“Midianite Men, Merchants” (Gen 37:28): Linguistic, Literary, and Historical Perspectives
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An important method of resolving contradictions in the Bible was developed by Saadia Gaon and Menasseh ben Israel based on the writings of Aristotle. It is rooted in the insight that failure to recognize linguistic ambiguity is a common source of apparent contradiction—in the Bible as elsewhere. In the case of the apparent Ishmaelite/Midianite contradiction, the crucial ambiguity—overlooked by critics of all persuasions—is syntactic. There is a second syntactic reading of וַיַּעַבְרוּ אֲנָשִׁים מִדְיָנִים סֹחֲרִים that eliminates the contradiction and solves other problems, leaving only a lack of uniformity. For the latter, there are three literary explanations, which complement each other. They involve (1) stylistic variation, (2) subjective perspective (based on the historical context), and (3) keywords and foreshadowing.
Steiner, R. C. (2022). “Midianite Men, Merchants” (Gen 37:28): Linguistic, literary, and historical perspectives, Vetus Testamentum, 73(1), 82-131. doi: https://doi-org.ezproxy.yu.edu/10.1163/15685330-bja10082
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