White Rose University Consortium logo
University of Leeds logo University of Sheffield logo York University logo

A literary-critical analysis of the role of Genesis 38 within Genesis 37-50 as part of the primary narrative (Genesis - 2 Kings) of the Hebrew Bible.

Kim, Dohyung (2011) A literary-critical analysis of the role of Genesis 38 within Genesis 37-50 as part of the primary narrative (Genesis - 2 Kings) of the Hebrew Bible. PhD thesis, University of Sheffield.

[img] Text (555638.pdf)

Download (17Mb)


The present thesis argues that the story of Judah and Tamar in Genesis 38 is to be read as the type narrative of the genealogical tensions within Genesis 37-50 and the Primary Narrative (Genesis- 2 Kings). Historical interpreters and literary critics have disagreed over whether this chapter is to be read as a disconnected episode or as a story integral to the surrounding narratives, often given the title 'the Joseph Story'. The argument here is that Genesis 38 does not simply belong to the socalled' Joseph Story' but is an essential partner to the surrounding chapters in the larger narrative running from Genesis to 2 Kings; the history of David's Judahite lineage. Genesis 38 indeed is about building Judah's and Tamar's family, which turns out to be at once Abraham's family and David's. From a narratological perspective, the main characters, Judah and Tamar, both play pivotal roles in this chapter and also in the wider story. Judah's character in Genesis 38 at a micro level represents him as the reluctant and despotic father of his family who is brought to accept his own failings. On the macro level, that is within Genesis 37-50, this transformation of Judah's character allows for his role to become that of family spokesman and leader of his brothers. While Joseph seems to be more powerful as the governor in Egypt, Judah ultimately has the more significant role as the deputy of Jacob's family in Canaan. Judah's character develops through the sequence 'Departure-Transition-Return'. In the end, Jacob's blessing of Judah (Gen. 49:8-12) is the most favourable he gives to any of his twelve sons. In retrospect, this creates for Judah the status of a fourth patriarch succeeding Jacob. As such, the argument is presented that the novella of Genesis 37-50 should not be labelled as it is traditionally 'the Joseph Story' or 'the Jacob Story'. Instead, it would be more accurate to call this unit The Story of Jacob and his Sons. Genesis 38 is situated in the novella as the epitome of the genealogical ambivalences that are the context for the whole Primary Narrative. Tamar, the sparring partner of her father-in-law Judah, shows a twofold role in her story in Genesis 38; she is both a matriarch within the Abrahamic lineage and at the same time the type of the marginal and widowed woman as mother in Israel. Surviving a period of trial as a childless widow, she finally succeeds in giving birth to the heirs of Judah by means of a plan that she herself devises. Tamar embodies all the key features of the role of the previous four matriarchs (Sarah, Rebekah, Leah and Rachel) and foreshadows the characteristics of women such as Ruth and Bathsheba who become the mothers of the Davidic line; they too are widows and marginal women within the Primary Narrative. Tamar can thus be presented as both the fifth matriarch. and also the representative of the later marginalised mothers of the Davidic line. Tamar is the crucial link. The characterisation of Judah and Tamar in Genesis 38 can be understood using the binary thematic-symmetrical structure and what I called the huckel-.lhajJed structure with its three themes: family building (+), shame (-) and deceit (-). These structures give this family a genealogical function which is typical in the Primary Narrative. Genesis 38, far from being some rather awkward insertion into the story of Joseph, is an integral part of ·the story of Jacob and his Sons'. Through the kind of genealogical twists which Genesis 38 epitomises, this wider story turns out, unexpectedly, not so much to be the story of Abraham's descendants, as the story of the Davidic line.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Academic Units: The University of Sheffield > Faculty of Arts and Humanities (Sheffield) > Biblical Studies (Sheffield)
Identification Number/EthosID: uk.bl.ethos.555638
Depositing User: EThOS Import Sheffield
Date Deposited: 20 Jan 2017 14:53
Last Modified: 20 Jan 2017 14:53
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/14568

You do not need to contact us to get a copy of this thesis. Please use the 'Download' link(s) above to get a copy.
You can contact us about this thesis. If you need to make a general enquiry, please see the Contact us page.

Actions (repository staff only: login required)