It is the position of this paper that the last thirteen chapters of Genesis highlight not only Joseph, but also Judah—both of whose lives are types of Christ, albeit in different ways. Not only are the noble attributes of Joseph’s life reflected in Jesus, but Jesus is also the “Lion of the Tribe of Judah (Rev 5:4).” Contra some claims of careless “redacting,” the Judah narratives are rightly and evocatively found within the Joseph cycle. Familiarity with the Genesis narratives creates the possibility of missing or overlooking the theology embedded in the shape, structure, and content of them. 1 Thereby continuing study is valuable. Twice on Resurrection Sunday, Jesus spoke of a foundational hermeneutical principle for interpreting canonic texts. First on the road to Emmaus, with two disciples: “beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself” (Luke 24:25-27). Then back in Jerusalem: “He said to His disciples: ‘These are the words which Ispoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me.’” The narrator pointedly continued: “He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures” (Luke 24:44-45). Jesus obviously was referring to the Old Testament, the first testament of which 40% is narrative writing. This paper will explore a major Genesis narrative cycle in light ofthe risen Christ’s directive. Multiple scholars and commentators have noted that the final thirteen ofthe fiftyGenesis chapters highlight Joseph’s life with details that prefigure the Messiah. Dozens of parallels have been recognized.2 Interspersed within what is called the “Joseph cycle” are narratives of Joseph’s half-brother Judah. Many critics have decided that these chapters are misplaced or carelessly redacted into the Joseph narratives.3 Yet Jesus’ twice-repeated remarks on Resurrection Sunday suggest that modern critiques of supposedly careless, unschooled Genesis redactors is flawed. “Beginning at Moses,” as Jesus suggests, the fifty Genesis chapters survey a vast amount of time, some 2,500 years. This “narrative time” slows down considerably with the last thirteen chapters focusing on Joseph—and Judah. This narrative “slow down” is in itself a significant marker in Hebrew narrative studies, indicating the narrator’s focused attention. Others who criticize any “reading of Jesus back into the Old Testament” are also mistaken if Jesus’ directives are taken seriously—for He insists that the Old Testament is about Him. The authorship of the Pentateuch has long been argued. This paper assumes Mosaic authorship, with the Pentateuch being a primary part of Scripture’s system of truth, allowing Messianism as a possible motif. The first divine promise after sin in Genesis 3:15, hints of further revelation about the Promised Seed as history continues. Following this, a key passage setting direction for the subsequent patriarchal record is the divine announcement to Abram in Genesis 12:1-3. Everything that follows will be related to this major promise in some way: C Go to a land I will show you; • I will make of you a great nation (v. 2a); • I will bless you (v. 2b); • I will make your name great (v. 2c); • You will be a blessing (v. 2d); • I will bless those who bless you (v. 3a); • I will curse those who curse you (v. 3b); • All the families of the earth will be blessed through you (v. 3c). Later, the patriarch Jacob and his clan are in Egypt and have been given the best land there—but God’s promise of land to Abraham’s seed was not fulfilled. Although Jacob’s offspring were increasing, 4 they were not in the promised land. Thereby, Jacob’s poetic prophetic blessings on his sons at the end of his life are very significant: as the book of Genesis comes to its close, these blessings foretell the future of the Abrahamic covenant. Jacob’s introductory words for these blessings include the phrase “the end of days” (Gen 49:1; see also Num 24:14; Deut 31:29)—a phrase pointing to the future—and “can portray the Messianic future.”5 With this in mind, one can more fully understand Jacob’s major poetic segment in Genesis, for it reveals what is ahead for the covenant people “in the end of days.” This suggests that Jacob’s poetic discourse is “eschatological,” as John Sailhamer notes: “The author [of the Pentateuch] shows throughout his work an intense interest in past events. His repeated and strategic return to the notion of ‘the last days’. . . reveals that his interest is in the future as well.”6 Sailhamer also helpfully discusses how narrative and poetry linkages illumine both the final shape and understanding of Genesis: “The technique of using a poetic speech and a short epilogue to conclude a narrative is well known in biblical literature and occurs frequently within recognizable segments of the Pentateuch itself.”7 With such literary techniques, the Pentateuch thereby links the past to the future: “That which happened to God’s people in the past portends of future events.”8 Past events work as pointers to future events, while future events are written to remind the reader of the past. 9 In Genesis 38, near the end of his life, Jacob adopted Manasseh and Ephraim, giving them equal shares in the family line as his legitimate seed. B. J. van der Merwe notes that this “adoption of Joseph’s two sons by Jacob can be seen as equivalent to giving Joseph the double portion of the family inheritance the first-born was entitled to (see Deut 21:15-17 and 1 Chr 5:1).”10 In Genesis 49, Jacob pronounces final blessings on all his sons,11 including prophecies of what will happen to them and their descendants in days to come. These blessings especially spotlight Judah and Joseph for they are the recipients of the longest blessings. Jacob’s blessings on his other sons are shorter. Judah can be seen as Jacob’s successor and the true heir with Genesis 49:8-12 outlining Judah’s leadership and kingship, including Shiloh, Messiah, who will be one of his descendants: Judah, you are he whom your brothers shall praise; Your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies; Your father’s children shall bow down before you. Judah is a lion’s whelp; From the prey, my son, you have gone up. He bows down, he lies down as a lion; And as a lion, who shall rouse him? The scepter shall not depart from Judah, Nor a lawgiver from between his feet, Until Shiloh comes; And to Him shall be the obedience of the people. Binding his donkey to the vine, And his donkey’s colt to the choice vine, He washed his garments in wine, And his clothes in the blood of grapes. His eyes are darker than wine And his teeth whiter than milk (Gen 49:8-12). Joseph’s blessing is equally lengthy with Joseph portrayed as a ruler among his brothers, also including hints of eschatological messianic significance. Joseph is a fruitful bough, A fruitful bough by a well; His branches run over the wall. The archers have bitterly grieved him, Shot at him and hated him. But his bow remained in strength, And the arms of his hands were made strong By the hands of the Mighty God of Jacob (From there is the Shepherd, the Stone of Israel), By the God of your father who will help you, And by the Almighty who will bless you With blessings of heaven above, Blessings of the deep that lies beneath, Blessings of the breasts and of the womb. The blessings of your father Have excelled the blessings of my ancestors, Up to the utmost bound of the everlasting hills. They shall be on the head of Joseph, And on the crown of the head of him who was separate from his brothers (Gen 49:22-26). The lives of both Joseph and Judah are obviously linked throughout the final chapters of the book of Genesis, in what could be called the “Joseph/Judah cycle.” Theologically, these chapters continue to broadly disclose divine oversight in the lives of the Genesis patriarchs (i.e.,17:7; 21:22; 24:40; 26:3-4, 24, 28; 28:15; 31:3; 48:21), plus pointing to future salvation—especially through the lives of Joseph and Judah. First, a consideration of Joseph.
Davidson, Jo Ann
"Joseph, Judah and Jesus: Revisiting Genesis 37-50,"
Journal of the Adventist Theological Society: Vol. 30:
1, Article 3.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.andrews.edu/jats/vol30/iss1/3
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