This paper will consider the Marchent (fairy tale) nature of the Joseph story within Genesis, as with briefly the Pentateuch as a whole, looking at the symbolic nature of women in Egyptian and Hebrew society, the late dating of the narrative as a Hebrew tale and its templates in a number of Middle Eastern narratives. Consecutively, it will look at Hebrew ethics on marriage and sexual behaviour within a world of male repetitive sexuality and female repetitive sexuality in marriage, linking it to Islamic marriage tropes.
The Joseph story is an allegory that concerns the characteristics of Israel and Judah, the sons of Jacob representing the 12 tribes of Israel. It is in effect the aetiology of Israel. Coats (71) demonstrates that the shift from Jacob to Israel shows an ideological shift from patriarchs to people, and this came much later than usually considered, that is after the exile. The beautiful poem, Genesis: 49, details the future of each tribe. It represents historical fiction composed at least a thousand years after the supposed events with no relationship to actual events, that is of a family group entering Egypt to become the Hebrews and leaving Egypt back to Canaan from where they started. The dating of the story in its present form to the 10th century is simply guess-work, as is mine, but unlike mine based on the idea of the Two United Kingdoms. The inclusion of Dan, a Sea Peoples’ group, and the use of the late political term, Israel, designating not only the northern kingdom of the hill country but used for identifying all Hebrews and any state they form contradicts any likely early composition. The seemingly accurate description of Egyptian aid to famine-affected Asians was probably common from the earliest periods to later periods. It is simply a well-written story serving religious and national ends. Millgram (2012: 13) considers its style as similar to the Books of Samuel and Ruth. The Joseph story provides a frame for the hill-country’s inhabitants that takes their formation back several millenniums and is predetermined and historical. This gives a false history and fixed identity to a random and uncertain process. In fact, it is believed that Jacob, therefore perhaps the Joseph story, came from Israel or from the groups there, alongside YHWH’s war in Exodus, Joshua, Samuel and Saul. The latter I suspect are local to the western hill country around Shephelah. All or many of the stories also came from the monarchic period that ended in 587 BCE.
Here I will note that there are similar stories in the Middle East in the same period, which may probably pre-date the Joseph story, or more likely there was an Ur story that predated both. The bare bones of the tale, brotherly jealousy, father’s love, are all that is required. The literary motifs within the story are elemental in the Middle East. Nevertheless, Hebrew stories, which do not operate within the human-modelling sequences described in the earliest papers of this book but are limited by monotheism to narrow ideas of human motivations and character, express thereby moral precepts. Abrahamic morality is based upon human beings being responsible, but not god, and with infusing human will with manifestations of correct and incorrect situational behaviour. Human development becomes restricted to religious development perceived today in the reductionism of fundamentalist forms of Christianity, Judaism and Islam. In such societies, female characteristics tend to be explored negatively or in restricted fashions, for example of women as housebound.
The story details family arrangements found in later Hebrew society, based on concubinage and marriage with an emphasis upon fertility. While male figures enjoy some independent development, the women are largely anonymous and serving only to build up the group’s numbers. Israel was the name given to Jacob by god, according to the Bible although, as averred in earlier papers, it was the appellation of a place or used to describe many different groups. As a story, Joseph demonstrates the quarrelsome nature of later Israel, its inability to work together. In reality, such a nation, quarrelsome or not, never really existed. The liminal nature of early Israel will be referenced.
Apart from Joseph and Jacob/Israel, the dominant personages are Benjamin and Judah, both tribes important in the creation of Hebrew states. The prevailing idea in the Pentateuch is that nations emerge from single early male figures, who like El spread their seed with emphatic masculinity. In fact, the patriarchs bear close similarities to El in behaviour and character. Although the story emphasises the obedience and breeding capacity of Hebrew women and their additions (concubines who were probably foreign), Egyptian women subvert that stereotype. Hebrew literature tended to convey such views of women through other cultures: Sara prostituted by Abraham to the Egyptian king, Jezebel, a Phoenician, as capable of random sexuality. If women were not correctly controlled-domesticated in effect-they would be adulterers. While men’s rampant sexuality is covered by codes, rationales of concubinage, use of prostitutes (Judah’s behaviour) within the Bible such behaviour is also symbolic-representing god or religion.
The Livarite code determined that women were receptacles of the clan name, expressed as male. In fact, women’s adultery is common and punishable in Egyptian literature. There is no genuine male equivalent as men were the property owners and so owning concubines was not equivalent to adultery. The man was also, in many cases, her employer or master. Although on the one hand this determines loyalty to marriage, an important institution to Hebrews, its polygamous nature indicates possible early origins, and its use of concubines stresses the central role of male sexuality and male fertility. It seems always to represent a social conduit for male sexuality, but also perhaps for women to exploit male sexuality for their own pleasure and social respectability, while accentuating women’s essential roles as subordinate and acquiescent, in, see above, a property-based relationship with men.
A well-remembered and popular story, supposedly written by E, the Elohist scribe, creating a bridge between patriarchs and exodus, which has both the form of a novel and a considerable number of literary techniques leading to immediate doubts on its historical basis. Although, contrarily, it might possibly be based on a Canaanite (although not necessarily as it could have been a Sudanese, a Syrian, or an Anatolian) who did well in Egypt where merit was sometimes rewarded, it is likely that is its only connection to any historical basis. It could in fact simulate the rise of the Hyksos in c1600 as Lords of Lower Egypt, of how they slowly insinuated their way into Egyptian society until they became part of its elite, then its kings (see below). Equally, it could have been written as a scribal entertainment, much as seems to have occurred in Mesopotamia, and Egypt with several of its best-known stories. Later, it may have been changed from a secular into a religious narrative. It may therefore have no basis in fact but just be a tale of a hero (not necessarily Hebrew), whose dreams enable him (a common narrative device) to stand out from others around him, overcome difficulties and prosper. In fact, this may be no more than literary conceit, a marvellous piece of literary art with no religious point to make but perhaps a national (here, I use the term lightly) point, using Joseph to personify Israel rising from poverty to sophistication, and finally: ‘Israel dwelt in the land of Egypt, in the land of Goshen’. In Joseph, dwelling takes on extreme importance signifying transformation. Here, it goes from the patriarch lifestyle and traditions to that of the Hebrews as a people, that of the Exodus traditions. As with the Moses story it represents an allegory of political and social change through sophistication and conversion. Israel loves Joseph more than Joseph’s brothers, he is special, destined for great things. Within the narrative it is Joseph and Judah who undergo change, preparing their descendants for their important roles.
Gorge W. Coatsnotes the considerable number of literary techniques in the narrative as well as its persistent use of symmetry to frame and structure the narrative; the first sentence reflecting the final sentence (7), the purpose of toledoth throughout, and the phrases of its structure; exposition, complication, digression, complication, denouement and conclusion. Its mirror-image in the Qur’an employs far fewer techniques although clearly part of the same Middle Eastern literary tradition.
Joseph is portrayed as different, indeed superior to his brothers. This can be seen as the younger brother trope, familiar already in the story of Lugalbanda, which Joseph mirrors. The youngest of many brothers, Lugalbanda is destined to become king; ill, he is abandoned by his brothers to die; he almost dies but is rescued by supernatural sources; he is then radically transformed. Dreams are central to Lugalbanda’s transformation.
Joseph first appears informing on his brother to their father Jacob. In such a manner, Joseph alienates his brothers. He is clearly spoilt by Jacob, described as handsome throughout, and provided with a luxuriant many-coloured coat by Jacob that prefigures the coat worn by Tamar, David’s daughter who is tricked and raped, in the David epic. He thereby owns the femininity of other Hebrew heroes, like David.
Joseph dreams he will have dominion over his brothers, fuelling their hatred of him, but also perhaps causing them to be frightened of his ability to dream so vividly. Joseph’s dreams are predictive and foreshadow his future power whereby all his family will bow down to him. Dreams were considered a greater or more reliable truth, often dictated by god(s). They are common in ancient literature, often ascribed to kings. The process towards Joseph being dumped into a pit, meant to die, entails him getting lost looking for his murderously-inclined brothers at the behest of his father, building up, according to Coats (16), anticipation in the reader for the outcome of their meeting. While Joseph’s brother Judah wants him sold to passing merchants for profit, thus ensuring that his other brother’s do not kill him, this appears without Reuben’s agreement (17), also keen to prevent harm coming to Joseph. He is eventually sold to Midianite traders, symbolic perhaps of 9th century discord between Israel and the Midianites, with Judah caught up in conflict with the former. Coats (17) believes that the Midianite merchants are a later addition.
Judah’s failure to protect his brother, and to make his other brothers better people, results in his leaving the highlands for Adullam which Millgram considers both a physical and moral decline (2012: 63), which removal from the clan can affect. There his life replicates that of his father, in that he repeats all of Jacob’s mistakes. After many years in exile Judah, driven by a sense of responsibility to others, principally his family, returns and shows Jacob the torn and bloody coat of many colours. He asks his father if he recognises it (haker na) continuing thereby the theme of identifying (responsibility and relationships-the coming together and healing of Israel, the nation). In that moment, Judah recognises his sins against Joseph and against his own sons and others. Identification here is about intellectual and moral growth. Of note, Judah’s sons are killed by YHWH for minor, probably sexual, indiscretions-the actions of a tyrannical emperor of course, a warning to others of his immense power (see Job).
The story’s denouement concerns the arrival of the brothers in Egypt, seeking food at a time of famine. As Joseph by then administers the Egyptian grain reserves, an echo of Sinuhe whose talents allow him to prosper outside of Egypt, it is Joseph who they petition. The actions of Joseph in his now powerful position require scrutiny. Perhaps to gain the king’s favour, Joseph, later in the story, ostensibly to combat the famine in both Egypt and Asia, confiscates the Egyptian farmers’ grain and places it in storage. He then sells it back to them and later he would sell it to his family, although he gives the money back to them. Although a portrayal of business acumen, as he is intent on making money for his lord, it hardly constitutes an ethical standard. The assumed morality of religion leaves much to be desired! The moral here perhaps was you can do to foreigners what you will, but not to your own clan. Also, always be loyal to those more powerful than you-an Egyptian piece of pragmatic wisdom. Effectively, by doing as he did Joseph crippled wealth-production, placing wealth in the hands of the king. The narrative is, amongst other things, a dissertation on the importance of kingship. It implies ‘right to rule’.
Joseph’s descendants do not inherit the kingdom (literarily) because of his superior attitude, his hubris, that allows him to ignore other’s rights (those he sells grain to) and feelings (his brothers) Millgram: (2012). Joseph’s sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, will be the ancestors of two powerful and warlike tribes, lost in the defeat of Israel. His skills were needed temporarily during a period of change. Like the Greeks therefore, hubris is seen as ultimately bad, causing social dissatisfaction and revenge (Joseph’s brothers).
Joseph recognises his brothers but pretends not to, treating them harshly. He accuses them of being spies. The purpose of his staged ill-treatment seems a ploy to get Benjamin there. He appears to relate to Benjamin in a way he did not with his other brothers. Simeon is placed in prison as the others return to Canaan to fetch Benjamin. When he eventually journeys to Egypt with his brothers, Joseph has a silver cup placed in his sack of grain and he is accused of theft. Only after this does he reveal himself to his brothers. Again, identification becomes the important factor, and this may be viewed as identification of the future covenant (common to many states and tribes in the Near East-Israel just had better scribes, longer term effective propaganda!), identification of YHWH as their god, certainly their only god, and YHWH’s recognition of the Israelite’s as his chosen people, bestowing upon them a substantive mission. This need and importance of identification is an essential motif that continues through many books in the Abrahamic religions, involving both Jesus (is he or is he not the Messiah?) and Mohammed (how can he authenticate his claims?). With identification comes resolution and power.
Joseph’s career in Egypt is enhanced, according to Biblical text, by his connection to god which impresses Potiphar. Why it should do so is not explained but presented as a given, although more sensibly the god could have been Khnum, the older Egyptian god of the Nile. Joseph’s god would at best have been the family god, unlikely, if true, to have been YHWH at this point in time but a version of El as a house-or family-god. What might have impressed Potiphar were Joseph’s gifts, which included good looks and intelligence, thereby the god’s favoured him. Of equal note, is the powerless condition of the clan; the brothers tend flocks. They seem not to be distinguished from the small groups around them. Abraham had apparently engaged in wars, deciding battles, while Jacob references only his sons and numerous wives.
Although there have been numerous attempts to place Joseph within history, each attempt succeeds only in creating additional myths: for example, Joseph built the pyramids (thereby he is Imhotep’s doppelganger), or Joseph is represented by a red-haired mummy (surely more likely to have been from Europe-one of the Sea Peoples?), or the story reflects on memories of Hyksos rule in Egypt placing him somehow there at the same time, see above. Quite why Hebrews should recall that event is hard to understand. Palestine, if that’s where the Hyksos mainly came from, was already at that time an ethnic mix. Later, by the 10th and 9th century, the hill-country certainly was and there’s no real evidence many considered themselves Canaanites. Bronze Age Palestinians lived in small city states, and the centre of the hill-country only had cities in Iron Age 11, by which time Canaanites had become Philistines. Why should they therefore remember an event that culturally and ethnically they had no or little association with? Surely, the Joseph story continues the myth of a Hebrew nomadic past, a single clan producing a culture, gleaned from independent nomads drifting in and out of Palestine, prolifically establishing sanctuaries, with the greater knowledge of Egypt gained from the Hebrew diaspora of the 7th century? The Bible presents the early family as separate from other groups, a situation unlikely even for nomadic groups who are usually subject to a chief/Sheikh in a traditional relationship. The Hebrew clan here as elsewhere exists in a liminal state. In fact, people obsess over its dating because of its literary qualities, the timelessness (liminal conditions) it shares with Egyptian stories. It could have occurred in this century, or in another, or even another. Therefore, it fits a genre. One belated point, the sanctuaries established from Abraham onwards, while being boundary marks for future Israel, could have been for a number of different gods reflecting the various backgrounds to Hebrew stories.
The Joseph saga looks as if it was picked up already structured and deposited in the Bible to connect Moses and the earlier Patriarchs; in fact serves to connect group and people, see above. The story could in fact be secular in origin, one in which god peers in but is largely inactive. In the Qur’an Joseph the god directs events and the readers reaction to events like a stage-manager. The Judah story seems slightly unconnected to the main theme and thereby was probably once a stand-alone story. It connects mainly, as with all or most of the early Pentateuch, with the generation of additional people carrying forward names-especially of course YHWH. This places it firmly within Middle Eastern culture as by then there was a general obsession with Names, with generality, in the area. In fact, stripped of all other pretensions it reads like how to populate a nation by avoiding too many bottlenecks, the sojourn in Egypt elemental for building up Hebrew numbers after Jacobs relatively miserable failure. The famine faced by Jacob’s clan is one of procreation, exampled by Judah, not food.
Comparing Joseph and Judah narratives: female sexuality and behaviour within marriage:
Although this paper has concluded that the Judah story was separately composed I will briefly compare the activities of Potiphar’s wife and of Tamar’s in terms of presentation of female sexuality and the ethics of the Middle-East then and, to an extent, now. While Potiphar’s wife attempts to fulfil her sexual needs with the very good looking Joseph, Tamar attempts to meet the needs of the community, tradition and the clan in preserving a name, thereby the behaviour of Potiphar’s wife is condemned, while Tamar’s behaviour receives tacit approval. Attitudes towards marriage are important here, but also towards generation processes.
As with the Bible in general, the act and gender of the offender is important, less so the person or situation. Perhaps, Potiphar was much older than his wife? The Bible does not say. She is described as out of control, lunging at Joseph and retaining his clothe, in a similar fashion to the Gibeahites harrying the Levite for sex and raping the concubine until she dies. The Levite’s attitudes are no better, but he obtains renewed sex with the concubine by persuasion. He keeps control, but still views the concubine as an object. Potiphar’s wife employs power, treating Joseph also as an object, but her crime appears to be in displaying lust not communal need for sex.
Tamar’s husband, Judah’s son Er, dies and Tamar cannot now preserve his name within the family group, so Judah, following Levirate duty, instructs his remaining son to marry Tamar. He too dies (killed by god) and Judah, instead or ordering his last son to fulfil Levirate duty. relinquishes responsibility by ordering Tamar to return to her family. According to Pieterson and Fourie, Tamar turns trickster and pretends to be a prostitute, and Judah sleeps with her making Tamar pregnant. Accordingly, both Judah and Tamar perform their duties, both making sure that the family name continues, receiving thereby the approval of the community. Trickery may have been necessary for Judah to perform Levirate duty with Tamar, keeping her within the community, and not denying his and his family’s responsibility to her. Pieterson and Fourie hold that this episode is placed in the text to explain away David’s awkward ancestry.
They also reflect on the way Judah and Tamar ignore biblical laws. Athough against Hebrew law, Judah marries a Canaanite woman, giving one to his son to marry. He flouts Levirate law, and this is the underlying reason for Tamar’s desperate action.
Although a wife’s adultery was dealt with harshly, or in the literature it was, in ancient Egypt this may have mainly been to do with whatever power the husband had, as not being able to ‘control’ his wife implied not being able to control underlings, area governed, or the state. Potiphar’s wife, as often with women in the Bible is unnamed and presented through her husband’s identity, has been connected to Inanna/Ishtar and Tummuz and indeed may serve as a warning for people not to be seduced into the influential and popular Ishtar cult or the Tummuz cult then growing in the Near East. It seems to have been popular in Judah expressing the sexuality increasingly denied by Judaism. The message here could be to stick with the family or clan god, no matter how acculturated a Hebrew may become to other cultures-suggesting a symbolic warning within the Elephantine community. Tamar who acted as a prostitute and apparently tricked Judah into fatherhood, preserves her name by meeting community/cult drives. In both stories, men are portrayed as victims of conniving women. One further point: Tamar might not have been condemned because she acts as a woman, or as a woman was supposed to behave, within the paradigms of motherhood and wifely hood, whereas Potiphar’s wife could have been viewed as acting like a man, and worse of acting like a man acting as an animal-the Gibeahites attitude to the Levite. In both cases, the women have control. Judah, who slept with Tamar in the belief that she was a prostitute, orders her to be burned once she publicly shows her pregnancy when she is thus accused of prostitution. This of course is reflected still in many Middle Eastern societies. Judah sees nothing wrong in his own behaviour, and Tamar is thus accused only on the basis that she is not married. One reason for this attitude might be that man was perhaps viewed as the fuel for new life, women merely the receptor, and since fuel is more expensive and difficult to create or find and receptacles are commonplace, a man is more important for the important process of generation.
Preserving Er’s name was not only seen as preserving his memory but also his reality, especially within the group organism of family communities. In the ancient world, naming controlled and created reality, and losing a name could be frightening. Any action could be taken to prevent this occurring. As in an earlier paper, dying could be ameliorated in ancient African and Mesopotamian cultures by people remembering the dead man’s (I am not convinced that women were included) name and repeating it.
Brotherhood and allegory:
The veneration of brotherhood was common in the ancient Middle East, with kings commonly addressing their peers as brother. Being part of the elite was being part of a limited group with shared values. This is one of the lessons of Joseph to the world of the exiles and of Yehud. No matter what humiliation suffered, by doing your lord’s bidding, in this case the Persian king, you can thrive, heal dissension within the family/group and grow strong again.
Nevertheless, the Bible tends to describe brothers in a negative vein-Cain and Abel being one example-torn apart by jealousy. Frahm notes several similarities between the Joseph story and that of King Esarhaddon of Assyria 680-689 BCE, who although not the oldest son was made heir apparent by his father Sennacherib. Liver divination demonstrated that the gods Samas and Adad supported the decision. Loyalty to Esarhaddon was sworn by the population and his brothers. But, like Joseph’s brothers, his brothers began to conspire against him. Esarhaddon fled Nineveh, heading west to escape his brothers, who then murder Sennacherib, blaming the deed on Esarhaddon. Esarhaddon returns to Nineveh at the head of a small army, chasing his brothers away. Machinations between brothers based on jealousy, insecurity and greed was nevertheless common, especially given the Middle Eastern practice of having several wives and numerous concubines as with Jacob/Israel. Inheritance may always have been a fairly fraught issue.
Frahm points out that during the period of Esarhaddon’s reign, Israel had been eliminated as a state by Assyria and Judah was a vassal ruled on their behalf by Manasseh. A clever scribe or group of clever scribes might have believed it to be very clever indeed to create a story about an early Hebrew hero based on the internal political events of their overlord. Connecting the two once more gave Judah a glamour it otherwise lacked. As Frahm notes, both stories show a father demonstrating preferences towards a younger son, and regretting but unable to stop their bias, and after suffering immense humiliation and ending up for a while in the West (perhaps Esarhaddon spent time in Egypt), they are both successful. Both have conflict with older brothers, and both are sons of younger second wives. Jacob encountered Rachel, his second wife at Harran, and, according to the Bible worked 20 years for her father in order to have her as his wife-suggesting a possible rental arrangement and concubinage style relationship, while Esarhaddon’s mother may have come from Harran. Esarhaddon had a second coronation there. Frahm notes that the raising to the greatest (sic) heights of both men is accompanied by signs. Both had strong connections to Egypt, Esarhaddon conquering it with his armies, Joseph with his charm and talent. The Semitic root for hate is used in both narratives.
Although Frahm assures us that borrowing occurred between the two narratives he believes that it is unclear when. Again, this paper will assume that although borrowing could have easily occurred in the 7th century, and probably did, the final story of Joseph, in view of its literary techniques and motifs, is perhaps at least two centuries after that. Esarhaddon’s loyalty oaths, which may have been issued with the above defence, were used by Jewish elites. Parts of the early version of Deuteronomy, according to Frahm, was modelled on them.
From: And His Brothers were Jealous of Him.’ Surprising Parallels Between Joseph and King Esarhaddon. Biblical Archaeology Review 42/3 (2016), 43-64.
Frahm explores in the same paper in a more limited fashion other possible foundations for the Joseph narrative, an obvious literary construct of the Middle East. The Tale of the Two Brothers, Anpu and Bata, for example revolves around them and their families living in the same house, who get on well together until Anpu’s wife tries to seduce Bata. Resisting her advances, she then accuses him of molesting her. Anpu believes his wife and drives his brother out. On later finding that his wife lied and that Bata is innocent, he kills his wife and the brothers are reconciled. Of course, this mirrors Joseph’s experience within Potiphar’s household. Of note: manipulation and lying is seen as a greater sin than killing! Female transgression usually met with a difficult response in the birthplace of modern morals!
Also, commonly accepted as reflecting on the story of Joseph is that of Ahiqar, an adviser to Sennacherib and Esarhaddon, whose nephew, helped into the royal court, betrays his uncle and ruins him. Placed in prison, Ahiqar reminds his executioner that, when in office, Ahiqar stopped him from being executed. The executioner kills another prisoner instead and presents his body to the king as Ahiqar’s. This reflects on Joseph’s period in prison. A later version has Ahiqar escape to Egypt and aiding the Egyptian king return in triumph to Assyria, thus turning disaster into triumph and positioning it yet closer to the Joseph narrative. A 5th century version was later found on Elephantine Island, the home of the Jewish community in Egypt. Ahiqar appears in the book of Tobit as Tobit’s nephew. This demonstrates the interrelationship of Middle Eastern stories. The guard who saves Ahiqar’s life might have been Nabusumiskun, the son of the Babylonian king Marduk-apla-iddina II, captured by Sennacherib the Assyrian king (106). Like the Moses and Joseph stories this narrative also concerns the nature of knowledge through writing. The wide-spread use of Esarhaddon’s story is certainly evidenced by its appearance in the 2nd century CE in the Demotic Inaros Epic, indicating to some degree its widespread literary use. Although Frahm holds that the story of Esarhaddon was widely employed throughout Middle Eastern literature, its likely that, see above, given the manner of the areas household arrangements, a number of wives and concubines producing children, favouritism expressed and property-ownership values accepted towards relationships, it was common anyway. According to Hays (105) the story survived in Aramaic, Syriac, Greek, Ethiopic, and Armenian. Written in the first person the story relates only to the best and greatest in the land, and, like the Joseph story relates ability, slander and dream-analysis. As this story involves kingly succession and the position of a trusted courtier, the Sinuhe story must also be involved.
In the Bible, the Joseph story is the most crafted, deliberately and consciously composed. Hays refers to it as a novella. The similarities with the Ahiqar story are:
- A foreigner incorporated into an imperial court.
- Demonstration of immense wisdom.
- Falsely accused and imprisoned.
- Steps up to a crisis and redeems himself.
- A friendly courtier, in his debt, protects and delivers him.
- The wise man, Ahiqar, Joseph, solves crisis
- He is rewarded
Hays (108) believes that there are in addition orally transmitted stories within the Joseph tale, indeed there may have been a number of similar courtly tales displaying similar motifs of success, betrayal and success. Its similarities to Sinuhe must be also noted. Although Hays (110) dismisses too close a connection between the Ahiqar/Joseph stories and Sinuhe as the latter achieves fame in another land and returns to the land of his birth, that he does not actually succeed in the Egyptian court (that depends what is meant by success) and does not reflect a rags to riches motif, although part of the story demonstrates that by leaving Egypt Sinuhe is a lesser man. The least Egyptian is better than the best Asian. Rightly, Hays dismisses any suggestion that the Joseph story was written in the Bronze Age, as it was not until much later that Hebrew emerged. He suggests the 9th century, but its sophistication indicates a later date, its final form based upon other forms. Hay’s does not remark on similarities to the Moses story: Moses is a foreigner who makes good in Egypt, he flees Egypt like Sinuhe, and returns more powerful than before. If nothing else, the Moses story relates changes in fortune as do the Sinuhe, Ahiqar and Joseph stories. The Moses story concerns change and renewal, as does the Joseph narrative.
Similarly, Frahm indicates that the Famine Stele, discovered on Sehel Island on the First Cataract, dated to the Ptolemaic period in 332-331 BCE, narrates events earlier under king Djoser when during a severe famine he consulted his adviser Imhotep, who then advises him to make propitiations to khnum, the old god of the Nile. Khnum appears to Djoser later in a dream and assures the king the Nile will flow again, ending a seven year drought. In fact, there are many reasons, Joseph’s acumen and intelligence, to believe that his character was based on Imhotep.
Frahm locates the use of Egyptian material from the time of the Jewish diaspora into Egypt in the 7th century but equally it could have been employed on a later date, and the Joseph story re-written several times creating thereby its vivid characterisation and intense literary qualities. As will be seen, the Joseph Sura in the Qur’an is completely modelled on the Biblical model, but without a number of its famed literary devices.  The important point here, is that there was a middle eastern literary tradition that continued into Islam.
Connecting their history to heroes and powerful Empires (Assyria and Egypt) may have given lowly Judah reflected power and importance. Out of both, Solomon and Moses were created, one emulating Assyria, the other Philistines. Wonderful stories that made an insignificant state important.
The concept of the historical context of the Bible patriarchs apparently flies in the face of reason, as does the design of ethnic evolution it involves. Apparently, the head of a small family group assumes immense power (Abraham) to decide political issues in Palestine, which then once again becomes insignificant (Jacob), builds up a huge population in Egypt, acting here as an incubator, and becomes through godly intervention powerful again. In the beginning of this amazing ethnic journey these apparent unknowns provide a coherent narrative, their principal figures widely recorded. Since, commentators have fussed sternly over the need to fit a collection of stories collated together from Palestine and around the Middle East into an historical frame with all the actual consequences of attempting to fit the Aeneid into a similar perspective, trying to prove the historical ramifications of Troy, the life story of Aeneas, his parents and numerous other factors. But Moses, Joseph and David function as semi-divine heroes, handsome, charismatic like the superheroes from USA comics, or, given their ancestry, the heroes of Sumer.
The Joseph story, according to Redford, fits the same timeless quality of The Shipwrecked Sailor, The Doomed Prince, The Two Brothers, The Blinding of Truth, nearly all of which have been dealt with in earlier papers, while at the same exhibiting the more accustomed perspective of a soap opera or novel. More, Joseph and his fellow Hebrew heroes emulate characteristics of the gods around them, moving in that liminal space of Gilgamesh, inhabiting a history that never existed in a world that never quite existed.
Time is diluted and fluid in such narratives. Judah becomes a grandfather while Benjamin seems to remain a boy, and Joseph ages slowly. In one part of the story, time moves quickly, only later do we sense how long Joseph’s imprisonment might have been, while then when the family’s disagreements are resolved, time moves slowly.
The Abrahamic religions are often claimed by adherents to be the birthplace of morality, and to an extend it is true but of a particular view of morality based on the idea that humankind is profoundly responsible for everything it does but god is responsible for nothing. Thereby when god kills Judah’s sons for what seems minor indiscretions and imperils his own plans for Israel as an entity, such behaviour is not deemed foolhardy and excessive. It is left to humankind to work through this misdemeanour and find solutions that are then classified as pre-determined. God’s own lack of responsibility can never be reflected in his most prominent creations, whom, to make matters worse have been created in his image with therefore a similar propensity towards casual killing.
Sin seems constructed on a strange view of sexual misbehaviour that favours male sexuality and denies female sexuality except in marriage. In fact, if women express sexuality outside of particular parameters they are killed while men are rarely chastised. This is predominantly a Middle Eastern construction found throughout the region from the end of the 3rd millennium onwards based on property. In the Pentateuch, god is perceived as a property owner, a landlord. He owns Eden and if Adam and Eve transgress his rules, which they do, they are forced to leave. Not only is a landlord here but the head of a household, his role determined by patriarchy.
While women are essential for procreation and sex, Judah has sex with Tamar even though he believes her to be a prostitute but decides she should be killed when the resulting pregnancy reveals she has indeed slept with someone outside marriage. As marriage is seen as according women social acceptance, as even now in the Middle East, that achieving of social acceptance or of losing it determines the nature of sin. Men can lose that acceptance if they have sex with a married woman, a status that in the Hebrew world involved ethnic and religious purity.
Joseph’s actions regarding taking grain from the Egyptian population and selling it back to them would in most people’s eyes determine his arrogance and bad character. As he does it to foreigners for the ultimate betterment of his clan, it is likely to be seen as good. It also demonstrates the kingly or authoritarian text of the Joseph segment, as his actions gives the Egyptian king more control and wealth. As Egyptian society was concerned to encourage stability, society’s stability reflecting the stability of the cosmos, this may also allow Joseph’s act to be viewed as good. With the population controlled, insurrection is less likely. But for Egyptians and Canaanites this may itself have proved problematic as the balance, which they considered an ideal or ‘good’, was tipped over to one side thereby threatening the balance of the cosmos. In terms of ‘goodness’, surely the Egyptian and Canaanite sense of goodness has to be preferred to the Hebrew one based on ethnic survival? In fact, overall the sense of right and wrong, of morality, seems based upon reproduction.
The only genuine morality is the understanding of cause and effect understood by the brothers after selling off Joseph, that doing so was sure to bring them bad luck. As this is little more than superstition, although many would give it grander terms such as hubris, it does not go very far. As it is also caught up with respect for the father, disrespect for the father also a sin, it provides an even more limited cognisance of sin placing it closer to the ideas of the early Greeks.
Pieterson and Fourie insist that the morality of the Joseph narrative can only be understood as representing the time in which it was written. This is fine, but therefore undermines notions of universal morality its adherents claim. Custom and law, viewed together, played an important part in Israelite thinking, imposing as it did ethnic identification, suggesting that in this society the family imposed justice. Adhering to the laws prevented god’s punishment as clearly occurred to Judah’s sons. It is possible that did not correctly perform a ritual, again a Middle Eastern infringement. The people of the time were, it seems, governed by intense anxiety.
Trickery runs through the Pentateuch like a con-artists thread. While it ensures survival (Sarah and Abraham) especially genealogical survival, it created also balance and justice or as Pieterson and Fourie put it, legitimate rights and a person’s destiny. It functioned in similar ways to applauded Greek trickery, being in effect a sign of cleverness. Such trickery can also be seen in the Qur’an. For Pieterson and Fourie, trickery is a stratagem that allows the weak to defeat the strong. Only in foreigners, Potiphar’s wife, was it aimed by the powerful against the weak.
 Millgram, Hillel I. The Joseph Paradox. A Radical Reading of Genesis 37-50. 2012. McFarland & Company Inc, .Publishers.
 Kratz, Reinhard G. Historical & Biblical Israel. The History, Tradition, and Archives of Israel and Judah. 2015. Oxford University Press. Page 108.
 From Canaan to Egypt. Structural and Theological Context for the Joseph Story. The Catholic Biblical Quarterly Monograph Series 4. 1976.
Redford, Donald B. A Study of the Biblical Story of Joseph: (Genesis 37-50) 1970
 The Bible, culture and ethics: Trickery in the narratve of Judah and Tamar. HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies · March 2015
 Frahm, Eckart. ‘And His Brothers were Jealous of Him.’ Surprising Parallels Between Joseph and King Esarhaddon. Biblical Archaeology Review 42/3 (2016), 43-64.
 Mir, Mustansir. The Qur’anic Story of Joseph. Plot, themes and characters. The Muslim world. 1986.
 A Study of the Biblical Story of Joseph: (Genesis 37-50)
Donald. B. Redford Brill. 1970
 The Bible, culture and ethics: Trickery in the narratve of Judah and Tamar. HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies · March 2015