Note: we already have a substantial proposal for this section. However, trying to get behind the Hebrew narrative I came across almost the same pattern from J P Fokkelman, “Genesis 37 and 38: Structural Analysis and Hermeneutics”, in “Literary Structure and Rhetorical Strategies in the Hebrew Bible”, eds. de Regt, de Waard and Fokkelman, Van Gorcum and Comp, Netherlands, 1996. The second unit follows the literal Hebrew syntax.
A. brothers’ conspiracy – 18 And when they saw him afar off, even before he came near unto them, they conspired against him to slay him.19 And they said one to another, Behold, this dreamer cometh. 20 Come now therefore, and let us slay him, and cast him into some pit, and we will say, Some evil beast hath devoured him : and we shall see what will become of his dreams.
B. Reuben proposes – 21 And Reuben heard it, and he delivered him out of their hands; and said, Let us not kill him. 22 And Reuben said unto them, Shed no blood, but cast him into this pit that is in the wilderness, and lay no hand upon him; that he might rid him out of their hands, to deliver him to his father again.
C. Joseph cast into pit – 23 And it came to pass, when Joseph was come unto his brethren, that they stript Joseph out of his coat, his coat of many colours that was on him; 24 And they took him, and cast him into a pit: and the pit was empty, there was no water in it.
D. a caravan approaches – 25 And they sat down to eat bread: and they lifted up their eyes and looked, and, behold, a company of Ishmeelites came from Gilead with their camels bearing spicery and balm and myrrh, going to carry it down to Egypt.
E. Judah proposes to sell Joseph – 26 And Judah said unto his brethren, What profit is it if we slay our brother, and conceal his blood? 27 Come, and let us sell him to the Ishmeelites, and let not our hand be upon him; for he is our brother and our flesh. And his brethren were content.
D’. Joseph sold to caravan traders – 28 Then there passed by Midianites merchantmen; and they drew and lifted up Joseph out of the pit, and sold Joseph to the Ishmeelites for twenty pieces of silver:and they brought Joseph into Egypt.
C’. Reuben finds the pit empty – 29 And Reuben returned unto the pit; and, behold, Joseph was not in the pit; and he rent his clothes.
B’. Reuben expresses despair – 30 And he returned unto his brethren, and said, The child is not; and I, whither shall I go?
A’. cover-up by the brothers – 31 And they took Joseph’s coat, and killed a kid of the goats, and dipped the coat in the blood; 32 And they sent the coat of many colours, and they brought it to their father; and said, This have we found: know now whether it be thy son’s coat or no. 33 And he knew it, and said, It is my son’s coat; an evil beast hath devoured him; Joseph is without doubt rent in pieces.
A. 34 And Jacob rent his clothes,
B. and put sackcloth upon his loins,
C. and mourned
D. for his son many days.
E. 35 And all his sons and all his daughters rose up to comfort him;
E’. but he refused to be comforted;
D’. and he said, For I will go down [to my son]
B’. into the grave (unto my son mourning).
A’. Thus his father wept for him.
36 And the Midianites sold him into Egypt unto Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh’s, and captain of the guard.
One thought on “Genesis 37:18-36*.”
Interestingly, Fokkelman makes the following astute comment: “This full-scale story can only be interpreted correctly after its structure has been established. As long as the composition is unclear as a result of a lack of narratological understanding on the reader’s part, exegesis is in danger of producing disastrous statements like this one …(quoting a German scholar )… Passing three negative value judgments (restive, overload, disorderly), he has projected his own confusion on the text and asserts that it is the story which is confused” (pgs 160-161)