Reading Scripture with Kenneth Burke: Genesis

by Paul E. Koptak

Paul D. Koptak, Ph.D. is Associate Professor of Communication and Biblical Interpretation, North Park Theological Seminary, Chicago.

This essay is from To Hear and Obey: Essays in Honor of Fredrick Carlson Holmgren, ed. B.J. Bergtalk and P.E . Koptak, Chicago: Covenant Publications, 1997. It was a special issue of Covenant Quarterly Vol. LV Nos. 2-3, May-August 1997).


This essay shows how Kenneth Burke’s recommendations for literary and rhetorical analysis can direct the reading of a biblical text in preparation for preaching. If a Scripture text was designed to encourage, convict, or move to action, the sermon based on that text should do the same.

For over a decade the work of Robert Alter, Adele Berlin, and Meir Stemberg1 has offered biblical interpreters and preachers new paths into the narratives of the Hebrew Bible. They have taught us to look closely at characterization, plot, and setting, and, when there is nothing left to see, to look for significance in what is not there in the gaps. Their names have made their way into the preaching textbooks.2

Two of the three call their work the study of poetics, defined by Berlin as looking "not only for what the text says, but also how it says it."3 Yet it is generally agreed that preachers are not only interested in what texts say, or even how, but also in their function-what is a given text supposed to do?

To speak of the function of a text is to speak of its rhetoric. Three recent works on rhetorical criticism of the Hebrew Bible discuss function in terms of effect on a reading or listening audience. Alan Hauser speaks of rhetorical criticism as one color in the spectrum of literary approaches to Old Testament interpretation. He explains that "a rhetorical critic will basically do two things in studying a unit of text: analyze the literary features of the text, to the maximum extent possible, from the perspective of literary style discernible in the works of ancient Israelite writers; and articulate the impact of the literary unit on its audience."4

Phyllis Trible takes her definition of rhetorical criticism from James Muilenburg’s famous address to the Society of Biblical Literature,5 which she summarizes as "A proper articulation of form yields a proper articulation of meaning." Her study of the book of Jonah concludes with a catalog of persuasive moves YHWH takes toward Jonah and the reading/listening audience: "In teaching rhetoric as the art of composition, the book of Jonah unfolds rhetoric as the art of persuasion."6

Dale Patrick, another of Muilenburg’s students, and Allen Scult, a rhetorician, believe that the rhetorical study must not be limited to matters of structure and style, but must consider the intention of writers to influence audiences. They broaden "the means by which a text establishes and manages its relationship to its audience in order to achieve a particular effect."7 The inspiration for this view of rhetoric comes not only from Muilenburg, but also from the late Kenneth Burke. Burke’s earliest writings were concerned with the effects writers meant to create in their reading audiences. Over time his focus turned from literary effects to what he began to call rhetorical effects, that is, what literary works are supposed to do for their creators and readers.8 His work sought to give attention to both poetics and rhetoric without imposing hard and fast boundaries on either.

 This essay will show how Burke’s recommendations for literary and rhetorical analysis can direct the reading of a biblical text in preparation for preaching. Preaching here is understood to be the communication of a text’s message for the purpose of achieving the same rhetorical effect that was intended for the original audience,9 or, in the case of a radically different contemporary audience/situation, one that corresponds closely to it. If a Scripture text was designed to encourage, convict, or move to action, the sermon based on that text should do the same.

Reading with Kenneth Burke

Throughout his career, Kenneth Burke sought to establish a balance between extrinsic and intrinsic types of criticism through his focus on literature as a "strategy for encompassing a situation."10 Burke’s commments on method were based on his theory that every literary work, as a work of language, has its own network of symbolic action that links the work to the environment within which it was created. II He described the internal analysis of the work in terms of poetics, but added that questions about symbolic action" do involve the relation of the work to the author and his"12 environment, insofar as such information is available.13

Burke’s idea of the symbol as a link that is forged between writer and reader appeared in his first book of criticism, Counter-Statement (1931). "The symbol is the verbal parallel to a pattern of experience," and the appeal of the symbol is strongest when the artist’s and the reader’s pat, terns of experience closely coincide."14 Burke’s list of symbolic appeals stressed what the symbol, as the basis of a larger work of art, "does" for the writer and the reader. A symbol can interpret a situation, favor the acceptance of a situation, correct a situation, or liberate from a situation. "In sum, the symbol appeals either as the orienting of a situation, or as the adjustment to a situation, or as both."15

In order to determine the rhetorical function of a narrative, then, questions concerning the intention and design of the work as a form of symbolic action must be addressed. Burke stressed this function of communication when he defined rhetoric as "the use of language as a symbolic means of inducing cooperation in beings that by nature respond to symbols."16 Here is an answer to the question, what is the interpreter to look for? The next question is how to look for it, and Burke cautioned that one should not ask one question without the other.

Burke made one of his first attempts to articulate his method in The Philosophy of Literary Form (1941), and suggested the following guide lines: First, the critic is to watch for dramatic alignments, or "what is versus what." Then one lists the equation, "what equals what." Attention is given to the beginnings and ends of works as well as the location of the peripety, noting the development "from what through what to what."17

Elsewhere, Burke has called this statistical analysis the "principle of the concordance."18 The critic notices key terms for acts, attitudes, ideas, images and relationships, beginnings and endings of sections, the significance of names, and details of the scene that may stand "astrologically" for motivations affecting character. By focusing attention on the words of a text and their use in their contexts, the interpreter discovers the symbolic function of those terms in relation to the work.19

The charting of "what leads to what" reveals the structure of the work, which in turn reveals the function of the work. Burke’s method begins with an internal analysis in order to discover the effect the work is meant to have on its author and audience. Acknowledging that much of the poet’s work does things for the poet that it does not do for the reader, he believed that, in general, by discovering what the poem does for the poet, one may discover "a set of generalizations as to what poems do for everybody" (Burke often referred to writers as poets).19

The main point is to note what the poem’s equational structure is. This is a statement about its form. But to guide our observations about the form itself, we seek to discover the functions which the structure serves. This takes us into a discussion of purpose, strategy, the symbolic act.21

In sum, the basic strategy underlying Burke’s method is a charting of the work’s structure in order to uncover its "medicine," that is, what it is supposed to do for the writer and the reader. Underlying the method is his primary assumption that an intrinsic analysis of the work will reveal its structure, which in turn will reveal its function or "medicine." Burke’s methods of analysis have been summarized as a series of four interpretive steps: 1) cluster analysis: what goes with what? 2) agon analysis: what is opposed to what? 3) analysis of progressive form: from what, through what, to what? and 4) analysis of transformations: what is changed into something or someone else?22 The four steps and their questions can help us discover the rhetorical strategy and purpose at work in the story of Judah and Tamar and their dealings with one another.

Genesis 38

While most modern interpreters of Genesis have viewed the story of Judah and Tamar as an unreldted intrusion into the Joseph story," a growing number are following the suggestion of Alter that this chapter is central to the story of Joseph and his family."24 If one reads the story as part of the larger narrative concerning the family story (toledot) of Jacob (Genesis 37:2), then the verbal links with Judah’s suggestion to sell Joseph in chapter 37 and his later pledge and appeal for Benjamin in chapter 44 come to the foreground.25 The figure of Tamar can recede in such a reading; it can be forgotten that the story can function on its own, centered on a woman’s clever solution to a serious problem when it is read as an independent short story, Tamar, not Judah, becomes the main character and hero. 26


CLUSTER ANALYSIS: WHAT GOES WITH WHAT? Cluster analysis identifies key terms, noting either the frequency or the intensity of their use. Symbols and terms that are associated with key words indicate the meanings of those key words and their functions. One can then chart and look for patterns in associational clusters."27

The descriptions and associations narrated in verses I and 2 of chapter 38 are predominantly masculine. Judah separates from his brothers and settles (Hebrew nth, "he turned") near an Adultamite named Hirah. He then sees and takes as a wife the daughter of a Canaanite man whose name, Shua, is given; the woman’s is not. The narration of verses 3, 4, and 5 uses descriptions that are predominantly feminine. The wife of Judah builds up a family; she conceives, bears, and names the sons at least two, if not three, times (some scholars emend the Hebrew masculine "he called" in verse 3 to agree with "she called" in verses 4 and 5).28 The sequence of feminine active verbs, coming after a string of masculine verbs, sets up a distinction between the worlds of men and women that bears watching. Does it continue throughout the story?

In verses 6-11, the verbs are almost all masculine again. Judah "takes" for his firstborn son a wife named Tamar, just as he "takes" a wife for himself in verse 2. When Er’s evil moves YHWH to put him to death, Judah directs his second son, Onan, to fulfill the duty of the brother-in-law to father offspring to perpetuate the name and memory of his dead brother (see Deuteronomy 25:25). Onan only pretends to comply and is also put to death for the same reason as his brother: his deeds were "evil in the eyes of YHWH." This time Judah speaks to Tamar. He tells her to go to her father’s house until his third son, Shelah, grows up, but the storyteller reveals that Judah blames Tamar for the deaths. Tamar is silent in all of this. No verbs describe her action until she goes to her father’s house and stays there."29

The separate verbal worlds of men and women continue throughout the story, with the exception of the interaction between Judah and the disguised Tamar in verses 16-18. Judah is not said to be present for the births of his twins in verses 27-30. We might speculate that the separation of the worlds of males and females was thought to be normal, but we cannot be certain. However, we also see that the actions of Er, Onan, and Judah have left Tamar childless and isolated. She is a woman without a place.30

The separation breaks down in the scene that begins in verse 12. When Tamar hears that the widowed Judah is going up to shear the sheep at Timnah, she begins to act and speak. First, she disguises herself and sits by the road. The Hebrew word for "sit" (ysb) is the same one used for "remain" or "live" at the father’s house in verse 11; Judah sent her to live at her father’s house, but no one directed her to sit by the road. Second, Tamar speaks to Judah and bargains with him.31 He does not "take" her, as he took wives for himself and his son; he must tell her what he will give"(nm), three times (vv. 16,18). Judah later sends a goat to "take" the pledge back, but when she is not found, he decides to let her keep (again laq, "take") it. In her disguise, Tamar has entered the man’s world. She belongs to no one, and she directs her own actions, even negotiating for herself.32 It may be significant that the masculine and feminine verbs describing the sex act occur together for the first time in verse 18: "He went into her and she conceived by him."

So far the study of significant terms and their clusters has supported the reader’s notice that the actions of Tamar crossed the boundaries of propriety, not just in taking the role of a prostitute, but in taking the active role that had previously been unavailable to her. Tamar’s actions become even more significant when another cluster of key terms is charted. Words about seeing and recognition are clustered in verses 14-26. Tamar disguised herself because she "saw"(r ‘h) that Shelah had grown and she had not been given to him (v. 14). Judah "saw" her and took her for a prostitute (v. 15), for he did not "know"(yd’) that she was his daughter, in-law (v. 16). Judah heard that Tamar was pregnant and ordered her execution, but she set out his personal effects and said, "By the man who owns these I have conceived. Identify [or recognize, nkr] them; whose are they?"(v. 25). Judah identified them and revealed a new insight: "She is more in the right than I am, because I did not give her to Shelah my son" (v. 26).

Tamar acted because she "saw." As a result, Judah finally saw and ackowledged that he had acted unfairly toward his daughter-in-law. The idea is echoed in the name of the place where Tamar set herself, petah ‘enayim can mean "opening of the eyes."32 Yet Tamar and Judah are not the only ones who see; YHWH also sees that the acts of Er and Onan are evil (literally, "evil in the eyes of YHWH," vv. 7-10), and that moves YHWH to swift judgment. Judah is also judged for withholding offspring from Tamar, but much more gently. His death is the inner death of self-mortification that recognizes his injustice, and it ultimately leads to life. Are we encouraged to compare these different instances of seeing?

AGON ANALYSIS: WHAT IS VERSUS WHAT? The cluster of words related to seeing also has within it a pattern of opposition, much like the contrast between the worlds of men and women observed earlier. The agon analysis looks for words, themes, images, and principles that stand against one another. Agon analysis completes the work of cluster analysis by discovering the conflicts that may have motivated the work under study.34

Certainly there is opposition between the actions of Er, Onan, and Judah that would deny life and the steps Tamar took to give life. There is also opposition between the life-taking judgment of YHWH in verses 7 and 10 and the life-saving intervention or "judgment" of Tamar. Not only did Tamar’s actions bring new life to the family (two sons for the two that were lost), but her exposure of Judah gave him the opportunity to mortify or "slay" himself and thereby avert the possibility of a deadly judgment from YHWH.

Why was YHWH merciful to Judah and not to Judah’s sons? Perhaps part of the answer is to be found in Tamar’s initiative on behalf of the family. The contrast may also be suggested by the use of the idiom "evil in the eyes of YHWH" (VV. 7 and 10), which, as mentioned above, becomes another term in the cluster of seeing. Nothing is said about YHWH seeing or judging judah’s actions, yet Tamar could see what Judah was doing. Judah was spared the judgment that had fallen on his sons when Tamar "saw" his wrong, acted to win her right, and caused Judah to see the injustice for himself The tragedy that begins the story is turned around so that it ends in comedy.

ANALYSIS OF PROGRESSIVE FORM: FROM WHAT, THROUGH WHAT, TO WHAT? Is the story over? Not until the second set of sons is born; and so we may look at the third step in Burke’s method, that of progressive form.35 Burke also spoke of the "entelechial" test: "Look for moments at which, in your opinion, the work comes to fruition." The critic is here to attend to the terminology of these moments and then "spin from them."36

The story ends not with Tamar’s exoneration, but with her delivery of twins. Two birth narratives form a frame around the story that begins with characters described as evil and ends with one who is called righteous, or at least "in the right" (sdkh). We can observe that verses 1-11 constitute a story of birth and succession that turns for the worse, while verses 12-30 tell another that ends in joy and uplift. One is filled with death and judgment, while redemptive mercy is at work in the other.

Tamar’s bearing of twins completes the cycle of two birth narratives, so comparison between the two sets of brothers seems to be in order. Strife between brothers runs throughout the stories of Abraham and Sarah’s descendants and appears in Onan’s mistreatment of his deceased older brother’s wife and memory. Yet we have seen that the sin and judgment of the first narrative (vv. 1-11) are answered with grace and redemption in the beginning of the second (vv. 12-26). Does this comic frame extend into the second birth narrative (vv. 27-30)? Perhaps so, for there is novelty, surprise, and perhaps even delight in the strange birth of the twins.

It is generally assumed that Perez "breaks out" (prs) violently and pulls his brother back in order to crawl over him.37 Yet the brother’s hand is withdrawn, not pulled back, and there are no other indications of strife or violence. Could it be that the one marked as firstborn yields his position?38 Perhaps this is to say too much about a sketchy narrative, but we should notice that there is no clear indication of brotherly strife or of twins fighting in the womb as Jacob and Esau did. The younger rises over the older, just as Joseph sees his youngest blessed first by Jacob (Genesis 48:8,20) and accepts the father’s favoritism, just as Judah learned to accept Jacob’s love for Joseph and Benjamin. Is there a foreshadow of that resolution here?

ANALYSIS OF TRANSFORMATION: WHAT IS CHANGED INTO SOMETHING ELSE? A number of changes have been noted throughout this analysis, especially in the persons of Judah and Tamar, but perhaps the most significant transformation is the transformation of the story itself. The second narrative parallels the first in structure, word choice, and theme, but it does so to rewrite the story. Tragedy becomes comedy, a widow gains her right, and a wrongdoer begins to see.

Tamar’s actions foreshadow those of Joseph, who also hides behind a disguise, uses personal effects to incriminate, and moves Judah to acknowledge guilt and act sacrificially.39 By framing his brothers with the silver cup and claiming Benjamin as a slave (Genesis 42:6-44:17), Joseph recasts the scene of his own sale, hoping for a better outcome the second time around. In the same way, the second narrative of Genesis 38 begins in verses 12-16 with a second mention of Shua’s daughter, the man Hirah, and a journey in which Judah "saw" and "turned" (echoing the vocabulary of vv. 1-2), to indicate that this scene is a replay of the scene in verses I -II.

Here is no lightness in the first narrative, but in the second, the picture of a man leading a goat, looking for a prostitute that no one admits to having seen,40 is quite comical. Judah realizes this and decides to cut his losses before he and Hirah become a laughingstock, yet the reader is already laughing at the thought that Judah has been beaten at his own game of deception.41 The laugh signals a brighter ending for this story, and for the larger story of Joseph and his family. Judah has been transformed, not killed; this transformation points to a greater one. Joseph will see God at work, not only in the life of Judah, who offers himself for Benjamin (Genesis 44:33), but in the entire constellation of events: "You meant to do evil to me, but God meant it for good" (Genesis 50:20). The story of Judah and Tamar recommends to the reader the work of God, sometimes hidden, but sometimes revealed to those with eyes to see.



Kenneth Burke’s body of work left many approaches to reading that readers and rhetorical critics have used with great profit.42 Yet more significant than the methods is the perspective that generated them. Richard B. Gregg writes, "Without taking anything away from Burke’s concrete methodological advice, his most valuable contribution to the rhetorical critic is his insight into the nature of human symbolic behavior and the potential effect of symbolic inducements."43

The above analysis was written to show that Burke’s close reading of texts is different from, yet complementary to, the poetics of Alter, Berlin, and Stemberg. His focus on the rhetoric of symbolic action can help the preacher see the effects the writers of Scripture hoped to evoke in their audiences, thus unlocking their persuasive appeal. Preachers may want to highlight the associations and agons in a story-based sermon on Genesis 38, or they may choose to teach the biblical storyteller’s point that the injustice done to Tamar is corrected when the scene is replayed with a more active heroine. There ought to be plenty of freedom for invention in sermon writing. Preaching may or may not mirror the form of the biblical text, but it must recapture its function.

In sum, the analysis of clusters, agons, progressions, and transformations has helped us to chart not only the structure of Genesis 38, but its function, the effect it was intended to create. The chapter was written the way it was, the second story rewriting the first, to make us laugh and to make us glad that our own stories are also being written and rewritten by the same divine hand.44




1. Robert Alter, The Art of Biblical Narrative (New York: Basic Books, 1981); Adele Berlin, Poetics and Interpretation of Biblical Narrative (Sheffield: Almond, 1983); Meir Stemberg, ee (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1985).

  1. Sidney Greidanus, The Modern Preacher and the Ancient Text: Interpreting and Preaching Biblical Literature (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1988), 188-227; John C. Holbert, Preaching Old Testament: Proclamation and Narrative in the Hebrew Bible (Nashville: Abingdon, 1991); Thomas G. Long, Preaching and the Literary Forms of the Bible (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 1989), 66-86
  2. Berlin, Poetics, 20.
  3. Alan J. Hauser, "Rhetorical Criticism of the Old Testament," in Rhetorical Criticism of the Bible: A Comprehensive Bibliography u4di Notes on History and Method, ed. Duane E Watson and Alan J. Hauser (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1994), 1, 14.
5. James Muilenburg, "Form Criticism and Beyond," JBL 88 (1969): 1-18.

6. Phyllis Trible, Rhetorical Criticism: Context, Method and the Book of Jonah (Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 1994), 224-25.

7. Date Patrick and Allen Scult, Rhetoric and Biblical Interpretation, JSOT Supplement 82 (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1990): 12. A similar idea comes from Jerry Camery-Hoggatt, Speaking of God: Reading and Preaching the Word of God (Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson, 1995), 56: "By managing the reader’s responses, the evangelist (gospel writer) makes the text a vehicle of transformation."

8. His taxonomy of the "kinds of criticism" distinguished extrinsic criticism (concerned with causes and effects of the work) and intrinsic criticism (analysis of the work itself). Kenneth Burke, "Kinds of Criticism," Poetry 68 (Aug. 1946): 274-79. However, Burke meant to appreciate both modes of criticism while seeking to deduce from such analysis the principles of the work, the way a writer crafts a work to produce certain effects. "The Principle of Composition," Poetry 99 (Oct. 1961): 52.

9. Camery-Hoggatt, Speaking of God, 16, 162.

10. Kenneth Burke, The Philosophy of Literary Form: Studies in Symbolic Action, 3d ed. (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1973), 109.

11. Greig Henderson see symbolic action as a mediatory term: "Because of the ambiguity built into the transaction between text and context, there arises a need for mediation. Symbolic action is the principle of mediation." Literature and Language as Symbolic Action (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1988), 18.

12. Burke’s earlier writings do not exhibit the inclusive language he used in his last years of writing and speaking.

13. Kenneth Burke, "Poetics in Particular, Language in General," in Language as Symbolic Action (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1966), 42. Burke also labeled the intrinsic approach as formalistic, while he called the extrinsic approach sociological. "Formalist Criticism: Its Principles and Limits," in Language as Symbolic Action, 495-99.

14. Kenneth Burke, "Lexicon Rhetoricae," in Counter-Statement (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1968), 152-53.

15. Ibid., 156.

16. Kenneth Burke, A Rhetoric of Motives (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1969), 43.

17. Burke, Philosophy, 69-71.

18. Kenneth Burke, "Fact Inference and Proof in the Analysis of Literary Symbolism," in Symbol and Values: An Initial Study, Thirteenth Symposium of the Conference on Science, Philosophy and Religion (New York: Harper, 1954), 283-306. Reprinted in Terms for Order, ed. S. E. Hyman with B. Karmiller (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1964), 145-72.

19. Ibid., 148.

20. Burke, Philosophy, 73-74.

21. Ibid., 101.

22. William H. Rueckert, "A Field Guide to Kenneth Burke-1990," in Extensions of the Burkeian System, ed. James W Chesebro (Tuscaloosa and London: University of Alabama Press, 1993), 16-17.

23. J. Alberto Soggin, "Judah and Tamar (Genesis 38)," in Of Prophets’ Visions and the Wisdom of Sages: Essays in Honor of R. Norman Whybray on His Seventieth Birthday, ed. H. A. McKay and David J. A. Clines (Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1993), 281, citing the commentary of Claus Westermann, Genesis 37-50 (Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1986), 49-57. Westermann’s most recent book does not include any discussion of Genesis 38. Joseph: Eleven Bible Studies on Genesis (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1996).

24. Alter, Biblical Narrative, 1-22. Judah Goldin, "The Youngest Son or Where Does Genesis 38 Belong," JBL 96 (1977): 27-44, notes that the problem was seen as early as Genesis Rabbah, par. 85.2, stating that the rabbi’s "approach of looking for idiomatic or thematic connection or association is sound," 3 1.

25. Robert Alter, Genesis: Translation and Commentary (New York: Norton, 1996), 217-23, 265. Significant repetitions include the directive to "recognize" or "identify" personal effects (Genesis 37:32 and 38:25-26), and the pledge, or offer of security (Genesis 38:17-18 and 44:32). See also Terence Fretheim, "Genesis," in The New Interpreter's Bible, Vol. I (Nashville: Abingdon, 1994), 604-5.

26. So also Harold Bloom, The Book of J (New York: Vintage Books), 220-23. The actions of Tamar also relate to the larger theme of the promise of nationhood in Genesis 12:1. Lawrence A. Turner, Announcements of Plot in Genesis (Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1990), 170; Gordon J. Wenham, Word Biblical Commentary, Vol. 2: Genesis 16-50 (Dallas: Word Books, 1994), 365.

27. Sonja K. Foss, Rhetorical Criticism: Exploration and Practice (Prospect Heights, Ill.: Waveland Press, 1989), 368-70, 374, citing Burke, Philosophy, 20.

28. Westerrnann, Genesis 37-50, 47; Victor P. Hamilton, The Book of Genesis: Chapters 18-50 (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1995), 430.

29. For a description of these events from Tamar’s point of view, see Sharon Pace Jeansonne, The Women of Genesis: From Sarah to Podphar’s Wife (Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 1990), 98-106.

30. Susan Niditch, "The Wronged Woman Righted: An Analysis of Genesis 38," Harvard Theological Review 72 (1979): 143,48.

31. The change of costume and role may explain the repetition of the word nth in verses 1 and 16. It can be translated "turned aside" or even "spread the tent," in the sense of staying with someone. Soggin, "Judah and Tamar," 281, suggests that it be translated "to join in business" in verse 1, but says nothing about verse 16.

32. See Phyllis Bird, "The Harlot as Heroine. Narrative Art and Social Presupposition in Three Old Testament Texts," Semeia 46 (1989): 119-39.

33. Ira Robinson, "bepetah ‘enayim in Genesis 38:14," JBL 96/4 (1977): 509; Johanna W H. Bos, "An Eyeopener at the Gate: George Coats and Genesis 38," Lexington Theological Quarterly 27 (Oct 1992): 119-23; Hamilton, Genesis, 40.

34. William H. Rueckert, Kenneth Burke and the Drama of Human Relations, 2nd ed. (Berkeley: Univiversity of California Press, 1982), 86, 90. See also Carol A. Berthold, "Kenneth Burke’s Cluster-Agon Method: Its Development and an Application," Central States Speech Journal 27 (Winter 1976): 302-9.

35. Burke, Counter-Statement, 124-25.

36. Burke, "Fact, Inference, and Proof," 167.

37. Westermann, Genesis 37-50, 55; Hamilton, Genesis 18-50, 453.

38. Perez is listed before Zerah in Genesis 46:12 and I Chronicles 2:4-6.

39. Peter F Lockwood, "Tamar’s Place in the Joseph Cycle," Lutheran Theological Journal 26 (May 1992): 35-43. Lockwood observes that the transformation of Judah in Genesis 38 "provides a pointer to what will occur in the Joseph cycle at large."

40. Rosemarie Anderson, "A Tent Full of Bedouin Women," Daughters of Sarah 19 (Winter, 1993): 34-35. Anderson, citing anthropological research on the nomadic and tribal Bedouin, suggests that Tamar did not act alone, but received help from her village in carrying out the deception.

41. Bernhard Luther saw here an expression of the naffator’s friendly attitude toward Judah: "But mixed in with the laughter of the spectator is the joy that the catastrophe has been averted, and, in novelistic terms, that he now has three sons again. Blessing has finally come to him. So affection for Judah is linked with the laughter." "The Novella of Judah and Tamar and Other Israelite Novellas," in Narrative and Novella in Samuel: Studies by Hugo Gressmann and Other Scholars, 1906-1923, trans. D. E. Orton, ed. David M. Gunn (Sheffield: Almond Press, 1991), 114.

42. In addition to Foss, see Bernard L. Block, Robert L. Scott, James W Chesebro, eds., Methods of Rhetorical Criticism: A Twentieth Century Perspective, 3d ed. rev. (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1990); and Roderick P. Hart, Modern Rhetorical Criticism (Glenview, Ill.: Scott Foresman, 1990).

43. Richard B. Gregg, "Kenneth Burke’s Concept of Rhetorical Negativity," in Extensions of the Burkeian System, 190.

44. An earlier version of this essay was presented at the Annual Meeting of the Academy of Homiletics, December 1996.