“Great Among His Brothers,” But Who Is He? Heterogeneity in the Composition of Judah

Gary N. Knoppers


To a large extent past scholarship has been absorbed with
textual, source-critical, and redactional issues. Each of the major approaches
surveyed attempts to deal with the formidable problems presented by the text.
Inasmuch as an effort has been made to understand the genealogy historically,
most of that effort has been expended on recovering the early history of Judah
and its growth during the monarchy. Because genealogies are essentially
histories of generations, it is only natural for scholars to want to plumb the
depths of these records as one means to reconstruct the past. But whatever
traditions may have been available to the authors, one should inquire further
about what functions the genealogy may have fulfilled in the late Persian or
early Hellenistic period, the time in which the authors wrote. Genealogies in
the ancient Mediterranean world were caught up with fundamental issues of
self-definition, identity, territory, and relationships. They were composed
mainly to address claims about social status, kinship ties, and territorial
affiliations and not to satisfy idle curiosities about the distant past. In
most, albeit not all, cases lineages "establish and validate living
relationships." Given that the postexilic Judah constructed by modern
scholarship is not known for having a diverse social and ethnic makeup, pursuing
the heterogeneity within the Judahite genealogy holds much promise.

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