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Old Testament Essays

On-line version ISSN 2312-3621
Print version ISSN 1010-9919

Old testam. essays vol.25 n.3 Pretoria  2012


Genesis 38 - Judah's turning point: Structural analysis and narrative techniques and their meaning for Genesis 38 and its placement in the story of Joseph



Hans-Georg Wünch

Theologisches Seminar Rheinland, Wölmersen/Altenkirchen1





Genesis 38 is often viewed as a disruption of the Joseph story, which for some unknown reason found its way into that narrative. This article shows that the placement of Gen 38 is intentional, with many connections to the surrounding chapters. These connections are made through the repetition of words as well as through the repetition of motifs. They connect Gen 38 not only to Gen 37 and 39, but also to Gen 47 and 48. Together with the preceding chapter, Gen 38 builds a double exposition for the following chapters. The question behind these chapters is: which of the sons of Jacob will take over the right of primogeniture and step into the line of blessing coming down from Abraham? Will it be Judah, next in the line after his brothers Ruben, Simeon and Levi, who for various reasons lost their right of primogeniture, or Joseph, the firstborn of Rachel? In this respect, Gen 38 shows how Judah began to transform from a very egocentric person, willing to sell his brother Joseph into slavery, into someone willing to become a slave in the place of his brother Benjamin. This transformation qualifies Judah to become the leader amongst his brothers, while Joseph would receive the double portion as his right of being the firstborn. This article shows the manifold connections between ch. 38 and the surrounding chapters and makes clear how the transformation of Judah begins.



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Dr. Hans-Georg Wünch
Academic Dean and lecturer of Old Testament at Theologisches Seminar Rheinland



1 Visiting scholar at the Department of Biblical and Ancient Studies, Unisa, September 2012.

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