A New Translation of the Classic Biblical Stories
Stephen Mitchell has turned his attention to the book of Genesis, one of the most influential books in human history. In Genesis: A New Translation of the Classic Biblical Stories, he embodies in English the simplicity, dignity, and powerful earthiness of the original Hebrew. He also gives the text a stunning new clarity by separating into their sources stories that were combined by scribes centuries after they were written and omitting all the verses that are recognized as scribal additions. This immeasurably strengthens the original stories; it is like removing coat after coat of lacquer that has obscured the vibrant colors of a masterpiece. The scribal additions are fully translated in an appendix and extensive textual notes. In his introductory essay, Mr. Mitchell puts the historical Genesis in context and explains its importance as a central story of the human spirit.
Joseph and His Brothers [early source]
Now Jacob loved Joseph more than all his other sons, because he was a child of his old age, and he made him a coat of many colors. And when Joseph’s brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his other sons, they hated him, and they would not even greet him.
One night, Joseph had a dream, and in the morning he said to his brothers, “Listen to the dream I had! We were out in the field binding sheaves; and suddenly my sheaf stood up, and your sheaves formed a ring around mine and bowed down to it!”
And his brothers said, “So you are supposed to rule over us and be our king—is that what your dream means?” And they hated him even more.
Then he had another dream, and in the morning he said to his brothers, “Listen, I had another dream: the sun, the moon, and eleven stars were bowing down to me!”
And when his father heard about it, he scolded him and said, “What is the meaning of this dream of yours? Do you really think that I and your mother and your brothers will come and bow down before you?”
And his brothers were furious at him; but his father kept thinking about this for a long time afterward.
One day, when his brothers were tending the flocks near Shechem, Jacob said to Joseph, “Your brothers are at Shechem; will you go to them for me?”
And Joseph said, “Yes, Father.”
And he said, “See how they and the flocks are doing, and bring me a report.”
And Joseph traveled to Shechem. And his brothers saw him a long way off, and as he approached, they plotted to kill him. And they said to one another, “Look, here comes the dreamer. Now is our chance: let’s kill him and throw him into one of these pits and say that a wild beast ate him. Then we will see what good his dreams are.”
And when Joseph reached his brothers, they stripped him of his coat and threw him into a pit. And the pit was empty; there was no water in it. Then they sat down to eat.
And when they looked up, they saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead on their way down to Egypt, their camels loaded with spices, balm, and myrrh. And Judah said to his brothers, “What will we gain by killing our brother and covering up his blood? Why not sell him to these Ishmaelites? Let us not harm him: after all, he is our own flesh.” And his brothers agreed.
And they pulled Joseph up out of the pit and sold him for twenty pieces of silver to the Ishmaelites, who brought Joseph to Egypt.
Then they took Joseph’s coat, and slaughtered a kid, and dipped the coat in its blood. And they brought it to their father and said, “We found this coat. See if it is your son’s.”
And he recognized it and said, “My son’s coat! A wild beast ate him! Joseph is torn, torn!” Then Jacob ripped his clothes, and put sackcloth around his hips, and remained in mourning for his son for a very long time. And all his sons and daughters tried to comfort him; but he refused to be comforted, and he said, “I will go down to my son in the grave, mourning.”
Now after Joseph had been taken down to Egypt, a certain Egyptian bought him from the Ishmaelites. And the Lord was with Joseph, and he was successful in his master’s household. And when his master saw that the Lord was with him and brought success to everything he did, he took a liking to Joseph. And he made him his personal attendant, and put him in charge of his whole household, and entrusted him with everything he owned. And from that moment, the Lord blessed his household for Joseph’s sake, and the Lord’s blessing was on everything he owned, in the house and in the fields. And he left everything in Joseph’s hands, and he gave no thought to anything except the food he ate.
Now Joseph was beautiful in face and body. And after a while, his master’s wife looked at him with desire, and she said, “Sleep with me.”
But he refused and said, “Please, madam, my master has trusted me with everything in this house; he has held nothing back from me but you, since you are his wife. How can I do such a wicked thing, and sin against God?” And though she spoke to Joseph day after day, he would not consent to sleep with her.
One day, when he came in to do his work, none of the servants happened to be in that part of the house. And she grabbed him by his cloak and said, “Sleep with me!” But he got away, leaving his cloak in her hand, and ran out of the house.
And after he ran out, she shouted for the servants and said, “Look what happens when my husband brings in a Hebrew to fondle us! This fellow tried to rape me, but I screamed as loud as I could, and he ran out, leaving his cloak behind.” And she kept the cloak beside her until his master came home.
And when he came home, she said to him, “The Hebrew slave that you brought here tried to rape me, but I screamed, and he ran out, leaving his cloak behind.”
And when his master heard his wife’s story, he was enraged, and he had Joseph seized and thrown into prison. And there Joseph remained.
Some time later, Pharaoh got angry at two of his officials, the chief butler and the chief baker, and he put them under detention in the house of the captain of the guard—the same prison where Joseph was being held. And the captain of the guard assigned Joseph to them as their attendant. And they remained under detention for some time.
One morning, when Joseph came to them, he saw that they were disturbed. And he said to them, “Why do you look so upset today?”
And they said, “We both had dreams last night, but there is no expert here to interpret them.”
And Joseph said, “True interpretations come from God. Why don’t you tell me your dreams?”
And the chief butler said, “In my dream, I saw a vine in front of me. And there were three branches on the vine, and as soon as it budded, it blossomed, and its clusters ripened into grapes. And Pharaoh’s cup was in my hand, and I picked the grapes and squeezed them into Pharaoh’s cup and handed the cup to Pharaoh.”
And Joseph said, “This is what your dream means. The three branches are three days. Within three days, Pharaoh will summon you and restore you to your position, and you will be handing Pharaoh his cup just as you did when you were his butler. But when all is well with you again, please do me this favor: speak of me to Pharaoh and help me get out of prison. I was kidnapped from the land of the Hebrews, and I have done nothing wrong here to make them put me in this dungeon.”
And when the chief baker saw that the interpretation was favorable, he said to Joseph, “My dream was just like that: I saw three wicker baskets on my head. And in the top basket there were all kinds of baked goods for Pharaoh, and the birds were eating them from the basket on my head.”
And Joseph said, “This is what your dream means. The three baskets are three days. Within three days, Pharaoh will summon you and hang you on a tree, and the birds will eat the flesh from your bones.”
Now the third day was Pharaoh’s birthday, and he gave a feast for all his officials, and he summoned the chief butler and the chief baker. And he restored the chief butler to his position, but he hanged the chief baker, just as Joseph had predicted.
But the chief butler gave no further thought to Joseph, and forgot him.
Two years later, Pharaoh had a dream: he was standing beside the Nile, and seven cows, beautiful and plump, came up out of the river and grazed in the reed grass. And close behind them seven other cows, ugly and gaunt, came up out of the river and stood beside them on the bank. And the gaunt, ugly cows ate the seven plump, beautiful ones. Then Pharaoh woke up.
And when he fell asleep again, he had a second dream: seven ears of grain, full and ripe, were growing on one stalk. And seven other ears, thin and shriveled by the east wind, sprouted close behind them. And the thin ears swallowed the seven ripe, full ears. Then Pharaoh woke up; and it was a dream.
And in the morning his mind was troubled. And he summoned all the dream-interpreters and wise men of Egypt, and told them his dream, but none of their interpretations satisfied him. Then the chief butler spoke up and said to Pharaoh, “Forgive me for mentioning my offenses, but some time ago Pharaoh was angry at me and the chief baker, and he put us under detention in the house of the captain of the guard. And one night, each of us had a dream. And a young man was with us there, a Hebrew, a slave of the captain of the guard. And when we told him our dreams, he interpreted them for us. And everything turned out just as he predicted: I was restored to my position, and the baker was hanged.”
Then Pharaoh summoned Joseph, and they ran out and brought him from the dungeon. And he shaved and changed his clothes and came in before Pharaoh. And Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I had a dream, but no one can tell me its meaning. I have heard about you; it is said that you know how to interpret dreams.”
And Joseph said, “Not I but God will give Pharaoh the right answer.”
And Pharaoh said, “In my dream, I was standing on the bank of the Nile, and seven cows, plump and beautiful, came up out of the river and grazed in the reed grass. And close behind them seven other cows, scrawny and very ugly and gaunt, came out; never have I seen such ugly cows in all Egypt. And the gaunt, ugly cows ate the first seven cows, the plump ones; and even after they had eaten them, no one could have told that they were in their bellies: they were just as gaunt as before. Then I woke up. And in my second dream I saw seven ears of grain, full and ripe, growing on one stalk. And seven other ears, dry and thin and shriveled by the east wind, sprouted close behind them. And the thin ears swallowed the seven ripe ears. And I told all this to my dream-interpreters, but none of them could tell me the meaning.”
And Joseph said, “Pharaoh’s dream can have just one meaning. God has told Pharaoh what he is about to do: the seven healthy cows are seven years, and the seven healthy ears are seven years; the seven gaunt, ugly cows that came up behind them are also seven years, and so are the seven thin ears shriveled by the east wind—they are seven years of famine. That is what I meant when I said that God has shown Pharaoh what he is about to do. Seven years of great abundance are coming to Egypt; but after them there will be seven years of famine, and nothing will be left of all the abundance, and famine will consume the land. And not a trace of the abundance will be left in the land, so severe will the famine be. As for Pharaoh’s having the dream twice: this means that God has decided on the matter and will soon bring it about. So now Pharaoh should look for a man who is farseeing and wise, and he should put him in charge of all Egypt. And Pharaoh should appoint supervisors over the land to gather all the surplus grain of these good years, to collect it under Pharaoh’s authority and bring it into the cities and store it there. And that grain will be a reserve for the seven years of famine, and the land will not be destroyed.”
And the plan pleased Pharaoh and all his officials. And Pharaoh said to his officials, “How could we find anyone equal to this man, who is filled with the spirit of God?” And Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Since God has shown you all this, there is no one so farseeing and wise as you. Therefore I am putting you in charge of all Egypt, and all my people will obey your command; only in court matters will my authority be greater than yours.” And Pharaoh took off his signet ring and put it on Joseph’s finger, and dressed him in robes of fine linen, and hung a gold chain around his neck, and mounted him in the chariot of his second-in-command, and officers walked before him shouting, “Bow down! Bow down!”
Thus Pharaoh made Joseph ruler over all Egypt and said to him, “I am Pharaoh, and this is my command: without your approval no one will move a hand or a foot in all Egypt.” And Pharaoh gave Joseph the name Zaphenath-paneah, Through Him the Living God Speaks, and he gave him as his wife Asenath, daughter of Potiphera, priest of On.
And when Joseph left Pharaoh, he traveled throughout Egypt. And during the seven abundant years, when the earth produced crops in profusion, he gathered all the surplus grain in Egypt and brought it into the cities—in each city he stored the grain of the fields around it. And Joseph collected vast quantities of grain, like the sands of the sea, until he could no longer measure it: it was beyond all measure.
And before the years of famine came, two sons were born to Joseph: he named the firstborn Manasseh, He Who Causes to Forget, meaning, “God has made me forget all my hardship and my exile”; and he named the second son Ephraim, Fruitful, meaning, “God has made me fruitful in the land of my misfortune.”
Then the seven years of abundance came to an end, and the seven years of famine began, just as Joseph had predicted. And when the famine spread through all the land of Egypt, the people cried out to Pharaoh for food. And Pharaoh said to them, “Go to Joseph; do whatever he tells you.” And Joseph opened all the storehouses and sold grain to the Egyptians. And the famine grew more severe in Egypt, and it spread over all the earth. And people from every country came to Joseph in Egypt to buy grain, so severe was the famine over all the earth.
When Jacob learned that there was grain in Egypt, he said to his sons, “Go down to Egypt and buy grain for us, so that we can stay alive and not starve to death.” So ten of Joseph’s brothers went down to buy grain in Egypt; only Benjamin, Joseph’s full brother, had to stay home, because Jacob was afraid that he would meet with some disaster.
Now Joseph was the one who sold grain to all the people. And Joseph’s brothers came to him, and they bowed to the ground before him. And when Joseph saw his brothers, he recognized them, but he didn’t let them know it. And he spoke harshly to them and said, “Where have you come from?”
And they said, “From Canaan, to buy food.”
And Joseph remembered the dreams he had had about them. And he said to them, “You are spies; you have come to search out the weak points in our defenses.”
And they said, “No, my lord, we have come to buy food. We are all sons of the same father. We are honest men; we are not spies.”
And he said, “No: you have come to search out our weaknesses.”
And they said, “We are twelve brothers, my lord, sons of one man back in Canaan. But the youngest is at home with our father, and one of us is gone.”
And Joseph said to them, “As to what I said—that you are spies—this is how you will be tested: I swear by Pharaoh that you will not leave this place unless your youngest brother comes here. Choose one among you to go and get your brother; the rest will remain in prison until your story is verified. Otherwise, by Pharaoh, you are spies.” And Joseph put them under detention for three days.
And on the third day, he said to them, “Do what I say and your lives will be spared, since I am a God-fearing man. If you are really honest men, one of you will remain in prison as a hostage, while the rest go and take home grain for your starving families. But you must bring me your youngest brother, to prove that you are telling the truth, and I will let you live.”
And they said to one another, “We are being punished for what we did to our brother, because we saw his anguish when he pleaded with us, but we wouldn’t listen. That is why this anguish has overtaken us.”
And they didn’t realize that Joseph understood their words (he was speaking to them through a translator). And he turned away from them and wept. And when he was able to face them again, he took Simeon and had him put in chains before their eyes; then he sent them away. And he gave orders to fill their baggage with grain, to put back each one’s purchase money into his bag, and to give them provisions for their trip; and all this was done. And they loaded the grain onto their donkeys and left.
And when they stopped for the night, one of them opened his bag to get fodder for the donkey, and there, at the top of the pack, was his money. And he said to his brothers, “My money has been returned! Here it is, in my pack!”
And their hearts stopped, and trembling they looked at one another and said, “What has God done to us?”
And when they came to their father Jacob in Canaan, they told him everything that had happened to them and said, “The man who is lord of the country spoke harshly to us and accused us of being spies. And we said to him, ‘We are honest men; we are not spies. We are twelve brothers, sons of the same father, but one of us is gone, and the youngest is with our father in Canaan.’ Then the man who is lord of the country said to us, ‘This is how I will know if you are honest men: leave one of your brothers with me and take home grain for your starving families. But bring me your youngest brother, and then I will know that you are honest men and not spies, and I will return your brother to you, and you will be free to go wherever you want.’“
And Jacob said to them, “You are bereaving me of my children: Joseph is gone, Simeon is gone, and now you want to take Benjamin. It is more than I can bear. I will not let my son go down with you: his brother is dead, and he alone is left. And if he met with some disaster along the way, you would send my white head down to the grave in sorrow.”
But the famine was still severe. And when they had used up all the grain they had brought from Egypt, their father said to them, “Go back and buy us some more grain.”
And Judah said, “The man warned us not to appear before him unless our brother was with us. If you let our brother go with us, we will go down and buy your food. But if you won’t let him, we can’t go, since the man told us not to appear before him unless our brother was with us.”
And Jacob said, “Why did you tell the man you had another brother, and cause me such grief?”
And they said, “The man questioned us about our family: ‘Is your father still alive? Do you have another brother?’ We had to answer his questions. How could we know that he would order us to bring our brother?”
And Judah said to his father, “Send the boy in my care, and let us get started, so that we can stay alive and not starve to death—you, we, and our children. I take full responsibility for him; if I don’t bring him back to you, let me bear the blame forever. If we hadn’t wasted all this time, we could have been there and back by now.”
And Jacob said to them, “If you must take him, do this: put our best products in your baggage and bring them to the man as gifts: some balm, some honey, spices and myrrh, pistachios and almonds. And take double the amount of money so that you can return the money you found in your packs; perhaps it was a mistake. Now take your brother, and go back to the man. And may God Almighty move the man to be compassionate to you and to let your other brother go, and Benjamin as well. But I—I am bereaved, bereaved.”
So they took the gifts, and double the amount of money, and Benjamin, and they set out. And they went down to Egypt and presented themselves before Joseph. And when Joseph saw Benjamin with them, he said to his steward, “Bring these men home, and have an animal slaughtered and prepare a meal: these men will eat with me at noon.”
And the steward brought the men to Joseph’s house, as he had been ordered. And they were frightened as they approached it; they thought, “It must be because of the money in our packs that we are being brought here; he wants to seize us and our donkeys and make us slaves.” So they went up to Joseph’s steward at the entrance of the house and said to him, “We beg your pardon, sir, but we came down here once before to buy food. And on our way back, when we stopped for the night and opened our packs, each of us found his money, in full, at the top of his pack. So we have brought it back with us. And we also brought more money to buy food. We don’t know who put the money in our packs.”
And he said, “Don’t be afraid; everything is all right; I did get your money. It must have been your God, the God of your father, who hid the treasure in your packs.”
Then he brought Simeon out to them. And he brought them into Joseph’s house, and gave them water to wash their feet and fodder for their donkeys. And they laid out their gifts for Joseph’s arrival at noon, since they were told that they would be eating with him.
And when Joseph came home, they presented him with the gifts and bowed to the ground before him. And he greeted them and said, “How is your aged father? Is he still alive?”
And they answered, “Our father is alive and well, my lord.” And they bowed low.
And Joseph looked at his brother Benjamin, his own mother’s son, and said, “This must be your youngest brother, whom you said you would bring to me.” And he said, “May God be gracious to you, my son.” And he hurried out: his heart was overwhelmed with love for his brother, and he could no longer hold back his tears. And he went to his room and wept.
Then he washed his face, and composed himself, and came out and said, “Serve the meal.” And they served him separately, and his brothers separately, and the Egyptians who were eating with him separately (Egyptians are not permitted to eat with Hebrews; that is considered unclean). And he seated them in order of their ages, the eldest first and the youngest last; and they looked at one another in amazement. And he sent them each a portion from his table, but Benjamin’s portion was five times larger than the others. And they feasted and got drunk with him.
Then Joseph said to his steward, “Fill the men’s packs with as much grain as they will hold, and put my silver cup in the pack of the youngest.” And he did what Joseph had told him.
Daylight came, and the men were sent off with their donkeys. And when they had gone just a short distance from the city, Joseph said to his steward, “Go, follow those men, and when you catch up with them, say, ‘Why have you repaid good with evil and stolen my master’s silver cup—the one he drinks from and looks into to see what lies hidden? That was a shameful thing to do!’“
And when he caught up with them, he repeated Joseph’s words. And they said, “How can you accuse us of such a thing, sir? Heaven forbid that we do a thing like that! Look, the money we found in our packs: didn’t we bring it back to you all the way from Canaan? Then how could we steal silver or gold from your master’s house? If it is found with any of us, sir, put that man to death and make the rest of us slaves.”
And he said, “What you propose is fair; nevertheless, if it is found with any of you, only that man will be a slave; the rest will go free.”
Then each of them quickly took down his pack and opened it. And the steward searched them, beginning with the eldest and ending with the youngest. And the cup was found in Benjamin’s pack.
Then they ripped their clothes, and each man reloaded his donkey, and they went back to the city. And when Judah and his brothers entered Joseph’s house, they prostrated themselves before him. And Joseph said to them, “How could you do a thing like this? Didn’t you know that a man like me sees what lies hidden?”
And Judah said, “What can we say to you, my lord? How can we claim that we are innocent? God has uncovered our crime. We come here as your slaves, my lord, the rest of us as well as the one who was found with the cup.”
And he said, “Heaven forbid that I do a thing like that! Only the one who was found with the cup will be my slave. The rest of you may go back to your father in peace.”
Then Judah approached him and said, “I beg your indulgence, my lord: let me speak a word or two, please; don’t lose patience with me; listen to what I say, even though you are as great as Pharaoh. You asked us, my lord, if we had a father or a brother. And we told you that we had an aged father and a child of his old age, a young boy, whose full brother is dead, so that he alone is left of his mother’s children, and his father loves him. And you said to us, ‘Bring him down to me, and I will look after him.’ And we said to you, my lord, ‘The boy cannot leave his father; if he left, his father would die.’ But you said to us, ‘Unless your youngest brother comes down with you, you will not be admitted into my presence.’ And when we went back to our father, we told him what you had said, my lord. Later on, our father said, ‘Go back and buy us some grain.’ And we said, ‘We can’t go back. Only if our youngest brother is with us can we go; we will not be admitted into the man’s presence unless our youngest brother is with us.’ And our father said to us, ‘You know that my wife bore me two sons. One son was taken from me, and I said, “He has been torn to pieces!” and I have never seen him again. And now you want to take this one too, and if he met with some disaster, you would send my white head down to the grave in anguish.’ And so, my lord, if I go back to our father and the boy is not with us—since his life is so bound up with his—when he sees that the boy is not with us, he will die of grief, and it will be our fault. I told my father that I would take full responsibility for the boy and that if I didn’t bring him back, I would bear the blame forever. And so I beg you, my lord, please, let me stay here as your slave instead of the boy, and let him go up with his brothers. Because if the boy is not with me, how can I go back to my father, how can I look at the suffering that will overtake him?”
And Joseph could no longer control himself in front of all his attendants, and he shouted, “Everyone leave my presence!” So no one else was there when he made himself known to his brothers. But his sobbing was so loud that all the Egyptians could hear it.
Then Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph. Is my father really alive?”
And his brothers couldn’t answer, so terrified were they as they faced him.
Then Joseph said, “Come closer to me.” And when they came closer, he said, “I am your brother Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. Don’t be troubled now, and don’t blame yourselves for selling me, because God sent me ahead of you to save lives. For two years now the famine has gripped the land, and there will be five more years without a harvest. But God sent me ahead of you, and he has made me a father to Pharaoh, and master of all his household, and ruler over all Egypt. So it was not you but God who sent me here. Hurry back to my father and tell him that his son Joseph sends him this message: ‘God has made me ruler over all Egypt. Come down to me right away; you will live in the region of Goshen, and you will be near me—you, your children and grandchildren, your flocks and herds, and everything you own. And I will take care of you there, and I will make sure that you and your household have everything you need, because there are five more years of famine ahead.’ You can see for yourselves, and my brother Benjamin can see, that I really am Joseph. Tell my father about all the splendor that is mine in Egypt, and tell him about everything you have seen; and bring my father down here as quickly as you can.”
And he threw his arms around his brother Benjamin and wept, and Benjamin wept too. And he kissed all his brothers and wept as he embraced them. And only then were his brothers able to speak to him.
And when the news reached Pharaoh’s palace that Joseph’s brothers had come, Pharaoh and his officials were pleased. And Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Tell your brothers, ‘This is what you must do: load your animals, take wagons out of Egypt for your children and wives, and go to Canaan. And get your father and your families and come back to me. And I will give you the best of Egypt, and you will eat the finest produce of the land. And don’t worry if you have to leave some of your belongings behind: the best of Egypt is yours.’“
And Joseph gave them wagons, as Pharaoh had commanded, and supplies for the trip. To each of them he gave an ornamented robe, but to Benjamin he gave three hundred pieces of silver and five ornamented robes. And to his father he sent ten donkeys loaded with the best produce of Egypt, and ten she-donkeys loaded with grain, bread, and food for his trip. And he sent his brothers off.
And they went up from Egypt and came to their father Jacob in Canaan. And they said to him, “Joseph is still alive! He is ruler over all Egypt!” And his heart went numb: he couldn’t believe them. But when they told him everything that Joseph had said, and when he saw the wagons that Joseph had sent to bring him back, his spirit revived. And Jacob said, “It is enough: my son Joseph is still alive. I will go and see him before I die.”
And the sons of Israel took their father Jacob and their children and their wives in the wagons that Pharaoh had sent them, and they went to Goshen. And Jacob sent Judah ahead to Joseph; and Joseph ordered his chariot and went up to Goshen to meet his father. And when Joseph saw him, he threw his arms around him, and they wept and embraced for a long time. And Jacob said to Joseph, “Now I can die, since I have seen that you are still alive.”
Then Joseph said to his brothers, “I will go up and tell the news to Pharaoh and say, ‘My brothers and my father’s household have come to me from Canaan. They are shepherds, and they have brought their flocks and herds and everything they own.’ And when Pharaoh summons you and asks what your occupation is, you must answer, ‘We have been cattle-breeders all our lives, your majesty, as our ancestors were before us.’ That is what you must say if you are to settle in Goshen, because the Egyptians think that all shepherds are unclean.”
Then Joseph went to Pharaoh and said, “My father and my brothers have come from Canaan with their flocks and herds and everything they own, and they are now in Goshen.” And he presented five of his brothers to Pharaoh.
And Pharaoh said to them, “What is your occupation?”
And they said, “We are shepherds, your majesty, as our ancestors were before us, and we have come to stay for a while in this region, since there is no land in Canaan where we can pasture our flocks, the famine is so severe there. So we beg you, your majesty, to let us live in Goshen.”
And Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Now that your father and your brothers have come to you, all Egypt is open for them to live in; have them settle in Goshen, in the best part of the region. And if you know of any capable men among them, make them officers in charge of the royal herds.”
So Joseph settled his father and brothers in the best part of the region, as Pharaoh had commanded. And Joseph provided food for his father and brothers and for all his father’s household, down to the youngest child.
So Jacob settled in Egypt, in the region of Goshen.
And when the time of his death drew near, he called Joseph to his bedside and said, “Please put your hand under my thigh and promise that you will carry out my last wish: don’t bury me in Egypt. When I lie down with my ancestors, take me out of Egypt
and bury me in my grave.”
And he said, “I will do whatever you wish.”
And he said, “Swear it to me.” So he swore it. And Jacob bowed his head as he lay there.
Some time later, Joseph was told, “Your father is failing.” So he took his two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim, and went to Jacob. And when Jacob heard that Joseph had come, he summoned all his strength and sat up in bed.
And Jacob saw Joseph’s sons, and he said, “Who are these?”
And Joseph said, “They are my sons, whom God has given me here.”
And he said, “Bring them to me, and I will bless them.” So Joseph brought them close to him, and Jacob kissed them and embraced them.
And he said to Joseph, “I thought I would never see you again, and now God has let me see your children too.”
Then Joseph took them from his father’s knees and bowed low to him.
And Jacob sent for all his sons, and he blessed them, with a special blessing for each. Then he drew his feet up onto the bed and died.
And Joseph bent down over his father’s face and wept on him and kissed him. Then he ordered the physicians in his service to embalm his father, and it took them forty days. And there was mourning throughout Egypt for seventy days. And when the mourning period was over, Joseph said to Pharaoh’s high officials, “Please do me this favor: speak to Pharaoh on my behalf, and tell him that on his deathbed my father made me swear that I would bury him in the grave he had bought for himself in Canaan. So would Pharaoh please be so gracious as to let me go up to Canaan and bury my father?”
And Pharaoh sent word: “Go up and bury your father, as you swore to do.”
So Joseph went up to Canaan to bury his father, and with him went all the senior officials of Pharaoh’s court, and all the dignitaries of Egypt, and all Joseph’s household, and his brothers, and his father’s household. Only their children and their flocks and herds stayed behind in Goshen. And many chariots and horsemen went with him; it was a very grand procession. And when they came to Goren ha-Atad, on the other side of the river, they held a very grand and solemn ceremony.
Then Joseph returned to Egypt with his brothers and all those who had gone with him to bury his father.
An authentically fresh, surprising, and winning translation… The translation throughout shows the hand of a master craftsman, who can make the American language do God’s work, as much as Hebrew does.
— Jacob Neusner, National Review
Breaks fresh ground… Mitchell’s translation tells the stories in a voice much like the ancient Hebrew, without adornment.
— Seattle Times
Mitchell’s admirable and enjoyable translation conveys, with remarkable clarity, these compelling, strange, and powerful stories.
— Elaine Pagels
A powerful reminder of how much Genesis has to teach us.
— The Boston Globe
Readers who know the best-known English translation, the King James version of the early seventeenth century, will find that … Mitchell’s renditions are like breaths of fresh air rustling through that version’s musty pages.
— Library Journal
Stephen Mitchell reenters the ancient Hebrew context, examines the stories’ original text and separates the layers of scribal additions from the original material. The result is a series of stories, each clearer and more precise, each truer to the original intent, than we might have previously experienced them.
— St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Mitchell’s sensitivity to the original Hebrew language and the history of biblical scholarship is evident in his carefully written work. But it is his overwhelming concern with contemporary relevance that marks this translation. Those interested in new means of situating the spiritual message of Genesis will likely welcome Mitchell’s phrasings and interpretations.