There is all kinds of factors that determine where you want to live: school, career, family, they all bring us to different places. Life is mobility and always has been – Jacob took his entire tribe to foreign Egypt.
When it was time for him to die Jacob commanded his sons, “Now that I am going to join my people in death, bury me with my fathers in the cave that is in the field of Ephron the Hittite, at Machpelah east of Mamre in the land of Canaan. Abraham bought this cave and field from Ephron for a burial ground. That is where they buried Abraham and his wife Sarah; that is where they buried Isaac and his wife Rebecca; and that is where I buried Leah. The field and the cave in it were bought from the Hittites. Bury me there.”
Machpelah is known as the Cave of the Patriarchs situated in Hebron. Here is a brief history of the place:
- Abraham bought the Machpelah Cave and the whole field around it.
- In the first century BC King Herod the Great built a large, rectangular enclosure over the caves.
- From around 600-1200 AD control of the holy site bounced between Christians and Muslims.
- Through 1967 it was under Islamic control and Jews were not allowed in at all.
- Finally during the Six-Day War Israel’s original ownership has been restored.
Can you imagine not being allowed to access the graves of your ancestors?
The Village People got it right: “He’s a special person in anybody’s land.”
Jacob blessing his grandsons does the unexpected: He gives the higher blessing to the lesser child. God’s people never conform with societal values. If you think certain qualities like gender or age make one person better than another, think again.
No, not cool cowboys, more like Gypsies:
Would you want nomads like that party in your royal palace? Well Pharaoh didn’t. Egyptians thought that the wandering shepherds from the east were inferior and did not like to mix with them. Joseph wanted to tell the king that his brothers were shepherds so the king would give them their own area apart from Egypt’s main population further up the river. How might this decision have impacted their new life in Egypt?
Ever planned a big family event? It is crazy important to assign everyone the right spot. Not only at the tables but also in written invitations, announcements and such.
Now when the Jewish people where in exile in Babylon they had pretty much the same dilemma: Who belongs and what is their rightful place among us? They went to their priests and the priestly source created this wonderful list of the sons of Jacob.
This has nothing to do with a starving people seeking food south of the border. It is about assigning the right spot to the right people right here right now.
Imagine this emotional roller-coaster:
- Being mad at your brother
- Thinking you killed him
- Depending on a foreign official to save your family’s life
- Finding out he is your brother
- Being scared of his retaliation
And then Joseph does the unthinkable, saying:
“Now do not be upset or blame yourselves because you sold me here. It was really God who sent me ahead of you to save people’s lives.”
Imagine yourself in the place of Benjamin. What would you have felt upon learning Joseph’s identity? Imagine yourself in the place of Jacob. What would you have felt upon hearing that Joseph was indeed alive?
In today’s reading Genesis 44:1-34, Judah offers to take his brother’s place as a slave in order to fulfill the promise to his father to return Benjamin safely home. What must it have been like for Judah to make this offer? What would you have done in his situation? What factors would have influenced your decision?
Sometimes family members drift apart. Sometimes for a very long time.
Joseph had not seen his baby brother Benjamin for years and years. Finally when his half-brothers came to look for food in Egypt he saw a chance to reunite with Benjamin. But that first time he saw him again did not go over so well:
“Then Joseph left suddenly, because his heart was full of tender feelings for his brother. He was about to break down, so he went to his room and cried. After he had washed his face, he came out, and controlling himself, he ordered the meal to be served.”
What is one supposed to feel after such a long time?
What is one supposed to say or do?
Being overwhelmed like Joseph is okay!
Ever had any trouble with your siblings?
Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery. When they later have to come and ask him for food they don’t recognize him. How does he deal with them?
- He vents, speaking to them harshly.
- He makes them confront their dad by demanding his youngest brother be brought to him.
- He gives them the hardest time he can without revealing himself.
Ultimately he doesn’t let them down though:
- He saves his family by letting them return with food.
- He does not accept their money but returns it.
Dealing with family you kinda have to use a carrot and a stick.
NPR asked: Why Are Food Prices Going Crazy? – The reasons are manifold: The rise of biofuels, More demand from the developing world, Disappearing stockpiles and Speculation.
In biblical times you are pretty much looking at the developing world with an ever-increasing demand. And according to Genesis 41:37-57 Joseph was one of the greatest speculators in the ancient food market: “People came to Egypt from all over the world to buy grain from Joseph, because the famine was severe everywhere.”
Joseph is an expert in macroeconomics: “The seven fat cows are seven years, and the seven full heads of grain are also seven years; they have the same meaning. The seven thin cows which came up later and the seven thin heads of grain scorched by the desert wind are seven years of famine. It is just as I told you—God has shown you what he is going to do.” (Interpretation of Pharaoh’s dreams Genesis 41:1-36)
Business cycles are not really cycles and seven is only a rough average for US economic history. But it is still impressive that this ancient piece of literature brings up issues of the bigger economy that shake the world to this very day.
- May 2013
- April 2013
- March 2013
- February 2013
- January 2013
- December 2012
- November 2012
- October 2012
- September 2012
- August 2012
- July 2012
- June 2012
- May 2012
- April 2012
- March 2012
- February 2012
- January 2012
- December 2011
- November 2011
- October 2011
- September 2011
- August 2011
- July 2011
- June 2011
- May 2011
- April 2011
- March 2011
- February 2011
- January 2011
- December 2010
- November 2010
- October 2010
- September 2010
- September 2009
- August 2009
- July 2009
- June 2009
- March 2009
- January 2009
- December 2008
- August 2008
- July 2008
- June 2008
- May 2008
- April 2008
- March 2008
- February 2008
- January 2008
- December 2007
- November 2007
- October 2007
- September 2007
- August 2007
- July 2007
- June 2007
- May 2007
- April 2007
- March 2007
- February 2007
- January 2007
- December 2006
- November 2006
- September 2006
- April 2005
- April 2004
- March 2004