Stories told twice in the Bible

The doublets in the Pentateuch

Have you ever read parts of the first five books of Moses in the Old Testament and thought, “Didn’t I just read this story? Why is it happening again?” Whether we are talking about the creation of the world, or Jacob getting a name change, or the Flood narrative, there certainly seem to be several “repeats” throughout the text. These repeats are sometimes called doublets.

What is a doublet?

For the purposes of this discussion, I will say that a doublet is an occurrence in the Old Testament where a story is told at least two different times. For example, we have two creation stories in the very beginning of the text of Genesis. Scholars have found over 30 doublets in the text of Pentateuch alone. 1

Why are these in the Bible?

The most compelling answer to this question comes to the root of authorship. It is my contention that the Old Testament is a document that was composed over centuries, by different authors, with different agendas, to be later reworked and edited by scribes. Today this is called the Documentary Hypothesis. 2 The Documentary Hypothesis supports the view that these authors can be categorized as the following:

J – the Yahwist. This author uses and allows humans to use the name of God Yahweh (Jahwe in German, Jehovah in most Latter-day Saint literature). J appears to be composed by a southern author who presents the tribe of Judah (a southern tribe) in a more favorable light. God is typically called Yahweh, and is presented as anthropomorphic, or having human bodily form.

E – The Elohist. This author uses the name Elohim for God (as well as El) and holds back in having humans calling God Yahweh until Exodus 3:14-15. This is the first time in E where God presents his name as Yahweh in the Elohist narrative. This author presents the northern tribes of Israel in a more favorable light. God is also presented as anthropomorphic in E, with God revealing himself to prophets in dreams.

P – The Priestly source. This author’s main concern is rituals and theology connected to Israelite priests, including dietary law, priestly temple clothing, temple architecture and construction, holy objects, and regulations regarding ritual purity. In the priestly literature, God is said to “dwell” in the tabernacle, or temple, his “house.”

D – The Deuteronomist. D takes up most of the book of Deuteronomy, and in D, God appears much less human like than he appears in the other three sources. In this regard, D approaches the theological standard for Judaism and most traditional forms of Christianity today. The book of Joshua picks up where Deuteronomy leaves off, suggesting that it was composed by the same author, or scribal school. 3 In scholarship today, D is held responsible for writing the Deuteronomistic History, or the historical books of Joshua, Judges, 1-2 Samuel and 1-2 Kings.

R – The Redactor. This scribal school or individual reworked the sources to find a way to stitch them together into a readable framework. Sometimes he added editorial insertions to make the text more readable or to cause it to make sense. The Redactor clearly took material out of the text as well. I believe that there is strong evidence to suggest that the Bible experienced at least two major redactions: one before and one after the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem in 586 BCE. I will write a paper to defend this idea in the future.

Here are the doublets in the book of Genesis

  1. The Creation. Genesis 1:1-2:3 (P) and Genesis 2:4b-25 (J).
  2. The Genealogy from Adam. Genesis 4:17-26 (J) and Genesis 5:1-28,30-32 (Book of Records). 4
  3. God declares that man is to invoke his name YHWH. Genesis 4:26 (J) and Exodus 3:14-15 (E) and Exodus 6:2-8 (P). (Triplet) 5
  4. The Flood narrative. Genesis 6:5-8; 7:1-5, 7, 10, 12, 16b-20, 22-23; 8:2b-3a, 6, 8-12, 13b, 20-22 (J) and  6:9-22;  7:8-9, 11, 13-16a, 21, 24; 8:1 – 2a, 3b – 5, 7, 13a, 14 – 19; 9:1- 17 (P).
  5. Genealogy from Genesis 10:21-31 (J and  P)  and Genesis 11:10-2 (Book  of  Records).
  6. Abraham’s migration. Genesis 12:1-43 (J) and Genesis 12:4b – 5 (P).
  7. The Wife/sister motif, or the Sacrifice of Sarah. Genesis 12:10-20 (J) and  Genesis 20:1-18  (E)  and  Genesis 26 : 6 – 1 4  (J). (Triplet)
  8. Abraham and Lot separate. Genesis 13 : 5 , 7 – 11a, 12b – 14 (J) and Genesis 13:6, 11b – 12a (P).
  9. The Abrahamic covenant. Genesis 15 (J, E, and R) and Genesis 17 (P).
  10. Hagar and Ishmael. Genesis 16:1-2,4-14 (J) and Genesis 16:3,15-16 (P) and Genesis 21:8-19 (E). (Triplet)
  11. The Prophecy of Isaac’s birth. Genesis 17:16-19 (P) and Genesis 18:10-14 (J).
  12. Naming of Beer-sheba. Genesis 21:22-31 (E) and Genesis 26:15-33 (J).
  13. Jacob, Esau, and the departure to the east. Genesis 26:34-35;  27:46; 28:1-9 (P) and  Genesis 27:1—45; 28:10 (J).
  14. Jacob at Beth-El. Genesis 28:10,113,13-16,19  (J) and 28:11b – 12 , 17 – 18 , 20 – 22  (E)  and  35:9-15  (P). (Triplet)
  15. Jacob’s twelve sons. Genesis  29:32-35;  30:1-24;  35:16-20  (JE)  and Genesis  35:23-26 (P).
  16. Jacob’s name changed to Israel. Genesis 32:25-33 (E) and Genesis 35:9-10 (P).
  17. The acquiring of Shechem. Genesis 33:18-19 (E) and Genesis 34 (J).
  18. Joseph sold into Egypt.  Genesis  37:2b,3b,5-11,19-20,23,25b-27, 28b,31-35;  39:1  (J)  and  Genesis 37:33,4,12-18,21-22,24,253,283,29-30  (E).

Doublets in Exodus/Numbers

  1. Moses meets Jethro/Reuel. Exodus 2:18; Numbers 10:29 (Reuel) (J) and Exodus 3:1, 18; 18:1-27 (Jethro) (E).
  2. YHWH, (or Yahweh/Jehovah) commissions Moses. Exodus 3:2-4a, 5, 7-8, 19-22; 4:19 – 20a (J) and 3:1,4b,6,9-18;  4:1 – 18, 2ob – 21a , 22 – 23 (E) and Genesis 6:2-12 (P). (Triplet).
  3. Moses, Pharaoh, and the 10 plagues. Exodus 5:3-6:1; 7 :14 – 18 , 2ob – 21 , 23-29;  8:3b-11a, 16-28;  9:1-7,13-34;  10:1 – 19 , 21 – 26 , 28 – 29 ; 11:1-8 (E) and 7:6-13,19-203,22; 8:1-33,12-15;  9:8-12 (P).
  4. The Passover.  Exodus 12:1-20, 28, 40-50 (P) and Exodus 12:21-27, 29-36, 37 b – 39  (E).
  5. The Red Sea Crossing. Exodus 13:21-22;  14:53, 6, 93, 10b, 13-14, 19b, 20b, 21b, 24, 27b, 30-31 (J) and  14:1-4, 8, 9b, 10a,10c, 15-18,21a,21c, 22-23, 26-27a,  28 – 29 (P).
  6. Manna and quail in the wilderness. Exodus 16:2-3, 6-35a (P) and Numbers 11:4-34  (E).
  7. Water from a rock at Meribah.  Exodus  17:2-7 (E) and Numbers 20:2-13 (P).
  8. Theophany/Heavenly Vision at Sinai/Horeb. Exodus 19:1; 24:15b-18a (P) and Exodus 19:2b-9, 16b-17, 19;  20:18-21 (E) and Exodus 19:1o – 16a, 18, 20-25 (J) (Triplet).
  9. The Ten Commandments.  Exodus 20:1-17 (R) and Exodus 34:10-28 (J) and  Deuteronomy  5:6-18 (D) (Triplet).
  10. Kid  in  mother’s  milk.  Exodus 23:19  (Covenant  Code) and Exodus 34:26 (J) and  Deuteronomy 14:21 (D) (Triplet).

Leviticus/Numbers/Deuteronomy doublets

  1. Forbidden  animals. Leviticus 11 (P) and Deuteronomy 14 (D).
  2. Centralization of sacrifice. Leviticus  17 and Deuteronomy 12.
  3. Feasts/Holidays.  Leviticus 23 (P) and Numbers 28–29 (R) and Deuteronomy 16:1-17  (P) (Triplet).
  4. Israelite Slave Law. Leviticus 25 (P) and Deuteronomy 15 (D) and Exodus 21 (E) (Triplet).
  5. The Israelite spies.  Numbers 13:1-16, 21, 25-26, 32; 14:13, 2-3, 5-10, 26-29 (P) and  Numbers 13:17-20, 22-24, 27-31, 33; 14:1b, 4,11-25, 39-45  (J).
  6. Heresy at Peor. Numbers 25:1-5 (J) and 25:6-19 (P).
  7. Appointment of Joshua. Numbers 27:12-23 (P) and Deuteronomy 31:14-15,23 (E).


  1. Richard Friedman, The Bible with Sources Revealed, Harper One, 2003, p. 28-31.
  2. Richard Friedman, The Bible with Sources Revealed, Harper One, 2003. See also: Joel Baden, The Composition of the Pentateuch, Yale University Press, 2012. David Carr, Reading the Fractures of Genesis: Historical and Literary Approaches, Westminster John Knox Press, 1996.
  3. Karel Van Der Toorn, Scribal Culture and the Making of the Hebrew Bible, Harvard University Press, 2007.
  4. The J genealogy traces Adam’s line through Cain alone and mentions no other surviving children. The Book of Records genealogy (Genesis 5) traces Adam’s line through Seth and never mentions Cain or Abel. The Redactor added Genesis 4:25, explaining that Seth was born to Adam and Eve as a replacement for Abel, thus reconciling both The Book of Records (Genesis 5) and J’s narrative in Genesis 4.
  5. It is fairly easy to see that in J’s narrative, God is YHWH. Genesis 4:26 says, “then began men to call upon the name of the Lord (YHWH יְהֹוָה ). In E’s narrative, the first time God reveals his name as YHWH is in Exodus 3:14-15. The Priestly author informs us of this name in Exodus 6:2-3. He says, “I am YHWH. And I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob as El Shaddai, and I was not known to them by my name YHWH.”This is a clear indication of a conflict of the works of the Priestly Author when compared to the Yahwist, J. Of course the patriarchs knew the name of God! See for example, Genesis 4:26; 18:14; 24:3; 26:22; 27:20, 27; 28:16 – all texts from J.

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4 Responses to Stories told twice in the Bible

  1. Pingback: The Messiness of Scripture | LDS Scripture Teachings

  2. Pingback: The Golden Calf, Moses, Aaron, and the Northern Priests of Israel | LDS Scripture Teachings

  3. Pingback: The Documentary Hypothesis and Reading the Bible Critically | LDS Scripture Teachings

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