Friday, December 30, 2011

Blessing Jacob’s Sons

Genesis 49:1-33

“And Jacob called unto his sons, and said, Gather yourselves together, that I may tell you that which shall befall you in the last days. Gather yourselves together, and hear, ye sons of Jacob; and hearken unto Israel your father.” (Genesis 49:1-2)

Parents who have worked closely with their children know what they have been taught as well as getting familiar with their attitudes, and their basic nature. When the child marries and gets out into the world, they see how he responds to those things, and after a few years can make a fairly accurate prediction as to what he will do in the future.

As the parents age, they become increasingly aware they will not always be there to advise and warn their children. The ancient practice of blessing provided an unparalleled opportunity to share the father’s concerns or to encourage as needed. Many times as the parent sought for what to tell his children, God would give special insight. Unfortunately, the custom has been largely forgotten, to the detriment of modern society.

Today, the children often see parental suggestions to day as interference, not recognizing it as a serious concern. So much emphasis has been put on belongings and activities that few parents really know their children, and modern culture discounts the value of the parent’s experience, so that even when suggestions or warnings are given, they are usually resented or ignored. Parents who are not objective in their view of a child have distorted expectations as well, and may give flawed predictions, as Isaac attempted to do for Esau, but was thwarted by Rachel and Jacob’s deception. The children’s flawed perception of what is involved was clear in Esau’s begging for a blessing.

Jacob was very near death, and he called his children together to bless them with his insights. Few realize what a blessing their parent’s insights can be until it is too late.

“Reuben, thou art my firstborn, my might, and the beginning of my strength, the excellency of dignity, and the excellency of power: Unstable as water, thou shalt not excel; because thou wentest up to thy father's bed; then defiledst thou it: he went up to my couch.” (Genesis 49:3-4)

As the oldest Reuben was expected to be the example for all the others. Instead, he had become hesitant and indecisive, probably in an effort to avoid the constant conflict in the family. That unwillingness to take a stance resulted in his having an affair with his stepmother. It also enabled his brothers to sell Joseph as a slave. Because he would pass it on to his children, they would never be a strong tribe either.

“Simeon and Levi are brethren; instruments of cruelty are in their habitations. O my soul, come not thou into their secret; unto their assembly, mine honour, be not thou united: for in their anger they slew a man, and in their selfwill they digged down a wall. Cursed be their anger, for it was fierce; and their wrath, for it was cruel: I will divide them in Jacob, and scatter them in Israel.” (Genesis 49:5-7)

Unlike Reuben, Simeon and Levi never acknowledge doubt. Once they reach a conclusion they will allow nothing or nobody to deter them. When they get angry, no amount of logic would dissuade them. It was this unswerving determination that caused them to break their agreement, murdering the men of Shechem and destroying the city, leaving a lot of families fatherless and homeless. When Israel became a nation, Levi and Simeon were to be separated to prevent their getting together and egging each other on, as they would tend to develop that same attitude in their children. That total focus would make the tribe of Levi a good choice for the priests as they would be very strict, but it also made it dangerous when they got focused on the wrong things.

“Judah, thou art he whom thy brethren shall praise: thy hand shall be in the neck of thine enemies; thy father's children shall bow down before thee. Judah is a lion's whelp: from the prey, my son, thou art gone up: he stooped down, he couched as a lion, and as an old lion; who shall rouse him up? The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be. Binding his foal unto the vine, and his ass's colt unto the choice vine; he washed his garments in wine, and his clothes in the blood of grapes: His eyes shall be red with wine, and his teeth white with milk.” (Genesis 49:8-12)

Though he was the youngest of Leah’s sons, Reuben was the acknowledged leader. He could be almost as dedicated to his goals as Simeon and Levi, but he would listen to reason. He was also willing to take responsibility for his actions and acknowledge he was wrong. As a result, the greatest kings of Israel and all the kings of Judah would come from his tribe. Ultimately, the Messiah, the King of Kings would come from his tribe. This prophecy was made more than two thousand years before Christ was born.

“Zebulun shall dwell at the haven of the sea; and he shall be for an haven of ships; and his border shall be unto Zidon.” (Genesis 49:13)

By nature, Zebulon was more interested in trading and boats than in farming and cattle. Four hundred years later, he would claim a costal recgion near the Phoenician cities of Tyre and Sidon and build one of the most important harbors in Israel, near present day Haifa.

“Issachar is a strong ass couching down between two burdens: And he saw that rest was good, and the land that it was pleasant; and bowed his shoulder to bear, and became a servant unto tribute.” (Genesis 49:14-15)

Issachar was willing to do his share and more, but he was pretty easygoing and would prefer to be left alone. That easy going attitude would make his tribe susceptible to being conquered by various other groups.

“Dan shall judge his people, as one of the tribes of Israel. Dan shall be a serpent by the way, an adder in the path, that biteth the horse heels, so that his rider shall fall backward. I have waited for thy salvation, O LORD.” (Genesis 49:16-18)

Dan was capable of leading but often held back, not gaining much attention. Samson was of the tribe of Dan, and caught the Philistines by surprise, destroying their power.

“Gad, a troop shall overcome him: but he shall overcome at the last.” (Genesis 49:19)

Like Issachar, Gad was easy going and would be easily conquered initially, but when aroused would drive out his opponents.

“Out of Asher his bread shall be fat, and he shall yield royal dainties.” (Genesis 49:20)

Asher would primarily focus on their farming and producing ample food, providing some of the very best, and growing things the others didn’t bother with.

“Naphtali is a hind let loose: he giveth goodly words.” (Genesis 49:21)

Naphtali was quick to make a commitment, but easily distracted and some what undependable.

“Joseph is a fruitful bough, even a fruitful bough by a well; whose branches run over the wall: The archers have sorely grieved him, and shot at him, and hated him: But his bow abode in strength, and the arms of his hands were made strong by the hands of the mighty God of Jacob; (from thence is the shepherd, the stone of Israel:) Even by the God of thy father, who shall help thee; and by the Almighty, who shall bless thee with blessings of heaven above, blessings of the deep that lieth under, blessings of the breasts, and of the womb: The blessings of thy father have prevailed above the blessings of my progenitors unto the utmost bound of the everlasting hills: they shall be on the head of Joseph, and on the crown of the head of him that was separate from his brethren.” (Genesis 49:22-26)

Joseph was Jacob’s favorite, but he had proven his mettle, rising to the leadership of Egypt, even after being isolated from his family and enslaved. More than any of his brothers, he had learned to depend on God, the rock of Israel. Both Ephraim and Manasseh would be powerful tribes in Israel, although Ephraim would be the more influential.

“Benjamin shall ravin as a wolf: in the morning he shall devour the prey, and at night he shall divide the spoil.” (Genesis 49:27)

Benjamin would become one of the most important tribes of Israel militarily, but like the wolf, sharing the results of their victories, rather than keeping it for themselves. The first king, Saul was of the tribe of Benjamin, and when Israel split into two kingdoms, Judah and Benjamin were the two tribes who united to form the nation of Judah.

“All these are the twelve tribes of Israel: and this is it that their father spake unto them, and blessed them; every one according to his blessing he blessed them.” (Genesis 49:28)

Jacob’s family culture had produced certain attitudes and characteristics in each of his sons, and they passed them along to their children. Centuries later, those same traits would show up in their descendants, and affect the entire nation of Israel. We seldom consider how much our attitudes and behavior have been learned from our ancestors or how ours will affect future generations. The effects are seen in families and even in entire states and countries.

“And he charged them, and said unto them, I am to be gathered unto my people: bury me with my fathers in the cave that is in the field of Ephron the Hittite, In the cave that is in the field of Machpelah, which is before Mamre, in the land of Canaan, which Abraham bought with the field of Ephron the Hittite for a possession of a buryingplace. There they buried Abraham and Sarah his wife; there they buried Isaac and Rebekah his wife; and there I buried Leah. The purchase of the field and of the cave that is therein was from the children of Heth.” (Genesis 49:29-32)

While he had already told Joseph that he wanted to be buried in Canaan, Jacob made it point to inform all the others as well, preventing any future conflict. He wanted them to know that while they were living in Egypt, Canaan was still their rightful home, and that they would return there.

“And when Jacob had made an end of commanding his sons, he gathered up his feet into the bed, and yielded up the ghost, and was gathered unto his people.” (Genesis 49:33)

Jacob had been sick for some time and was forced to bless his children sitting on the side of the bed. At peace that he had done all he could to guide them, he lay back down and relaxed, and died peaceably.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Ephraim And Manasseh Blessed

Genesis 48:1-22

"And it came to pass after these things, that one told Joseph, Behold, thy father is sick: and he took with him his two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim. And one told Jacob, and said, Behold, thy son Joseph cometh unto thee: and Israel strengthened himself, and sat upon the bed." (Genesis 48:1-22)

At the age of a hundred forty seven, Jacob was undoubtedly experiencing some health problems, and his death seemed imminent. When Joseph was told of his father’s illness, he made a special trip to Goshen with his two sons, to visit Jacob for what might be the last time. The news of his coming was relayed to Jacob and he wanted to appear at his best, sitting up when Joseph arrived.

“And Jacob said unto Joseph, God Almighty appeared unto me at Luz in the land of Canaan, and blessed me, And said unto me, Behold, I will make thee fruitful, and multiply thee, and I will make of thee a multitude of people; and will give this land to thy seed after thee for an everlasting possession. And now thy two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, which were born unto thee in the land of Egypt before I came unto thee into Egypt, are mine; as Reuben and Simeon, they shall be mine. And thy issue, which thou begettest after them, shall be thine, and shall be called after the name of their brethren in their inheritance. And as for me, when I came from Padan, Rachel died by me in the land of Canaan in the way, when yet there was but a little way to come unto Ephrath: and I buried her there in the way of Ephrath; the same is Bethlehem.” (Genesis 48:3-7)

Jacob then repeated what God told him about giving him and his heirs the land of Canaan forever. Joseph’s two sons were to inherit as Jacob’s sons, although any other children would have to inherit through Joseph. There would never be a tribe of Joseph, but Ephraim and Manasseh would each form their own tribe, and any brothers or sisters they had would become parts of one of their tribes. Technically there would be thirteen tribes, but as we see later, the tribe of Levi was never given a land of their own, as a separate tribe, but always a portion among each of the other tribes.

“And Israel beheld Joseph's sons, and said, Who are these? And Joseph said unto his father, They are my sons, whom God hath given me in this place. And he said, Bring them, I pray thee, unto me, and I will bless them. Now the eyes of Israel were dim for age, so that he could not see. And he brought them near unto him; and he kissed them, and embraced them. And Israel said unto Joseph, I had not thought to see thy face: and, lo, God hath showed me also thy seed.” (Genesis 48:8-11)

Jacob was losing his sight, and he didn’t immediately see Ephraim and Manasseh. When told who they were, he asked that they come close enough so he could embrace and kiss them. It was an emotional moment because for twenty two years he had believed his son dead, and now he was seeing his grandsons.

“And Joseph brought them out from between his knees, and he bowed himself with his face to the earth. And Joseph took them both, Ephraim in his right hand toward Israel's left hand, and Manasseh in his left hand toward Israel's right hand, and brought them near unto him.

And Israel stretched out his right hand, and laid it upon Ephraim's head, who was the younger, and his left hand upon Manasseh's head, guiding his hands wittingly; for Manasseh was the firstborn. And he blessed Joseph, and said, God, before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac did walk, the God which fed me all my life long unto this day, The Angel which redeemed me from all evil, bless the lads; and let my name be named on them, and the name of my fathers Abraham and Isaac; and let them grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth.” (Genesis 48:12-16)

When Joseph brought the boys forward, with Ephraim on his right and Manasseh on his left, Jacob deliberately crossed his arms to place his right hand on Ephraim’s head and his left on Manasseh’s, and began to pronounce a blessing on them, assigning the promises he had received to them as if they were his own children.

“And when Joseph saw that his father laid his right hand upon the head of Ephraim, it displeased him: and he held up his father's hand, to remove it from Ephraim's head unto Manasseh's head. And Joseph said unto his father, Not so, my father: for this is the firstborn; put thy right hand upon his head.” (Genesis 48:17-18)

It was customary to place the right hand on the elder son as the rightful heir, and Joseph had deliberately placed his sons as he had to make it easy for his Dad. It troubled him that his father gave primacy to Ephraim, and he spoke out to correct what he perceived as a mistake on Jacob’s part. He may have thought Jacob was trying to do what he had tried to do in arranging the boys that way.

“And his father refused, and said, I know it, my son, I know it: he also shall become a people, and he also shall be great: but truly his younger brother shall be greater than he, and his seed shall become a multitude of nations. And he blessed them that day, saying, In thee shall Israel bless, saying, God make thee as Ephraim and as Manasseh: and he set Ephraim before Manasseh.” (Genesis 48:19-20)

Jacob had knowingly crossed his arms, having been informed of God that Ephraim would be the greater of the two. The blessing was not simply a matter of expressing the parents opinions, but involved a prophecy from God beyond mere human power.

“And Israel said unto Joseph, Behold, I die: but God shall be with you, and bring you again unto the land of your fathers. Moreover I have given to thee one portion above thy brethren, which I took out of the hand of the Amorite with my sword and with my bow.” (Genesis 48:21-22)

Israel then reminded Joseph of the promises of God to be with them and return them safely to Canaan. By making Ephraim and Manasseh his heirs, Jacob had effectively given Joseph twice as big a part in Israel as any of his brothers.

We have no record of the fighting Jacob may have had to do to obtain and hold the land he had occupied in Canaan. There is a great deal we don’t know about Jacob’s life but according to II Timothy 3;16-17, we have all the information we need. “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” II Peter 1:3 reinforces the idea. “According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue:” Every story and passage in scripture is important for our understanding, but nothing of value has been left out.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Socializing Egypt

Genesis 47:13-31

“And there was no bread in all the land; for the famine was very sore, so that the land of Egypt and all the land of Canaan fainted by reason of the famine. And Joseph gathered up all the money that was found in the land of Egypt, and in the land of Canaan, for the corn which they bought: and Joseph brought the money into Pharaoh's house.

Through the years, people had experienced numerous famines in the region, and had learned to save some back to carry them through a year or two. Famines usually didn’t last any longer than that, and there would be enough runoff from the highlands to produce some crops to survive. After three years with almost no rainfall even in the mountains, their savings were exhausted. The grain that had been taken from the people during the seven good years and stored was all that there was. Instead of buying a little to supplement what they grew, they had to buy everything, and it wasn’t just the Egyptians who needed food. Selling the grain brought a lot of revenue into Pharaoh’s coffers, and as people got more desperate, they were willing to pay more for the grain, resulting in inflation.

“And when money failed in the land of Egypt, and in the land of Canaan, all the Egyptians came unto Joseph, and said, Give us bread: for why should we die in thy presence? for the money faileth. And Joseph said, Give your cattle; and I will give you for your cattle, if money fail. And they brought their cattle unto Joseph: and Joseph gave them bread in exchange for horses, and for the flocks, and for the cattle of the herds, and for the asses: and he fed them with bread for all their cattle for that year.” (Genesis 47:15-17)

The inflated prices of grain made it too expensive to keep the cattle. Without food the cattle would die and be useless as food themselves, so the price of cattle decreased. Inflation in one area always causes the value of other things to decrease or deflate. When they ran out of money, people were forced to sell their cattle to the government at reduced(deflated) prices, and before long Pharaoh owned all the cattle, although the people continued to care for them.

“When that year was ended, they came unto him the second year, and said unto him, We will not hide it from my lord, how that our money is spent; my lord also hath our herds of cattle; there is not ought left in the sight of my lord, but our bodies, and our lands: Wherefore shall we die before thine eyes, both we and our land? buy us and our land for bread, and we and our land will be servants unto Pharaoh: and give us seed, that we may live, and not die, that the land be not desolate.” (Genesis 47:18-19)

The following year, with no money or cattle, the people were forced to sell their land to obtain food, and the government was the only one who had food or money, this forced the prices of the land down causing a collapse of the land and housing markets. It wasn’t long before Pharaoh owned all the land as well. It was much like what happened in the United states ansd other countries during the great depression when the government began to seize properties of people who were not able to pay their taxes and support themselves.

“And Joseph bought all the land of Egypt for Pharaoh; for the Egyptians sold every man his field, because the famine prevailed over them: so the land became Pharaoh's. And as for the people, he removed them to cities from one end of the borders of Egypt even to the other end thereof. Only the land of the priests bought he not; for the priests had a portion assigned them of Pharaoh, and did eat their portion which Pharaoh gave them: wherefore they sold not their lands.

Then Joseph said unto the people, Behold, I have bought you this day and your land for Pharaoh: lo, here is seed for you, and ye shall sow the land. And it shall come to pass in the increase, that ye shall give the fifth part unto Pharaoh, and four parts shall be your own, for seed of the field, and for your food, and for them of your households, and for food for your little ones. And they said, Thou hast saved our lives: let us find grace in the sight of my lord, and we will be Pharaoh's servants.

And Joseph made it a law over the land of Egypt unto this day, that Pharaoh should have the fifth part; except the land of the priests only, which became not Pharaoh's.” (Genesis 47:20-26)

With no land of their own, the people had no way of supporting themselves and no place for a home. They were then forced to live where the government wanted and to work for the government, on the government‘s terms, in exchange for the government providing welfare benefits. The social program that had been intended to save their lives had become the means of making them wards of the government, and the people were so grateful for being alive they didn’t consider the freedom they had lost. This sacrifice of freedom is an inherent danger with any social programs, and was a major factor in Egyptian history throughout the period of the Middle Kingdom. It was during the early part of the Middle Kingdom that many of the great stone public works were built, although later works were built of brick of decreasing quality, corresponding to what the book of Exodus describes. During this time Egypt became a great military power, invading Nubia and other countries, and expanding their borders.

Joseph was quite benevolent in his terms, requiring only twenty percent of their crops, while supplying the land, the irrigation, and the seed. Today, most people would be delighted with a flat tax of twenty percent, even if they had to provide their own land and raw materials. One class of people, the priests, were granted special privileges under the system. Government programs inevitably seem to create a class system, giving special privileges to particular groups, whether they be religious leaders, military leaders, politicians, or bankers and industrialists.

“And Israel dwelt in the land of Egypt, in the country of Goshen; and they had possessions therein, and grew, and multiplied exceedingly. And Jacob lived in the land of Egypt seventeen years: so the whole age of Jacob was an hundred forty and seven years.” (Genesis 47:27-28)

With Joseph administering the system, Jacob’s family were protected from the loss of their land and livestock, growing rapidly, as long as Joseph ran the country. Unfortunately, this protection caused resentment among the Egyptians, and as Exodus tells us, after Josephs’ death, the Jews became even more completely slaves to the government. They would remain as slaves for four hundred years, just as God had warned Abraham in Genesis 15.

“And the time drew nigh that Israel must die: and he called his son Joseph, and said unto him, If now I have found grace in thy sight, put, I pray thee, thy hand under my thigh, and deal kindly and truly with me; bury me not, I pray thee, in Egypt: But I will lie with my fathers, and thou shalt carry me out of Egypt, and bury me in their buryingplace. And he said, I will do as thou hast said. And he said, Swear unto me. And he sware unto him. And Israel bowed himself upon the bed's head.” (Genesis 47:29-31)

While Jacob lived seventeen years in Egypt, he never considered it home. As his death drew near he became determined be buried in Canaan, along side his ancestors in the cave of Machpelah. He elicited a promise from Joseph that he would see that his wishes were carried out.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Establishing Residency

Genesis 46:28-47:10

Joseph had recommended that Jacob’s family live in Goshen, in the Northeastern part of Egypt, just west of the Sinai peninsula. Besides being on their way into Egypt, much of it was not suitable for irrigation and thus was largely unoccupied, making it ideal for raising cattle. Jacob and his family went straight to the area, sending Judah ahead to let Joseph know they had arrive and would be expecting him.

“And he sent Judah before him unto Joseph, to direct his face unto Goshen; and they came into the land of Goshen. And Joseph made ready his chariot, and went up to meet Israel his father, to Goshen, and presented himself unto him; and he fell on his neck, and wept on his neck a good while.

And Israel said unto Joseph, Now let me die, since I have seen thy face, because thou art yet alive.” (Genesis 46:28-30)

Joseph wasted no time going to see his father in Goshen, and they had a very emotional reunion. After all, Jacob had believed his favorite son was dead for twenty-two years. He felt he could die happy, just having seen Joseph, and knowing he was still alive.

“And Joseph said unto his brethren, and unto his father's house, I will go up, and show Pharaoh, and say unto him, My brethren, and my father's house, which were in the land of Canaan, are come unto me; And the men are shepherds, for their trade hath been to feed cattle; and they have brought their flocks, and their herds, and all that they have. And it shall come to pass, when Pharaoh shall call you, and shall say, What is your occupation? That ye shall say, Thy servants' trade hath been about cattle from our youth even until now, both we, and also our fathers: that ye may dwell in the land of Goshen; for every shepherd is an abomination unto the Egyptians.” (Genesis 46:31-34)

Joseph stressed that when they came before Pharaoh to get their visas, they should list herdsman as their occupation. By doing so, they would not be pressured to move into the more developed irrigated areas, because the Egyptians had a rather low opinion of herders. The prejudice had a logical origin.

Cattle and sheep don’t recognize boundaries or discriminate between plants people planted and what grows naturally. Fields are like a buffet table, loaded with foods they don’t get all in one place. The cattle often seem to view barriers such as fences as a challenge to be overcome, and work at circumventing them. In the process they trample and destroy the banks of irrigation ditches misdirecting the water, step on and break tools and valuables and knock over structures. Farmers and businessmen resent the damage done to their property and resent the necessity to protect their property from invasion. Unfortunately some herdsmen consider it other people’s responsibility to keep their cows out, rather than their own, and make no effort to protect other people‘s property. Even those who try to keep them out occasionally fail. By allowing Jacob and his family to stay in Goshen, Pharaoh could prevent a lot of conflict.

“Then Joseph came and told Pharaoh, and said, My father and my brethren, and their flocks, and their herds, and all that they have, are come out of the land of Canaan; and, behold, they are in the land of Goshen. And he took some of his brethren, even five men, and presented them unto Pharaoh.

And Pharaoh said unto his brethren, What is your occupation? And they said unto Pharaoh, Thy servants are shepherds, both we, and also our fathers. They said moreover unto Pharaoh, For to sojourn in the land are we come; for thy servants have no pasture for their flocks; for the famine is sore in the land of Canaan: now therefore, we pray thee, let thy servants dwell in the land of Goshen.” (Genesis 47:1-4)

Though they were Joseph’s own family, and were desperate, Jacob’s family had to enter the country and obtain permission to take up residence legally. Many who have come to the Navajo reservation as missionaries feel that they have no obligation to consider the rights of the people whose land it is. It is not unlike the problem of illegal immigration in the United States.

“And Pharaoh spake unto Joseph, saying, Thy father and thy brethren are come unto thee: The land of Egypt is before thee; in the best of the land make thy father and brethren to dwell; in the land of Goshen let them dwell: and if thou knowest any men of activity among them, then make them rulers over my cattle.” (Genesis 47:5-6)

Just as cowboys, sheep herders and farmers are looked down on by many today, cattlemen and sheepherders were viewed as inferior by the Egyptians. As a result few Egyptians were willing to take such jobs. Since they still needed the food, Pharaoh was glad to have workers who were willing to do that kind of work and offered employment for any who wanted it. Again, the situation was very much like that of the United States today. One reason unemployment is so high today is that people look down on the jobs that are available. Removing the stigma against blue collar work would do more for our economy than any stimulus program. It would also help our illegal alien problem, by reducing the number of high paying jobs available for them.

“And Joseph brought in Jacob his father, and set him before Pharaoh: and Jacob blessed Pharaoh.

And Pharaoh said unto Jacob, How old art thou?

And Jacob said unto Pharaoh, The days of the years of my pilgrimage are an hundred and thirty years: few and evil have the days of the years of my life been, and have not attained unto the days of the years of the life of my fathers in the days of their pilgrimage. And Jacob blessed Pharaoh, and went out from before Pharaoh.” (Genesis 47:7-10)

It is always a pleasure to share our accomplishments with those we love, and to introduce them to those who contribute to those accomplishments. Joseph couldn’t wait to introduce his father to Pharaoh, and because of his interest in Joseph, Pharaoh was interested in Joseph’s family. One thing we learn with age is that people who are genuinely interested in us will be interested in knowing about the things we are interested in simply because they know it interests us. If they don’t want to know, their interest in us is selfish. It is one reason the Lord makes an issue of our love for other Christians. As I John 4:20 asks, “If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?”

Notice Jacob’s statement about his life, “few and evil have the days of the years of my life been, and have not attained unto the days of the years of the life of my fathers in the days of their pilgrimage.” He was complaining that he was only a hundred thirty and felt old! Our attitude controls a lot of how blessed we feel. Jacob felt he had missed out on a lot despite all the blessings he had received. He had spent a hundred thirty years trying to get more, rather than enjoying what God had given him.

“And Joseph placed his father and his brethren, and gave them a possession in the land of Egypt, in the best of the land, in the land of Rameses, as Pharaoh had commanded. And Joseph nourished his father, and his brethren, and all his father's household, with bread, according to their families.” (Genesis 47:11-12)

Egypt had eleven different pharaohs named Ramses. Goshen included part of the Nile delta, making it some of the most valuable land in Egypt. The land became Pharaoh’s property under Joseph’s administration, setting the stage for the middle kingdom, beginning about 2050 BC.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Jacob Goes to Egypt

Genesis 45:25-46:27

“And they went up out of Egypt, and came into the land of Canaan unto Jacob their father, And told him, saying, Joseph is yet alive, and he is governor over all the land of Egypt. And Jacob's heart fainted, for he believed them not.” (Genesis 45:25-26)

For at least twenty two years, Jacob’s sons had lived with the guilt of having sold their brother into slavery, and the sorrow it had caused their father. Apprehension about being charged with espionage and perhaps having Benjamin taken from them must have been made worse by their awareness of guilt. When Joseph revealed who he was, The apprehension was relieved, and his forgiveness did a lot to relieve their feelings of guilt. Telling their father about Joseph would alleviate his grief, although their deception would almost certainly come out. They couldn’t wait to get home and tell Jacob. Jacob found it very hard to accept that after twenty two years of mourning for Joseph he had been found alive, and was an important official in Egypt.

“And they told him all the words of Joseph, which he had said unto them: and when he saw the wagons which Joseph had sent to carry him, the spirit of Jacob their father revived: And Israel said, It is enough; Joseph my son is yet alive: I will go and see him before I die. And Israel took his journey with all that he had, and came to Beersheba, and offered sacrifices unto the God of his father Isaac.” (Genesis 45:27-46:1)

When they told him everything Joseph had said, about how God had sent him into Egypt to save their lives and everything else., and Jacob saw the wagons and meals that had been provided, he finally believed them. He started for Egypt with eager anticipation, taking time to thank God when he came to Beersheba where Isaac had lived so long.

“And God spake unto Israel in the visions of the night, and said, Jacob, Jacob. And he said, Here am I. And he said, I am God, the God of thy father: fear not to go down into Egypt; for I will there make of thee a great nation: I will go down with thee into Egypt; and I will also surely bring thee up again: and Joseph shall put his hand upon thine eyes.” (Genesis 46:2-4)

When Jacob took time to worship and thank God, he spoke to him again. Throughout Abraham’s life God regularly spoke personally to him, but Jacob rarely experienced such communion. It was not that God didn’t desire to communicate with him, but that Jacob was too busy doing his own thing to listen. Too many people are like the teenager who doesn’t stop to listen to his parents or the wife who gets out her vacuum cleaner and starts vacuuming when her husband starts talking, then complains they never talk. Unless we stop and listen, we don’t even hear his efforts to speak to us.

“And Jacob rose up from Beersheba: and the sons of Israel carried Jacob their father, and their little ones, and their wives, in the wagons which Pharaoh had sent to carry him. And they took their cattle, and their goods, which they had gotten in the land of Canaan, and came into Egypt, Jacob, and all his seed with him: His sons, and his sons' sons with him, his daughters, and his sons' daughters, and all his seed brought he with him into Egypt.” (Genesis 46:5-7)

From Beersheba, they traveled to Egypt as fast as possible taking everything they had. And believing what God had promised. Over two hundred years before, in Genesis 15:13, God had foretold that Israel would go into Egypt where they would be afflicted four hundred years, before returning to Canaan. Finally, the prophecy started to be fulfilled. Jacobs descendants who went into Egypt are listed by name, grouped according to which wife they descended from.

Leah’s descendants


“And these are the names of the children of Israel, which came into Egypt, Jacob and his sons: Reuben, Jacob's firstborn. And the sons of Reuben; Hanoch, and Phallu, and Hezron, and Carmi. And the sons of Simeon; Jemuel, and Jamin, and Ohad, and Jachin, and Zohar, and Shaul the son of a Canaanitish woman.” (Genesis 46:8-10)


“And the sons of Levi; Gershon, Kohath, and Merari. And the sons of Judah; Er, and Onan, and Shelah, and Pharez, and Zarah: but Er and Onan died in the land of Canaan. And the sons of Pharez were Hezron and Hamul.” (Genesis 46:11-12)


And the sons of Issachar; Tola, and Phuvah, and Job, and Shimron…” (Genesis 46:13a)


“…And the sons of Zebulun; Sered, and Elon, and Jahleel. These be the sons of Leah, which she bare unto Jacob in Padanaram,…” (Genesis 46:13b-14a)


“…with his daughter Dinah: all the souls of his sons and his daughters were thirty and three.” (Genesis 46:13b-15)

Descendants of Zilpah


“And the sons of Gad; Ziphion, and Haggi, Shuni, and Ezbon, Eri, and Arodi, and Areli.” (Genwsis 46:16)


“And the sons of Asher; Jimnah, and Ishuah, and Isui, and Beriah, and Serah their sister: and the sons of Beriah; Heber, and Malchiel. These are the sons of Zilpah, whom Laban gave to Leah his daughter, and these she bare unto Jacob, even sixteen souls.” (Genesis 46:17-18)

Descendants of Rachael


“The sons of Rachel Jacob's wife; Joseph, and Benjamin. And unto Joseph in the land of Egypt were born Manasseh and Ephraim, which Asenath the daughter of Potipherah priest of On bare unto him.” (Genesis 46:19-20)


“And the sons of Benjamin were Belah, and Becher, and Ashbel, Gera, and Naaman, Ehi, and Rosh, Muppim, and Huppim, and Ard. These are the sons of Rachel, which were born to Jacob: all the souls were fourteen.” (Genesis 46:21-22)

Descendants of Bilhah


“And the sons of Dan; Hushim.” (Genesis 46:23)


“And the sons of Naphtali; Jahzeel, and Guni, and Jezer, and Shillem. These are the sons of Bilhah, which Laban gave unto Rachel his daughter, and she bare these unto Jacob: all the souls were seven.” (Genesis 46:24-25)

“All the souls that came with Jacob into Egypt, which came out of his loins, besides Jacob's sons' wives, all the souls were threescore and six; And the sons of Joseph, which were born him in Egypt, were two souls: all the souls of the house of Jacob, which came into Egypt, were threescore and ten.” (Genesis 46:26-27)

The Old Kingdom of Egypt had collapsed and the Middle Kingdom had not yet emerged. Due to famine, much of the Middle East was forced to go to Egypt for food, and most of the records of the period consist only of grain sales and collections. Jacob’s little group of seventy people was so small it was hardly noticed in the hustle and bustle. At almost any other time in Egyptian history, it would have been recorded, as they usually kept copious records but few survive from the period.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Reunited With His Brothers

Genesis 45:1-24

When Judah described his concern for his father, that not taking Benjamin back might kill him, and offered himself as a substitute, It was obvious that they were far less selfish than they had been. Before, they would probably have just left Benjamin behind with no concern for Jacob’s feelings. That the one who suggested selling Jacob would volunteer to take his formerly hated little brother’s place was huge. As John 15:13 says, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”

“Then Joseph could not refrain himself before all them that stood by him; and he cried, Cause every man to go out from me. And there stood no man with him, while Joseph made himself known unto his brethren. And he wept aloud: and the Egyptians and the house of Pharaoh heard.

And Joseph said unto his brethren, I am Joseph; doth my father yet live? And his brethren could not answer him; for they were troubled at his presence.” (Genesis 45:1-3)

Overcome with emotion, Joseph made his servants leave him alone with his brothers. It was much too intimate a moment to be shared with strangers, although the Egyptians could hear and knew what was going on.

Can you imagine his brother’s shock when Joseph told them who he was? For more than twenty years they had told everyone he was dead, hiding their involvement by making he had been killed by an animal. He had every right, and the authority to have them imprisoned or killed. They knew what they had done with far less provocation, and expected nothing less.

“And Joseph said unto his brethren, Come near to me, I pray you. And they came near. And he said, I am Joseph your brother, whom ye sold into Egypt. Now therefore be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves, that ye sold me hither: for God did send me before you to preserve life. For these two years hath the famine been in the land: and yet there are five years, in the which there shall neither be earing nor harvest. And God sent me before you to preserve you a posterity in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance. So now it was not you that sent me hither, but God: and he hath made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house, and a ruler throughout all the land of Egypt.” (Genesis 45:4-8)

Though their intent had been evil, to get rid of their brother, it was still in God’s control. It was God who made Reuben stop them from killing Joseph, with the intent of rescuing him. It was God who had caused the Ishmeelite traders to come by and buy Joseph, so that Reuben couldn‘t save him. Recognizing this, Joseph had forgiven them, and now that it was out in the open, they no longer needed to dwell on how wicked their actions had been. For Joseph to have shown his forgiveness before they showed any evidence of repentance would have been pointless, even though he had recognized God’s working long before.

Even their own sin had worked out to their benefit, as Romans 8:28 states. “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” For more than twenty years they had concealed their sin and been constantly oppressed by the guilt. While God had blessed them in many ways during the period, guilt had kept them from enjoying it. With it out in the open, they could experience all God’s blessings, as Proverbs 28:13 promises. “He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy.” God had used their sin to put Joseph in a position to save their lives and their families.

“Haste ye, and go up to my father, and say unto him, Thus saith thy son Joseph, God hath made me lord of all Egypt: come down unto me, tarry not: And thou shalt dwell in the land of Goshen, and thou shalt be near unto me, thou, and thy children, and thy children's children, and thy flocks, and thy herds, and all that thou hast: And there will I nourish thee; for yet there are five years of famine; lest thou, and thy household, and all that thou hast, come to poverty.

And, behold, your eyes see, and the eyes of my brother Benjamin, that it is my mouth that speaketh unto you. And ye shall tell my father of all my glory in Egypt, and of all that ye have seen; and ye shall haste and bring down my father hither.” (Genesis 45:9-12)

The famine would last five more years, and if they stayed in Canaan, they would constantly experience shortages, eventually losing everything they had. If they moved to Egypt they could experience an abundant life instead.

“And he fell upon his brother Benjamin's neck, and wept; and Benjamin wept upon his neck. Moreover he kissed all his brethren, and wept upon them: and after that his brethren talked with him.” (Genesis 45:14-15)

After twenty years, the reunion with his beloved little brother was especially sweet. Although the older brothers were undoubtedly more reserved, knowing they were forgiven made it sweet for them as well, while Joseph was finally able to openly show his love as he had wanted to since they came the first time. He would no longer have to hide their money in their sacks.

“And the fame thereof was heard in Pharaoh's house, saying, Joseph's brethren are come: and it pleased Pharaoh well, and his servants. And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, Say unto thy brethren, This do ye; lade your beasts, and go, get you unto the land of Canaan; And take your father and your households, and come unto me: and I will give you the good of the land of Egypt, and ye shall eat the fat of the land. Now thou art commanded, this do ye; take you wagons out of the land of Egypt for your little ones, and for your wives, and bring your father, and come. Also regard not your stuff; for the good of all the land of Egypt is yours.” (Genesis 45:16-20)

Pharaoh and the Egyptians were pleased that Joseph was reunited with his family, and instructed Joseph to provide wagons to haul their wives and children and come to Egypt as soon as possible. The Egyptians would give them furniture and housing when they arrived, so they would not need to bring such things with them.

“And the children of Israel did so: and Joseph gave them wagons, according to the commandment of Pharaoh, and gave them provision for the way. To all of them he gave each man changes of raiment; but to Benjamin he gave three hundred pieces of silver, and five changes of raiment. And to his father he sent after this manner; ten asses laden with the good things of Egypt, and ten she asses laden with corn and bread and meat for his father by the way. “ (Genesis 45:21-23)

The brothers quickly agreed to Pharaoh’s command, and were provided with wagons. Since there were no restaurants along the way it was necessary to have food that could be carried along, and it was prepared so they would not waste a lot of time preparing their meals. All that would be needed was to go pick up their families and start the livestock moving. With no need to find food or pack their belongings, they could be back in Egypt in a few days. Joseph also gave each one a new suit of clothes, but gave Benjamin a lot more.

“So he sent his brethren away, and they departed: and he said unto them, See that ye fall not out by the way.” (Genesis 45:24)

Though they were repentant of their actions toward him, Joseph was very aware of the family culture of jealousy and competition. He warned them not to get to fighting among themselves on the way and forget why they were going.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Testing The Waters

Genesis 44:1-45:1

For seventeen years, Joseph had lived with the jealousy and favoritism of Jacobs family. Then he spent twenty two years isolated from them because of that jealousy. Before he dared renew his relationship with them, he wanted to know if their attitudes had changed so he could protect himself. He devised a plan to see if they were still as selfish as they had been.

“And he commanded the steward of his house, saying, Fill the men's sacks with food, as much as they can carry, and put every man's money in his sack's mouth. And put my cup, the silver cup, in the sack's mouth of the youngest, and his corn money. And he did according to the word that Joseph had spoken.

As soon as the morning was light, the men were sent away, they and their asses. And when they were gone out of the city, and not yet far off, Joseph said unto his steward, Up, follow after the men; and when thou dost overtake them, say unto them, Wherefore have ye rewarded evil for good? Is not this it in which my lord drinketh, and whereby indeed he divineth? ye have done evil in so doing. And he overtook them, and he spake unto them these same words.” (Genesis 44:1-6)

They had been really concerned about finding their money in their sacks the first time, when Joseph had just wanted them to have the food without taking their money. He decided to do the same thing again, but to imply they had discovered the missing money. In addition, his personal silver cup was to be included in Benjamin’s sack.

Joseph and Benjamin’s mother had been Jacob’s favorite wife and her two sons had been favored as a result. The other boys had planned to murder Joseph because of their jealousy, but when the opportunity presented, sold him as a slave instead. By observing how they reacted to the thought of getting rid of Benjamin, he could see whether they were still as jealous as they had been. Their attitude would affect how he revealed himself. His servant followed Joseph’s instructions.

“And they said unto him, Wherefore saith my lord these words? God forbid that thy servants should do according to this thing: Behold, the money, which we found in our sacks' mouths, we brought again unto thee out of the land of Canaan: how then should we steal out of thy lord's house silver or gold? With whomsoever of thy servants it be found, both let him die, and we also will be my lord's bondmen.

And he said, Now also let it be according unto your words: he with whom it is found shall be my servant; and ye shall be blameless.” (Genesis 44:7-10)

Sure of their innocence, the brothers reminded the servant of their honesty in bringing back the original money when they found it and offered to let him search their bags, promising that if it were found, the one who had it would remain behind as a servant.

“Then they speedily took down every man his sack to the ground, and opened every man his sack. And he searched, and began at the eldest, and left at the youngest: and the cup was found in Benjamin's sack. Then they rent their clothes, and laded every man his ass, and returned to the city. And Judah and his brethren came to Joseph's house; for he was yet there: and they fell before him on the ground.

And Joseph said unto them, What deed is this that ye have done? wot ye not that such a man as I can certainly divine? ” (Genesis 44:11-15)

When the cup was discovered in Benjamin’s sack, the brothers did not meekly hand him over and go their way, happy to be rid of their father’s favorite. Instead they went back to the city to try to save him. There had been a dramatic change.

“And Judah said, What shall we say unto my lord? what shall we speak? or how shall we clear ourselves? God hath found out the iniquity of thy servants: behold, we are my lord's servants, both we, and he also with whom the cup is found. And he said, God forbid that I should do so: but the man in whose hand the cup is found, he shall be my servant; and as for you, get you up in peace unto your father.” (Genesis 44:16-17)

With Judah as spokesman, they threw themselves on the mercy of Joseph, offering to all be his servants, hoping he’d be willing to forgive and forget since he had the cup and money back. When he refused, demanding that Benjamin be punished, Judah made a personal offer.

“Then Judah came near unto him, and said, Oh my lord, let thy servant, I pray thee, speak a word in my lord's ears, and let not thine anger burn against thy servant: for thou art even as Pharaoh. My lord asked his servants, saying, Have ye a father, or a brother? And we said unto my lord, We have a father, an old man, and a child of his old age, a little one; and his brother is dead, and he alone is left of his mother, and his father loveth him. And thou saidst unto thy servants, Bring him down unto me, that I may set mine eyes upon him. And we said unto my lord, The lad cannot leave his father: for if he should leave his father, his father would die.

And thou saidst unto thy servants, Except your youngest brother come down with you, ye shall see my face no more. And it came to pass when we came up unto thy servant my father, we told him the words of my lord. And our father said, Go again, and buy us a little food. And we said, We cannot go down: if our youngest brother be with us, then will we go down: for we may not see the man's face, except our youngest brother be with us.

And thy servant my father said unto us, Ye know that my wife bare me two sons: And the one went out from me, and I said, Surely he is torn in pieces; and I saw him not since: And if ye take this also from me, and mischief befall him, ye shall bring down my gray hairs with sorrow to the grave. Now therefore when I come to thy servant my father, and the lad be not with us; seeing that his life is bound up in the lad's life; It shall come to pass, when he seeth that the lad is not with us, that he will die: and thy servants shall bring down the gray hairs of thy servant our father with sorrow to the grave. For thy servant became surety for the lad unto my father, saying, If I bring him not unto thee, then I shall bear the blame to my father for ever.

Now therefore, I pray thee, let thy servant abide instead of the lad a bondman to my lord; and let the lad go up with his brethren. For how shall I go up to my father, and the lad be not with me? lest peradventure I see the evil that shall come on my father.” (Genesis 44:18-34)

Judah had been the one who originally suggested selling Joseph as a slave. He had personally guaranteed to take care of Benjamin. Now he volunteered to take Benjamin’s place as a slave to keep from grieving his father any more. For more than twenty years he and his brothers had lived with the guilt for what they had done to Joseph and the sorrow it caused Jacob, even referring to it in verse 16. He was not willing to cause any more sorrow or live with any more guilt. It was a total reversal of attitude, and destroyed all Joseph‘s defenses.

“Then Joseph could not refrain himself before all them that stood by him;…” (Genesis 45:1)

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

A Cautious Approach

Genesis 43:16-34

For almost a year, Joseph had waited for his half brothers to bring his full Benjamin to Egypt, keeping Simeon in custody to ensure they would. That they waited so long must have been troubling to both Joseph and Simeon, raising doubt as to their concern for individuals. Finally they came with Benjamin ad presented themselves.

“And when Joseph saw Benjamin with them, he said to the ruler of his house, Bring these men home, and slay, and make ready; for these men shall dine with me at noon. And the man did as Joseph bade; and the man brought the men into Joseph's house.” (Genesis 43:16-17)

Almost unable to contain himself, but not wanting to expose his identity until he knew they no longer hated him, Joseph had them taken to his house to eat dinner with him.

“And the men were afraid, because they were brought into Joseph's house; and they said, Because of the money that was returned in our sacks at the first time are we brought in; that he may seek occasion against us, and fall upon us, and take us for bondmen, and our asses.” (Genesis 43:18)

Remembering the previous accusations of spying, and that the money had turned up in their sacks, the brothers were worried that the dinner was just an excuse for arresting them and making slaves of them. They began to discus ways to allay any suspicion, and decided to bring up the subject first.

“And they came near to the steward of Joseph's house, and they communed with him at the door of the house, And said, O sir, we came indeed down at the first time to buy food: And it came to pass, when we came to the inn, that we opened our sacks, and, behold, every man's money was in the mouth of his sack, our money in full weight: and we have brought it again in our hand. And other money have we brought down in our hands to buy food: we cannot tell who put our money in our sacks.

And he said, Peace be to you, fear not: your God, and the God of your father, hath given you treasure in your sacks: I had your money. And he brought Simeon out unto them. And the man brought the men into Joseph's house, and gave them water, and they washed their feet; and he gave their asses provender.” (Genesis 43:19-24)

When they described what had happened to Joseph’s manager, he told them not to worry about the money, that God had given it back to them. He treated them as guests rather than prisoners, freeing Simeon and providing the opportunity to make themselves presentable before dinner. He also fed their donkeys. When they learned they were to eat with Joseph, they brought out the present Jacob had sent, probably thanking Gd they had something to offer in appreciation.

“And they made ready the present against Joseph came at noon: for they heard that they should eat bread there. And when Joseph came home, they brought him the present which was in their hand into the house, and bowed themselves to him to the earth.

And he asked them of their welfare, and said, Is your father well, the old man of whom ye spake? Is he yet alive?” (Genesis 43:25-27)

When Joseph arrived home, they presented the present and bowed down to him, undoubtedly reminding him of the dream he’d had more than twenty years before, of his brothers bowing to him. He began to ask about their family, using the casual setting as and excuse. The brothers had no clue how vitally interested he was, suspicious of his motives yet constrained to respond to such a innocuous question.

“And they answered, Thy servant our father is in good health, he is yet alive. And they bowed down their heads, and made obeisance.

And he lifted up his eyes, and saw his brother Benjamin, his mother's son, and said, Is this your younger brother, of whom ye spake unto me? And he said, God be gracious unto thee, my son.” (Genesis 43:28-29)

Learning that his doting father was still alive caused a tremendous rush of emotion. When he was formally introduced to Benjamin, he was unable to contain himself any longer.

“And Joseph made haste; for his bowels did yearn upon his brother: and he sought where to weep; and he entered into his chamber, and wept there. And he washed his face, and went out, and refrained himself, and said, Set on bread. “ (Genesis 43:30-31)

Retreating to his room, trying to make it look like he was just getting ready for dinner, Joseph surrendered to his emotions. Finally composing himself, he washed up and returned to his role as host.

“And they set on for him by himself, and for them by themselves, and for the Egyptians, which did eat with him, by themselves: because the Egyptians might not eat bread with the Hebrews; for that is an abomination unto the Egyptians. And they sat before him, the firstborn according to his birthright, and the youngest according to his youth: and the men marvelled one at another.” (Genesis 42:32-33)

Egyptian society had a very strict class system, and while it was necessary to communicate between classes, social interaction was discouraged, much like the separation of officers and enlisted men in our military. The segregation was so strong that as a ruler, Joseph could not even eat with his servants. To avoid antagonizing the Egyptians, he couldn’t eat with that bunch of foreigners, and the Egyptians wouldn’t.

“And he took and sent messes unto them from before him: but Benjamin's mess was five times so much as any of theirs. And they drank, and were merry with him.” (Genesis 43:34)

Any class conscious society emphasizes the superiority of the “upper” class. One way of doing this was to have the food brought to the head table and then portions sent to the different individuals, as the head table deigned to feed them. Favor and disfavor could thus be demonstrated by what was served to each individual. Joseph couldn’t help himself, sending five times as much for Benjamin as for the others.

Many times people assume hesitation to renew a relationship indicates a lack of forgiveness. Joseph had forgiven his brothers, but he was not willing to foolishly expose himself to further hurt. He was just being cautious. It would be foolish not to be careful until sure of ones acceptance. Trust still has to be rebuilt.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Forced to return to Egypt

Genesis 43:1-15

The famine was so severe that Jacob’s sons had to go to Egypt the first year, although they had been able to live through other dry spells. A donkey can only carry about a hundred fifty to a hundred eighty pound load for long periods, so the quantity of food they carried was relatively small, but with what they grew themselves they were able to get by for almost another year. God had warned Joseph that the famine would last seven years, and eventually they were forced to make another trip if they were to survive.

“And the famine was sore in the land. And it came to pass, when they had eaten up the corn which they had brought out of Egypt, their father said unto them, Go again, buy us a little food.

And Judah spake unto him, saying, The man did solemnly protest unto us, saying, Ye shall not see my face, except your brother be with you. If thou wilt send our brother with us, we will go down and buy thee food: But if thou wilt not send him, we will not go down: for the man said unto us, Ye shall not see my face, except your brother be with you.” (Genesis 43:1-5)

Jacob had delayed sending his sons back to Egypt bcause he feared another would be held and he was unwilling to risk losing Benjamin. Finally it got so desperate they couldn’t wait any longer. Having been accused of being spies and cast into prison, then having their brother imprisoned and told not to come back unless Benjamin was with them, Judah flatly refused to make the trip without him. If they were cast into prison, there would be no one to raise what crops they could and the rest would be even worse off.

“And Israel said, Wherefore dealt ye so ill with me, as to tell the man whether ye had yet a brother?

And they said, The man asked us straitly of our state, and of our kindred, saying, Is your father yet alive? have ye another brother? and we told him according to the tenor of these words: could we certainly know that he would say, Bring your brother down?” (Genesis 43:6-7)

Jacob had not been there when the Egyptians accused them of espionage, and blamed the boys for having given out too much information about their family. As they pointed out, they had only been trying to convince the man of their innocence, with no idea he would try to use it against them. It was unfair for Jacob to blame them when he didn‘t really know what had happened. Regardless of whose fault it was, the situation had to be dealt with and recriminations were pointless.

“And Judah said unto Israel his father, Send the lad with me, and we will arise and go; that we may live, and not die, both we, and thou, and also our little ones. I will be surety for him; of my hand shalt thou require him: if I bring him not unto thee, and set him before thee, then let me bear the blame for ever: For except we had lingered, surely now we had returned this second time.” (Genesis 43:8-10)

Almost a year before, Reuben had been willing to take responsibility for Benjamin, feeling guilty for not having saved Joseph. Judah had been the one who suggested selling Joseph, when Reuben wasn’t around. Though Jacob was even more protective of Benjamin than he was of Joseph, Judah offered to take the responsibility for him. As he stated, the only reason they hadn’t already gone was because Jacob refused to allow him to go.

“And their father Israel said unto them, If it must be so now, do this; take of the best fruits in the land in your vessels, and carry down the man a present, a little balm, and a little honey, spices, and myrrh, nuts, and almonds: And take double money in your hand; and the money that was brought again in the mouth of your sacks, carry it again in your hand; peradventure it was an oversight: Take also your brother, and arise, go again unto the man: And God Almighty give you mercy before the man, that he may send away your other brother, and Benjamin. If I be bereaved of my children, I am bereaved.” (Genesis 43:11-14)

Bowing to the inevitable, Jacob agreed to allow Benjamin to go, but insisted the boys should take a gift and return the money that had been in their sacks in an effort to defer any anger the Egyptians might hold. It is very similar to his effort to appease Esau. He was just praying that God would allow them not only to bring Benjamin back, but also Simeon. If his sons didn’t return, he would have lost everything worth having. He still had trouble believing God would keep his promise, despite all the years of blessing he had experienced. His attitude was a lot different than that of Abraham when called on to sacrifice Isaac. Frequently, I find myself more like Jacob than Abraham.

“And the men took that present, and they took double money in their hand, and Benjamin; and rose up, and went down to Egypt, and stood before Joseph.” (Genesis 43:15)

We can only imagine the trepidation the boys felt in returning to Egypt. What if their delay convinced the ruler that they really were spies and had them killed or just decided to lock up the rest of them on a whim? Not only their own lives, but those of their families were at stake, and they had no choice but to go.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Misinterpreting the Actions Of Others

Genesis 42:25-38

“Then Joseph commanded to fill their sacks with corn, and to restore every man's money into his sack, and to give them provision for the way: and thus did he unto them. And they laded their asses with the corn, and departed thence.” (Genesis 42:25-26)

Knowing how deceitful and manipulative his brothers could be, Joseph dared not identify himself to them until he was sure of their repentance for their wrong doing. At the same time, he loved them as his brothers. Loving them he did not want toe charge them for their grain, but unsure how they would receive him, he had their money secretly placed in their bags. He included special food for them on the way.

Upset by the accusations of espionage and the retaining of Simeon as a hostage, the brothers wasted no time getting clear of the capital, fearing Joseph might change his mind.

“And as one of them opened his sack to give his ass provender in the inn, he espied his money; for, behold, it was in his sack's mouth. And he said unto his brethren, My money is restored; and, lo, it is even in my sack: and their heart failed them, and they were afraid, saying one to another, What is this that God hath done unto us?” (Genesis 42:27-28)

You can imagine the horror the brothers must have felt when they opened the first sack and found the money and extra food. It appeared to be a deliberate attempt to incriminate them by planting evidence. If anyone came after them, the money and special food would be impossible to explain. Joseph’s act of love was interpreted as something far different, because they knew what they would have done and ascribed the same intention to Joseph. The tendency to judge the actions of others by our own motivations causes a lot of confusion and conflict. Their sense of guilt amplified their consternation, knowing they deserved God’s judgment.

“And they came unto Jacob their father unto the land of Canaan, and told him all that befell unto them; saying, The man, who is the lord of the land, spake roughly to us, and took us for spies of the country. And we said unto him, We are true men; we are no spies: We be twelve brethren, sons of our father; one is not, and the youngest is this day with our father in the land of Canaan.

And the man, the lord of the country, said unto us, Hereby shall I know that ye are true men; leave one of your brethren here with me, and take food for the famine of your households, and be gone: And bring your youngest brother unto me: then shall I know that ye are no spies, but that ye are true men: so will I deliver you your brother, and ye shall traffic in the land.” (Genesis 42:29-34)

Knowing how Jacob had grieved believing Joseph was dead, and that it was their fault, all the brothers wanted to be sure their father knew they had done their best to prevent Simeon being held as prisoner. Sure enough Jacob was upset by it, and was not completely rational about what had happened, blaming them for having said anything about Benjamin at all. After all, if they hadn’t mentioned aBenjamin, the ruler couldn’t demand he be brought. Who knew what his intent might be. It could only have amplified their sense of guilt over having sold Joseph.

“And it came to pass as they emptied their sacks, that, behold, every man's bundle of money was in his sack: and when both they and their father saw the bundles of money, they were afraid.

And Jacob their father said unto them, Me have ye bereaved of my children: Joseph is not, and Simeon is not, and ye will take Benjamin away: all these things are against me.” (Genesis 42:35-36)

When they found the rest of the money, Jacob and his sons were even more convinced there had been a deliberate attempt to plant evidence to incriminate them. As the manipulator he was, Jacob immediately assumed the request to bring Benjamin was an attempt to wipe out his whole family. He slipped back into the same attitude of unbelief he‘d had before his encounter with God at Penuel, whining “all these things are against me.” It’s a very common response.

“And Reuben spake unto his father, saying, Slay my two sons, if I bring him not to thee: deliver him into my hand, and I will bring him to thee again.” (Genesis 42:37)

Reuben had tried to prevent Joseph being harmed, and his only guilt was in not telling his father what had happened. As so often happens, the least guilty was the one who stepped forward to take responsibility and correct things, because they have less to hide. In dealing with people, it is important to keep this tendency in mind if we are not to allow the guilty to avoid taking responsibility. Reuben offered to sacrifice his own children to demonstrate their innocence in the espionage charges and set Simeon free.

“And he said, My son shall not go down with you; for his brother is dead, and he is left alone: if mischief befall him by the way in the which ye go, then shall ye bring down my gray hairs with sorrow to the grave.” (Genesis 42:38)

In his lack of faith, Jacob refused to allow Benjamin to go, even to set Simeon free. What if God allowed something to happen to Benjamin and the Egyptians didn’t set Simeon free? He’d be out one more son, and perhaps all that went. Had he just trusted God, he would have been reunited to Joseph a year sooner, and Simeon would have been released, but he didn’t. How often we delay or circumvent the blessings of God by our refusal to trust him.

Friday, December 16, 2011

A Dream Fulfilled

Genesis 43:1-24

Droughts were not uncommon, although most were relatively short and localized. Widespread droughts were rare, but both Abraham and Isaac had been forced to go to the land of the Philistines to escape famines. Because of the Nile river and the extensive irrigation system they had built, the Egyptians were rarely affected by drought, and at one point Abraham had been forced to go into Egypt for food. This drought was wide spread, affecting the entire Middle East and Northern Africa. No part of Canaan had as dependable a source of water as the Nile, and after just a few months, Jacob and his family began to feel the effects.

“Now when Jacob saw that there was corn in Egypt, Jacob said unto his sons, Why do ye look one upon another? And he said, Behold, I have heard that there is corn in Egypt: get you down thither, and buy for us from thence; that we may live, and not die. And Joseph's ten brethren went down to buy corn in Egypt. But Benjamin, Joseph's brother, Jacob sent not with his brethren; for he said, Lest peradventure mischief befall him. And the sons of Israel came to buy corn among those that came: for the famine was in the land of Canaan.” (Genesis 42:1-5)

The word translated corn means kernel. It does not refer to what we know as corn but kernels of grain, whether wheat, rye, barley, millet or oats. What we know as corn was developed in the Americas, but unknown in the region until after the “discovery” of the new world.

Learning that grain was available in Egypt, Jacob decided to send his sons to Egypt to buy enough to tide them over until the next year in hopes the drought would end. He refused to send the youngest, Benjamin, believing that Joseph was dead. If something happened to Benjamin, he would have none of Rachael’s children left. Obviously, he was still playing favorites with his children.

“And Joseph was the governor over the land, and he it was that sold to all the people of the land: and Joseph's brethren came, and bowed down themselves before him with their faces to the earth.

And Joseph saw his brethren, and he knew them, but made himself strange unto them, and spake roughly unto them; and he said unto them, Whence come ye? And they said, From the land of Canaan to buy food. And Joseph knew his brethren, but they knew not him.” (Genesis 42:6-8)

Twenty one years before, Joseph’s brothers had plotted to kill him, then sold him to some Midianite and Ishmeelite traders instead. They had spent the intervening period pretending he was dead to prevent Jacob’s finding out what they had done. They never expected to see him again and he had been just a teenager when they sold him as a slave. They had no clue that the obviously important Egyptian official was Joseph, but he had not forgotten them or what they had done. Remembering the dreams he’d had as a boy, he set out to learn as much about the rest of the family as he could without giving himself away. For all he knew, they might still try to kill him.

“And Joseph remembered the dreams which he dreamed of them, and said unto them, Ye are spies; to see the nakedness of the land ye are come.

And they said unto him, Nay, my lord, but to buy food are thy servants come. We are all one man's sons; we are true men, thy servants are no spies.

And he said unto them, Nay, but to see the nakedness of the land ye are come.

And they said, Thy servants are twelve brethren, the sons of one man in the land of Canaan; and, behold, the youngest is this day with our father, and one is not.” (Genesis 42:9-13)

In his dreams they had all bowed to him and now they were doing exactly that. It was a partial fulfillment of the prophecy. Accusing them of being spies gave him an opportunity to interrogate them freely, and put the brothers on the defensive and reinforced his power over them. As a result, they gave information about their family in an effort to prove their innocence.

“And Joseph said unto them, That is it that I spake unto you, saying, Ye are spies: Hereby ye shall be proved: By the life of Pharaoh ye shall not go forth hence, except your youngest brother come hither. Send one of you, and let him fetch your brother, and ye shall be kept in prison, that your words may be proved, whether there be any truth in you: or else by the life of Pharaoh surely ye are spies. And he put them all together into ward three days.” (Genesis 42:14-17)

Benjamin was the only full brother Joseph had, all the others were half brothers. He had been very young when Joseph was sold, being at least ten years younger, and Joseph wanted to see him more than anything. As far as he knew, his father was probably dead. In an effort to see Benjamin he told them they’d be held as prisoners until whichever one they chose could go and bring Benjamin to prove they were telling the truth. They were held in prison for three days, possibly to give them a little taste of what Joseph had experienced.

“And Joseph said unto them the third day, This do, and live; for I fear God: If ye be true men, let one of your brethren be bound in the house of your prison: go ye, carry corn for the famine of your houses: But bring your youngest brother unto me; so shall your words be verified, and ye shall not die. And they did so.” (Genesis 42:18-20)

After three days of imprisonment, Joseph released them with warning not to come back without their youngest brother to prove their innocence or they’d be treated as spies.

“And they said one to another, We are verily guilty concerning our brother, in that we saw the anguish of his soul, when he besought us, and we would not hear; therefore is this distress come upon us. And Reuben answered them, saying, Spake I not unto you, saying, Do not sin against the child; and ye would not hear? therefore, behold, also his blood is required.

And they knew not that Joseph understood them; for he spake unto them by an interpreter. And he turned himself about from them, and wept; and returned to them again, and communed with them, and took from them Simeon, and bound him before their eyes.” (Genesis 43:21-24)

For twenty one years, the brothers had lived with the guilt of what they had done to their brother. They had never been able to put it completely out of their minds. Every time something bad happened they had to wonder if it was God punishing them for their sin and they instantly came to that conclusion again. Reuben reminded them how he had tried to keep them from killing Joseph. His statement seems to imply they had never told him the truth and shared the money with him and he had believed Joseph’s death was the result of his failure to stop them.

Since he had always used an interpreter, the brothers assumed he didn’t understand their language and spoke freely among themselves. Overcome with emotion at their sense of guilt, Joseph had to turn away to regain his composure and keep from telling them who he was. Instead of keeping all but one, he decided to just keep Simeon as a hostage and send the others home.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

An Egyptian Social Program

Genesis 41:44-57

Because Joseph had been able to interpret the dreams, and gave logical recommendations as to how to address the situation, Pharaoh appointed him to run the program, giving him the necessary authority, and making it apparent to everyone. Just as he’d managed Potiphar’s business and the prison, he was now to manage Egypt. He already had thirteen years of experience at managing businesses successfully.

“And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, I am Pharaoh, and without thee shall no man lift up his hand or foot in all the land of Egypt. And Pharaoh called Joseph's name Zaphnathpaaneah; and he gave him to wife Asenath the daughter of Potipherah priest of On. And Joseph went out over all the land of Egypt.” (Genesis 41:44-45)

Pharaoh gave Joseph absolute control of Egypt, answerable only to Pharaoh, and giving him both his freedom and his citizenship. He also had Joseph marry the daughter of one of the most powerful men in the country, the leader of the Egyptian religion. It gave him powerful connections to the Egyptian religion.

“And Joseph was thirty years old when he stood before Pharaoh king of Egypt. And Joseph went out from the presence of Pharaoh, and went throughout all the land of Egypt. And in the seven plenteous years the earth brought forth by handfuls. And he gathered up all the food of the seven years, which were in the land of Egypt, and laid up the food in the cities: the food of the field, which was round about every city, laid he up in the same. And Joseph gathered corn as the sand of the sea, very much, until he left numbering; for it was without number. “ (Genesis 41:46-49)

Anyone who has ever gardened of farmed very much has observed how much more productive and healthy plants are after a rain than when depending on being watered. Rain water has less dissolved minerals than ground water, but more nitrogen and oxygen, and appears to have a slight electronic charge making it more readily absorbed and beneficial to the plants. Under such conditions, crops may produce more than twice as normal. For seven years they received more than normal rainfall at the most opportune times, resulting in bumper crops.

Even in the midst of such abundance, and knowing what was coming, Joseph only collected twenty percent of the crops. This still left the people more than they would normally have so they could save up themselves and enlarge their fields as they chose.

It is interesting to note that under Joseph’s plan the maximum was twenty percent of about the same as is collected for unemployment and social security for each employee. He only collected it in the good years. We pay ours in bad years as well. In addition, we still pay income tax, property tax, sales tax, etc. With all the taxes and fees on shipping and materials, even those who pay no income or social security tax pay about thirty percent even though most of it is included in the price and isn’t called a tax. Is it any wonder that an economic downturn has a serious effect on people’s lifestyle?

“And unto Joseph were born two sons before the years of famine came, which Asenath the daughter of Potipherah priest of On bare unto him. And Joseph called the name of the firstborn Manasseh: For God, said he, hath made me forget all my toil, and all my father's house. And the name of the second called he Ephraim: For God hath caused me to be fruitful in the land of my affliction.” (Genesis 41:50-52)

The first seven years were a time of blessing for Joseph, although they were very busy. The birth of his two sons and his marriage took his mind off all the years of suffering, and his missing his family, because he had another one. Perhaps for the first time in his life, he didn’t have to deal with conflict, at least at home, although there was probably plenty at work.

“And the seven years of plenteousness, that was in the land of Egypt, were ended. And the seven years of dearth began to come, according as Joseph had said: and the dearth was in all lands; but in all the land of Egypt there was bread.” (Genesis 41:53-54)

The famine was wide spread, but thanks to the irrigation systems and the abundant years, Egypt still had food. For a while after the seven good years ended people were able to get by on what they had saved, but the crops in the following years were so poor they didn‘t even meet all their needs.

“And when all the land of Egypt was famished, the people cried to Pharaoh for bread: and Pharaoh said unto all the Egyptians, Go unto Joseph; what he saith to you, do. And the famine was over all the face of the earth: And Joseph opened all the storehouses, and sold unto the Egyptians; and the famine waxed sore in the land of Egypt. And all countries came into Egypt to Joseph for to buy corn; because that the famine was so sore in all lands.” (Genesis 41:55-57)

The first year or so, the Egyptians made a killing selling the crops to other countries, but before long the individual farmers depleted their suppliies and were forced to turn to the government for help. The government, represented by Joseph then began selling the grain they had stored back to the people. They were able to pay for it with the money they had made exporting their crops. In addition some of the grain was exported to other countries. The Egyptian government became increasingly rich and powerful.

In Egyptian history, this famine marks the break between the Old Kingdom, around 2040 BC. Several of the great pyramids were built prior to Abrahams day, and by Joseph’s day Egypt had been declining for almost a hundred years. Few records were kept during that period. Under Joseph’s administration, the Egyptian Government regained it’s prestige, and consolidated it’s power over the people, setting the stage for the Middle kingdom under Mentuhotep.

During the middle Kingdom, most of the pyramids were smaller then those of the old Kingdom, and gradually construction moved from stone to brick. Toward the end of the period, the quality of the bricks deteriorated badly.

During this period, Egyptian scholarship became quite advanced, and great literature was written. Rulers like Amenemhat I and Senwosret III expanded Egyptian borders and invaded other countries, making Egypt truly a world power. After about four hundred years later the middle kingdom was conquered by the Hyksos and held for almost a hundred years.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Free At Last

Genesis 41:1-38

Joseph had been in Egypt eleven years, part of the time as a slave and part of it as a prisoner when he revealed the butler or taster’s dream and asked him to use his influence to get him out. Caught up in regaining his old life, the butler forgot his request.

“And it came to pass at the end of two full years, that Pharaoh dreamed: and, behold, he stood by the river. And, behold, there came up out of the river seven well favoured kine and fatfleshed; and they fed in a meadow. And, behold, seven other kine came up after them out of the river, ill favoured and leanfleshed; and stood by the other kine upon the brink of the river. And the ill favoured and leanfleshed kine did eat up the seven well favoured and fat kine. So Pharaoh awoke.” (Genesis 41:1-4)

Two full years after interpreting the butler’s dream, Joseph was still in prison. Unless a miracle happened, he’d probably never be released. Undoubtedly, he began to doubt the dreams he’d had of his brothers bowing to him, and his pride and arrogance had been shaken.

Pharaoh had a dream, and like the baker and butler, was sure it was important. Unfortunately he didn’t know what it meant, but he remembered it vividly. It was nightmare seeing sickly skinny cows eating up healthy fat cows, and woke him up. After a fretting about it for a while, he went back to sleep.

“And he slept and dreamed the second time: and, behold, seven ears of corn came up upon one stalk, rank and good. And, behold, seven thin ears and blasted with the east wind sprung up after them. And the seven thin ears devoured the seven rank and full ears. And Pharaoh awoke, and, behold, it was a dream.” (Genesis 41:5-7)

If he thought skinny cows eating fat ones was troubling, seeing unhealthy and deformed ears of corn eating other ears was even worse. It was so vivid and real it woke him up again, with all the details firmly planted in his mind.

“And it came to pass in the morning that his spirit was troubled; and he sent and called for all the magicians of Egypt, and all the wise men thereof: and Pharaoh told them his dream; but there was none that could interpret them unto Pharaoh.” (Genesis 41:8)

When morning finally came Pharaoh consulted with the magicians or shamans and educated men of Egypt about his dreams. While most modern psychics and fortunetellers would not hesitate to make something up, the Egyptian ones knew that they would be killed or imprisoned if their interpretation turned out to be false. They were afraid to guess.

“Then spake the chief butler unto Pharaoh, saying, I do remember my faults this day: Pharaoh was wroth with his servants, and put me in ward in the captain of the guard's house, both me and the chief baker: And we dreamed a dream in one night, I and he; we dreamed each man according to the interpretation of his dream. And there was there with us a young man, an Hebrew, servant to the captain of the guard; and we told him, and he interpreted to us our dreams; to each man according to his dream he did interpret. And it came to pass, as he interpreted to us, so it was; me he restored unto mine office, and him he hanged.” (Genesis 41:9-13)

As one of the ones entrusted with guarding Pharaoh, the butler was present and heard the magicians admit they didn’t know what the dream meant. Suddenly he remembered what had happened in prison and how accurately Joseph had interpreted his and the baker’s dreams. Surely it wouldn’t hurt to give Joseph a chance.

“Then Pharaoh sent and called Joseph, and they brought him hastily out of the dungeon: and he shaved himself, and changed his raiment, and came in unto Pharaoh. And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, I have dreamed a dream, and there is none that can interpret it: and I have heard say of thee, that thou canst understand a dream to interpret it.” (Genesis 41:14-15)

Desperate, Pharaoh called for Joseph and he was brought out. Before bringing him to Pharaoh, they gave him a chance to clean himself up and change into something other than his prison suit. It was probably the first chance to shave and new clothes he’d had since going to prison several years before. Pharaoh explained what he wanted and that he understood Joseph could interpret dreams.

“And Joseph answered Pharaoh, saying, It is not in me: God shall give Pharaoh an answer of peace.” (Genesis 41:16)

Joseph was very clear. He didn’t have the ability to interpret the dreams. It was God who would interpret the dream for Pharaoh. Joseph would just be the tool he used.

“And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, In my dream, behold, I stood upon the bank of the river: And, behold, there came up out of the river seven kine, fatfleshed and well favoured; and they fed in a meadow: Ge 41:19 And, behold, seven other kine came up after them, poor and very ill favoured and leanfleshed, such as I never saw in all the land of Egypt for badness: And the lean and the ill favoured kine did eat up the first seven fat kine: And when they had eaten them up, it could not be known that they had eaten them; but they were still ill favoured, as at the beginning. So I awoke.

And I saw in my dream, and, behold, seven ears came up in one stalk, full and good: And, behold, seven ears, withered, thin, and blasted with the east wind, sprung up after them: And the thin ears devoured the seven good ears: and I told this unto the magicians; but there was none that could declare it to me.” (Genesis 41:17-24)

Pharaoh then described the details of his dreams to Joseph, recounting how upsetting they had been, and how troubled he was that no one could give him a valid explanation of what they meant.

“And Joseph said unto Pharaoh, The dream of Pharaoh is one: God hath showed Pharaoh what he is about to do. The seven good kine are seven years; and the seven good ears are seven years: the dream is one. And the seven thin and ill favoured kine that came up after them are seven years; and the seven empty ears blasted with the east wind shall be seven years of famine.”

This is the thing which I have spoken unto Pharaoh: What God is about to do he showeth unto Pharaoh. Behold, there come seven years of great plenty throughout all the land of Egypt: And there shall arise after them seven years of famine; and all the plenty shall be forgotten in the land of Egypt; and the famine shall consume the land; And the plenty shall not be known in the land by reason of that famine following; for it shall be very grievous. And for that the dream was doubled unto Pharaoh twice; it is because the thing is established by God, and God will shortly bring it to pass.” (Genesis 41:25-32)

As Joseph explained the Pharaoh, the two dreams had the same meaning, that in both cases the seven healthy objects represented seven years of abundance, that would be followed by a seven year famine that would devastate the land, consuming everything that had been saved up before. God had given the dream so pharaoh and his people could make preparation to survive. That Pharaoh got the same message twice was a clear indication that there was no way to avoid the famine. Joseph then gave some suggestions as to how to prepare for the famine.

“Now therefore let Pharaoh look out a man discreet and wise, and set him over the land of Egypt. Let Pharaoh do this, and let him appoint officers over the land, and take up the fifth part of the land of Egypt in the seven plenteous years. And let them gather all the food of those good years that come, and lay up corn under the hand of Pharaoh, and let them keep food in the cities. And that food shall be for store to the land against the seven years of famine, which shall be in the land of Egypt; that the land perish not through the famine.” (Genesis 41:33-36)

There should be a surplus of grain during the seven good years. If they put twenty percent of it in storage each year, they would have at nearly enough to live for two years if they produced nothing. With their irrigations systems, they should be able to produce some food as well, and even half a normal would provide enough to survive by cutting back.

“And the thing was good in the eyes of Pharaoh, and in the eyes of all his servants. And Pharaoh said unto his servants, Can we find such a one as this is, a man in whom the Spirit of God is?” (Genesis 41:37-38)

The idea of stockpiling the food appealed to Pharaoh. Joseph had demonstrated a Godly spirit, far beyond any of the other counselors, and he couldn’t imagine any one better qualified to administer such a program.

“And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, Forasmuch as God hath showed thee all this, there is none so discreet and wise as thou art: Thou shalt be over my house, and according unto thy word shall all my people be ruled: only in the throne will I be greater than thou. And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, See, I have set thee over all the land of Egypt. And Pharaoh took off his ring from his hand, and put it upon Joseph's hand, and arrayed him in vestures of fine linen, and put a gold chain about his neck; And he made him to ride in the second chariot which he had; and they cried before him, Bow the knee: and he made him ruler over all the land of Egypt.” (Genesis 41:39-43)

Thirteen years after being brought Egypt, Joseph was a finally a free man. In fact he went from being a convict to being the prime minister in a single day. He was charged with seeing that enough food was stockpiled to see them through the coming famine. He was given almost unlimited authority to accomplish his mission. What a major change.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Interpreting Dreams

Genesis 39:20-40:23

“And Joseph's master took him, and put him into the prison, a place where the king's prisoners were bound: and he was there in the prison. But the LORD was with Joseph, and showed him mercy, and gave him favour in the sight of the keeper of the prison. And the keeper of the prison committed to Joseph's hand all the prisoners that were in the prison; and whatsoever they did there, he was the doer of it. The keeper of the prison looked not to any thing that was under his hand; because the LORD was with him, and that which he did, the LORD made it to prosper.” (Genesis 39:20-23)

Joseph was accused of trying to rape his master’s wife. It is miraculous he was not summarily executed. Proverbs 6:32-35 warns, “But whoso committeth adultery with a woman lacketh understanding: he that doeth it destroyeth his own soul. A wound and dishonour shall he get; and his reproach shall not be wiped away. For jealousy is the rage of a man: therefore he will not spare in the day of vengeance. He will not regard any ransom; neither will he rest content, though thou givest many gifts.”

It sounds like a contradiction that the Lord was with Joseph, yet he went to prison for a crime he didn’t commit. That he wasn’t killed instead is one evidence of God’s blessing. Before long, the warden made him a trustee and made him manager of the prison. Like Potiphar, the warden was free to pursue other interests because he no longer had to focus on running the prison. There is an old saying, “The cream always rises to the top.” God’s blessing brought Joseph to a place of prominence and relative freedom, both as a slave and as a prisoner.

“And it came to pass after these things, that the butler of the king of Egypt and his baker had offended their lord the king of Egypt. And Pharaoh was wroth against two of his officers, against the chief of the butlers, and against the chief of the bakers. And he put them in ward in the house of the captain of the guard, into the prison, the place where Joseph was bound.” (Genesis 40:1-3)

Many people strive to obtain political appointments, failing to realize how unstable the positions are. A change in policy or an imprudent comment or action that in some way appears to reflect badly on the one making the appointment may result in dismissal, imprisonment, or in many countries, even execution. The Butler’s primary job was to protect the Pharaoh by tasting everything before he did. The baker was entrusted with preparing safe meals. Something the king’s baker and butler had done offended the king and he had them imprisoned for it.

“And the captain of the guard charged Joseph with them, and he served them: and they continued a season in ward.” (Genesis 40:4)

Because of their political connections, the warden wanted to insure that they were not mistreated, knowing how things can change. Isn’t amazing how little things have changed after 4,000 years? He especially charged Joseph with seeing to it they were well cared for. They spent a few weeks in the prison, and Joseph became well acquainted with them.

“And they dreamed a dream both of them, each man his dream in one night, each man according to the interpretation of his dream, the butler and the baker of the king of Egypt, which were bound in the prison. And Joseph came in unto them in the morning, and looked upon them, and, behold, they were sad. And he asked Pharaoh's officers that were with him in the ward of his lord's house, saying, Wherefore look ye so sadly to day?“ (Genesis 40:5-7)

Most dreams are believed to be the result of ones concerns during the day. The unconscious mind attempts to resolve them while undisturbed with other things. Excessive stress may result in a lack of restful sleep, and troubling dreams. Because one tends to let down his conscious guard, the mind is unusually accessible to spiritual suggestions, both by Godly and satanic spirits, though it is still able to discern and heed or ignore them. The attitudes one has developed still govern the spiritual suggestions we hear and thus some people are more likely to have spirit induced dreams, whether from God or demons.

Dreams are considered very important communications by many peole, and the baker and butler were no exception. They had no doubt their dreams were significant, and not knowing what they meant was troubling. Being familiar with them, Joseph recognized that they re more depressed than usual the morning after they had their dreams. Having established a friendship, he asked what was wrong that had so upset them.

“And they said unto him, We have dreamed a dream, and there is no interpreter of it.
And Joseph said unto them, Do not interpretations belong to God? tell me them, I pray you.” (Genesis 40:8)

There are a lot of people who claim to have the ability to interpret dreams, sometimes writing books describing how certain features mean certain things. Unfortunately they are often like a person who speaks a few words of another language and has to try to guess exactly what was really said based on the few words that were understood. They may completely misunderstand what is meant. Only God is capable of interpreting every dream, and Joseph recognized this.

“And the chief butler told his dream to Joseph, and said to him, In my dream, behold, a vine was before me; And in the vine were three branches: and it was as though it budded, and her blossoms shot forth; and the clusters thereof brought forth ripe grapes: And Pharaoh's cup was in my hand: and I took the grapes, and pressed them into Pharaoh's cup, and I gave the cup into Pharaoh's hand.

And Joseph said unto him, This is the interpretation of it: The three branches are three days: Yet within three days shall Pharaoh lift up thine head, and restore thee unto thy place: and thou shalt deliver Pharaoh's cup into his hand, after the former manner when thou wast his butler. But think on me when it shall be well with thee, and show kindness, I pray thee, unto me, and make mention of me unto Pharaoh, and bring me out of this house: For indeed I was stolen away out of the land of the Hebrews: and here also have I done nothing that they should put me into the dungeon.” (Genesis 40:9-15)

God revealed the meaning of the dream to Joseph, that the butler would be restored to his former position within three days. Joseph then asked the butler to use his connections to intervene on his behalf when he got his job back, describing what had happened to him.

“When the chief baker saw that the interpretation was good, he said unto Joseph, I also was in my dream, and, behold, I had three white baskets on my head: And in the uppermost basket there was of all manner of bakemeats for Pharaoh; and the birds did eat them out of the basket upon my head.

And Joseph answered and said, This is the interpretation thereof: The three baskets are three days: Yet within three days shall Pharaoh lift up thy head from off thee, and shall hang thee on a tree; and the birds shall eat thy flesh from off thee.” (Genesis 40:16-19)

Emboldened by the interpretation of the butler’s dream, the chief baker described his as well. Unfortunately, the interpretation of it was that the baker would be hanged about the same time the butler got his job back. He probably wished he hadn’t asked.

“And it came to pass the third day, which was Pharaoh's birthday, that he made a feast unto all his servants: and he lifted up the head of the chief butler and of the chief baker among his servants. And he restored the chief butler unto his butlership again; and he gave the cup into Pharaoh's hand: But he hanged the chief baker: as Joseph had interpreted to them. Yet did not the chief butler remember Joseph, but forgat him.” (Genesis 40:20-23)

The test of a prophet, or prophecy is whether it comes to pass. Most frauds try to be unspecific enough that they can not be pinned down. Joseph’s interpretation was very specific, both as to the event, and the timing, as well as which would live and which would die.. Both were fulfilled, making it clear they were from God.

Eager to put his memories of prison behind him, the butler promptly forgot about Joseph’s request. It was probably pretty discouraging and humbling to Joseph to realize that no one was concerned about his plight, since he’d always had whatever he wanted.