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Shadowing Jacob's Journey: Gen 47:13-26 as a Sideshadow

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The narrative of the Egyptians selling themselves as slaves to Pharaoh (Gen. 47:13-26) is frequently understood as an interpolation into the larger context of Genesis 37-50. This paper argues that Gen. 47:13-26 should be understood as a "sideshadow," a literary device designed to give a sense of alternative possibilities within a narrative. Understanding the passage in this way enables one to recognize its function within the surrounding narrative of Israel's journey into Egypt in Genesis 46-47.Settling in Egypt contains the inherent threats of assimilation and submission to the authority of Pharaoh, as well as the loss of the land promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The narrative of Jacob's journey, however, exhibits a broad concern for showing how his distinctive identity as a patriarch of Israel is maintained. Within this larger narrative, the episode of Joseph enslaving the Egyptians feels disjointed, standing out as a self-contained unit unconnected to its context. However, if one understands the passage as a sideshadow, Gen. 47:13-26 does shed light on Jacob's journey into Egypt. It illuminates the conditions of the Israelites' entry into Egypt by portraying how the journey might have taken place, but ultimately did not. Instead, Joseph's position of power and his reconciliation with his family prevented their dispossession, ensuring that they entered Egypt with their wealth and identity intact.

Affiliations: 1: Marquette University


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