(Chapters 44:18–47:27)


                 Missing or Changed Information in Scripture[1]


Many people read the Bible searching for moral lessons but do not appreciate the literary value of the Bible. I will discuss one characteristic of biblical writings.

The Bible has many examples of statements that were supposed to have been made, but are not recorded in Scripture, or of descriptions of events that took place, but in the retelling, embellishments were added to or changed from the original description. This portion contains four such examples.

In Genesis 44:19, Judah states that Joseph, in an earlier visit, asked his brothers, “Do you have a father or brother?” But this inquiry does not appear in the previous encounters. The Bible commentator Chazkunee notes this and remarks that it is not uncommon for Scripture to insert unrecorded details in later speeches.

The same applies to 44:21, where Judah asserts that Joseph told the brothers to bring Benjamin to Egypt and that he would “set (his) eye on him (that is, watch over him).” The commentator Nachmanides notes that although Joseph’s pledge is not recorded, the Torah often abridges accounts in one place and embellishes them in another.

Again, in Genesis 44:27 and 28, Judah reports that Jacob stated: “You know that my wife bore me two (Rachel gave birth to Joseph and Benjamin). One has left me, and I said he was surely killed. I have not seen him since.” We have no record of this declaration.

Similarly, we read that after Joseph orders the brothers to bring Benjamin to Egypt, they say: “We are guilty concerning our brother; we saw his trouble when he pleaded with us, but we did not heed him” (Genesis 42:21). This pleading is not in Scripture.

Examples of other missing elements and apparent disparities include the episode of Abraham’s servant’s mission to find a wife for Isaac described in Genesis 24, where there is an apparent difference in the servant’s retelling of the mission. Also, if you look at the Torah’s description of Pharaoh’s dreams in Genesis 41:1–7, and compare it with Pharaoh’s description of the dreams in verses 17–24, you will note elaborations that were not recorded in the original description.

This biblical style adds breadth and depth to the text and prompts readers who pay attention to think about the episode. In fact, many of these biblical portions prompted rabbis to compose imaginative midrashim that elaborate on the missing events. We need to realize that, in addition to everything else the Torah means to us, it also possesses literary qualities and reflects stylistic characteristics, techniques, and structures found in great works of literature, in missing statements, as well as purposely placed seeming contradictions, ambiguities, obscurities, and repetitions of thoughts.

[1] This essay is adapted from my and Dr. Stanley Wagner’s Beyond the Bible text.