Sailhamer, John H. The Pentateuch As Narrative. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1992.
Chapter 1, “Genesis” pp. 81-240.
Part 5 “Account of Jacob and Joseph (37:1-49:33) pp. 206-238.
We move into a rather larger portion of Genesis as we visit Jacob and Joseph. Jacob moves progressively more into the background of the story line. Joseph, who is loved more by his father than the other sons, has dreams in which his family is subject to him (Gen. 37) (Sailhamer 1992, 206). In their jealousy Joseph’s brothers consider killing him but instead, with the help of Judah and Reuben, actually sell him to some traders (Sailhamer 1992, 208).
Genesis 38 is an interruption which Sailhamer thinks is very important in developing themes in the Pentateuch (Sailhamer 1992, 209). In this chapter, the line of the Messiah is continued through Judah. Because of Tamar’s shrewdness the line of the Savior was preserved without Canaanite marriage.
In Genesis 39 we rejoin Joseph, who has been sold as a slave in Egypt. God blesses Potiphar the Egyptian through Joseph’s work (Sailhamer 1992, 211). As Sailhamer engages the interaction between Joseph and Potiphar’s wife, he sees a balance in the narrative. “In the preceding narratives, the focus of the writer had been on God’s faithfulness in fulfilling his covenant promises; in the story of Joseph, however, the writer’s attention has turned to the human response. We have seen in the preceding narratives that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob repeatedly fell short of God’s expectations, though of course they continued to have faith in God. In the Joseph narratives, however, we do not see him fall short. On the contrary, Joseph is a striking example of one who always responds in total trust and obedience to the will of God” (Sailhamer 1992, 211). Sailhamer goes on to say, “There was a human part to be played in the fulfillment of God’s plan. When God’s people respond as Joseph responded, then their way and God’s blessing will prosper” (Sailhamer 1992, 211).
In Genesis chapter 40 Joseph again has risen to a position of importance. In the dreams of the baker and cupbearer we see that only God can interpret dreams (Sailhamer 1992, 212). Sailhamer sees in Joseph one who is a leader unlike the other patriarchs, pointing forward to the Messiah.
In Genesis 41 Pharaoh has dreams which are repeated and symmetrical, a feature Sailhamer represents as indicate divine arrangement (Sailhamer 1992, 213). When all is literally said and done, Pharaoh approves Joseph’s plan of taxation. Joseph is placed in a position of authority in Egypt which Sailhamer asserts as the equivalent to Adam’s role under God in Genesis 1 (Sailhamer 1992, 215).
The events of Genesis 41 set the stage for Joseph’s reconciliation with his family, as they look to Egypt for relief during the time of famine. In Genesis 42 Joseph becomes the savior of not only Egypt bu also Israel (Sailhamer 1992, 216). The interactions with his brothers can thus be seen, as by Sailhamer, to show the brothers that God is working for good in ways they cannot understand (Sailhamer 1992, 217-218). Judah’s final explanation of their status to Joseph (Genesis 44:18-34) reveals that he blames all their hardship on their unjust treatment of Joseph (Sailhamer 1992, 222). Joseph asks his brothers to bring the entire family to Egypt where they will be provided for. “It can hardly be without purpose that this picture of God’s chosen people dwelling safely and prosperously in the land which God has provided for them comes at the close of the book of Genesis and that it is a near replica both of the way things were in the beginning and of the way things were to be in the future” (Sailhamer 1992, 223).
In Genesis 46 Jacob goes to Egypt with his whole household. Sailhamer observes this as the time Israel truly becomes a great nation (Sailhamer 1992, 225). The leadership of the Egypt contingent becomes Judah rather than Joseph (Sailhamer 1992, 226). Joseph devised the plan by which the Israelites could stay in Goshen, but Judah led them there.
Sailhamer observes that the important narratives about Joseph are told twice. In Genesis 47 the details of the settlement in Goshen are repeated (Sailhamer 1992, 226). We then read in Genesis 47 how Joseph extended Pharaoh’s power throughout Egypt. As the chapter closes Jacob gives instructions for his burial. The time statements in Genesis 47:28 make it clear that the famine has ended. Jacob’s request about his death and Abraham’s instructions in Genesis 24 are very similar (Sailhamer 1992, 228). Jacob’s more important action, though, is his blessing of Joseph in chapter 48 and his blessing of Judah in chapter 49. Judah is the ancestor of the Messiah (Sailhamer 1992, 230). The blessings are indicative of a larger situation. “We may well ask why there is so much concern over whether Ephraim or Manasseh was put first, especially in view of the fact that in the next chapter it was Judah - not Joseph or his two sons - who received the preeminent place. The answer is that the issue of preeminence in these texts is meant to address the larger question of who stands in a position to receive God’s blessing. Over and over in these narratives the answer to that question has been the same. Receiving the blessing which God offers does not rest with one’s natural status in the world. On the contrary, the blessing of God is based solely on God’s grace. The one to whom the blessing did not belong has become heir of the promise” (Sailhamer 1992, 232-233). Jacob’s final blessing rests on Judah, the one who will rule in the place of his descendant, the true ruler (Sailhamer 1992, 235). All the children of Israel are blessed, with each tribe receiving its own characteristic blessing.
Chapter 50 of Genesis begins with Jacob’s burial. After extensive embalming and mourning Jacob is taken back to Canaan for burial. Sailhamer sees the extended narrative as a foreshadowing of the return of all nations to “the land” and blesses them.
Following the narrative of Jacob’s death is Joseph’s forgiveness of his brothers. Joseph had seen the wrong done to him by his brother as an opportunity for God to do good tomany nations. The transacted forgiveness in Genesis 50 is a picture of comfort and forgiveness of the world.
Finally in Genesis Joseph requests that his bones should be returned to the Promised Land. He fully expects that God will deliver his people from Egypt.