Genesis 49:22, Joseph, the Wild Donkey

Joseph is the foal of a wild donkey,
the foal of a wild donkey at a spring—
one of the wild donkeys on the ridge.

//This is part of the blessing of Jacob to his sons, as he prepares to die. I’ve quoted the New Living Translation here, to bring out an alternative translation of this verse. Most translations read like this:

Joseph is a fruitful bough,
A fruitful bough by a well;
His branches run over the wall.

Much different. Most scholars now prefer the “wild donkey” version, which brings up an interesting question. What is Jacob telling us? How did his son Joseph acquire the ways of a wild donkey? Perhaps it goes back to the day Joseph, probably as a young man, is sold by his brothers to the Ishmaelites:

Then Midianite traders passed by; so the brothers pulled Joseph up and lifted him out of the pit, and sold him to the Ishmaelites for twenty shekels of silver. And they took Joseph to Egypt. –Genesis 37:28

Thus Joseph comes under the influence of the descendants of Ishmael. And what is said of Ishmael?

He will be a wild donkey of a man; his hand will be against everyone and everyone’s hand against him, and he will live in hostility toward all his brothers. –Genesis 16:12

Did the Ishmaelite way rub off on Joseph? The good news is this: While Joseph remained a wild donkey, he did seem to overcome his “hostility toward all his brothers.”

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