Joseph Stories' Interpretation in The Qur'an and The Hebrew Bible

Although Joseph stories seemingly reflect the same storyline, The Qur’an and The Hebrew Bible interpret those specifically. Of course, while reading, the audience faces the same twisted brotherhood, jealousness, lie, seduce and other deadly sins. However, their depiction is rather different. This aspect gives readers a possibility to cognize the real value of human virtues, namely overarching belief in God first and foremost. Therefore, this essay is about to discuss if the Qur’anic version is more understanding and forgiving of human moral weaknesses as compared to the Hebrew one.

First, I find Joseph stories presented in The Qur’an easier to read, whereas Hebrew variant is too overloaded by details, which distorts an ordinary reader from the text’s comprehension. To illustrate this argument, we may consider an example of a seduction attempt. In this case, Joseph shows his strong will and, moreover, the entire strength of his faith. The Hebrew Bible provides a four-line refusal monologue speech of Joseph for the woman’s “Lie with me” (182):

Look, my master has given no thought with me here to what is in the house, and all that he has he has placed in my hands. He is not greater in this house than I, and he has held back nothing from me except you, as you are his wife, and how could I do this great evil and give offence to God? (182).

As for the Qur’anic version, it is, so to say, extremely short and to the point: “God forbid! My master has been good to me; wrongdoers never prosper” (89). The above phrase is concise and eloquent simultaneously. It does not require many epithets or comparisons, or any other literary techniques, or just too many words applied in another text, to demonstrate human fortitude in faith in God. Besides, the deep sense of this expression does not disappear among those odd words.

Furthermore, the aforementioned example evidences overall forgiveness given by God to people because and notwithstanding their weaknesses. For instance, when the rejected woman has tried to revenge through other women, they did nothing to Joseph, being captured by the beauty of “a precious angel” (89). They are shown as weak, seduced by man’s beauty, while, in the Hebrew variant, this aspect is omitted at all. Nevertheless, Joseph stays pure and strong in his faith, emphasizing, “Ask forgiveness for your sin” or “I would prefer prison to what these women are calling me to do” (89). The modern researcher of the seduce issue Barbara Rapoport (2010) underlines that it was even harder for certain women to oppose the deadly sin of adultery and lust because of many women’s weak physical nature. As for me, previously analyzed example is a bright illustration of Rapoport’s claim.

Being a magnificent, breathtaking, and vivid work of art, the Bible abounds with all kinds of instances of the situations, in which we often find ourselves. I believe that no one has the right to judge or evaluate any Holy Book being it The Qur’an or The Hebrew Bible. Beliefs collected in those artworks are results of many-age traditions’ development and reflect the spiritual strength of every nation. Nonetheless, the Qur’anic version of Joseph’s stories seemed clearer to me. It has embedded a deep sense in short phrases. With this interpretation, I agree with Joseph in rejecting “the faith of those who disbelieve in God and deny the life to come” and want to follow “the faith of my forefathers” (89). What is more, despite people are mostly “ungrateful,” as The Qur’an states, God is “the Most Merciful of the merciful” (90-91).

Works Cited

  1. Rapoport, Sandra. Biblical Seductions. Jersey City: Publishing House, Inc., 2010. Print.
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