Saturday, June 13, 2009

Exegetical Notes: ThePatriarchal History

In outlining the Book of Genesis, the difficult part is subdividing the patriarchal history. We know that it covers the lives of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph, but where do we draw the lines between them?

My division is as follows. Abraham occupies chs 12-23. It is true that Abraham does not die until ch 25. However, Sarah does die in ch 23, and ch 24 is devoted to the finding of a wife for Isaac. Ch 25 has the account of Abraham's death and burial, overseen by Isaac and Ishmael. It also contains the account of Esau's selling of his birthright to Jacob. However, I consider chs 24-28:9 to be the Isaac cycle, because throughout the section, Isaac remains a major player. The Jacob cycle runs from 28:10 through ch 35. Notice that 28:10-22 and 35:9-15 form an inclusio (a sort of narrative parenthesis) that sets off the beginning and end of the focus on Jacob. In both places, God appears to Jacob at Bethel. In both sections, God gives the land promise to Jacob. Finally, in both sections Jacob sets up a memorial pillar and pours oil upon it. Ch 36 gives the genealogy of Esau. Then chs 37-50 are the story of Joseph, ending with his death in Egypt.

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