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By Roger Syrén / JSOT Press / 1993
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This provocative book combines literary and historical methods to examine the phenomenon of the forsaken firstborn in Genesis. The dignity of the firstborn sons of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph—Ishmael, Esau, Reuben and Manasseh—is disregarded in the narrative and the rights inherent in their status are taken from them and conferred on a younger brother. One might easily compare this with the motif in many folktales of the youngest son outdoing his elder brothers in cleverness and skill. But unlike the folklore motif, in the book of Genesis the younger brother's success is not due to any courageous deed or heroic feat on his own part. Instead the displacement of the elder by the younger is usually the result of somebody else's initiative and achievement.
Roger Syrén is a Professor in the European Association for Jewish Studies.