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Genesis 38 in Social and Historical Perspective

From: Journal of Biblical Literature
Volume 132, Number 2, 2013
pp. 209-227 | 10.1353/jbl.2013.0025



While many scholars still view the Judah-Tamar tale in Genesis 38 as a once-independent unit secondarily woven into the Joseph story (chs. 37-50), the relationship with its intertext in 2 Samuel 13 is more complicated. Questions remain regarding a possible direction of literary influence from one narrative to the other, or whether both narratives independently drew from a common trove of tradition. The present study addresses this issue through a closer look at Genesis 38, evaluating its linguistic/sociolinguistic features, its tradition-historical and sociological presuppositions, and the symbolic/mythic valences running through the text. The author behind Genesis 38 drew from an authoritative agrarian mythology that also informed the composition of the narrative beginning in 2 Samuel 13 but cast this mythology in contradistinction to its function in that work.

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