1.) The story of Joseph has been described by scholars as fitting in the genre of the “novella.” What are the literary techniques and characterizations deployed by the narrator?
2.) What have seen lots of sibling rivalry in the text. How does fraternal violence reach its climax and how is it resolved with the story of Joseph and his brothers?
3.) Paternal prejudice is also pervasive. Discuss Jacob’s preferential love for the sons of Rachel.
4.) Discuss the multiple intelligences of Joseph and his father Jacob.
5.) The accusation of rape is a common trope in ancient and modern literature. How is it represented in the story of Joseph and Potiphar’s wife?
6.) Explore the arc of Joseph’s career in Egypt.
7.) Joseph is a skilled oneiric hermeneut. What is the significance of dreams?
8.) Crying is important. Joseph weeps trice when he recognizes his brothers after twenty-two years. Odysseus weeps when he recognizes himself in the Bard’s recitation, when reunited with his son, servants, wife, and father. What is the function of tears and weeping?
9.) Jacob says to the Pharaoh that his days have been “few and evil.” Alter has an illuminating commentary on the span of Jacob’s life. What do you make of Jacob’s successes and failures?
10.) Why does Jacob cross his hands when he blesses his grandsons?
11.) The land of Canaan and the land of the Egyptians. The Patriarchs as sojourners and tent-dwellers and sheep-herders. Leaving one’s homeland, one’s parents, one’s place of birth. Returning there to find a wife and to be buried. Trying to survive during famine. Discuss the cultural and economic geography of the Patriarch’s world.
12.) How is Egypt—her land, politics and customs—represented? How does it compare to Herodotus’ account?
13.) Joseph seems Odyssean in his testing and making trials of his brothers. Why does he conceive of such duplicitous trials? What’s the significance of silver and the silver cup?
14.) The Book of Genesis ends with the mummified body of Joseph being transferred back to his homeland. Why does the first book of the Bible end in this way?