As with the earlier Deluge and subsequent Exodus, the biblical narratives of Isaac, Jacob and Joseph contain enough detail to suggest some historical basis, but insufficient to attempt any firm chronology. Thomas Mann’s tetralogy Joseph and His Brothers imagines Akhenaten as the pharaoh served by Joseph, and his revolutionary monotheism as the wellspring of Judaism. Alternatively, some biblical scholars have placed Joseph 1,300 years earlier as ‘Imhotep’, the vizier of pharaoh Djoser. ‘Goshen’, where Jacob settles and grazes his flocks at Joseph’s invitation, could be Gesem, the 20th nome of Egypt in the eastern Nile delta. ‘Haran’ in Mesopotamia, where Jacob flees to, is quite probably Harran, a Hurrian city. However, ‘Mount Moriah’, the site of Abraham’s near-sacrifice of Isaac has claimants ranging from the outskirts of Mecca to northern Syria. Even the famous burial ‘Cave of the Patriarchs’ might have been near Shechem rather than the ordained pilgrimage site, Hebron.
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