The Bible In A Year: Day 19
Today we are sticking in the book of Genesis. The story of Joseph is reaching its climax and there’s no natural break in the narrative, so we’ll finish off these five chapters and then back to some Mathew tomorrow.
After the brothers returned to Jacob, minus Simeon who is still in an Egyptian prison, and explained the situation, he refused to send Benjamin back down to Egypt. But at the beginning of chapter 43 we read that the famine has worsened, and they’re currently unaware of its predetermined seven year length. So Jacob agrees to send Benjamin after Judah offers to be a surety for him.
When they arrive in Egypt they approach the steward of the house to inform him that there had been an oversight concerning the money for the last allotment of grain they had purchased, but he told them everything was in order and God must’ve somehow given them money because he had the money they had paid (not true but it kept them guessing). When Joseph is reunited with his younger brother he struggles to hide his emotions so that he can keep the ruse going. He has a feast for his brothers and gives Benjamin much more food that the other brothers, and he seats them in the exact order of their birth. These two things might’ve tipped his hand, but it’s been almost 20 years that he’s been gone and they really have no clue.
Joseph the arranges a final test for his brothers, to see if they have truly changed and how loyal they’ll be to one another. He has his steward fill their sacks with grain and put their money back in there too, just like the last time, but for an added surprise and element of danger he also has them place his personal silver chalice in the bag belonging to Benjamin. At first light they all bid each other farewell and the brothers head back to Canaan, only for Joseph to give the word to his men and they rode up and overtook them on the road. When they’re accused of theft they all swear it’s not true, and as far as they know it isn’t. But after agreeing to slavery for anyone found with the cup, in an episode reminiscent of Rachel stealing Laban’s idols, it is found in Benjamin’s bag.
They all head back to the city after this discovery is made, and Judah implores Joseph to allow him to trade places with Benjamin. He insists they are innocent in this incident, but he does confess that he is guilty in other unspecified matters. He then launches into a speech where he says if he doesn’t come home with his brother it would kill Jacob, his father. Also since he guaranteed his safety, his father would always blame him, and he’d rather just be a slave instead.
Seeing his brother with so much remorse for the guilt in the past, and so willing to trade his life for his younger brother, moves Joseph so that he can’t keep up the charade any longer. He puts everyone but the visiting Hebrews out, and he bursts into tears. He reveals his true identity and immediately tells them not to fear him. The fact that Joseph seeks absolutely no retribution against the men who so mistreated him is itself miraculous, but that he goes out of his way to help them and clearly sees divine providence in his ordeal and suffering, it is amazing. He completely accepts all the suffering he went through for 20 years as a necessity evil, that God would bring such a greater good out of it like saving his family. It really is an impressive outlook on things that we should all take to heart and try to emulate in our own lives.
He tells them to stay in Egypt with him and then tells Pharaoh that they are indeed his brothers and he’d like to bring them to Egypt to save them from the famine, and pharaoh enthusiastically agrees. They head back to Canaan to inform Jacob and retrieve him to see his favorite son again. When they head south Jacob stops at Beersheba and offers sacrifices to God. And God appears to him that night and promises him that they will increase as a nation while in Egypt and that God will bring them back to the promised land, just like He promised Jacob he’d bring him back when he fled Esau.
The chapter ends with a listing of the 70 people who went with Jacob into Egypt and with the reunion of Jacob and his son Joseph. And also a mention of how the Egyptians see shepherds as “an abomination.” That will play a role in the exodus, about 400 years down the road.
Chapter 47 begins with the Hebrews telling pharaoh that they’re shepherds and him settling them in Goshen, a fertile but sparely populated area near the Nile delta. Jacob also comes to see the pharaoh and blesses him, even though Jacob is just a shepherd and pharaoh is a powerful king, Jacob is actually the one with higher standing in the eyes of God.
It’s now a few years into the famine, it’s almost over but it’s the worst of the hunger now. People are running out of money with which to buy food from the storehouses, and so they bring their animals and cattle to trade. That they’re starving to death, but unwilling to eat these animals shows how highly they’re regarded in Egyptian society. This is because many of the most powerful Egyptian deities are represented by these animals (e.g., Apis and Mnevis, bull gods; Khnum and Amun, ram gods; Hathor, cow goddess).
The Israelites similarly complain about a lack of food while wandering the desert, even though they also say that their cattle will die of hunger and thirst with them. It would be a head scratcher to think anyone would worry about starving to death while having herds of cattle, except that they had spent 400 years surrounded by people who worshiped these animals and so that idol worship infected them too. Another example of bad company corrupting good morals, like Lot I’m Sodom.
Jacob calls for Joseph at the end of today’s reading and he makes Joseph promise him that he’d take him back to Hebron and burry him with his people there. Joseph promises he will do this thing that his father has asked.
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