Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Joseph Rescues His Jealous Brothers

Genesis 23-50

Next in Genesis are additional stories about Abraham’s family – chapters 23-36. These include stories about Isaac and Rebekah, and their sons Esau and Jacob; and Jacob’s marriages and his twelve sons and one daughter. And then there is a remarkable story of one of his sons in particular: Joseph, the first son of Jacob’s favorite wife Rachel.

I really like the story of Joseph (beginning chapter 37), because Joseph, at first highly favored by his father, falls into bad times due to the jealousy of his brothers. He is taken captive and lives as a slave in Egypt. At first he does well even in this situation, but another stroke of bad luck lands him now in prison. But his ability to interpret dreams brings notice of him to the Pharaoh, and so he is brought out of jail and ends up becoming second-in-command in Egypt, guiding the country well through a long famine. The famine ends up bringing even his brothers to him (they do not yet recognize him) asking for help. He graciously does help them, and forgives them, and brings everyone now to a fertile region of Egypt so that the family is able to survive the long famine.

I like it that Joseph is able to make well of bad times, and is able to forgive those who have wronged him. I especially like it that he was able to appreciate the way God redeemed the bad actions of his brothers by enabling him (Joseph) to be able then to rescue his family from the famine.

This story suggests that what happens to us in life may not be as important as what we make of it. This story also shows how those who gain favor, either by accident (as when Joseph was favored by his father because he was the firstborn son of his father’s favorite wife), or through their own efforts to do well (as when Joseph gained the favor of his master in Egypt), are vulnerable to jealousy – but even so, do not have to be destroyed by it. By living with integrity even through injustice, one’s dignity is restored even if one’s life does not turn around. In Joseph's case, his life did utlimately turn around.

Genesis ends with this story. The Israelites had to leave the promised land and now reside in Egypt.

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