The cloak of Jacob
|Key Words||Clothing Intrigue Mystery Cunning|
|Source||The Art of Biblical Narrative|
|Quote||A Literary Approach To The Bible
Genesis 38 Judah & Tamar
The numerous items of mourning of Jacob (37:34-35) contrast with Rueben (37:39) who simply tears his clothe (p5)
Also contrast is used in the excess of mourning by Jacob, with that of his son (p7) in Gen 38 Judah simply passes over the death of his two sons parallel acts and situations are used to comment on each other
The designation (38:11) of Judah his daughter-in-law reminds us of her designation, which is at the heart of her role in this story.
In 38:12 the consoling of Judah after the death of his wife stands in contrast with Jacob s refusal to be consoled
In 38:14 and 38:19 Tamar moves very quickly in and out of this designation in the quick sequence of verbs to indicate here change of role (these sequences also mirror each other). This can be compared with the activity of Rebecca in 27:14-17.
The speed of Judah s desperation to sleep with Tamar contrasts with his delay in finding her a husband, and it is this impatience which is his undoing in the story (p9)
The use of haker-na appears in 38:23. Alter (p10) brilliantly connects the use of the verb in different ways in the story the first for deception, the other for unmasking. Like his Father, Judah is also taken in by a piece of attire. The purpose of God cannot be thwarted.
Finally we move from a tale of exposure through sexual incontinence to a tale of seeming defeat and ultimate triumph through sexual continence Joseph and Potipher s wife (p10 and Gen 39:1-23)
Alter insists that literary interpretation sees people as it would fictional characters, to see them in the multi-faceted aspects of their individuality. Literary analysis is about the shifting play of ideas, conventions, tone, sound, imagery, syntax, narrative viewpoint, compositional units, and much else.
Also important is the work of Perry and Sternberg who look at the story of David through ironic eyes, and the gap between what is told and what must be inferred as been deliberately contrived to leave us with two possible meanings. The most frequent criticism is that the Biblical story which is didactic in intention would not indulge in such fancy footwork (p18). That literary studies must take a disciplined look at the text in hand, that literary art fuses with all other moral, theological and historical considerations (p19), the Bible s value as a religious document is intimately connected with its value as literature (p19). This leads us to a more troublesome understanding of what religious document might be (p19)
In looking at Historical Scholarship
Questions we might ask include (p20-21)
When we look at a text, the more we are compelled to notice such features and admire its complexity, here is artful discourse . The supposed laws of stylistic unity, noncontradiction, nondigression and nonrepetition would mean that Ulysses, The Sound and the fury, Tristram Shandy and Jealousy would have to be confined to the literary dustbin of shoddily redacted scraps.
The Religious Vision
Almost the whole range of Biblical narrative, however, embodies the basic perception that man must live before God, in the transforming medium of time, incessantly and perplexingly in relation with others; and a literary perspective on the operations of narrative may help us more than any other to see how this perception was translated into stories that have had such a powerful, enduring hold on the imagination (p22)
|References||Jacob’s bloodied cloak (Genesis 37:32-36)
Judah and Tamar (Genesis 38:1-30)
Preparation of Rebecca (Genesis 27:14-17)
Joseph and Potipher (Genesis 39:1-23)