Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation
Genesis as DialogueA Literary, Historical, and Theological Commentary$

Thomas L. Brodie

Print publication date: 2001

Print ISBN-13: 9780195138368

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2003

DOI: 10.1093/0195138368.001.0001

Show Summary Details
Page of

PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.oxfordscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2017. All Rights Reserved. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use (for details see http://www.oxfordscholarship.com/page/privacy-policy). Subscriber: null; date: 26 February 2017

(p.433) Appendix Two Sources: Genesis's Use of the Prophets

(p.433) Appendix Two Sources: Genesis's Use of the Prophets

Genesis as Dialogue

Thomas L. Brodie

Oxford University Press

Abstract and Keywords

The criteria of literary dependence – external plausibility; significant similarities; intelligibility of differences – indicate that the present text of Genesis uses the three great prophetic books: Ezekiel, Jeremiah, and Isaiah. Generally, the dependence is systematic: mostly, Ezekiel is used in Genesis 1–14; Isaiah 1–39 in Genesis 15–21; Jeremiah in much of the Jacob story, and in some texts concerning Abraham and Joseph; and Isaiah 40–66 in the Joseph story (and Genesis 1).

The idea that Genesis used the prophets may seem unlikely or impossible. Genesis is a form of history; it is at the beginning of the Bible; and its story is set in a time long before the prophets existed.

Yet the division between Genesis and the prophets is not so clear. Genesis is ambiguous. Such was the perception in tradition, and such is the perception in modern research.

In tradition, Genesis, along with Exodus‐Kings, has been regarded in two diverse ways. At times it has been treated as history, but in other ways it has been regarded as in some way prophetic, written by the great prophet Moses.

Modern research maintains the ambiguity, but with greater precision. On the one hand, Genesis‐Kings has been seen to adopt the genre or literary form of ancient history (van Seters, 1983, 1992). On the other hand, evidence is emerging that Genesis shows awareness of the prophets.

Such awareness of the prophets is inherently likely. It is generally recognized that Genesis, despite its ancient setting, was not composed, or at least not completed, until after the time of the great prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel). It is difficult to reconstruct a scenario within the Jewish community whereby the writers of history were unaware of the great prophetic writers. This is particularly so because the Jewish people had just a few main centers (ultimately only one, Jerusalem), because the number of those involved in writing would have been small, and because the custom of ancient writers was to incorporate the work of previous writers.

Besides, as a general principle in literary development, prose follows poetry: “Continuous prose, though often regarded . . . as the language of ordinary speech, is a late and far from “natural” stylistic development, and is much less direct and primitive than verse, which invariably precedes it in the history of literature” (Frye, 1981, 8; cf. Lesky, 1966, 219, 221). It is plausible then that the prose of Genesis‐Kings follows the more poetic work of the prophets.

The general priority of poetry over prose does not necessarily mean that this specific poetry (the great prophets) was prior to this specific prose (Genesis). Perhaps both the prophets and Genesis were but a small part of a huge literature, (p.434) now mostly lost, within which they were not related to each other. But the hypothesis of a huge lost literature is itself a fragile claim. At the least, the general priority of poetry lends a certain plausibility to the relative lateness of Genesis.

In a broad way this sense of the priority of poetry has been recognized by diverse Scripture scholars. As Albright commented approvingly : “Gunkel saw that the narratives of Genesis were a prose form of earlier poetic traditions” (1964, viii). But both Gunkel and Albright consigned this poetry‐to‐prose transition to an unverifiable realm of oral tradition.

The breakthrough from this general link to a specific dependence came from Hans H. Schmid, when he established that certain sections of the Pentateuch presuppose written prophecy. Schmid (1976, 19–22) indicated that the call of Moses (Exod. 2:23–4:17), for instance, follows the same literary pattern as Isaiah 6, Jeremiah 16, and Ezekiel 1:1–3:17, and that the Exodus text is so written that it appears to build on the prophetic accounts. Schmid (1976, 119–153) maintained that something similar is true of Genesis's patriarchal promises: they presuppose prophetic writings.

A specific case of dependence on the prophetic literature has been highlighted by Ha's analysis of Genesis 15. He concludes:

Gen.15 . . . the work of a single author . . . commands a broad familiarity . . . with the prophetic literature. In addition to the prophetic flavour of his work, he seems to betray his special liking for, if not his rooting in, this literature. . . . He makes particular use of Is. 7:1–17 to present the theologoumenon of faith supported by sign. . . . [And] Jer. 34:18–20 provides him the rite by which to express YHWH's self‐obligation to free Abraham's descendants and give them the land. (1989, 215)

More recently the relationship of Genesis 15 to the prophets has been developed, in a general way, by Hagelia (1994, 198–199). Links of some kind between the Primary History and the prophets have also been suggested by Gosse (1997, 90–133).

The leadership in this discerning of prophetic roots has now passed to van Seters (1992, 1994, 1994a). Van Seters has indicated areas of Genesis, such as the Eden account, which depend not on hypothetical documents but on the prophets and their writings (1992, 119–22; cf. 231–235, 238–241). He also shows that the Pentateuchal account of Moses depends on the prophets (1994a). For instance, in Moses' lament (Exod. 5:22–23), “Moses is made to resemble Jeremiah” (1994a, 75); furthermore, it is “most probable that the plague narrative is heavily dependent upon the prophetic tradition in its exilic literary form” (p. 86); and the author of Exodus “has decided to read this triumphal departure [from Second Isaiah] back into the exodus event . . . (Ex. 14:8)” (1994a, 147–148).

The purpose of this appendix is to complement the work of van Seters. While he establishes many specific links, the aim here is to provide something (p.435) more general—an overall map or outline of Genesis's relationship to the major prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel). As van Seters implies, Genesis's use of the prophets is intricate—the author often weaves several diverse threads into a new synthesis—but the basis for this intricate procedure is orderly: Genesis uses the three great prophets schematically, as a clear foundation, and then, using the kind of interweavings implied by van Seters, it proceeds to build a complex text. Thus, the focus here is on mapping the orderly foundation—one component.

Note: The Direction of Dependence

Before tracing Genesis's orderly relationship to the leading prophets it is first necessary to ask who depended on whom—the prophetic books on Genesis‐Kings, or Genesis‐Kings on the prophetic books? Generally, neither quotes the other directly, at least not explicitly.

A discussion of dates is normally not helpful. Genesis, for instance, tends to be associated with the second millenium BCE, long before the prophets. But the actual writing of the book, particularly its finalizing, is usually associated with a later time, well after the main prophets.

The evidence indicates that the dependence is of Genesis‐2 Kings on the prophets; the prophets have priority. There are three main reasons: general literary development; absence of direct quotations; and practical testing.

First consider general literary development. As mentioned above, it is a general principle, in the development of literature, that poetry precedes prose (Frye, 1981, 8). Such, for instance, is the case in Greek literature (Lesky, 1966, 218–221). This general principle proves nothing about the specific case in question but, other things being equal, it tilts the probability of priority toward the more poetic text—toward the prophets.

The second issue concerns the absence of direct quotations. The absence of direct quotations is more understandable if the prophets came first.

On the one hand, if Genesis, or some version of Genesis, had been first, the prophets would almost certainly have quoted it; it would have lent authority to their preaching. But they do not; despite their intense calls to conversion, they do not recall clearly the great events of Genesis; their calls are to a past that—though powerfully evocative, especially concerning the desert—is largely undefined. It is as though they had never seen or heard any written form of Genesis.

Some details may suggest otherwise. Isaiah sometimes refers to people or places who appear in Genesis, and so it may seem that there is some dependence in the other direction—that part of Isaiah depends somehow on Genesis (cf. van Seters, 1992, 241). There are references to Noah (54:9), Abraham (29:22; 41:8; 51:2; 63:16), Sarah (51:2), and especially Jacob (about thirty times; see, for instance, 9:8; 10:21; 41:8, 14, 21; 42:24; 43:1, 22, 28; 44:1, 2, 5, 21, 23; 65:9). (p.436) And there is an allusion to the sinfulness and fall of Sodom and Gomorrah (1:7–10; 3:9; 13:19; cf. Gen. 19).

But Isaiah's references to Sodom and Gomorrah do not appear to depend on the text of Genesis. In particular, there are no connecting details. Rather, they apparently draw on some other rather general source (or tradition). Likewise with Abraham and Sarah; Isaiah's references are general, showing no reflection of the detail of Genesis. The reference to Noah (54:9) is closest to Genesis but this reference is very brief, and its distinctive phrases (“swore;” “the waters of Noah”) do not occur in the Genesis text; so again the impression is of reliance on some other general source. The references to Jacob are mostly to Jacob as representative of Israel, with no apparent reflection of the story of Jacob as recounted in Genesis. Ezekiel, too, refers back to Abraham (33:24), but again the reference is brief and does not appear to depend on Genesis.

On the other hand, the failure of Genesis to quote the prophets is understandable. Genesis's literary form—ancient historiography—precluded direct quoting from the prophets. Unlike the Gospels, which proclaim that they fulfil the prophets, Genesis sets out to describe the world before the prophets. Genesis, therefore, can be inspired by the prophets, but it cannot quote them. It must translate them into a radically different idiom—from exile‐related prophetic poetry into ancient‐sounding prose. Von Rad (1962, I, 146), for instance, can say, concerning the likeness of God and humanity, that “Ezek. 1:26 is the theological prelude . . . to Gen.1:26.” The implication is that Ezekiel is first. The further implication is that Ezekiel's theological insight has been cast into the idiom of Genesis 1, a chapter which is so written that it echoes and emulates aspects of the second‐millenium Enuma Elish. Thus, while Ezekiel may be central to Genesis's reshaping of the Enuma Elish—and of other ancient writings behind Genesis 1–11—Ezekiel's own idiom has been transformed, and the complexity of that transformation is not easy to unravel. Abraham could be portrayed by the author in a way that exemplifies the kind of faith that was later preached by Isaiah; but, given his ancient setting, Abraham could not be seen to quote Isaiah.

The third issues involves practical testing. In testing the two hypotheses—the prophets used Genesis, and Genesis used the prophets—it is the second that works best: Genesis used the prophets. This is the hypothesis which again and again best explains the detailed relationship between the texts.

In future research, this third argument will be crucial. It is only on the basis of repeated testing, repeated trial and error, that the question of the relationship between the texts will be settled.

Outline of Genesis's Use of Ezekiel, Jeremiah, and Isaiah: General Comment

Taken together, the three prophets (Ezekiel, Isaiah, and Jeremiah) are several times longer than Genesis. In becoming components of Genesis they are greatly (p.437) compressed or distilled. The image of a great fall, for example, is not limited to Ezekiel 28; it pervades and unites the surrounding chapters (Ezek. 26–32); and these chapters have been distilled so that their essence becomes just one component of Genesis 2–3.

In adapting the prophets, one of the most basic changes concerns a central factor—the word. Genesis introduces a new perspective: the word of prophecy has become the word of promise. To some degree the element of promise was already present in prophecy, but the form of historiography brings that promise further down to earth.

Ezekiel and Jeremiah are particularly basic; they are like the foundations respectively of the two halves of Genesis. Ezekiel, with its almost‐primitive imagery, underlies much of Genesis 1:1–25:18; and the story of Jeremiah underlies that of Jacob (Gen. 25:19–chap. 50). But Isaiah also is important. Its strong faith pervades Genesis, particularly the accounts of Abraham and Joseph.

The relationship between the texts is summarized in Table A.1. The outline is exploratory, and, even when accurate, deals only with components or aspects.

The Outline: Specific Comments

The following comments are introductory. They are a minimum indication of aspects of continuity between the major prophets and Genesis. Closer analysis is left to further research. Question marks (??) indicate tentativeness.

1. The human likeness (Ezek. 1:26; Gen. 1:26). Genesis 1, apart from using Ezekiel's idea of the likeness—(Ezek. 1:26; cf. von Rad, 1962, I, 146: Ezek. 1: 26 is a prelude to Gen.1:26)—may also have drawn on other aspects of Ezekiel's opening vision (1:1–3:21), especially its sense of awesome creation‐related grandeur (Ezek. 1:1–25) and of challenging mission (Ezek. 2:1–3:15; cf. Gen. 1:28).

2. The loss of communication, and the reduction of the people (Ezek. 3:22–chap. 5; Gen. 11). The breakdown of language at the brick‐built city of Babel (Gen.11:1–9) reflects Ezekiel's sudden inability to communicate: he is struck dumb, and has to scratch a city on a brick (Ezek. 3:22–4:3). In both cases the breakdown is connected with sin (Ezek. 4:4–8) and dispersal (Ezek. 4:13). The subsequent punishment, namely the reduction and dispersal of the people (Ezek. 5:11–17), helps to account for an aspect of the subsequent genealogy (Gen.11:10–32)—for the way its numbers fade and its survivors move away.

3. Sin, punishment, and a new covenant (Ezek. 6–11; Gen. 6:1–9:17, the flood). The story of the flood—with its sin, punishment, and new creation, including a covenant (Gen. 9:8–17)—draws on Ezekiel's long description, first of sin and punishment (6:1–11:13) and then, implicitly, of a new covenant (11:11–14, esp. 11:20). Ezekiel's emphasis on dates, for instance—on “the day” of punishment (p.438)

Table A.1. Ezekiel, Isaiah, and Jeremiah as Components of Genesis

An Exploratory Outline


Genesis (mostly 1–14)

1. The likeness of a human (1:26)

Human likeness of God (1:26)

2. Language loss; diminishment (3:22–ch 5)

Babel; diminishing genealogy (11)

3. Sin, punishment, new covenant (6–11)

The flood (6:1–9: 17)

4. Sin, perfect in Eden, a fall (12–22, 25–33)

Eden and sin (2:2b‐4:16)

5. Whoring in Egypt; loss of a wife (23–24)

Abram/Sarai in Egypt (12:10–13:1)

6. The shepherds of Israel (34)

Jacob as shepherd (30:25–43)??

7. Destruction; dry bones (35–37)

Dry body (Sarah's); Sodom (18–19)

8. Invasion, resistance, restoration (38–39)

Four kings defeated (14)

9. Altar‐focused temple and land (40–48)

Land and altars (12–13)

Isaiah 1–39

Genesis (mostly 15–21)

10. A whole people sick (1–2)

Sodom (18:1—19:29)

11. The vineyard and misconduct (3–5)

Noah's vine; misconduct (9:18–29)

12. Isaiah's vision; a child promised (6–7)

Abram's vision (15)

13. Conception, birth, wandering (8–12)

Hagar and Ishmael; Isaac (16,20–21)

14. The nations and God's anger/plan (13–27)

The nations—under God (10)??

15. Babbling lips; threatened life (28–39)

Babel; fading life/genealogy (11)

Jeremiah 1–31,46–51

Genesis (mostly Jacob)

16. Birth, conflict, a pot (1)

Birth, conflict, pottage (25:19–34)

17. Recall to spousal love (2:1–4:4)

Spousal love endangered (26:1–14)

18. War threats (4:5–ch 6; wells, 2:13)

Tension about wells (26:15–33)??

19. God's anger will inflict exile (21)

Esau's anger exiles Jacob (27:42)

20. Shepherds, bad and good (23)

Jacob waters the sheep (29:1–10)

21. Vision: Exiles will return (24)

Dream; hope of return (28:10–22)

22. The nations (25:14–38; chaps. 46–51)

Cf. Genesis 10??

23. Israel: 70 years in exile (25–29)

Jacob: 20 years with Laban (29–31)

24. Restored exiles will return (30–31)

The return of Jacob (32:3–chap. 33)

Jeremiah 32–45,52

Genesis (Abraham, Joseph)

25. Jeremiah buys a field (32)

Abraham buys a field (23)

26. Death, recovery, an heir (33)

Isaac almost sacrificed (22)??

27. Die in peace; freedom (34)

Freedom; die in peace (15)??

28. Idealistic lifestyle, in tents (35)

Cf. Abraham (esp. 12–13)

29. Prophet mistreated; murder (36–41)

Joseph sold (almost killed, 37)

30. Jeremiah in Egypt (42–45)

Joseph in Egypt (esp. 40–42)

31. The prophecy fulfilled (52)

The word fulfilled (50:17–23,25)

Isaiah 40–66

Genesis (mostly Joseph)

32. Prophetic call: God as shepherd (40)

Joseph: shepherd, prophetic (37)

33. The servant (esp. 41–42,49,50,52–53)

Joseph, servant, savior (39–47)

34. God as creator (42–45)

Creation (1)

35. Blessings; nations see glory (65–66)

Blessings; nations watch (49–50)

(p.439) and on exact dates (7:7, 10, 12; 8:1)—helps to account for Genesis's preciseness about dates and the exact day (Gen. 7:11–13).

4. Exile, responsibility, nakedness, and a fall in Eden (Ezek. 12–22,25–33; Gen. 2:4b–4:16). The story of exile from Eden (Gen. 2:4b–4:16), apart from using the image of Eden in Ezekiel 28 (van Seters, 1992, 119–122), draws also on the surrounding descriptions of a fall from strength and beauty (Ezek. 26–32). It also uses earlier elements of Ezekiel, such as the following:

  • The protective mark (Ezek. 9:4; cf. the sign on Cain, Gen. 4:15).

  • The divine breath or spirit in humans (Ezek. 11:13–25; Gen. 2:7).

  • Exile or expulsion (Ezek. 12:1–20; Gen. 3:23; 4:16).

  • Responsibility (Ezek. 14:12–23; chap. 18; Gen. 3:11–13; 4:9–10).

  • Nakedness, beauty, temptation, and shame (Ezek. 16; Gen. 2–3).

  • The flashing sword (Ezek. 21; cf. the sentry, 33:1–9; Gen. 3:24).

  • No pleasure in the death of the wicked (Ezek. 33:10–20; Gen. 4:15).

5. Whoring in Egypt, and losing one's wife (Ezek. 23–24; Gen. 12:10–13:1). The account of how Abraham effectively gave Sarah over to Pharaoh (12:10–13:1) appears to combine at least two elements from Ezekiel—the whoring in Egypt (Ezek. 23), and Ezekiel's loss of his wife (Ezek. 24:15–27).

6. The shepherds of Israel (Ezek. 34; Jacob as shepherd: Gen. 29:1–10; 30:25–43; 31:38–39; 33:13–14). The consistent portrayal of Jacob as an able caring shepherd corresponds broadly with Ezekiel's ideal of shepherding. Joseph also is a careful shepherd (Gen. 37:2, 12–17)—unlike Judah, who seems more interested in shearing the flock than tending it (Gen. 38:12; cf. the kid goat in 38:16).

7. Destruction and renewal—including renewal of body or bones (Ezek. 35–37; Gen. 18:1–19:29). In rebuilding Israel, God's action is twofold: destruction of sinful enemy cities (Ezek. 35); and renewal of Israel—a process that is like renewing a body (giving it a new heart and spirit, Ezek. 36), or like bringing dry bones to life (Ezek. 37). These contrasting images—of destruction and of reviving a body or bones—have been used in depicting the destruction of Sodom and the revival of Sarah's body (Gen. 18:1–19:29, esp. 18:9–15).

8. Invasion, resistance, restoration (Ezek. 38–39; Gen. 14). Ezekiel's account of a semi‐apocalyptic invasion, and of subsequent resistance and restoration, provides part of the background for the account of the invasion by the four great kings (Gen. 14).

(p.440) 9. Viewing the temple/altar and land (Ezek. 40–48; Gen. 12–13). Ezekiel's great final vision (chaps. 40–48) is of the temple, including the temple altar, and the land. This culminating vision is to be the basis of restoration. Genesis takes this vision and uses it not as a culmination, but, in adapted form, as the foundation for the account of Abraham—for the way he goes through the land, traveling and building altars (Gen. 12:1–9; 13:2–18).

10. A whole people sick (Isa. 1–2; Gen. 18–19). One component for the account of Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen. 18–19) has apparently been distilled from the beginning of Isaiah—from the condemnation of a people as completely sinful, like Sodom and Gomorrah (Isa. 1), and from the subsequent intervention of God (Isa. 2). Shared features include the totality of the sinfulness (Isa. 1:6; Gen. 19:4), the divine intervention as brilliant or dazzling (Isa. 2:5, 10, 19, 21; Gen. 19:11), and the need to take refuge in a cavern or cave (Isa. 2:10, 19, 21; Gen. 19:30).

11. The vine/yard, the nakedness, and the cursing (Isa. 3–5; Gen. 9:18–29). Noah's planting of a vine, and the subsequent incident involving his nakedness and his sons (Gen. 9:18–29) has apparently drawn on Isaiah 3–5, especially on the account of how the planting of a vineyard turned out badly (Isa. 5:1–7). Shared features include:

  • Planting a vine/yard; a surprising result (Isa. 5:1–4; Gen. 9:20–21).

  • The insolence of youth (Isa. 3:5–6; Noah's son, Gen. 9:22).

  • The uncovering of nakedness (Isa. 3:17; Gen. 9:21).

  • A protective canopy or covering (Isa. 4:4–6; Gen. 9:23).

  • Subsequent curses or woes (Isa. 5:8–24; Gen. 9:25).

12. The overpowering vision: reassurance and a sense of the people's future (Isa. 6–7; Gen. 15). Genesis 15, apart from having “close affinities” with Isaiah 7 (Schmid, 1976, 58), has further affinities with Isaiah 6—the vision, the sense of God's presence as overpowering, the association of the overpowering presence with forms of fire, the reassuring word, the positive response (Isaiah's readiness; Abram's trust), a sense of the people's difficult future (Isaiah: desolation and exile; Genesis: exile and captivity), and the people's eventual renewal or return.

13. Conception, birth, wandering (Isa. 7–12; Gen. 16, 20–21). The Genesis account of the conception and birth of Ishmael and Isaac appears to draw considerably on Isaiah's prophecies concerning various interconnected children (chaps. 7–12). Some shared aspects include: (p.441)

  • The woman will call the child Immanuel/Ishmael (Isa. 7:14; Gen. 16:11).

  • Going to a woman who conceives and gives birth (Isa. 8:3–4; Gen. 16:4, 15).

  • The distressed wandering (Isa. 8:21–23; by Hagar, Gen. 16:7; 21:15–16).

  • Divine intervention, and a child (Isa. 9:1–7; Gen. 16:7–10; 21:17–22).

In both books these births are interwoven with the fate of various foreigners or foreign nations.

14. The many nations—all under God (Isa. 13–27; Gen. 10)?? If the list of nations in Genesis 10 depends on the prophets, then it is likely that it depends partly on Isaiah 13–27. The essence of both texts is not only to list nations but also to indicate that such nations are under the power of God (see commentary on Genesis 10). Furthermore, both lists are set in a context that depicts God's power as total: Isaiah's oracles are framed by the fall of Babylon (chap. 13) and an apocalypse (chaps. 24–27); Genesis's list is framed by references to the flood (Gen. 10:1, 32).

15. Babbling lips, and the threat of death (Isa. 28–39; Gen. 11). Isaiah 28–39 has two main parts—first (chaps. 28–35), a series of oracles, which begin with images of the failure of language (babbling, strange lips, foreign tongues, 28:7–13; lies, 28:14–18; lip service, 29:13); second (chaps. 36–39), a double death threat from invasion and sickness. This second part, in describing the invaders' conversation with Jewish representatives, also depicts language as a source not only of communication but also of incomprehension (36:11–13).

These two parts (language problems and death threats) have probably been used as components in Genesis 11—first, at Babel (11:1–9), and second, in shaping the genealogy, which fades in numbers and ends under the shadow of death (11:10–32).

Isaiah 28–39 also contains a positive dimension but this does not appear to have been used in Genesis 11.

16. The conflicted births—Jeremiah and Jacob (Jer. 1; Gen. 25:19–34). Jeremiah is born to conflict—an idea that is re‐expressed graphically in the struggle that surrounds the birth of Jacob.

17. Recall to spousal love (Jer. 2:1–4:4; Gen. 26:1–14). Rebekah's brush with the Philistines, while Isaac is at Gerar (Gen. 26:1–14), seems to be colored partly by Jeremiah's oracles on Israel's spousal love—on its loss and on the need to come back to it.

18. Wells and war‐like threats (Jer. 4:5–chap. 6; wells, 2:13; Gen. 26:15–33)?? It is not clear (at least to the present writer) whether or how Genesis used a (p.442) large section of Jeremiah—most of chapters 4–20. However, the portrayal of a threatening invasion (Jer. 4:5–chap. 6) may have seen used to depict the tense relationship between Isaac and the Philistines (Gen. 26:15–33). The crucial image of the well or spring (Gen. 26:15–21, 25, 32–33) is probably related to Jeremiah's idea of God as a fountain of living waters (Jer. 2:13).

19. Anger will inflict exile (Jer. 21:1–10; Gen. 27:41–45). Genesis's picture of the deadly anger of Esau, and of how it drove Jacob into exile (27:41–45) corresponds significantly with Jeremiah's announcement that God's anger will inflict death and drive people into exile (Jer. 21:5–10). Apart from death, both texts include an emphasis on seeking life.

20. Shepherds, bad and good (Jer. 23:1–4; Gen. 29:1–10). The picture of Jacob as shepherd (Gen. 29:1–10: 30:25–43; 31:38–39; 33:13–14), apart from any use of Ezekiel 34, makes use also of Jeremiah's text on good and bad shepherds (23:1–4).

21. Vision/dream: hope of return from exile (Jer. 24; Gen. 28:10–22). Jacob's dream, assuring him that he will return from exile (Gen. 28:15, 20–21), depends in part on Jeremiah's vision concerning the return of the exiles (Jer. 24:5–7). Both the vision and the dream occur at a holy place (the temple, Jer. 24:1; the house of God, Gen. 28:17, 22). After the return, Yahweh will be the God of the people (Jer. 24:7) and the God of Jacob (28:21).

22. The nations (Jer. 25:14–38; chaps. 46–51; Genesis 10)?? If Genesis used Jeremiah's oracles concerning the nations, then perhaps, like those of Isaiah 13–27, they have contributed to the picture of the nations in Genesis 10 (see section 14 above).

In the Greek version of Jeremiah, the oracles against the nations are a unit (chaps. 46–51 follow 25:14–38)—an arrangement which “certainly represents an older form of the text” (Couturier, 1990, 18:9). It is useful then, in considering how Genesis may have used the oracles against the nations, to include the possibility that, for the author of Genesis, the contents of chapters 46–51 may have been placed after 25:14–38.

23. Israel/Jacob: years in exile (Jer. 25:1–13; chaps. 26–29; Gen. 29, 31). Israel spends years of exile in Babylon (Jeremiah), and Jacob spends years of service with Laban (Genesis). Some shared features include:

  • My years: as prophet (Jer. 25:1–7); as servant (Gen. 31:36–42).

  • Years of service: seventy (Jer. 25:11–12); twice seven (Gen. 29:18–30).

  • No festive rejoicing (Jer. 25:10; Gen. 31:27).

  • Opposition; consultation of people (Jer. 26), of wives (Gen. 31:1–16)??

  • (p.443)
  • Carried off: vessels (Jer. 27:16–28:6); idols (Gen. 31:19, 32–35).

  • Proposing peace (Jer. 29; Gen. 31:45–32:3).

24. Exiles return to reconciliation (Jer. 30–31; Gen. 32:3–chap. 33). See Brodie, 1981 for an analysis of this factor.

25. Buying a field (Jer. 32; Gen. 23). In difficult circumstances, Jeremiah and Abraham both buy fields.

26. Death, recovery, an heir (Jer. 33; Gen. 22)?? Jeremiah's hope‐filled buying of a field (chap. 32) is paired with another hope‐filled episode—concerning recovery from deathly siege, a siege in which death is inflicted by God (Jer. 33, esp. 33:5). In Genesis, the buying of the field is paired (chap. 23) with the near‐death of Isaac (chap. 22); and so the question arises whether Genesis 22 has drawn in some way from Jeremiah 33.

The most obvious similarity is in the promises of numerous descendants (Jer. 33:19–22; Gen. 22:15–19).

27. Die in peace; freedom for slaves (Jer. 34; Gen. 15)?? Jeremiah emphasizes that the king will die in peace (34:5) and that slaves are to be freed (34:8–16). These elements—death in peace, and freedom for the enslaved—may, perhaps, have contributed to Genesis 15 and 17 (cf. 15:12–15; 17:12, 23). The texts share some further features: the covenant (Jer. 34:13, 18; Gen. 15:18; 17:2); passing between the halves of the animals (Jer. 34:18–19; Gen. 15:10, 17); the corpses and preying birds (Jer. 34:20; Gen. 15:11).

28. Idealistic lifestyle, in tents (Jer. 35; Abraham, esp. Gen. 12–13). The idealistic lifestyle of the Rechabites—living in tents—seems to have contributed to the portrayal of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, especially to the picture of Abraham in Genesis 12–13.

29. The mistreating of the prophet (Jer. 36–41; Gen. 37). The general mistreatment of Jeremiah has contributed to the portrayal of the mistreatment of Joseph by his brothers. In particular, the burning of the prophetic scroll (Jer. 36) apparently underlies the despising of the prophetic dream (Gen. 37:5–11).

30. The prophet is brought to Egypt (Jer. 42–44; Joseph, esp. Gen. 40–42). In its final stage the Jeremiah story moves to Egypt and includes references to Pharaoh (44:30), Pharaoh's palace (Jer. 43:9) and famine (42:16; 44:12–14, 18)—a setting that corresponds broadly with the setting for the final stage of the Jacob story (Joseph in Egypt). Further shared features include the following:

  • Removal of the prophetic figure to Egypt (Jer. 43:6; Gen. 37:36).

  • Assurance regarding kings and interpretation (Jer. 42; Gen. 40–41).

  • (p.444)
  • Calling Judah to repent (Jer. 44; Gen. 44:18–34; cf. chap. 38).

  • The promise of return (Jer. 44:28; Gen. 50:24).

On Jeremiah 46–51, see section 22 above.

31. The prophetic word fulfilled (Jer. 52; Gen. 50:17–23, 25). The closing chapter of Jeremiah recounts the fall of Jerusalem to the Babylonians, yet the basic emphasis of the chapter is positive—both because the fall in effect fulfills Jeremiah's prophecy, and also because the final note is one of hope: the king of Judah is pardoned and honored (thus preparing the way for the eventual return to Jerusalem).

This climate of fulfillment, reconciliation, and hope occurs also at the end of Genesis. The brothers recall the word of their father (Gen. 50:17) and Joseph in effect fulfills it—thus bringing a further degree of pardon and reconciliation. At the end, Joseph dies in Egypt, as the king apparently will do in Babylon, yet Joseph's death looks to an eventual return.

32. The call of the prophet (Isa. 40; Gen. 37). Both Isaiah 40 and Genesis 37 are variations on the conventional type‐scene of the prophetic call. Furthermore, they both share a number of details, essentially in the same order:

  • The word (in comparable positions: Isa. 40:8; Gen. 37:11).

  • The towns (Isa. 40:9; Gen. 37:12–17).

  • Behold . . . who comes (Isa. 40:10; Gen. 37:19).

  • The shepherd and flock (Isa. 40:11; Gen. 37:2, 12–18).

  • Water (Isa. 40:12; Gen. 37:25).

  • Lifting up the eyes (Isa. 40:26; Gen. 37:25).

  • Calling on Jacob to recognize (Isa. 40:27–28; Gen. 37:32).

33. The servant savior (Isa. 41–42, 49, 50, 52–53; Joseph, Gen. 39–47). The portrayal of Joseph—a faithful and wise servant who later saves both his brothers and the multitudes—corresponds significantly with Isaiah's idea of the servant, particularly as described in the four servant songs (Isa. 42:1–9; 49:1–6; 50:4–11; 52:13–53:12).

34. God as creator (Isa. 42–45; Gen. 1). Genesis's clear doctrine of God as creator (Gen. 1) corresponds largely to that of Isaiah 42–45. Perhaps Genesis's providence theme also—in the Joseph story—draws on Isaiah 42–45.

35. Jacob's sons are blessed, and the nations see his glory (Isa. 65–66; Gen. 49–50). The two final chapters of Genesis—Jacob's blessings (chap. 49) and burial (chap. 50)—depend partly on the two final chapters of Isaiah (chaps. 65–66). (p.445) Some sections of Isaiah 65–66 have been used elsewhere—in particular, aspects of the image of a woman as in labor with the birth of a nation (Isa. 66:5–16) have been used in describing Rebekah's labor (Gen. 25:23)—but nonetheless the dependence is significant.

Both texts involve a basic shift—from an initial focus on the sons of Jacob (Isa. 65; Gen. 49) to a wider view which, in some way, includes the whole earth (Isa. 66; Gen. 50). In dealing with the sons of Jacob the emphasis is on future blessing (Isa. 65; Gen. 65). When the view opens to include the nations of the earth, the emphasis is on a witnessing of glory—the glory of God's coming (Isa. 66:1–2, 18–23), and the glory of Jacob's mourning (Gen. 50:7–11).

Some of the similarities may be summarized as follows:

  • God/Jacob call people to them (Isa. 65:1; Gen. 49:1a)??

  • The future of the descendants/sons of Jacob (Isa. 65:9; Gen. 49:1b).

  • “You” statements, bad and good (Isa. 65:11–14; cf. Gen. 49:2–27).

  • Repetition of blessing (Isa. 65:8, 15–25; Gen. 49:28).

  • Nations witness his glory/glorious mourning (Isa. 66:18; Gen. 50:9–11).

  • All . . . the brothers, the horses, the chariots (Isa. 66:20; Gen. 50:7–9).

Assessing the Evidence

The preceding analysis is preliminary, and so the assessment, too, must be preliminary. Yet the indications of Genesis's dependence on the three prophets are strong.

To start, there is the external plausibility. It is hard to imagine that the person who composed Genesis was not aware of the heritage of Ezekiel, Jeremiah, and Isaiah. And being aware, it would have been appropriate to use that heritage. Such usage would not only acknowledge Israel's heritage of prophecy but would also accord with the ancient practice of incorporating the work of previous writers.

  • Furthermore, there are the similarities:

  • First and obviously, the shared themes such as creation, sin, redemption, covenant, the word of promise, and faith.

  • Second, some broad similarity of plot, such as occurs in the accounts of Jeremiah and Jacob (the conflict‐filled birth; the years of exile; the description of return; the descent into Egypt).

  • Third, the persistent similarities of detail.

  • Fourth, some significant similarity of order.

  • Fifth, a certain form of completion: Genesis contains a reflection of virtually every major area of the three prophetic books.

(p.446) The similarity of themes could be seen as coincidence, as could some similarities of plot and detail. But eventually the accumulation of similarities involving plot and detail surpasses the probability of coincidence. And the final aspects—concerning order and completion—also surpass coincidence.

Finally, there is the intelligibility of the differences. The decision to follow the literary form of historiography meant that the poetic oracles of the prophets had to be rendered into a new idiom. And the history's ancient setting required and permitted further adaptations. The buying of the field, for instance, so clear in Jeremiah's dealing with his cousin (chap. 32), takes on a different dimension when recast as Abraham's dealing with the Hittites (Gen. 23). The distant setting enables the Genesis writer not only to keep a sense of hope—there is a form of hope in Abraham's energy—but also to surround that hope with a gracious ritual.

It is better at this stage not to attempt to reach a definitive conclusion. There is need for a fuller analysis and for a more rigorous application of the criteria for judging dependence. But the idea of Genesis's dependence on the major prophets is no longer quite so sketchy and tentative. Such dependence forms a reasonable working hypothesis.