Joseph Portraits through the Ages

Categories: ,
  • Alan T. Levenson (author)
Read More and Buy

About the Book

The complex and dramatic story of Joseph is the most sustained narrative in Genesis. Many call it a literary masterpiece and a story of great depth that can be read on many levels. In a lucid and engaging style, Alan T. Levenson brings the voices of Philo, Josephus, Midrash, and medieval commentators, as well as a wide range of modern scholars, into dialogue about this complex biblical figure.

Levenson explores such questions as: Why did Joseph’s brothers hate him so? What is achieved by Joseph’s ups and downs on the path to extraordinary success? Why didn’t Joseph tell his father he was alive and ruling Egypt? What was Joseph like as a husband and father? Was Joseph just or cruel in testing his brothers’ characters?

Levenson deftly shows how an unbroken chain of interpretive traditions, mainly literary but also artistic, have added to the depth of this fascinating and unique character.


An exciting book. Levenson has a wonderful ability to distill classic and contemporary scholarship and mix it with his own original insights in language every reader will find easy to grasp.
—Marc Lee Raphael, Nathan Gumenick Chair of Judaic Studies at the College of William and Mary
There is simply no other book quite like this. Levenson’s multilayered treatment of the Joseph story, with its Jewish focus and non-Jewish insights interwoven throughout, gives readers the feeling they are being engaged in intimate conversation. Highly recommended.
—Norman A. Stillman, author of The Jews of Arab Lands in Modern Times

Alan T. Levenson

Alan T. Levenson is the Schusterman/Josey Professor of Jewish History at the University of Oklahoma. Previously he taught history, thought and Hebrew Bible at Siegal College in Cleveland. He has published dozens of articles and is the author or editor of five books, including The Story of Joseph: A Journey of Jewish Interpretation and The Wiley-Blackwell History of Jews and Judaism.

Book Reviews

  • On Joseph: Portraits through the Ages
    “Alan Levenson’s book, Joseph: Portraits through the Ages is an excellent companion to the Joseph story, substituting admirably for the college class you likely never had…Levenson’s interpretation draws from traditional and modern Jewish commentary, from literature…and, unusually for a Jewish book, occasionally from Christian sources. Levenson also explains passages where grasping the meaning is contingent on understanding what is happening in the original Hebrew text.”

    On Jonah and the Meaning of Our Lives
    “Writing in a very approachable manner, [Rabbi Steven Bob] marries the interpretations of…traditional commentators with lessons drawn from his own experiences and observations, along with wisdom gleaned from a wide variety of modern sources ranging from the film “Casablanca” to the blues singer Mississippi John Hurt. In the end, he helps us to experience the Book of Jonah as simultaneously ancient and contemporary — and certainly relevant for 21st-century lives.”

    Read full review in


Read Excerpt.

Author Blog: From the Desk of Alan Levenson,

Thank you! Your subscription has been confirmed. You'll hear from us soon.
Subscribe to JPS News