Monday, December 29, 2008

Did Yosef Actually Ask About Their Father And Brother, As Yehuda Claimed?

In Yehudah's complaint to Yosef, he says:
יט אֲדֹנִי שָׁאַל, אֶת-עֲבָדָיו לֵאמֹר: הֲיֵשׁ-לָכֶם אָב, אוֹ-אָח. 19 My lord asked his servants, saying: Have ye a father, or a brother?
כ וַנֹּאמֶר, אֶל-אֲדֹנִי, יֶשׁ-לָנוּ אָב זָקֵן, וְיֶלֶד זְקֻנִים קָטָן; וְאָחִיו מֵת, וַיִּוָּתֵר הוּא לְבַדּוֹ לְאִמּוֹ וְאָבִיו אֲהֵבוֹ. 20 And we said unto my lord: We have a father, an old man, and a child of his old age, a little one; and his brother is dead, and he alone is left of his mother, and his father loveth him.
but we do not see Yosef actually ask this in the narrative of Miketz. What gives?

Some commentators address this indirectly. Thus, Rashi cited Midrash Rabba, and says:
My lord asked his servants From the beginning, you came upon us with a pretext. Why did you have to ask all these [questions]? Were we looking to [marry] your daughter, or were you looking to [marry] our sister? Nonetheless, “we said to my lord” (verse 20). We did not conceal anything. [From Gen. Rabbah 93:8]
By expanding on it, the assumption is that this exchange actually happened, even though the earlier Biblical text does not mention it.

I am not sure what to make of Rashbam. He writes:
אדני שאל -
אתה גרמת לנו להביאו הנה וחולין הוא לך לעכבו.
which might be endorsing the narrative, or else recasting the "asking" after the brother and father as causing them to bring him here. I would favor the former. The other classic meforshim, Ibn Ezra and Ramban, have no comment on the matter.

Chizkuni is the first I saw to directly address this. He writes what is pictured to the right. Namely, that Yehudah would not lie straight to Yosef's face, like this, so it must have happened, though it was not directly mentioned in the narrative. And furthermore, in the previous perek (43), when detailing what happened to Yaakov, we see:

ו וַיֹּאמֶר, יִשְׂרָאֵל, לָמָה הֲרֵעֹתֶם, לִי--לְהַגִּיד לָאִישׁ, הַעוֹד לָכֶם אָח. 6 And Israel said: 'Wherefore dealt ye so ill with me, as to tell the man whether ye had yet a brother?'
ז וַיֹּאמְרוּ שָׁאוֹל שָׁאַל-הָאִישׁ לָנוּ וּלְמוֹלַדְתֵּנוּ לֵאמֹר, הַעוֹד אֲבִיכֶם חַי הֲיֵשׁ לָכֶם אָח, וַנַּגֶּד-לוֹ, עַל-פִּי הַדְּבָרִים הָאֵלֶּה; הֲיָדוֹעַ נֵדַע--כִּי יֹאמַר, הוֹרִידוּ אֶת-אֲחִיכֶם. 7 And they said: 'The man asked straitly concerning ourselves, and concerning our kindred, saying: Is your father yet alive? have ye another brother? and we told him according to the tenor of these words; could we in any wise know that he would say: Bring your brother down?'
This does seem at odds with the narrative in perek 42, for that reads:
ט וַיִּזְכֹּר יוֹסֵף--אֵת הַחֲלֹמוֹת, אֲשֶׁר חָלַם לָהֶם; וַיֹּאמֶר אֲלֵהֶם מְרַגְּלִים אַתֶּם, לִרְאוֹת אֶת-עֶרְוַת הָאָרֶץ בָּאתֶם. 9 And Joseph remembered the dreams which he dreamed of them, and said unto them: 'Ye are spies; to see the nakedness of the land ye are come.'
י וַיֹּאמְרוּ אֵלָיו, לֹא אֲדֹנִי; וַעֲבָדֶיךָ בָּאוּ, לִשְׁבָּר-אֹכֶל. 10 And they said unto him: 'Nay, my lord, but to buy food are thy servants come.
יא כֻּלָּנוּ, בְּנֵי אִישׁ-אֶחָד נָחְנוּ; כֵּנִים אֲנַחְנוּ, לֹא-הָיוּ עֲבָדֶיךָ מְרַגְּלִים. 11 We are all one man's sons; we are upright men, thy servants are no spies.'
יב וַיֹּאמֶר, אֲלֵהֶם: לֹא, כִּי-עֶרְוַת הָאָרֶץ בָּאתֶם לִרְאוֹת. 12 And he said unto them: 'Nay, but to see the nakedness of the land ye are come.'
where the accusation of spies comes forward. Yet Yehudah makes no claim about this accusation of being spies in Vayigash to Yosef; and it is difficult (though possible) to squeeze this claim in here -- perhaps earlier than the accusation of them being spies?

The Documentary Hypothesis, as least in the version linked here, gives no solution to this obvious difficulty. It assigns all the relevant verses to "J", IMHO. Perhaps one can come up with an alternative hypothesis, and perhaps some do.

Thus, to put words into their mouths -- there might well be something to say. For I seem to recall claims of two narratives, one with Reuven as the actor and the other with Yehuda as the main actor. (And thus they similarly resolve difficulties in Vayeshev, with the sale of Yosef.) And we do have (perek 42)
כט וַיָּבֹאוּ אֶל-יַעֲקֹב אֲבִיהֶם, אַרְצָה כְּנָעַן; וַיַּגִּידוּ לוֹ, אֵת כָּל-הַקֹּרֹת אֹתָם לֵאמֹר. 29 And they came unto Jacob their father unto the land of Canaan, and told him all that had befallen them, saying:
ל דִּבֶּר הָאִישׁ אֲדֹנֵי הָאָרֶץ, אִתָּנוּ--קָשׁוֹת; וַיִּתֵּן אֹתָנוּ, כִּמְרַגְּלִים אֶת-הָאָרֶץ. 30 'The man, the lord of the land, spoke roughly with us, and took us for spies of the country.
לא וַנֹּאמֶר אֵלָיו, כֵּנִים אֲנָחְנוּ: לֹא הָיִינוּ, מְרַגְּלִים. 31 And we said unto him: We are upright men; we are no spies.
where the actors are Yaakov, with Reuven responding, against perek 43, where we have Yisrael, with Yehuda responding. And so Yehuda in Vayigash is consistent with the inquiry he related to his father in Miketz. So for Yehudah, Yosef only spoke of family, and for Reuven, Yosef only spoke of spies. (Though perhaps one needs the spy accusation in order to bring them down? Or perhaps not.)

Shadal addresses this issue as well. He writes:
יט ] אדני שאל: באמת לא שאל אותם על כך, אך אמר להם מרגלים אתם והיה זה מה שהכריחם לומר לו שנים עשר עבדיך וגו', ויהודה לא רצה להזכיר מאומה ממה שדיבר איתם קשות, והחליף הסיפור מעט, בחכמה ובתבונה (אח"ם). ולדעת אוהב גר ז"ל באמת שאל אותם יוסף על כל זה והכתוב קיצר למעלה.

Thus claiming that Yosef did not ask them about this, but Yehuda changed the story a bit, with wisdom, so as not to bring the earlier anger to the fore. Perhaps. I am not sure who אח"ם is, BTW.

He then cites Ohev Ger, z"l. Shadal wrote a commentary on Onkelos called Ohev Ger, but this is not what he is referring to. Rather, he is quoting his son, whom he named Ohev Ger (Philoxenon) {Update: Rather, Filosseno}.

Philoxenon says that in truth, Yosef asked them about all this, but Scriptures shortened earlier. Indeed, this is basically what the earlier Chizkuni suggested.


Mississippi Fred MacDowell said...

Ohev Ger's Italian name was actually Filosseno; in his scholarly publications, Ohev Ger/ Filosseno used Philoxenus, the Latinized equivalent. (Philoxenus had also been the Latin title of Ohev Ger, the book.)

Mississippi Fred MacDowell said...

Speaking of Chizkuni, what gives. Is it Chizkuni or Chazakuni?

joshwaxman said...

and I don't know. but everyone nowadays calls him Chizkuni, so that's good enough for me, regardless. :)


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