The Meaning of the Firstborn Son in Joseph and Aseneth

In: Journal for the Study of Judaism
Author: Kyu Seop Kim1
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  • 1 Asia United Theological University, Yangpyeong, South Korea
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Despite its potential significance, scholars gloss over the concept of the firstborn son in Joseph and Aseneth with little regard to its meaning. The title of the firstborn son (πρωτότοκος) reminds us of the rivalry and the conflict between Israel and Egypt in Exodus. In particular, the death of the firstborn son of Pharaoh evokes the destruction of the firstborn Egyptians in Exodus. One of the main motifs in Joseph and Aseneth is the rivalry between Joseph and the firstborn son of Pharaoh; Joseph the firstborn son is described as the victor of the competition. The death of the firstborn son of Pharaoh alludes to the destruction of the firstborn sons of the Egyptians in Exodus 11. Therefore, the motif of the firstborn son in Joseph and Aseneth refers to Israel’s self-perception with regard to the superiority of the Jews over the gentiles (or Egyptians) as seen in Exodus.

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