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Type-Scenes in the Old Testament


consiglieri

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Genesis starts off the Old Testament with all sorts of type-stories that get repeated with variations thereafter.

I was wondering what your favorites might be.

I mentioned to my GD class last Sunday that one of the most pervasive themes in Genesis is the hero who gets what he wants by deception.

Jacob's name even means "he who deceives" or "supplanter."

After he steals Esau's blessing, Esau complains to his dad, "He is rightly called Jacob" (which I explained to my class makes little sense unless you know what Jacob's name means--a curious defect in the LDS footnotes, I might add).

Under this heading, we can also place the "fibs" told by Abraham and Isaac about their wives; Laban deceiving Jacob into marrying Leah; Jacob doing a reverse sting on Laban by taking pretty much his whole flock away from him; Tamar deceiving Judah into having sex with her; Israel's sons deceiving Shechem and company to get circumcised so they could kill them; Israel's sons deceiving their own father that Joseph was dead; Joseph's manifold deceits of his brothers when they came down to Egypt during the famine.

Although I didn't go over all of these in my class, I did mention that it seemed pretty obvious that the culture that produced Genesis put a high value on deception, or perhaps we might call it cunning or trickery or artifice or strategy; indicating that the culture was relatively weak compared to surrounding societies; and that the only way it could survive was through using its wits rather than its brawn.

Anyway, getting back to the point of the thread, what are some of the type-scenes you see in Genesis and/or the Old Testament?

All the Best!

--Consiglieri

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Genesis starts off the Old Testament with all sorts of type-stories that get repeated with variations thereafter.

I was wondering what your favorites might be.

I mentioned to my GD class last Sunday that one of the most pervasive themes in Genesis is the hero who gets what he wants by deception.

Jacob's name even means "he who deceives" or "supplanter."

After he steals Esau's blessing, Esau complains to his dad, "He is rightly called Jacob" (which I explained to my class makes little sense unless you know what Jacob's name means--a curious defect in the LDS footnotes, I might add).

Under this heading, we can also place the "fibs" told by Abraham and Isaac about their wives; Laban deceiving Jacob into marrying Leah; Jacob doing a reverse sting on Laban by taking pretty much his whole flock away from him; Tamar deceiving Judah into having sex with her; Israel's sons deceiving Shechem and company to get circumcised so they could kill them; Israel's sons deceiving their own father that Joseph was dead; Joseph's manifold deceits of his brothers when they came down to Egypt during the famine.

Although I didn't go over all of these in my class, I did mention that it seemed pretty obvious that the culture that produced Genesis put a high value on deception, or perhaps we might call it cunning or trickery or artifice or strategy; indicating that the culture was relatively weak compared to surrounding societies; and that the only way it could survive was through using its wits rather than its brawn.

Anyway, getting back to the point of the thread, what are some of the type-scenes you see in Genesis and/or the Old Testament?

All the Best!

--Consiglieri

Speaking of type-scenes, Robert Alter writes:

Since biblical narrative characteristically catches its protagonists only at the critical and revealing points in their lives, the biblical type-scene occurs not in the rituals of daily existence but at the crucial junctures in the lives of the heroes. . . . Some of the most commonly repeated biblical type-scenes I have been able to identify are the following: the annunciation . . . of the birth of the hero to his barren mother; the encounter with the future betrothed at a well; the epiphany in the field; the initiatory trial; danger in the desert and the discovery of a well or other source of sustenance; the testament of the dying hero. (Alter, Art of Biblical Narrative, 51.)

Also, in an interesting contrast to the deception scenes, there are the "disguise narratives" that Alan Goff discusses in one of his essays.

The allusive character of these stories is so much a part of the meaning that any reading failing to take the allusions into account can't be considered adequate.

The common elements to the kingly disguise type-scenes are many: (1) the king is ultimately the punished/victim (Saul; two unnamed kings

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Snipsies

I think an interesting comparison/contrast study would be Oddyseus and Jacob. It would help us all, I think, understand better the love/hate affair between Hasomonean Israel and their Greek conquerors . . . and thus the cultural setting for the Master's emergence. Both of these peoples valued the clever manipulator of people and events.

Jacob gets his soul-cleansing at the brook after his physical confrontation with G-d/His angel.

Oddyseus burns away not only the pollution left by those who defiled his house, he himself is cleansed of the former man when he performs the rituals of cleansing and renewal after his victory over the defilers.

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There is actually only one case of deception which we might at a stretch say was instigated by Jacob, and that was in regards to Laban's flock.

Laban (whose very name, white, or pure, cleverly reveals his character) has deceived Jacob and also taken advantage of him, his kinsman. Jacob, OTOH, as an employee is beyond reproach. The head shepherd, both then and recently, bears no repsonsibility for any sheep lost to wild animals or for stillborns or disease. An unscrupulous shepherd could be selling them on the side and claiming that they died from the above-mentioned causes. The owner of the herds has no way to stop that. Jacob though took responsibility for every loss.

One of the responsibilities of the employer was to provide suitable clothing for his herders, something which apparently Laban did not do.

The shepherd is also paid in a certain percentage of the newborns, which it seems is another part of the bargain laban did not keep.

When Jacob begs to be released when his contract is up, Laban, though obsequious, has little intention of parting with Jacob, after all, he is any employer's dream.

Laban, using the phrase 'if I have found favour in your eyes' (the other half of the formula asks the person to remain) hints to Jacob that he wants him to stay. Jacob gets the hint and understands that if he wants to leave with anything, he is going to have to sign another contract.

He makes Laban the offer of a lifetime. Separate the spotted livestock from the white ones. He will claim only the spotted offspring of the white ewes, which in Israel and Syria amounts to only 8% or so! Laban is quick to take advantage of both the deal and his son-in-law. One born every minute.

But Jacob knows something which Laban doesn't. The white sheep have a recessive gene.

In Israel and Syria there is a ratio of about 75% white to 25% spotted sheep (same with goats except the majority are black). The offspring of such will be all white, but the next generation will be 75% white. Of these, 2/3rds will be heterozygotes, according to Mendel's laws. Half their offspring will be spotted.

These hybrids are associated with another phenomenom- heterosis, or hybrid vigor. In this case, they went into heat earlier than the homozygotes did. Jacob, by giving them back to Laban, ensured that only those who would give birth to 50% spotted remained in the combined herd. At the end of 6 years, Laban had about 25% of Laban's herds. Laban, by his greed and dishonesty, ended up cheating himself. Nephi obviously appreciated the irony of history repeating itself, except this later Laban ended up destroying himself. The other Laban, though poorer, probably recuperated from the loss.

The secret to all this was revealed to Jacob by an angel of the Lord, as the Lord remembered the covenant of temporal welfare Jacob made with him at Bethel.

On a related note, the daughters also had a beef with their father, as the bride price was paid in Jacob's labours, which only the father enjoyed. They were supposed to recieve soemthing, yet didn't.

In the Jacob account the characters don't know all that we know. In the final contract with Laban, we aren't told of the vision in a dream until Jacob plans his escape. We are then in a position to see Jacob's innocence.

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Some themes that come to mind:

Brother versus brother (Cain and Abel, Jacob and Esau, Joseph and his brothers, etc.).

Going to a land of promise.

Being the father of nations.

Subjugation to other nations (Egypt, Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, Romans, etc.)

Weak person overcoming.

Falling because of a woman (Adam, David, Samson, etc.)

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Adam?!

:P

Someone needs to go to the temple again.

To do baptisms for the dead? Sorry, but I'm not endowed. When I read the scriptures it seems that Eve told Adam to eat the fruit. I do realize that the fall was necessary, though.

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Adam?!

:P

Someone needs to go to the temple again.

To do baptisms for the dead? Sorry, but I'm not endowed. When I read the scriptures it seems that Eve told Adam to eat the fruit. I do realize that the fall was necessary, though.

We're talking about the Genesis account, not the Restoration Versions of the story. They are different. In Genesis, mapman is right: Eve was at fault. Paul agreed, "And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression." (1 Timothy 2:14)

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James Kugel, a brilliant and accessible biblical scholar, describes "schematic narratives." He says many narratives in the Old Testament have a bare-bones quality.

"A schematic narrative has a point to make, and the entire text is designed to make it. That is, every detail in this sort of spare little story is aimed at showing that this is what the Kenites are like, and how they got that way [i.e. Cain and Abel narrative]; or that God is not impressed by the sophistication of the Babylonian civilization [the tower of Babel]; or that there is a reason why child sacrifice is not practiced in Israel [Abraham and Isaac]. In such narratives, according to this approach, the various people who are portrayed are often less than "characters," at least in the sense in which this term is used by literary critics. They have none of the complexity of a character in Shakespear or Flaubert. In fact, very little is ever said about their thoughts or feelings; usually, they have no inner life at all. What was Abraham thinking on his way to sacrifice his son? How did Cain feel after he had murdered his own brother? Such questions, for a schematic narrative, are simply irrelevant. What matters is what the people did and the results of their actions, or the concluisions to which their actions led" (Kugel, How to Read the Bible: A Guide to Scripture Then, and Now, pp. 146-147).

Kugel goes on to discuss how the small details in schematic narratives were often focused on by ancient interpreters, which could lead to some interesting conclusions. This is a fun book, a preview is here.

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James Kugel, a brilliant and accessible biblical scholar, describes "schematic narratives." He says many narratives in the Old Testament have a bare-bones quality.

Kugel goes on to discuss how the small details in schematic narratives were often focused on by ancient interpreters, which could lead to some interesting conclusions. This is a fun book, a preview is here.

Very nice.

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