Jacob Weeping for Joseph

Mary Douglas

in Jacob's Tears

Published in print November 2004 | ISBN: 9780199265237
Published online January 2005 | e-ISBN: 9780191602054 | DOI:
Jacob Weeping for Joseph

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Continues the argument advanced in the first chapter on the anxiety of the Pentateuch's priestly editors about the solidarity between Judah and the descendants of Joseph's sons Ephraim and Manasseh. It addresses the concept of the Day of Atonement, which in the post‐exilic period was associated with Joseph, and is found in the Book of Jubilees, where the ceremony is described as a sin‐offering of a goat. The different sections of the chapter look at the conflicting meanings attached to the ceremony of the scapegoat (or goats) offering – fraternal reconciliation versus unbrotherly rejection. They discuss: the meaning of the ‘scapegoat’; Greek and Hebrew manifestations of the ceremony; scapegoat rituals around the world, the levitical purification ceremony – including the interpretation of the word Azazal (here viewed as the goat that is chosen to be presented to God alive and is then sent away, in contrast to that chosen as the sacrificial sin‐offering); Aaron's sacrifices of atonement; the need for transfer of the sins of Israel to an animal; the bearing of sin by an animal, the punishment of the sin‐bearing animal by exile; the parallels of the goat rites with the rites of two birds in Leviticus and with the stories of two brothers with uneven destinies (Isaac and Ishmael, and Jacob and Esau) in Genesis; and parallels between the assigning of the scapegoat and the commissioning of the Levites or the commissioning of Joshua by Moses in Numbers. The author argues that not much is left of the idea levitical scapegoating ceremony, and suggests that the priestly editors covered up their deep interest in politics and morals by writing in parables but dramatizing their teaching in vivid rituals.

Keywords: Aaron's sacrifices of atonement; Azazal; bird rites; commissioning of Joshua by Moses; commissioning of the Levites; Day of Atonement; Ephraim; fraternal reconciliation; fraternal rejection; goat rites; Joseph; Joshua; Judah; levitical purification ceremony; Manasseh; Moses; parables; Pentateuch; rituals; scapegoat; scapegoat rituals; sin‐bearing animals; sin‐offering

Chapter.  9742 words. 

Subjects: Biblical Studies

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