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Joseph, Wise and Otherwise

The Intersection of Wisdom and Covenant in Genesis 37–50

Paternoster Biblical Monographs

by Lindsay Wilson

Imprint: Wipf and Stock

374 Pages, 6.00 x 9.00 x 0.75 in

  • Paperback
  • 9781597527736
  • Published: January 2007

$39.00 / £30.00


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This book studies how wisdom ideas in Genesis 37-50 relate to the themes and motifs that emerge from the Abrahamic promises. While the Joseph narrative is not simply a wisdom tale, there appear to be many features that are suggestive of wisdom. A literary reading of the chapters examines how these "wisdom-like elements relate to the story as a whole. Chapter 37 establishes that God will cause Joseph to rise to prominence. The intriguing story of Tamar in chapter 38 is seen as a kind of microcosm of the entire Joseph story, with Tamar securing life, justice, and reconciliation through her wise initiatives, leading ultimately to the preservation of the line of promise. Joseph's public use of wisdom is considered in chapters 39-41, where he uses power successfully and with discernment. Joseph's private use of wisdom occupies chapters 42-45, as Joseph brings about change in his brothers and extends forgiveness to them. Chapters 46-50 complete the story by weaving the concerns of the previous chapters into the fabric of God's purposes for his covenant people. In the final form of the narrative, both the wisdom and the covenant strands are seen to be prominent. The covenant strand is reflected in the connections forged with the rest of Genesis, and the wider Pentateuch. The wisdom strand is evident in the public and private arenas, as well as in Joseph's tested character. God's behind-the-scenes activity, coupled with human initiatives, emerges as another "wisdom-like element. Both covenant and wisdom retain their distinctive contributions and are complementary ways of God establishing his active rule. God uses wise human initiatives to accomplish his overarching purposes.

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