Jacques Joseph Tissot (1836-1902): Joseph Converses with Judah, His Brother

An Old Testament KnoWhy for Gospel Doctrine Lesson 11: “How Can I Do This Great Wickedness?” (Genesis 34; 37-39) (JBOTL011A)

Question: Immediately after telling us that Joseph was sold as a slave in Egypt, Genesis suddenly shifts our attention to the story of Judah and Tamar. Why is Joseph’s story abruptly interrupted at such a crucial point in the narrative? Why are the stories of Joseph and Judah intertwined throughout?

Summary: The story of Judah and Tamar in Genesis 38 “seems to be out of place,” with some scholars going so far as to dismiss it entirely as “an extraneous fragment.” But closer examination of this story demonstrates that it was placed where it was for good reason — and with great skill and subtlety. Lacking this important interlude, we might think that the final chapters of Genesis were concerned only with the rise of Joseph in Egypt and how, through God’s hand and his faithfulness, Jacob’s family was saved from death by famine. In fact, however, the inspired editor of Genesis has deliberately interwoven the stories of Joseph and Judah. In doing so, he demonstrates that their trials and tests were part of a divine tutorial designed to prepare them to become models for and eventually leaders of their brothers. Later, Joseph and Judah would become the ancestors of the most prominent tribes of Israel’s northern and southern dominions respectively, thus fulfilling (in part) God’s promises to Abraham: “I will make nations of thee, and kings shall come out of thee.”

The full article may be found at the Interpreter Foundation website: Why Are the Stories of Joseph and Judah Intertwined?

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