The Joseph Cycle*

  • The Joseph narrative is a thrilling and moving account with marvellous types of the work of Christ. 
  • One writer William Ramey suggests


Introduction (37:1-2)

A Hostility of brothers to Joseph (37:3-11)

B Apparent death of Joseph, Jacob mourns (37:12-36)

C Interlude: Judah and Tamar (38:1-26)

D Unexpected Reversals (38:27-39:23)

E Wisdom of Joseph (40:1-42:57)

F Movement to Egypt (43:1-46:7)

X The Genealogy of Israel (46:8-27)

Fí Settlement in Egypt (46:28-47:12)

Eí Wisdom of Joseph (47:13-26)

Dí Unexpected Reversals (48:1-22)

Cí Interlude: Jacob blesses his sons (49:1-28)

Bí Death of Jacob, Joseph buries him (49:29-50:14)

Aí Joseph reassures brothers (50:15-26)


  • Another writer G A Rendsburg offers the following  in “Redactional Structuring in the Joseph Story: Genesis 37-50,” in V. L. Tollers and J. Maier, eds., Mappings of the Biblical Terrain: The Bible as Text, Bucknell Review 33:2 (Lewisburg, PA: Bucknell University Press, 1990), pp. 215-232.

A Joseph and his brothers, Jacob and Joseph part (37:1-36)

B Interlude: Joseph not present (38:1-30)

C Reversal: Joseph guilty, Potiphar’s wife innocent (39:1-23)

D Joseph hero of Egypt (40:1-41:57)

E Two trips to Egypt (42;1-43:34)

F  Final test (44:1-34)

F’ Conclusion of test (45:1-28)

E’ Two tellings of migration to Egypt (46:1-47:12)

D’ Joseph hero of Egypt (47:13-27)

C’ Reversal: Ephraim Firstborn, Manasseh Second Born (47:28 – 48:22)

B’  Interlude: Joseph nominally present (49:1-28)

A’ Joseph and his brothers, Jacob and Joseph part (49:29-50:26)

  • I prefer the first – any suggestions? 
  • It is really interesting to see what a muddle we can get into if we do not recognise chiasmus :-

In “Redactional Unity in Genesis 37-50” George W. Coats, Journal of Biblical Literature, Vol. 93, No. 1 (Mar., 1974), pp. 15-21 wrote;

“A basic unit of narration appears in Genesis 37-50. These chapters constitute a collection of traditions unified around “Jacob and his sons,” itself a theme in a larger narration of traditions about Jacob stretching from Gen 25:19 to Gen 50:14 (15-26). Yet, despite a general unity of theme, Genesis37-50 shows no marked unity of structure. The focal element of the collection, the Joseph story, sets the pace of movement and continuity. The remaining elements gravitate to the Joseph story, adapting its plot as a framework without contributing intrinsic structural bonds to its development. They are, in effect, structural parasites. The following outline illustrates the structural disunity …”

One thought on “The Joseph Cycle*”

  1. C: “Reversal” is not very convincingly

    The conterpart of Manasseh/Ephraim
    “Reversal: Ephraim Firstborn, Manasseh Second Born (47:28 – 48:22)” in Jakob’s Death-Story
    “And Joseph saw Ephraim’s children of the third generation.” (50,23) in Josefs Death-Story.

    The death of Jakob and the death of Josef are a chiasm.

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