The Unfavored

Judah and Saul in the Narratives of Genesis and 1 Samuel

By (author) Josef Sykora

Not available to order

Publication date:

22 October 2018

Length of book:

264 pages



ISBN-13: 9781575069586

Following the work of scholars who have attempted to rehabilitate the notion of “chosenness” in the Hebrew Bible and others who have focused more narrowly on the fate of non-Israelites in the Old Testament, The Unfavored centers on the role of two “unfavored” characters within Israel—Judah and Saul.

Josef Sykora examines two narratives with seemingly opposite trajectories: the Joseph cycle in Genesis 37–50 and the Saul episode in 1 Samuel 13–15. Both contain passages that feel intrusive—Genesis 38 and 49 and 1 Samuel 13:7b–15a—and that coincide with Judah’s and Saul’s rise or fall in God’s favor. Taking seriously the redaction-critical proposals suggesting that these puzzling segments may stem from a later editorial hand, Sykora reorients them for theological purposes. He reads the two narratives first without and then with these intrusive parts in order to indicate what their message and content might mean for the idea of election in the Old Testament in general and for the fate of unfavored characters in particular.

A freshly insightful exploration of chosenness in the Old Testament, The Unfavored guides us to new and deeper interpretations of these biblical texts.

“In his probing study, Josef Sykora explores the complicated dynamics of election in a nuanced manner, demonstrating that the elect and the disfavored are not static categories. Sykora sheds new light on Israel’s election theology by attending to the frequently overlooked fact that even within Israel some are chosen and others are unchosen. Jews and Christians, scholars and lay readers alike will learn much from this thought-provoking book.”

—Joel S. Kaminsky, Morningstar Family Professor of Jewish Studies, Smith College