Common Thoughts (A Genesis Review 8)

From slavery to jail to second most important man in Egypt, Joseph will play a pivotal role in the promise God made to Abraham. Did God cause the famine or just knows it’s coming? Whichever, the famine won’t be limited to Egypt but reach up into Canaan, as well.

In verse 50 we learn that Joseph had taken a wife, the daughter of Potiphera who was a priest of On. They had probably a hundred gods in their pantheon. The heart wants what the heart wants. In the Spring of 1862 Emilie Dickenson wrote these words to Mary BowlesAnd Joseph ignoes the fact that his wife is so connected with pagan religion, a fact that won’t, as we learn, interfere with his connection to Yahweh. So we read:51Joseph named his firstborn Manasseh and said, “It is because God has made me forget all my trouble and all my father’s household. ”52The second son he named Ephraim and said, “It is because God has made me fruitful in the land of my suffering.”

In chapter 42, Jacob and the sons are still living in Canaan and suffering from the famine and he sends Joseph’s brothers to Egypt to purchase grain. Joseph recognized his brothers but they don’t recognize him. Joseph plays a game with them accusing them of being spies and they plead that they are just the sons of one man in Canaan, one brother still with their father, the other “no more.” Joseph says for them to prove they are not spies: “16Send one of your number to get your brother; the rest of you will be kept in prison, so that your words may be tested to see if you are telling the truth. If you are not, then as surely as Pharaoh lives, you are spies!  17And he put them all in custody for three days.” You might find the recurrence of “three” days interesting given our future knowledge that it will play in the life of Christ. Seven is also an important number, the number of perfection.

A quick look at the site Got Answers for a quick understanding we read: “Thus, right at the start of the Bible, the number is identified with something being “finished” or “complete.” From then on, that association continues, as is often found in contexts involving completeness or divine perfection. So we see the command for animals to be at least seven days old before being used for sacrifice (Exodus 22:30), the command for leprous Naaman to bathe in the Jordan River seven times to effect complete cleansing (2 Kings 5:10), and the command for Joshua to march around Jericho for seven days (and on the seventh day to make seven circuits) and for seven priests to blow seven trumpets outside the city walls (Joshua 6:3–4). In these instances, signifies a completion of some kind: a divine mandate is fulfilled.” (You can go HEREfor a complete reading.)

Concerning the number 3 we read this: “The number 3 is used 467 times in the Bible. Jesus prayed three times in the Garden of Gethsemane before His arrest. He was placed on the cross at the 3rd hour of the day (9 a.m.) and died at the 9th hour (3 p.m.). There were 3 hours of darkness that covered the land while Jesus was suffering on the cross from the 6th hour to the 9th hour. Three is the number of resurrection. Christ was dead for three full days and three full nights sunset.” (From BibleStudy.orgfound HERE.) For some numerology plays a big part in their lives, not me so I won’t go there.

We find in this encounter a guilty conscience at work. The brothers argue among themselves about what they did to Joseph and thought they were in trouble with the Egyptian for what they did. Joseph comes to them, takes one brother into custody and fills their bags with seed and slips in the coins they brought to pay for it sending them home, but they must bring back their younger brother. Along the way home they stop to feed their animals and find their money in the sacks. Now they are really confused. Jacob complains that Joseph was taken from him, then Simeon was kept back in Egypt, and now Benjamin is to be taken, too? It was too much for him so they all stayed not returning to Egypt. But the famine continued and they had eaten all they brought back.

So they go back to Egypt, this time not just with money but other goodies to positively influence Joseph (though they still don’t know it’s their brother) and treat them kindly. Joseph again fills their sacks with grain, again gives them back their silver, but adds to Benjamin’s sack his favorite silver cup. Oh the intrigue: “ 3As morning dawned, the men were sent on their way with their donkeys. 4They had not gone far from the city when Joseph said to his steward, “Go after those men at once, and when you catch up with them, say to them, ‘Why have you repaid good with evil? 5Isn’t this the cup my master drinks from and also uses for divination? This is a wicked thing you have done.’”

So the servant tracks them down and brings them back to Joseph where they plead their innocence and their case. It turned out to be too much for Joseph so he clears the room except the brothers and he confesses the truth about who he is.

In chapter 42 we read:

“4Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Come close to me. ”When they had done so, he said, “I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt! 5And now, do 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. 6For two years now there has been famine in the land, and for the next five years there will be no plowing and reaping. 7But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnanton earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance.

8“So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God. He made me father to Pharaoh, lord of his entire household and ruler of all Egypt. 9Now hurry back to my father and say to him, ‘This is what your son Joseph says: God has made me lord of all Egypt. Come down to me; don’t delay. 10You shall live in the region of Goshen and be near me—you, your children and grandchildren, your flocks and herds, and all you have. 11I will provide for you there,because five years of famine are still to come. Otherwise you and your household and all who belong to you will become destitute.’

Jacob/Israel gathers his household to move to Egypt when God speaks to him: “I am God, the God of your father,” he said. “Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for I will make you into a great nation there. I will go down to Egypt with you, and I will surely bring you back again. And Joseph’s own hand will close your eyes.” (Genesis 46:3-4.) It would understandably be confusing to Jacob to leave Canaan, the land of promise to move to Egypt. He could not know that it would be some 200 plus years before they returned to Canaan.

Joseph got the Pharaoh to give the Hebrews land, the good land in Goshen. The story continues on when in chapter 47 we come to two sons of Joseph: Ephraim and Manasseh. Jacob tells his son Joseph that even though Ephraim and Manasseh are born to an Egyptian and in Egypt they will be considered sons of Israel and he blesses them, though the younger gets the first blessing over the older brother. Looking forward, though, we don’t know it now, the ten tribes of Israel will occupy the Northern Kingdom, one son’s people will occupy the South named Judah.

In chapter 49 Jacob blesses his sons and it reads fantastical.  The story (Genesis) ends with the death of Jacob, then Joseph and the descendants of Abraham promised the land of Canaan are in Egypt and it doesn’t get better after this.


Concluding thoughts . . .

Why did I come down this trail covering some 2,000 years plus, at least one thread of that trail. What do we learn, if anything? When Genesis ends it will still be 220 plus years before anything of Yahweh is written and anything from God defining how we worship Him (religion). That’s the point. While this long line of people and families had neither, these people knew God. When this history was written in what we call Genesis, was this a dictation from God that was written down verbatim or was it an inspiration from God concerning the oral history of that time?

Certainly Abraham represents a demarcation between prehistory and history that is more clearly known. In either case Genesis is a story following the unfolding history of mankind, at least for the most part one particular strain of mankind. Is this a zeitgeist, history’s unfolding led by God or God’s spirit in one direction with one goal in mind? Yes. It is clearly the unfolding story of man’s rebellion to his redemption.

Jesus speaking in what we call the Sermon on the Mount gives us this prayer to say and begins with:

“‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.”

“On earth as it is in heaven.” That’s a mouthful. God created a Garden and placed man in it to see if we could live the will of God in heaven. We proved we couldn’t when God was not present before us. The goal is to see if we will do the will of God in heaven on earth. So from the Garden the next experiment to prove this out is the formation of Israel. Here God will be their God and they will be his people. But they misunderstood that. They weren’t special because they were genealogically linked to Abraham but because they were to be the fulfillment of the Covenant: . . “. . . and all peoples on earthwill be blessed through you.”They were to demonstrate the will of God in heaven being demonstrated on earth. They failed.

Test 2, failure 2. The world was not learning what God wanted of them and God moved on to the third plan, the Christian Church that would take the understanding of God’s will to the world. Indeed, for the first time the knowledge of God began to spread throughout the world. Christians can’t take a lot of pride in that because along the way they (we) screwed that message up and at times it became a perverted message. Test 3, failure 3.

A further recap

Here’s what I learned: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” All that is came from God, not some primordial unconscious goo. How did God do this? God does not tell us that, whether it was consistent with a steady state—has no beginning or end—or from a kind of Big Bang—having a beginning. Knowing this God does not find important enough to explain the intricacies; not that they aren’t worth knowing but that for the purposes of resolving the rebellion against God they aren’t important. The importance of the story is the relationship between God and man and man and God.

In the time before time, the time before definition, the time when dinosaurs roamed the earth but no man, God remains silent until Adam and Eve and we find intelligent beings understanding each other but before them is silence. God does not tell us this is the only story we need to know so forget every other kind of knowledge, he just tells us it’s the only story we need to know to find reunion with him and have all the eternal benefits that come with it. But knowledge doesn’t stop here, it’s on us to discover the rest and we come up with disciplines like philosophy, science broken into many sub-disciplines like cosmology, biology, ecology, climate and a hundred other sciences, economics and beyond having to do with how we build and live our lives. This knowledge we discover is not infallible, if fact, it is filled with fallibility. Knowledge is how we progress. Knowledge is neither religious nor nonreligious. It’s just knowledge. We totally abused knowledge when we began making it an argument for or against religion. But this is another story.

How we learn about God and man (ourselves) is given to us in the most unconventional way, at least as important as both subjects are you’d think it would be presented in a more academic essay. Instead it comes in more novel style. Characters are given to us then we watch them unfold kind of like a year in the life of. We don’t see Adam and Eve sitting by the light of the sun reading the manual on life, rather we see them simply acting out their life. God doesn’t walk before them and say, “No, go this way. No, go this way, Yes, go this way.” Or “No, don’t do that, do this.” We are expected to go and do what comes out of us and for who knows how long they do everything right, then one day do it wrong. And from our vantage point we watch the consequences work themselves out.

The story really begins with the character Abraham. Remember, the story in the Jewish Bible is God speaking to Jews and then Jews speaking their neighbors and their neighbors to the world. In the Christian Bible we see God speaking to the world beginning with the disciples of Christ. But in either case the story unfolds through people and their behavior as we watching how they live, not as perfect beings but as flawed beings who God uses anyway because this is who he has to work through. Why did Abraham act this way and that way? Because this was who he was. We see the warts as well as the smooth skin of each character, the successes and failure of each and watch how God works through them.

What we also clearly learn through these stories is that God is not just the God of the Jews, he’s the God of every person and we see along the way God expecting, even demanding, and certainly holding responsible the peoples around the world. Because the story is built through the context of the Jews our attention is focused there, but we are given a larger context of this story taking away the charge that Yahweh is a local God but the God of the universe.

. . . the end