Judah and Tamar (Genesis 38) in Ancient Jewish Exegesis

Studies in Literary Form and Hermeneutics


Author: Esther Menn
This exploration of Genesis 38 in three interpretive writings shows how new meanings emerge through encounters between the biblical text and later Jewish communities.
A literary reading within the canon suggests that the story of Judah and Tamar points to the morally ambiguous origins of David's lineage. Ancient Jewish exegesis, however, challenges this understanding. The Testament of Judah interprets Genesis 38 as the story of a warrior king's tragic downfall. Targum Neofiti develops it to illustrate the concept "sanctification of the (divine) Name". and Genesis Rabbah portrays it as a series of providential events issuing in the royal and messianic lineage.
Esther Marie Menn pioneers a fresh approach to the study of biblical interpretation by analyzing the relation between interpretative genre, altered plot structure, and cultural values.

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Esther Marie Menn, Ph.D. (1995) University of Chicago Divinity School, is Assistant Professor in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Virginia.
' Menn's study is a very fine and highly recommendable book to see how readers give meaning to a text.' Walter A. Vogels, Review of Biblical Literature. ' …this book is an important contribution to the field…' Barry D. Walfish, The Journal of Religion, 1999. ' Menn's study is a very fine and highly recommendable book…' Walter A. Vogels, Review of Biblical Literature, 2000. ' …a carefully researched, clearly written, and always informative book…' Robert Hayward, Journal of Semitic Studies, 2000. ' This book is a valuable and important contribution to the study of comparative midrash…a carefully researched, clearly written, and highly detailed study...' Eric Bellavance, The Catholic Biblical Quarterly, 2000.
All those interested in the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament, biblical narrative, history of biblical interpretation, comparative midrash, ancient Jewish exegesis, as well as reader-response theory and hermeneutics.