vizier:  1 + 7 + 2 = 10.  So Joseph is age 25 regular 
years when the rest of the Hebrews move to Egypt.  15 + 10 = 25.  Benjamin 
is 10 regular years younger than his only full-brother, with Benjamin thus 
being age 15 regular years when Jacob moves all the Hebrews to Egypt.  25 – 10 
= 15.
Jim Stinehart
Evanston, Illinois 

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