[b-hebrew] Portrait of Joseph in Chapter 40 of Genesis

jimstinehart at aol.com jimstinehart at aol.com
Sun Mar 25 21:39:26 EDT 2012

Prof. George Athas:  

You wrote:  “I simply do not see all these mysteries that you see, Jim. It sounds to me like a convenient excuse to dismiss scholarship, not join in its conversation, and instead build isolated opinions with little relation to anything. It is, in other words, unscholarly sensationalism.”

1.  The word XRY at Genesis 40: 16 is invariably asserted to mean either (i)  “white bread”, “bread”, “white stuff”, “cake”, etc., or (ii) “wicker” or “openwork”.  As to the latter set of meanings, there seems to be no linguistic basis for that at all.  As to both sets of meanings, isn’t it a mystery why the Baker’s dream of three innocuous baskets would portend that he would be impaled 3 days hence?

2.  Shouldn’t we ask if XRY at Genesis 40: 16 has the same meaning as XRY at Genesis 14: 6?  If so, then if the Baker dreamed that dream in Year 13, such dream could well have been considered treasonous, because the prior year, in Year 12, Pharaoh had historically made the very controversial decision to break off relations with Egypt’s former best ally, the XRY state of Naharim.  That’s the Pharaoh who historically commissioned the cane head with that magnificent Asiatic, who looks for all the world like Joseph in chapter 40 of Genesis as of Year 13, wearing a coat of many colors.

3.  Why is a proposed Amarna Age historical time period for the Patriarchal narratives an “isolated opinion”?  Based on the Amarna Letters, the Amarna Age was the only time in 5,000 years of human history when the local ruling class of Canaan were not native west Semitic speakers.  As such, isn’t an Amarna Age time period for the Patriarchal Age the only logical explanation for the following plethora of non-west Semitic XRY names in the text?  (i) PRZ-Y, at Genesis 13: 7;  15: 20;  34: 30;  (ii) GR-G-$-Y, at Genesis 15: 21;  (iii)  YBWS-Y, at Genesis 15: 21;  (iv) )RYWK at Genesis 14: 1, 9;  (v) BR-(, at Genesis 14: 2;  (vi) BR$-(, at Genesis 14: 2;  (vii) $N)B, at Genesis 14: 2;  (viii) $M-)BR, at Genesis 14: 2;  (ix) $(YR, at Genesis 14: 6;  (x) )YL P)RN, at Genesis 14: 6;  (xi) ‘NR, at Genesis 14: 13;  (xii) QYN-Y, at Genesis 15: 19;  (xiii) QNZ-Y, at Genesis 15: 19;  (xiv) XT-Y, at Genesis 15: 20;  23: 10;  25: 9;  26: 34;  36: 2;  49: 29-30;  50: 13;  (xv) (PRWN, at Genesis 23: 8, 10, 13-14, 16-17;  25: 9;  49: 29-30;  50: 13;  (xvi) XW-Y at Genesis 34: 2;  (xvii) CXR, at Genesis 23: 8;  25: 9;  (xviii) YHW-DYT at Genesis 26: 34;  (xix) B)R-Y at Genesis 26: 34;  (xx) B$-MT at Genesis 26: 34;  (xxi) )YLWN, at Genesis 26: 34.

CLY XRY at Genesis 40: 16, where XRY has the same meaning as at Genesis 14: 6, fits in perfectly here, where all of the 21 above-referenced names are XRY names.

What you term “a convenient excuse to dismiss scholarship” is in my view a polite, but heartfelt, request that mainstream scholarship should consider the plethora of XRY names in the received text of the Patriarchal narratives as indicating an Amarna Age time period for the Patriarchal narratives, with such composition having been done by an early Hebrew who lived through the troubled times of the Amarna Age.  Is there any other logical explanation for the above 21 XRY names in this text?

If we can solve the mystery of why Joseph was able to divine from the Baker’s dream that the Baker would be impaled 3 days hence, and if we can understand the nature of the Baker’s treason, then we may be able to understand the entirety of the Patriarchal narratives.  It’s simply a question of asking whether the Hebrew author is or is not portraying the Baker as having that dream in Year 13.  To me, historical linguistics argues strongly in favor of an Amarna Age date for the Patriarchal narratives, because in no other time period would one expect to see such a great wealth of XRY names in Canaan.  The reference at Genesis 40: 16 to CLY XRY fits the Amarna Letters and Amarna Age Canaan perfectly, while being inexplicable in any other time period.

4.  Prof. Athas, don’t you think it’s a little odd that the scholarly profession has no explanation for the presence of the above 21 XRY names in the Patriarchal narratives,  a-n-d  scholars have never a-s-k-e-d  if XRY at Genesis 40: 16 may be the same as XRY at Genesis 14: 6?  When I point that out, why do you characterize me as engaging in “unscholarly sensationalism”?  When some scholars say that Esau’s wife YHW-DYT at Genesis 26: 34, who per Genesis 27: 46 is a local woman in Canaan, was a “Hittite” from Anatolia whose name [in west Semitic, oddly enough] means “Jewess”, is that a scholarly joke?  For those of us who don’t get such jokes, how could any scholar assert such a thing?  

Although you criticize me for not “join[ing] in its conversation”, to what scholarly conversation do you refer as to the above 21 XRY names, and/or comparing XRY at Genesis 40: 16 to XRY at Genesis 14: 6?  I own many standard scholarly books on Genesis, and I frequently obtain scholarly works regarding Genesis on inter-library loan.  To the best of my informed knowledge, there is no scholarly “conversation” to “join” regarding these matters whatsoever.  Why is that?  How could JEP, as post-Bronze Age multiple authors, possibly be thought to have come up with those 21 XRY names?  Is that a reasonable theory of the case?

I myself see the Patriarchal narratives as being much older, and more historically accurate, than do university scholars.

Jim Stinehart
Evanston, Illinois

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