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Joseph

Joseph and the Famine: The Story’s Origins in Egyptian History

During the reign of Pharaoh Siptah, Egypt had a powerful vizier from the Levant named Baya, who dominated even the Pharaoh. Archaeological records and climatological studies show that this was right in the middle of a lengthy famine that effected the entire Mediterranean.

Prof.

Israel Knohl

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Why the Joseph Story Portrays Egypt Positively

In the Joseph story, the Egyptian officials, including Pharaoh, are kind and wise. Joseph himself  shaves his beard, puts on Egyptian clothes, takes an Egyptian name, and marries the daughter of an Egyptian priest. Nothing in the text implies that the author thinks any of this is problematic.

Prof.

Susan Niditch

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Joseph Interprets Pharaoh’s Dreams — An Israelite Type-922 Folktale

The story of Joseph in Pharaoh’s court (Genesis 41), like the story of Daniel in Nebuchadnezzar’s court (Daniel 2), is a Thompson Type 922 folktale in which an underdog gains his fortune by answering hard questions that elude his superiors. Paradoxically, viewing the story of Joseph through the lens of folklore studies allows us to appreciate the uniqueness of Israelite cultural religious orientation.

Prof.

Susan Niditch

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Torah in Translation: Rendering the Story of Joseph in English

Translating the Torah from Hebrew into a different language is a huge challenge: What is the right balance between composing a text that reads smoothly while capturing the flavor of its original language? When I translated the Torah and the Early Prophets, I navigated this tension in favor of keeping the Hebrew flavor.

Prof.

Everett Fox

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Why the Sages Add Titles to Biblical Personalities

Dr.

Malka Zeiger Simkovich

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Joseph in Custody: Enslaved or Imprisoned

Joseph, sold by two different groups (Midianites and Ishmaelites), seems to have been bought by two different men (Potiphar, captain of the guard, and an unnamed Egyptian man), leading to two discrete storylines, each of which place Joseph in a different position when he meets the cupbearer and the baker.

Dr. Rabbi

Zev Farber

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Jacob’s Multiple Death Scenes

Bringing Parashat Vayechi to Life

Dr. Rabbi

Zev Farber

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The Joseph Story: Ancient Literary Art at Its Best

The Joseph story invites the reader to be transported to Egypt itself through the inclusion of Egyptian words, proper names, and customs; to analyze the unsurpassed use of repetition with variation; and to enter the mind of the character (in this case, especially Pharaoh) through the use of interior monologue.

Prof.

Gary Rendsburg

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Is the Recent Antipathy to Joseph Justified?

Contemporary abuse of a once popular biblical hero.

Prof.

Alan T. Levenson

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Joseph: The Making of a Prophet

The Torah is silent about the nature of Joseph’s dreams: What do they mean?  Do they come from God? This ambiguity is part of the literary artistry of the story, which relates Joseph’s “coming of age” as a prophet.

Jason Tron

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Joseph and the Dreams of Many Colors

Understanding the practice of dream interpretation in the Joseph story by using the ANE interpretive traditions as background.

Prof.

Jack M. Sasson

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Why the Brothers Hate Joseph

A Background Fraught With Favoritism

Prof.

Alan T. Levenson

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Primeval Coats

Clothing, beginning with Joseph’s coat, functions both as a marker of distinction and as the source of undoing in the Joseph story. Pirkei de-Rabbi Eliezer adds layers of history to this coat: it is the original garments made from the sloughed skin of the serpent that God gave to Adam and Eve, which was then worn by Nimrod, Esau, and Jacob. Midrash Tanchuma claims it to be the (future) High Priest’s tunic.

Prof.

Rachel Adelman

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Why Is Esau's Kiss Dotted?

Esau’s kiss to Jacob is written with scribal dots over the word וַׄיִּׄשָּׁׄקֵ֑ׄהׄוּׄ, “and he kissed him.” Traditional commentators suggest this hints to Esau’s feelings or state of mind. Critical scholarship, however, points to something much more prosaic, a question of syntax.

Prof.

Albert I. Baumgarten

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The “Conclusion” of Parashat Mikketz: Jacob’s Suspicion and the Brothers’ Choice

Why the rabbis ended Parashat Mikketz with a cliffhanger (in both the Babylonian and the Eretz-Yisraeli traditions), and what the Ancient Near Eastern legal context of “evidence law” can clarify for us about the background of the story.

Dr.

Miryam Brand

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Is the Torah a Pentateuch or Hexateuch?

Whether the Torah is a Pentateuch or Hexateuch is about much more than the number of books or the status of Joshua, but reflects the nature of this collection: Is it a law-book, or is it a narrative book about a promise fulfilled?

Prof.

Marc Zvi Brettler

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Judah Recognizes Joseph: The Hidden Factor Behind his Speech

Prof.

B. Barry Levy

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Our Mummified Patriarchs: Jacob and Joseph

Explaining the practice and theology behind mummification in Ancient Egypt.

Dr.

Rachel P. Kreiter

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Breaking the Heifer's Neck: A Bloodless Ritual for an Unsolved Murder

If a corpse is found in a field, and the killer is unknown, Deuteronomy 21 requires the elders of the closest city to break a heifer’s neck by a stream and declare that they did not spill “this blood.” How does this ritual of eglah arufah, “broken-necked heifer,” atone for Israel’s bloodguilt?

Dr.

Yitzhaq Feder

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What Did Joseph Want from His Brothers?

A Surprising Perspective

Prof. Rabbi

David R. Blumenthal

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A Tale of Twelve Brothers

Historical Symbolism and the Position of the Tribe of Benjamin

Dr.

Yigal Levin

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Was the Joseph Story Written in Egypt During the Persian Period?

Egyptologists have long searched the details of the Joseph story for clues to when the story was written. Does the Jewish experience as a diaspora community in Egypt hold the clue to the story’s origin?

Dr.

Shirly Ben-Dor Evian

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