Joseph, Judah and the Benjamin Conundrum

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This article proposes that the Joseph narrative in Genesis was given its final form sometime after the split of the monarchy, in order to explain the continued inclusion of the formerly northern tribe of Benjamin within the kingdom of Judah. Considering the Benjaminites' traditional ties to the Joseph tribes, this must have been achieved by a combination of military, political and economic force by a desperate Rehoboam and later depicted by the Deuteronomistic writer of I Reg as reflecting their free choice. Indeed, there is evidence that not all of the tribe's towns and clans remained in Judah. The Joseph story itself is a vital link in the Primary History and as such must have a long tradition history, but its present form, emphasizing the competition between Joseph and Judah over the »protection« of Benjamin, is seen to reflect this struggle. »The Benjamin Conundrum« presented to those scholars who deny the historicity of the United Monarchy and hence of its split, is why the biblical authors would even bother to mention such figures as Saul and the Benjaminites' northern ties, unless they were common knowledge at the time that the accounts were composed, and if so, what other explanation is there for the annexation of Israelian Benjamin by the weaker and less developed kingdom of Judah?

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)223-241
Number of pages19
JournalZeitschrift fur die Alttestamentliche Wissenschaft
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2004


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