Thursday, March 1, 2012

my notes for The Story, Chapter 3 (excerpts from Genesis 37-50)

The Story, Chapter 3: Excerpts from Genesis 37-50

-review Genesis 1-11, Genesis 12-36

Intro: into the turmoil of Jacob/Israel’s “dysfunctional” family (4 wives & 12 children; Reuben and Simeon/Levi); narrative deals with trying to solve/deal with…
-preservation and unity (vs. trouble, disunity)
-perpetuation/transmission of the faith/covenant—key in moving from household to nation
à both vs. threats within (division / hatred) and threats without (conquest / more subtle threats of assimilation in Canaan or Egypt)
à both more challenging, given…
-modest leadership of Jacob
-op/challenge of having more than one son (given biblical history of sons/brothers)!
à which son should lead?
à noteworthy that God is less visible (indirect and behind-the-scenes) but arguably “busier” in this part of Israel’s history—as He would be again when Israel was in bondage to Egypt

-18's short step from jealousy (Jacob’s favoritism and Joseph’s dreams) to hatred to murder—wishing to possess VS. wishing to harm VS. acting to harm (Pr 27:4)
-23's robe and position stripped from him in a domestic struggle and scheme (as with Potiphar’s wife in ch. 39)
-31-33's goat's blood (deception worked)—ironically, just as Jacob had done to his father, using a goat and a brother’s garment (27:9,16)
-21-22a’s Reuben's moderate stand: not death, but abandonment—and 22b's intent to return and rescue (deception revisited)
            -trying to get back into Jacob’s good graces (vs. ch. 35)
-as firstborn, would be held responsible/accountable
-felt responsible/accountable and took action
-vs. as the eldest, Joseph as the one who was his chief competition
-but unable to fully succeed (that said, it’s tough to stand up to bad unity!)
à no argument from other brothers here, but they immediately go around him (incl. 27b’s “His brothers agreed” with Judah & 29-30’s while he was gone!)
-may connect to lack of character/integrity/authority—or at least his reputation -fails to make the case
-still kills, by omission
-issues commands vs. gives reasons—and nothing said in response

à 26-27’s Judah exerts a "leadership" role; quickly accepted, given his character or the plan
-more prudent, more humane (on its face)
-mentions the moral point (2x) that Joseph is their brother
-starts with gain (to attract his audience) and moves to goodwill
-in terms of style, relating to them (2* “we”, 3 * “our”, and “come, let us” vs. Reuben’s “let us” and mostly giving commands)
-best he could do vs. better but far from perfect action

Genesis 39: Joseph at Potiphar's
-in Egypt: culture shock; away from and deserted by his family
à our first look at Joseph away from home (freedom) and under duress (slavery)
-amazing for Joseph to perform well and righteously in this context (see: Daniel), especially after being spoiled by Jacob
à familial and political/social/cultural—and the temptation to assimilation (how to do Gen 12 well in such settings?)
-first glimpse into life in Egypt—as a competing way vs. God/Israel: trouble with politics/culture (slavery) and family (sex/marriage)
-8a's refusal, but beyond merely saying “no”, provides 8b-9's reasons (as Dan 1)
-great spontaneous or figured and planned his answer
-his convictions vs. possible rationalizations…
-9's consideration of:
-a.) himself (and his position): "I’m better than that..."; what's in his best interests
-b.) his master (respect for him—or at least consequences; our usual starting point)
-c.) AND bottom line: "sin against God"
à Joseph as the only biblical example to conquer this giant (vs. sacking plenty of others, including David, Samson, Solomon, and Judah!) à how was Joseph able to do it?...
-believing in God's sovereignty (experiencing God: dreams and prior faith)
-believing God wanted the best for him...
-Joseph strengthened by God's evident hand in his life (then and in past)

Genesis 41: Dreams, Interpretations & "Joseph's Ladder" to the Top
-16's "I cannot...but God will..."
-God's provision and Joseph's participation
-esp. in contrast to wise men's failure—and before he even hears the dreams!
-Joseph's confidence (cont'd)—vs. pride; Lewis' cathedrals
-give God the credit; to do otherwise is to steal from God
à obvious parallels between Joseph and Daniel as men of the highest integrity who served under pagan monarchs and the only ones in Scripture to interpret dreams, while attributing their “skill” to God

Genesis 43
-1-2's need more food: presumably, got (at least) a season’s worth of food—to tie them over, through the famine of one year’s expected length
-3-5's Judah steps up and "solemnly warns Jacob"
-6’s self-pity and blame (vs. solution) from Jacob and 7’s tangential response/lie from the other brothers—both ignored by Judah, who goes back to work on Jacob…
à Kass (585) on this as “masterful”
-8a’s presents necessity—and best course—of action; little choice (Lam 4:9)
-8b’s provides reasons
-9's guarantee and accountability, takes (reasonable) personal responsibility
-doesn’t dismiss Dad’s fears, but offers himself vs. Reuben’s two kids (42:37)
à from here, Judah is the leader (49:8-10; David, Christ), superseding Reuben and ultimately competing with Joseph
-Reuben again started process, but Judah ultimately succeeds
-Joseph is a great man in a position to lead, but is he too Egyptianized?
-in the sequel, Judah stands up, as in Gen 37—the clear leader; Kass (593): “a face-to-face contest between Jacob’s two leading sons”

44:18-34's passionate speech from Judah—longest in the book of Genesis…
-18's bold diplomacy in substance, but quiet/private in style
-vs. groveling; does not challenge facts; pleads/argues for mercy
-“went up to him” as taking him aside in one-on-one discussion); implies intimacy (incl. no mention of translator; makes it easy for us to forget!)
-18’s deference/flattery (2 * lord and servant); 30-32’s *3
-but implicitly, such a great man could not do such a thing—and servant references implicitly puts the onus of responsibility on the “lord/master” who gave the orders!
-32-34’s close with a more personal approach and presents a positive/practical alternative
-Judah volunteers to be “the ram” (leader) instead of “the boy”—as Abraham/Isaac in Gen 22—a type of Christ—his substitutionary offer to pay price for Benjamin's "sin"
-bold but reasonable offer: the law would be satisfied and all parties would be at least as well off; putting the family above himself
-Kass (602): “His magnanimous and self-sacrificing offer…is unparalleled in the book of Genesis; in the Torah, it is surpassed only by Moses’ plea to God to forgive Israel for the golden calf, asking to be erased from God’s book should he refuse.”
à big picture: neither fraternal envy (despite 44:20,27-29) nor filial trouble with a favoring father (24’s “my father”); in fact, showing great concern for father who favors other sons
-Kass (603): “Judah in effect tells Joseph: ‘I may be your slave…but I belong first and most to my father, to whom I am pledged for my brother.”
-a slave to Joseph, but a greater slave to his father—as us with God
à Borgman (205): “Could Joseph have hoped in the testing of his brothers for something this grand?”
à what a change in Judah—and why Judah is fit to lead, going forward
-sold Joseph into slavery; but here, offers to take Benjamin's place in slavery
-willing to give up his freedom and even die for his father and youngest brother—even with the favoritism
-Judah keeps his word to Jacob (43:9)—courage, determination, willing to sacrifice
à Judah stayed with God longer than any other tribe; Southern Kingdom; lineage of David (and Jesus)
-Sacks (311): “The sequence from Genesis 37-50 is the longest unbroken narrative in the Torah, and there can be no doubt who its hero is: Joseph…From almost the beginning, he seems destined for greatness. Yet history did not turn out that way. To the contrary, it is another brother who, in the fullness of time, leaves his mark on the Jewish people. Indeed, [they] bear his name.”
à why? among other things, Judah as the first penitent in the Bible; repentance and character change—instigated from the episode with Tamar and manifested here (willing to put himself into slavery vs. Benjamin—when he had been willing to sell Joseph into slavery previously)
-Sacks (314): “Joseph became ‘second to the king’. Judah, however, became the father of Israel’s kings…However great an individual may be in virtue of his or her natural character, greater still is one who is capable of growth and change. That is the power of penitence, and it began with Judah.”

Chapter 45
à brothers did not expect Joseph—or then, his forgiveness/grace
-on receiving grace as the least expected thing, see: Jacob & Esau—and us!
-what do you do when people have difficulty accepting your forgiveness?
à How did he do it…
-chose to forgive (vs. wait til you feel like it)—for us, a command, but to our benefit
-held the guilty accountable (Mt 18:15)
-Sacks (325): “Joseph does more than forgive. He wants to make sure that the brothers, especially Judah, have changed.”
-cleared his part of the table—whether pointing to own sin or God’s sovereignty
-vs. failing to allocate blame properly, heaping on guilt
-how they respond to forgiveness is up to them—from you and God
-forgiveness requires one person; reconciliation requires two people
-released the right to retaliate (Rom 12:19)
-going to the grave holding a grudge?! analogy to driving—too much time on gauges and rear-view mirror
à in a word, Joseph models for us how to properly deal with really bad events, esp. well into the past (grudge, act as if it didn't happen) and esp. with the power to abuse them...
à a huge moment for these individuals, the family, and the eventual nation—with forgiveness and repentance as a pre-req for what God wants to accomplish in each
-Sacks (326): “It is the essential prelude to the book of Exodus and the birth of Israel as a nation. The book of Genesis is, among other things, a set of variations on the theme of sibling rivalry: Cain and Abel, Isaac and Ishmael, Jacob and Esau, Joseph and his brothers. The book begins with fratricide and ends with reconciliation.”
-from murder and walk away—to standing together at dad’s funeral—to make up but go separate ways—to reconciliation and co-existence
-Sacks: “Historically and psychologically, families precede society and state. If brothers cannot live together in peace, then they cannot form a stable society or a cohesive nation…” 

45:14-15’s kissing, weeping, talking
-Joseph's forgiveness, mercy/grace, intimacy—exhibited through physical and emotional means
-embraces Benjamin first and most (only weep; embrace vs. kiss)
-why? family kinship/favoritism, hadn’t been a part of putting him in the pit; the “lost years” (Joseph left when Benjamin was a [young] boy)
-Kass (611): “Careful readers—and no doubt, the observant brothers—notice the asymmetry of his approach to Benjamin and his approach to them. The difference is perfectly understandable…but it is a difference nonetheless…Despite his emotional frankness, Joseph leaves his brothers wary and disunited, even in this peak moment of reunion and reconciliation…They are unlikely to have forgotten both how he toyed with them and how much power he still wields over them…”
à similar to Esau/Jacob’s reunion, incl. Jacob’s wariness (33:4)
-Kass (612): “Like Jacob reuniting with Esau, Joseph’s brothers will remain wary of Joseph, and for similar reasons.”
-don’t trust his change of heart
-his power to do harm
-see also: his foreignness (clean-shaven, Egyptian garb, language, culture, etc.)
-as with Esau/Jacob, may change once dad is dead
-“Sentimental readers, wishing to see only family reconciliation, overlook these matters. Joseph’s brothers, and the way of Israel, cannot afford sentimentality.”

47:28-31’s what’s the big deal to Jacob?
-natural sentiment: in reality, no difference, but... (I'm not an Egyptian)
-just bones? see: burying a serviceman in Afghanistan, etc.
-looking to his past: connection to ancestors
-looking to their future:
-recognizing that he and his people would someday go home; prefigures their return to the Promised Land as a nation in 400 years
-a signal and a practical step to promote the journey home
-Kass (638): “that Jacob may continue to lead his sons [esp. Joseph] toward the path of Israel even when he is dead.” (w/ app. to our legacy/estate)

-15's potential grudge
-partial or feigned forgiveness (from Joseph in ch. 45)—not reconciled; no trust
-had treated them well, but through their father; now, independent of him?
-w/ app.: we can extend forgiveness perfectly, but it may not be accepted (as many with God)
-vs. still living with guilt
-grace revisited—too good to be true?! as with salvation; Joseph as a type of Christ and brothers as a type for us at times
à us with God: you're forgiven, quit groveling
-ironically, in bondage to guilt and a slave mentality; foreshadows future slavery in Egypt
--> 17b's Joseph wept...
-dragging their Dad into it (w/ lies...)
-failed to convince them before; they just didn't understand
-trust? had been hiding their fears-- for 17 years!
-19-21's again... (patience); Joseph’s last recorded words
-Sacks (342): “Joseph takes his brothers’ words seriously—not because he believes them, but because the very fact that they say this indicates that they are still feeling anxious and guilty. His response is majestic in its generosity…this final scene is the resolution of one of the central problems of the book of Genesis…sibling rivalry. A book replete with tensions, hatred, and competition ends with forgiveness…”

50:22-26's death of Joseph
-25b’s “must carry my bones up from this place”
-cool that he does ask—and noteworthy that he has to ask
-26’s (quiet) burial: no mourning recorded (in Israel or Egypt)
-more ominously, Sarna (p. 226): the transition from Jacob’s “state funeral” (50:1-14) to Joseph’s quiet burial here may allude to early deterioration of the Israelites’ situation in Egypt
-24-25's faithful provision from God
-Egypt had been good to him, but...
-Joseph’s first mention in the text of the patriarchs
-no mention of “Egypt” (instead, “from this place”)
-to the extent that he had strayed, returning to who he was—or had been
-staring mortality in the face
-perhaps seeing circumstances turning

what to do with this ending?
-the promises of God are present and active, but a gloomy ending
-MH's "Thus, the book of Genesis, which began with the origin of light and life, ends with nothing but death and darkness; so sad a change has sin made."
-Sacks (350): Genesis “is a story without an ending which looks forward to an open future rather than reaching closure. This defies narrative convention…Yet that is what the Bible repeatedly does…Normally, we expect a story to create a tension that is resolved in the final page…a sense of completion…”
-but with Joseph’s death in 50:24-26, “a hope not realized, a journey not ended, a destination just beyond the horizon”; see also: end of Deuteronomy, Malachi
à points forward—as Joseph himself says—to the next word (“Act 2” of The Story)…


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