Friday, 24 May 2013

Joseph's Story - Genesis: 37-50:1-26

This post is a continuation of the previous post which discussed the dreams within Joseph's story. I have already discussed the beginning section up until Joseph has advised Pharaoh on how to survive the upcoming famine. 
Pharaoh puts his faith in Joseph and allows him to take charge in managing the grain supply, ensuring that there will be surplus for the years of famine to come. Famine doesn't just strike Egypt, but surrounding areas too and thus due to the surplus grain that Egypt has now saved, it is relied upon by the starving foreigners, Joseph's family included. His brothers come to ask for food and do not recognise the new Egyptian Joseph.

To cut the story short, as you yourself can read it in full, Joseph toys with his brothers in revenge for the cruel way they had treated him. He even accuses them of stealing his divination cup which he planted in their sack (a divination cup, may I emphasise).

After the stress he puts his brothers through he eventually reveals himself and makes amendments with his brothers.

45:5 "' not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you.'"

Now there are easy criticisms for this story: If God made his brothers sell him so he could save Egypt, are they guiltless? Did they not have freewill? And furthermore, why did God send the famine in the first place? Why did Joseph need to save these people from it?

As I have mentioned before, the default answer given is always, 'We cannot know God's ways...' 

With this put aside for now, the crux of this story is that Joseph's suffering was necessary in order for him to receive his bounty and happiness, and to enact God's will in saving people from famine. We must often suffer in order to receive.

Joseph's story concludes with a great migration of the Hebrew's into Egypt to the area of Goshen. If wikipedia is anything to go by, E.H. Naville believed Goshen to be the 20th nome of Egypt, in the Eastern desert at the time of the 26th Dynasty 672-525BC.

As a side note, Joseph's brothers had been unable to recognise him, as he he had been fully Egyptianised. Whilst his montheistic belief may not have left him (he was afterall, guided by Yahweh this whole time) he certainly embraced the Egyptian polytheistic culture who has taken care of him, including marrying an Egyptian woman, dressing as an Egyptian, possibly speaking Egyptian and even being mummified - which was not the Hebrew way.

50:2-3 "So the physicians embalmed him, taking a full forty days, for that was the time required for embalming. And the Egyptians mourned for him seventy days." 

This funerary process undoubtedly would have had Pagan influences, yet is not condemned in this Bible story, which is interesting to me. It is also interesting, as mentioned in the previous post, that God wanted to save the polytheistic people and communicated with polytheistic Egyptians through dreams. He does not appear to discriminate here.

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