Joseph's own Nostos

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It is interesting to compare Joseph to Odysseus. Since Abraham's generation his people have been living nomadic lifestyles and Joseph finds himself sold into a foreign land after targeted by his brothers' jealousy. It is the theme of wandering and subsequent oppression under the Egyptians that culminates into the Promise Land later in the Bible.

Throughout the chapters, even as Joseph gains prominence in courts his somewhat awkward and displaced position is never forgotten.  This is evident from the names he gives his sons- Manasseh and Ephraim. Both allude back to the his initial affliction and God's deliverance. Readers are first introduced to the young Joseph who naively speaks openly his dream that his brothers and father will prostrate before him. When this does come true, it is as if the person and identity of Joseph is  finally fulfilled years later in Egypt. Subsequently there is a process to "homecoming" where testing and recognition factor into Joseph coming into his destiny.

Joseph does not trust his brothers. His experience with them is one subject to their envy and mercilessness. Benjamin becomes the test for them as he is in the same position Joseph was in years ago- the favoured half-brother. Joseph waits to see if his brothers will ensure Benjamin's safety or take the opportunity to also kill him. The items used in the testing of his brothers are significant. It seems like a dramatic irony that the brothers are trapped by the very item they had exchanged Joseph for years ago- silver coins. The silver goblet also represents an Egyptian instrument of divination and further emphasises the upper hand Joseph has in the whole situation- he has knowledge of his brother's past and is actively shaping their future. When Joseph sees Judah offer  himself into slavery so Benjamin can return to Jacob, it is clear that the brothers are finally acting in the interests of others instead of only for themselves. Judah's line is teling- "God has found out your servants' crime" has a double meaning referencing the first and original conspiracy to sell Joseph. The brothers not only learn from their mistakes, they confess and speak out of a troubled conscience. A weeping Joseph is finally able to reunite with his family. What does this show about the criteria of reconciliation in Genesis (and how does this differ from in the Odyssey)?

855 thoughts on “Joseph's own Nostos

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