Principle 10

The bible, like other great literature, makes major thematic connections between stories. A continuing them or a similar circumstance in separate stories points to a major emphasis. in a book and sometimes beyond.

EXAMPLES (Genesis-Samuel):

There are numerous stories in Genesis about a younger brother triumphing over an older one. Throughout the book, the youngest receives the father’s blessing, from Yitzhak (Isaac) to Yaakov (Jacob), from Yosef (Joseph) to Efrayim (Ephraim). And there are interesting variations on the theme: Rahel (Rachel) is more loved by her husband than her older sister Lei’a (Leah), and Hevel (Abel), though murdered by his brother Kayin (Cain), elicits our sympathy.

A similar pattern can be found later. Moshe is a younger brother; and most significantly, David, who becomes the talented and heroic king of first the south and later of all Israel, and founds an enduring dynasty, is the youngest of eight brothers.

Where is all this leading? Some interpreters understand it as an apologia for David’s line; others cite the fact that much of the Bible is written from a southern (i. e., Davidic) point of view. Equally possible is the idea that ancient Israel was acutely aware of its status as a latecomer in the ancient Near East, and was asserting its importance, in divine if not in human eyes.

Another prominent theme in these books appears to be that of exile.  Since large parts of the Bible may have been written or edited in the Babylonian Exile that followed the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 B. C. E., this is not surprising. The very first stories in the Bible feature exile as a punishment for disobeying God: Adam and Havva (Eve) are thrown out of the Garden of Eden, and Kayin is likewise forced to become a wanderer. Yaakov spends formative years away from his parents’ house; the Israelite as an extended family endure generations of bondage in Egypt; the Torah ends with Moshe’s death on the east bank of the Jordan, outside the land of Israel; and King David has to flee Jerusalem in the face of his usurping son Avshalom (Absalom). So the experience of estrangement and exile is very much in the background of some of the Bible’s key stories.