Monday, 14 October 2013

Genesis 42. Food shopping in Egypt.

Genesis 42.

1 Now when Jacob saw that there was corn in Egypt, Jacob said unto his sons, Why do ye look one upon another?

OK. We're back with Jacob (Israel) and sons, evidently the 'global' famine has reached them too. Jacob, having heard that there is food in Egypt rebukes his sons for being feckless. If only he knew what they'd done to Joseph.

2 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.

He instructs his sons to go and buy food from Egypt. Presumably their material wealth is sufficient to do this.

3 And Joseph's ten brethren went down to buy corn in Egypt.

Right you are, who stayed behind?

4 But Benjamin, Joseph's brother, Jacob sent not with his brethren; for he said, Lest peradventure mischief befall him.

Ah right, Benjamin stayed behind because Jacob was too afraid of losing yet another son. Does he not trust the older ten?

5 And the sons of Israel came to buy corn among those that came: for the famine was in the land of Canaan.

As stated above.

6 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.

The sons of Israel come face to face with their estranged brother who is now the governor of all of Egypt.

7 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.

I suppose it would be possible, after all these years, for Joseph to adequately disguise himself such that his brothers wouldn't recognise him. They identify as coming from Canaan. Are they Canaanites at this point or are they merely sojourners in that land?

8 And Joseph knew his brethren, but they knew not him.

Understood.

9 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.

That's a non-sequitur if ever I heard one. There doesn't seem to be any connection between the first part of the sentence and the second. His dreams had no spying connotations at all.

10 And they said unto him, Nay, my lord, but to buy food are thy servants come.

What is with all of the sycophancy? Why does everyone in this book seem to be ready to prostrate themselves before anyone who has a bit more power than they do? Is it just a ridiculous extension of politeness or are they simply cowards?

11 We are all one man's sons; we are true men, thy servants are no spies.

OK. At this point both parties know that they are not spies. What does Joseph hope to gain by continuing to accuse them?

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

They've already denied it Joseph. Come on, they aren't likely to admit it just because you assert it again, besides, you know they aren't spies.

13 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.

Accurate.

14 And Joseph said unto them, That is it that I spake unto you, saying, Ye are spies:

Really? Again? Give it up Joseph!

15 Hereby ye shall be proved: By the life of Pharaoh ye shall not go forth hence, except your youngest brother come hither.

There is no logic to this. How will getting the youngest brother to come to Egypt prove their innocence? Of course we all know that proving their innocence is not Joseph's motivation but quite how he expects his brothers to accept that there is any logic to his request is beyond me.

16 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.

I understand that for some reason Joseph is motivated to get all of his brothers present before him, what I don't understand is why his brothers don't understand that the proof he asks for isn't proof of anything. Perhaps I'm being naïve, perhaps Joseph's brothers do understand that there is no logic in this exchange but have been 'convinced' by the many guards that Joseph must certainly have at his disposal.

17 And he put them all together into ward three days.

He's put them all into prison? Why haven't the brothers complied with his request?

18 And Joseph said unto them the third day, This do, and live; for I fear God:

...

19 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:

...

20 But bring your youngest brother unto me; so shall your words be verified, and ye shall not die. And they did so.

OK. He asked them, supposedly to prove that they are innocent of espionage, to take corn back to their houses but to leave one of them behind to be imprisoned. Yet again he has devised a proof that proves nothing.

21 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.

The brothers think that this misfortune is some kind of karmic repayment for their treatment of Joseph. If only they didn't think superstitiously as they were almost correct. What is happening now actually is as a direct result of what they did to Joseph, no cosmic balance keeping is required.

22 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.

This line is constructed oddly however I think that Reuben is lamenting that he is also being punished for his brother's transgressions despite having protested against them.

23 And they knew not that Joseph understood them; for he spake unto them by an interpreter.

That Joseph is so tricksy.

24 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.

Was he crying about their admission of guilt? Do they actually feel guilt or are they just attributing their present predicament to their prior wrongdoing? Either way Joseph has taken and bound Simeon.

25 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.

Right you are. 

26 And they laded their asses with the corn, and departed thence.

OK. Nine of the sons of Israel are are on their way home to Benjamin and their father having lost yet another brother.

27 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.

Presumably Joseph didn't tell them that he'd given them their money back. Which brother found the money?

28 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?

What are they afraid of? Punishment from God for having not paid for their goods, despite it being obvious that the money was either returned in error or deliberately by Joseph and as such the brothers are in no way culpable? Is this another case where the supposedly all-seeing and all-knowing Lord can be tricked into punishing someone who has been forced into breaking some rules by the deceitful act of a supposedly righteous man?

29 And they came unto Jacob their father unto the land of Canaan, and told him all that befell unto them; saying,

Clearly they weren't that afraid as instead of returning directly to Egypt to give the money back, they continued home to tell their father about the whole thing.

30 The man, who is the lord of the land, spake roughly to us, and took us for spies of the country.

I think we are going to get a full account of the story above.

31 And we said unto him, We are true men; we are no spies:

Yup...

32 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.

...

33 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:

...

34 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 traffick in the land.

OK. Story over.

35 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.

How afraid? Why on earth did they not check all of the sacks when one of them found the money in his sack back at the inn? What exactly are they afraid of?

36 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.

Jacob (Israel) is understandably unhappy at the loss of his children.

37 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.

Reuben offers his father the lives of his own two sons to get permission to take Benjamin to Egypt and back. Given how easily they were imprisoned and how easily Simeon was taken from them, if I were Reuben, I would not be so confident.

38 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.

Jacob (Israel) refuses to let Benjamin go. His reasoning seems to be based on his having forgotten that his first ten sons are in fact his sons.

Right. So what has gone on here?


  • Ten of Jacob's sons go to Egypt to buy some food. The youngest doesn't go because Jacob is afraid he'll die. For some reason he doesn't share the same fear for his other sons. Why not?
  • The Governor and grain vendor of Egypt turns out to be their brother Joseph. They don't recognise him. Why not?
  • Joseph pretends that he thinks they are spies in some ill thought out scheme to get them to bring Benjamin to him for some unknown reason.
  • Joseph imprisons Simeon and sends the rest back with the food they bought and then hides the money they paid in their bags to entrap them.
  • After all of this Jacob still refuses to let Benjamin go to Egypt.


What I really don't understand is what Joseph is attempting to do, I can't fathom his motivation. I also can't quite fathom how a man described as righteous and favoured by The Lord can be justified in engaging in such deception.

Hopefully we'll find out in Genesis 43.

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Genesis 41. King Con: The rise of Joseph.


Genesis 41.

1 And it came to pass at the end of two full years, that Pharaoh dreamed: and, behold, he stood by the river.

       Why do people in this period dream so infrequently? Are we really to believe that he didn't dream for two full years?

2 And, behold, there came up out of the river seven well favoured kine and fatfleshed; and they fed in a meadow.

       OK. Pharaoh is dreaming of seven well looked after, fat cattle feeding.

3 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 then seven other less well looked after cows turn up.

4 And the ill favoured and leanfleshed kine did eat up the seven well favoured and fat kine. So Pharaoh awoke.

       ...The hungry cows ate the fat ones. OK, Quite surreal I guess, Had he been out in the field with the cattle that day?

5 And he slept and dreamed the second time: and, behold, seven ears of corn came up upon one stalk, rank and good.

       More dreaming. It's seven ears of corn this time.

6 And, behold, seven thin ears and blasted with the east wind sprung up after them.

       Oh, OK. I'm seeing a pattern emerge...

7 And the seven thin ears devoured the seven rank and full ears. And Pharaoh awoke, and, behold, it was a dream.

       Yeah, that's what I thought. I'm loving the image of cannibalistic cereal crops by the way.

8 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.

       They all said that they couldn't interpret them or none of them gave an interpretation that Pharaoh was happy with? I find it difficult to believe that all of these people in the business of magic and dream interpretations wouldn't have at least had a go.

9 Then spake the chief butler unto Pharaoh, saying, I do remember my faults this day:

       The butler finally speaks up for Joseph, I guess his con wasn't such a failure after all.

10 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:

       Why is he telling Pharaoh this? has Pharaoh forgotten what he did only two years prior?

11 And we dreamed a dream in one night, I and he; we dreamed each man according to the interpretation of his dream.

       OK. This sentence seems a little back to front but I'll let it go.

12 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.

       That's what he had you believe anyway.

13 And it came to pass, as he interpreted to us, so it was; me he restored unto mine office, and him he hanged.

       'he restored'? 'he hanged'? Is the butler no longer talking to Pharaoh?

14 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.

       Joseph gets all dressed up for Pharaoh, I suppose it's useful to make a good impression with the guy who has the power to free you. I note the Joseph hasn't shaved or changed his clothes for the LORD which leads me to conclude that either the LORD isn't present or Joseph doesn't think the LORD is capable of freeing him.

15 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.

       So having duped a butler into believing he can interpret dreams to foretell the future, Joseph is now in a position to spin a yarn to the Pharaoh who has had a dream that no one has been able to interpret to his satisfaction. Will Joseph be able to get himself free?

16 And Joseph answered Pharaoh, saying, It is not in me: God shall give Pharaoh an answer of peace.

       Joseph starts by pretending to be humble and attributes his apparent gift to God. It's a cunning set-up because now if anyone doubts him they are denying God. This set-up has the added benefit of limited liability, Joseph can deny that the predictions he makes are his at all.

17 And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, In my dream, behold, I stood upon the bank of the river:

       The next few verses recount the dreams almost word for word, this book is very big on efficiency.

18 And, behold, there came up out of the river seven kine, fatfleshed and well favoured; and they fed in a meadow:

       ...

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:

       ...

20 And the lean and the ill favoured kine did eat up the first seven fat kine:

       ...

21 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.

       ...

22 And I saw in my dream, and, behold, seven ears came up in one stalk, full and good:

       ...

23 And, behold, seven ears, withered, thin, and blasted with the east wind, sprung up after them:

       ...

24 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.

       ...

25 And Joseph said unto Pharaoh, The dream of Pharaoh is one: God hath shewed Pharaoh what he is about to do.

       Joseph begins his interpretation.

26 The seven good kine are seven years; and the seven good ears are seven years: the dream is one.

       OK,so both dreams are portentous of the same thing. It's a good start as now Joseph only has to fabricate one story, A story that stretches over at least seven years,making it very difficult to verify.

27 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.

       Another seven years. If Joseph plays this right he can be long gone before his prediction will supposedly play out.

28 This is the thing which I have spoken unto Pharaoh: What God is about to do he sheweth unto Pharaoh.

       Joseph,before continuing, reminds Pharaoh that these are God's predictions, making sure that his own liability is limited.

29 Behold, there come seven years of great plenty throughout all the land of Egypt:

       Always good news,I can see why Pharaoh would likely want to accept this interpretation.

30 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;

       This part is not so good but,it is a worrying prospect but it's seven years away so,not so concerning.

31 And the plenty shall not be known in the land by reason of that famine following; for it shall be very grievous.

       Joseph is really playing up the severity of this famine. What's he trying to scare Pharaoh into?

32 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.

       Oh.Nice call-back, he uses the fact that there were two dreams to imply that God was indicating that the famine shall be doubly severe. Should this also not mean that the time of plenty shall be doubly plentiful?

33 Now therefore let Pharaoh look out a man discreet and wise, and set him over the land of Egypt.

       I knew Joseph had something up his sleeve. He was only asked to interpret the dreams but having completed that task, he runs on, advising Pharaoh on what he should do about them. Not surprisingly his advice begins by recommending that Pharaoh appoints a 'wise man' over all Egypt. He's created himself a job. Logically,If Pharaoh takes him seriously, there is only one candidate for this role. All of the wise men of Egypt have proven themselves inadequate,only Joseph could interpret the dreams and therefore, surely only Joseph can fulfill this task.

34 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.

       To Bolster his apparent wisdom, Joseph begins as though he already has been given the job by setting out the plan by which the new appointee should operate. I can't say that it's remarkable wisdom that he's laying down though, storing food in times of plenty should be obvious to anyone.

35 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.

       I'd be surprised if something like this wasn't already happening on a locals scale, Joseph is really just suggesting a centralization and state control over long-term food storage.

36 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.

       It's a good plan. It effectively solves a problem, that may or may not actually exist, that was dreamed up by Joseph who, if he's been effective in this con, will be put in charge of the whole thing.

37 And the thing was good in the eyes of Pharaoh, and in the eyes of all his servants.

       OK, looks like this might just work.

38 And Pharaoh said unto his servants, Can we find such a one as this is, a man in whom the Spirit of God is?

       Wait. Which God? Does Pharaoh worship the same god as Joseph? Is the God of Israel simply one of the Egyptian pantheon?

39 And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, Forasmuch as God hath shewed thee all this, there is none so discreet and wise as thou art:

       Which God? Anyway, looks like Joseph is about to get given the job he created.

40 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.

       Yes, Joseph is given the job which seems now to include the power of the Pharaoh over all of Egypt. Could Pharaoh really be so stupid as to swallow Joseph's story and basically hand over his country? I can't imagine that in his wildest dreams Joseph would have thought that his con would have played out this way.  

41 And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, See, I have set thee over all the land of Egypt.

       OK.

42 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;

       So he's dressing him up like a Pharaoh too.

43 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.

       Yes, we understand that Pharaoh is making Joseph the ruler of Egypt.

44 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.

       Yes, we've got it. Joseph's in charge.

45 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.

       Zaphnathpaaneah? Is that even an Egyptian name or has the author just made this up? As is customary it seems, Joseph is given a wife with absolutely no mention of whether the woman had any say in the matter, in fairness it doesn't mention whether Joseph had a say in the matter either. Could either of these two parties refused the union? All that aside  Joseph's new wife, Asenath's father is a priest of On, is On the god that Pharaoh was referring to when he said Joseph is close to God,or just one of many gods that are seemingly shared trans-culturally?

46 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.

       Right you are. Joseph begins his reign over Egypt.

47 And in the seven plenteous years the earth brought forth by handfuls.

       OK, So just as Joseph foretold there were seven years of plenty. I suppose Joseph actually could make accurate predictions about the future based on the nocturnal excursions of a Pharaoh's mind. Where does that leave the rest of us? Are dreams actually portentous of the future? Was this not a con after all, or is it possible that some creative story-telling is going on?

48 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.

       Joseph oversees the logistically difficult task of moving all of the collected food from the land to the cities.

49 And Joseph gathered corn as the sand of the sea, very much, until he left numbering; for it was without number.

       I doubt he collected as much corn as that. I haven't counted but I'm pretty certain that there is a great deal of sand in the sea.

50 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.

       Joseph now has two sons. I really which I could get some good data out of this narrative to fix these events on the timeline.

51 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.

       OK, The evidence presented by this story does not show the hand (or mind) of any god in the successes of Joseph's life. The narrative presents Joseph as a very successful con-artists, outstripping even the greatest of his ancestors in this skill. Why is Joseph attributing his success to God? I notice also that it only says God here, not the LORD, which god are we talking about? Is it the same god that Pharaoh said was with Joseph? Is it Om? Is it his father, Israel's god, El? How many gods are there and which ones do each of these characters worship?

52 And the name of the second called he Ephraim: For God hath caused me to be fruitful in the land of my affliction.

       Why attribute this to God. Joseph is a self made man, an immoral and deceitful man, but self made none the less. He should be congratulating himself.

53 And the seven years of plenteousness, that was in the land of Egypt, were ended.

       OK.

54 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.

       All lands? Everywhere on the entire planet? Does the continent of America or Australia exist at this time? Were there famines there too? Lucky that Egypt was prepared for it with all the crops collected from the Egyptian farmers. Will Joseph freely distribute all the bread back to those that worked hard for it?

55 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.

       Canny Pharaoh, having delegated his power to Joseph, shirks all responsibility to his people.

56 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.

       Ah, so the famine was over all the face of the earth. That must surely include the Americas and Australia. In any event, why is Joseph selling the Egyptians own food back to them? Didn't they produce it all? Did Joseph pay them for it when he was collecting it up? Are the farmers that gave freely twenty percent of their crop for the last seven years, who don't have the money to buy their crops back condemned to starvation? Who gets to keep all of the profit earned from taking the people's food and selling it back to them? Joseph's scheme was not as it initially appeared a humanitarian effort to feed the nation during a time of famine but rather to mercilessly profit from a global food shortage.

57 And all countries came into Egypt to Joseph for to buy corn; because that the famine was so sore in all lands.

       How exactly did the famine-stricken inhabitants of the Americas or Australia reach Egypt to bargain for their lives?

So what have we learned from this story?


  • Pharaoh and Joseph seem to share a belief in a God who may or may not be the LORD.
  • Joseph is happy to marry the daughter of a priest of a God other than the LORD.
  • Somehow, representatives of every land on the earth were able to get to Egypt to buy food. Perhaps more amazingly the news that Egypt had food to sell got to them in time such that they could then travel to Egypt and back before everyone in their homelands died of starvation.
  • Joseph is an excellent con-man managing to con his way out of jail and into a job he created mid-con, then using that job to charge the inhabitants of Egypt money to get back the food that he took from them and that they, themselves grew in the first place.


Perhaps we'll see what Joseph does with all the money he's made in Genesis 42.

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Genesis 40. The Dream Deciphering Deception

Genesis 40.

1 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.

    The King of Egypt is offended by his baker and his butler. 

2 And Pharaoh was wroth against two of his officers, against the chief of the butlers, and against the chief of the bakers.

    Wait. This king is also called Pharaoh? Is he the same Pharaoh that Abraham swindled? Of course not, but I wish I knew why this narrative persists in using Pharaoh like a proper noun, an idea supported in the previous line where he is referred to as the king of Egypt, distinguishing his title from the word Pharaoh which implies that Pharaoh is his name.

3 And he put them in ward in the house of the captain of the guard, into the prison, the place where Joseph was bound.

    A-ha, I was wondering why we needed to know about Pharaoh's displeasure with his food production and delivery arrangements. It's all coming together now.

4 And the captain of the guard charged Joseph with them, and he served them: and they continued a season in ward.

    OK.

5 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.

    People dream. I imagine after being thrown in prison you might have some pretty bad dreams.
6 And Joseph came in unto them in the morning, and looked upon them, and, behold, they were sad.

    ...

7 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?

    Joseph asks the men why they are sad.
8 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.

    Hmm. While reading Genesis 37 I had wondered why Joseph's brothers thought that dreams were indicators of the future. I still don't know the why of it but I can at least see that the belief is commonplace at this time, even among people from different cultures. If the men were not in prison would they have had a dream interpreter to hand? When did dreams stop being predictors of future events, modern empirical studies have shown that dreams do not serve this function.
Joseph tells the men that God should be the interpreter, but then goes on to ask them to the dreams to him anyway? Does he think he is equal to God in the dream interpreting business?

9 And the chief butler told his dream to Joseph, and said to him, In my dream, behold, a vine was before me;

    ...

10 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:

    ...

11 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.

    It seems that the butler has had a dream pertinent to his former job. No surprise there I guess.

12 And Joseph said unto him, This is the interpretation of it: The three branches are three days:

    What would make him believe that?

13 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.

    I suppose at least this interpretation serves to give the man hope. How is Joseph so confident that he is right? The narrative so far only shows other people interpreting Joseph's dreams and not him interpreting other peoples. What experience of dream interpretation does he have that gives him the idea that he might be able to predict the future based on the machinations of this butler's subconscious mind?

14 But think on me when it shall be well with thee, and shew kindness, I pray thee, unto me, and make mention of me unto Pharaoh, and bring me out of this house:

    Ahh, he's effectively laying a wager against his prediction. If his prediction somehow becomes a reality he is expecting a reward, if it doesn't he's no worse off. Does he have good reason to expect that his prediction will come true?

15 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.

    I'll ask again, If he is innocent and is favoured by God, why is he incarcerated? I'm not certain I'd want the LORD advocating for me in court if this is the outcome. Surely the LORD could have saved Joseph from unwarranted imprisonment if he had wanted to.

16 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:

    These people really hold stock in dream interpretations. The baker, seeing that Joseph gave an optimistic prediction based on the butler's dream and evidently believing that the act of interpretation has set the butler's future in stone, wants a similar outcome for himself and tells Joseph his dream.

17 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.

    ...

18 And Joseph answered and said, This is the interpretation thereof: The three baskets are three days:

    Why is Joseph convinced that the 'three' motif is indicative of days? Does he know that something noteworthy is going to occur in three days?

19 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.

    Oh. The poor baker has been given a rather less encouraging dream interpretation than the butler. Again I am wondering what could possibly make Joseph confident enough in his evaluation of a dream to tell a man that he'll die in a few days. We aren't given any details of the men's sentences. Is it possible that these outcomes are things that Joseph already knows? He is after all their effective jailor having been given the responsibility by the captain of the guard. Has he been given details that he is not sharing?

20 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.
    ...

21 And he restored the chief butler unto his butlership again; and he gave the cup into Pharaoh's hand:

    ...

22 But he hanged the chief baker: as Joseph had interpreted to them.

    Now we see a bit of what's gone on. Everyone in the nation would have been aware that it was Pharaoh's birthday. Three day's prior Joseph would have been entirely safe in predicting a major event would occur. Furthermore, The prison would have been informed in advance that Pharaoh was going to visit and as such Joseph would be able to safely weave Pharaoh into the predictions. Lastly, and this is largely assumption, but if one of the prisoners was to be released and one executed, I find it pretty likely that the captain of the guard would have been informed and from what we know of the trust he gives Joseph, Joseph must surely have known too. Joseph is a fraud. All he has done is attempt to take information that he has about the release of the butler and turn it into some gain for himself by convincing the butler that he was somehow instrumental in his release by magically interpreting his dream and being the bearer of a good omen. This is nothing but a self serving con-job, a method that Joseph's ancestors can attribute most of their success to.

23 Yet did not the chief butler remember Joseph, but forgat him.

    Alas, Joseph's con failed with the butler forgetting to speak up for him. Isn't the LORD supposed to be with this guy?

So What can we make of this tale?

All this story seems to be telling us is that Joseph is an opportunist scam-artist. Two men of high rank are admitted to the prison he is being kept in. They are left in his charge. Knowing their sentences he tries to secure a route to a pardon by fraudulently convincing the man who is going to be released that he, Joseph, is somehow instrumental in the man's good fortune via the 'magical' interpretation of a dream. Ultimately he fails as the man forgets to mention Joseph's 'help' to Pharaoh.

Will Joseph get out of prison in Genesis 41?

Friday, 8 March 2013

Genesis 39. The Dubious Fruits of God's Favour.


Genesis 39.

1 And Joseph was brought down to Egypt; and Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, captain of the guard, an Egyptian, bought him of the hands of the Ishmeelites, which had brought him down thither.

Oh good. We are back with Joseph who has just been sold to an Egyptian captain.

2 And the LORD was with Joseph, and he was a prosperous man; and he was in the house of his master the Egyptian.

A prosperous man? Really? If being a slave of any nature is the LORD's idea of prosperity then there's something wrong here.

3 And his master saw that the LORD was with him, and that the LORD made all that he did to prosper in his hand.

Did his master have a belief in the LORD too?

4 And Joseph found grace in his sight, and he served him: and he made him overseer over his house, and all that he had he put into his hand.

So the LORD's favour grants Joseph the job of housekeeper. His power truly know's no bounds.

5 And it came to pass from the time that he had made him overseer in his house, and over all that he had, that the LORD blessed the Egyptian's house for Joseph's sake; and the blessing of the LORD was upon all that he had in the house, and in the field.

Slavery is really OK then? The LORD rewards the slave owner because he favours the slave? I think if I were a slave and had the favour of an all powerful being, I'd expect that being to destroy my owner and set me free, not heap blessings upon him.

6 And he left all that he had in Joseph's hand; and he knew not ought he had, save the bread which he did eat. And Joseph was a goodly person, and well favoured.

OK.

7 And it came to pass after these things, that his master's wife cast her eyes upon Joseph; and she said, Lie with me.

Potiphar's wife tries to seduce Joseph, I say seduce, really she explicitly asks for sex. 

8 But he refused, and said unto his master's wife, Behold, my master wotteth not what is with me in the house, and he hath committed all that he hath to my hand;

Perhaps if she'd been a bit more subtle he might have gone for it. Either way Joseph sticks with his principles. He is determined to be a good slave. This to me reads something like Stockholm syndrome, Joseph is absolutely dedicated to being subjugated. Is there some link between believing in an all powerful entity and believing that someone else has the right to enslave you and that when they do it is your duty to submit entirely to their will. What exactly legitimizes Potiphar's right to own Joseph? What compels Joseph to afford Potiphar any loyalty?

9 There is none greater in this house than I; neither hath he kept back any thing from me but thee, because thou art his wife: how then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?

Who is 'God' in this statement? The LORD or Potiphar? It is clear to see how Potiphar might be injured by Joseph getting it on with his wife but what injury would be dealt to the LORD? I suppose there is precedent for the LORD taking revenge on people ploughing other men's wives but in those cases the perpetrator was tricked into it and the LORD acted unjustly. Is Joseph motivated more by fear of the LORD than a sense of moral rectitude?

10 And it came to pass, as she spake to Joseph day by day, that he hearkened not unto her, to lie by her, or to be with her.

Such persistence. Is she not getting any from Potiphar?

11 And it came to pass about this time, that Joseph went into the house to do his business; and there was none of the men of the house there within.

OK.

12 And she caught him by his garment, saying, Lie with me: and he left his garment in her hand, and fled, and got him out.

This is the kind of thing that usually only happens in comedy but ok, he gives her the slip by shedding his clothes and running out naked. I'm not certain that this was necessary, surely the best way to avoid putting his penis inside of her would have been to keep his clothes on.

13 And it came to pass, when she saw that he had left his garment in her hand, and was fled forth,

...

14 That she called unto the men of her house, and spake unto them, saying, See, he hath brought in an Hebrew unto us to mock us; he came in unto me to lie with me, and I cried with a loud voice:

Was she still dressed at this point and did anyone hear her cry out? I'm not sure that her story is very believable. 

15 And it came to pass, when he heard that I lifted up my voice and cried, that he left his garment with me, and fled, and got him out.

Again, did anyone hear this cry?

16 And she laid up his garment by her, until his lord came home.

Let's see what Potiphar says.

17 And she spake unto him according to these words, saying, The Hebrew servant, which thou hast brought unto us, came in unto me to mock me:

Is mock the right word? I've never had sex with anyone in order to mock them but I can't rule it out as a motivation for some people I guess.

18 And it came to pass, as I lifted up my voice and cried, that he left his garment with me, and fled out.

Did anyone hear her cry? Why isn't this addressed?

19 And it came to pass, when his master heard the words of his wife, which she spake unto him, saying, After this manner did thy servant to me; that his wrath was kindled.

I'm guessing that since Pitiphar so favours Joseph and has entrusted his entire household to him that even in anger he'll have a reasoned discussion about the whole thing. I'm sure he'll want to hear Joseph's side of the story.

20 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.

What was I thinking? Of course he isn't going to act fairly toward Joseph as despite all of the appearance of trust, Joseph is actually just a slave, a position the LORD is evidently happy with.

21 But the LORD was with Joseph, and shewed him mercy, and gave him favour in the sight of the keeper of the prison.

No! if the LORD is all powerful and was truly 'with' Joseph, he'd have gotten him a fair trial, Joseph committed no crime. What kind of an all-powerful being lets an innocent man go to prison for committing no crime, especially since the very same lord is capable of killing a man for ejaculating on the floor? Where's the Justice? Where's the consistency, What is this LORD's agenda?

22 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.

So Joseph has a cushy time in prison. So what? He's still in prison for no reason having been property of another human for a number of years. How can anyone claim that this man is in any way blessed by anything?

23 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.

I don't know what this author is trying to sell but I'm not buying it.

What have we learned?

Well... Here's a list of things the LORD will allow to happen to a man that he supposedly favours:-


  • He'll let the man's brothers sell him into slavery
  • He'll let the man continue in slavery for years and heap blessings on the slave master.
  • He'll make the man through fear show respect and loyalty to the slave master.
  • He'll allow the man to be accused of something he didn't do and not compell the slave master to give him a fair hearing.
  • He'll allow the man to spend time in prison for a crime he didn't commit.
  • Worst of all, during all of these things he'll somehow convince the man that the LORD is with him and that he is blessed.


What blessing will he bestow upon him next? On to Genesis 40.

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Genesis 38. Intermission: Taming Tamar.


Genesis 38.

1 And it came to pass at that time, that Judah went down from his brethren, and turned in to a certain Adullamite, whose name was Hirah.

That's great and all, I'm sure meeting Hirah was a high point for Judah, but I want to know what's happening to Joseph.

2 And Judah saw there a daughter of a certain Canaanite, whose name was Shuah; and he took her, and went in unto her.

What? No wedding? Is Jacob/Israel the only man to have had to not only pay for his brides but also go through a ceremony? Has marriage reverted to the sex act alone? It makes you wonder if the whole seven years work per bride thing was just a plot device to further Jacob's story. Was it actually necessary for Jacob to pay for his wives with labour or could he have just taken them as everyone else seems to? Also... Is marrying Canaanite women OK now? His great grandfather would not have approved.

3 And she conceived, and bare a son; and he called his name Er.

Way to go Judah, that's a nice hit-rate. One bang, one baby! Welcome Er! At this point I have no data to accurately place your birth on a timeline.

4 And she conceived again, and bare a son; and she called his name Onan.

One letter away from Conan! We almost had a character who's life was worth chronicling. Oh well.

5 And she yet again conceived, and bare a son; and called his name Shelah: and he was at Chezib, when she bare him.

At Chizeb you say? Is this detail significant?

6 And Judah took a wife for Er his firstborn, whose name was Tamar.

Is the verb 'to take' in this verse meant in the same euphemistic sense as it is when others in this book have 'taken' wives? If so, surely it was Er's job to do the taking. How kind of Judah to perform this 'service' for his son. How old is Er at this point anyway?

7 And Er, Judah's firstborn, was wicked in the sight of the LORD; and the LORD slew him.

Oh? Looks like Er's age when his father took a wife for him is irrelevant. the LORD has arbitrarily decided to slay him. Did the LORD do the slaying in person? It seems to me that there is very little detail for what I would call an important event. What did Er do to deserve being slayed by the LORD? There have been many 'wicked' deeds performed by men in this narrative and besides the flooding and the Sodom/Gomorrah incident the LORD seems to have refrained from slaying anyone. What was so wicked about ER that he required the LORD's individual attention?

8 And Judah said unto Onan, Go in unto thy brother's wife, and marry her, and raise up seed to thy brother.

I see we aren't going to find out what ER's crimes were, perhaps this is yet another lazy plot device. Anyhow, Judah instructs Onan to copulate his brother's wife and to marry her... In that order. Nothing is said of any consultation with Tamar. Did she agree to the union?

9 And Onan knew that the seed should not be his; and it came to pass, when he went in unto his brother's wife, that he spilled it on the ground, lest that he should give seed to his brother.

Hmm. Onan, having apparently seen no problem with boinking his dead brother's wife decides that he doesn't want to fall foul of the curious custom such that his child by her (should he produce one) would actually be counted as Er's child, as such he decides to whip it out and spray his load on the ground. Couldn't the filthy bugger he have used a tissue? Some cloth maybe?

10 And the thing which he did displeased the LORD: wherefore he slew him also.

Uh-oh, it appears that young Onan's desire to not further his brother's line (which is a biologically dubious tradition. One could argue until one was blue in the face that if Tamar were to conceive by Onan that it would be Er's child, but one would be wrong, and if one argued that it would be Er's child in God's eyes then the God they refer to has a very shaky grasp on how the reproductive process works) was in error to the extent that not leaving a deposit in his dead brother's wife gets him executed by the LORD.

11 Then said Judah to Tamar his daughter in law, Remain a widow at thy father's house, till Shelah my son be grown: for he said, Lest peradventure he die also, as his brethren did. And Tamar went and dwelt in her father's house.

So having had two of his sons die after boinking Tamar, Judah wants her to stick around and wait for his youngest son to grow old enough to boink her too. What does this guy want? No sons? Is anyone starting to think that something might be wrong with Tamar, some desease perhaps? Could the whole slaying LORD thing be a fabrication to explain the deaths of two healthy young men that both slept with a desease-ridden woman? What seems particularly ironic is that Judah is actually afraid his son might die but hasn't made the connection.

12 And in process of time the daughter of Shuah Judah's wife died; and Judah was comforted, and went up unto his sheepshearers to Timnath, he and his friend Hirah the Adullamite.

Why have we never been told the name of Judah's wife? Oh well, she's dead now. Somehow he was comforted, presumably by taking an excursion to his sheepshearer with his good chum Hirah.

13 And it was told Tamar, saying, Behold thy father in law goeth up to Timnath to shear his sheep.

Ok. She had to know I guess.

14 And she put her widow's garments off from her, and covered her with a vail, and wrapped herself, and sat in an open place, which is by the way to Timnath; for she saw that Shelah was grown, and she was not given unto him to wife.

Having waited for Shalah to become a man, which presumably he has now become, and having not been wed to him as promised by Judah, Tamar decides that it is time to stop mourning, wrap herself up in the garb of a prostitute and sit at  the side of the road. I'm guessing she's pretty desperate for some man-meat. Surely there's a better way like perhaps going and finding another husband or maybe even flirting with Shalah?

15 When Judah saw her, he thought her to be an harlot; because she had covered her face.

As you do.

16 And he turned unto her by the way, and said, Go to, I pray thee, let me come in unto thee; (for he knew not that she was his daughter in law.) And she said, What wilt thou give me, that thou mayest come in unto me?

Judah, having quite a progressive attitude, decides to contract the services of a prostitute, his wife is dead after all. Alas he doesn't realise that this is Tamar he's talking to because her face is covered, presumably she's also disguising her voice and intends to keep her head covered during the whole 'transaction'.

17 And he said, I will send thee a kid from the flock. And she said, Wilt thou give me a pledge, till thou send it?

He offers some livestock, she accepts but wants a deposit.

18 And he said, What pledge shall I give thee? And she said, Thy signet, and thy bracelets, and thy staff that is in thine hand. And he gave it her, and came in unto her, and she conceived by him.

Were people (with the notable exception of those Abraham's wife Sarah) really that fertile such that every sexual encounter ends in pregnancy? It's an amazing hit-rate, I can only imagine the population growth rate if people conceived every time they had unprotected sex in the manner described in this book.

19 And she arose, and went away, and laid by her vail from her, and put on the garments of her widowhood.

Pregnancy achieved; prostitution over. I'm impressed by the goal-oriented approach of this woman, she wasn't lured into a continued life of prostitution by the glamour and wealth that the livestock-wages could provide her. 

20 And Judah sent the kid by the hand of his friend the Adullamite, to receive his pledge from the woman's hand: but he found her not.

Oh no. How does Judah get his deposit back now?

21 Then he asked the men of that place, saying, Where is the harlot, that was openly by the way side? And they said, There was no harlot in this place.

This must have been a very specific and tactical whoring operation, she was only by the way side just long enough to ensnare her mark and completely avoided being noticed by anyone else.

22 And he returned to Judah, and said, I cannot find her; and also the men of the place said, that there was no harlot in this place.

Not what Judah wanted to hear.

23 And Judah said, Let her take it to her, lest we be shamed: behold, I sent this kid, and thou hast not found her.

Is there societal shame at not paying a prostitute during this period? Is prostitution an accepted profession? It is, after all, spoken about quite candidly here.

24 And it came to pass about three months after, that it was told Judah, saying, Tamar thy daughter in law hath played the harlot; and also, behold, she is with child by whoredom. And Judah said, Bring her forth, and let her be burnt.

Oh wait. perhaps it is not acceptable, I'm having some difficulty though. It was ok for Judah to hire a whore, it is even considered shameful to stiff her for the fare, but upon hearing that Tamar has been impregnated in whoredom, he demands her burned? What specifically was the problem here? It doesn't seem to be prostitution as a concept as Judah was a willing participant in that, so maybe it's the act of getting pregnant while whoring, but since there are no good ways to prevent pregnancy during this period, as almost every bang begets a baby and spilling the sperm on the ground gets you offed by the LORD, I don't see how a prostitute could be blamed for this outcome and even if she could, why would the responsibility lay solely with the woman. Should Judah not be burned for impregnating a whore? Perhaps the crime was pretending to be a whore. Maybe there is some licensing issue we are unaware of and she should be burned for the practice of unlicensed hooking. Perhaps she neglected to pay her whore tax? It is at best unclear however I suspect some hypocrisy is involved.

25 When she was brought forth, she sent to her father in law, saying, By the man, whose these are, am I with child: and she said, Discern, I pray thee, whose are these, the signet, and bracelets, and staff.

Does she not know who she sold her services to? Surely it was only Tamar that was disguised.

26 And Judah acknowledged them, and said, She hath been more righteous than I; because that I gave her not to Shelah my son. And he knew her again no more.

So... Judah realizes he's been caught. His family now know that he solicits whores, so in his embarrassment, he changes from anger to proclaiming the  righteousness of Tamar's actions hoping to deflect attention from his own. Oh, and for some reason it needs to be said that he doesn't screw her again after that. Was he planning to? is this suggesting he knew it was Tamar he had solicited for sex? It never says that Er 'knew' his wife and it was Judah that did the taking. Has Judah been banging Tamar all along?

27 And it came to pass in the time of her travail, that, behold, twins were in her womb.

Good, good.

28 And it came to pass, when she travailed, that the one put out his hand: and the midwife took and bound upon his hand a scarlet thread, saying, This came out first.

Did the author of this abomination ever witness a birth? Babies do not come out hand first! If they were to, midwives are more concerned with completing the birthing process than interrupting the whole thing to tie strings to as yet unborn babies. Why are we expected to swallow this?

29 And it came to pass, as he drew back his hand, that, behold, his brother came out: and she said, How hast thou broken forth? this breach be upon thee: therefore his name was called Pharez.

Wait, so the baby pulled his arm back inside his mother while she was pushing? This is utter biological nonsense  The narrative goes on to say that the first twin out was supposed to be second which will probably lead to claims of birthrights being stolen or some such nonsense.

30 And afterward came out his brother, that had the scarlet thread upon his hand: and his name was called Zarah.

Congratulations Tamar. You finally have some children.

So what was this chapter all about?

I can honestly say that I was expecting to learn more about Joseph and his time in Egypt from this chapter but instead we have this bizarre intermission where the only mention of God is as a killer, firstly of a chap he didn't like for some reason and secondly to punish that chap's brother for failing to impregnate his dead brother's widow (although it might actually have been that God was offended by the mess made when Onan sprayed his baby-batter all over the floor).

So I'm not sure what the implications of this chapter are. Judah, the patriarch in this little vignette was the ring-leader in the scheme to sell Joseph his brother into slavery, yet God does nothing to punish him. On the other hand God kill's Er and Onan for practically nothing. Is God's judgement arbitrary?

There is no statement of the morality of prostitution. Judah says that Tamar tricking him into paying to fuck her is a righteous act, but then he also sold his brother into slavery and God surprisingly has nothing to say on the subject.

The gross misunderstanding of the birthing procedure leads me, along with similar problems in other chapters, to believe that the author has no experience of anything he is writing about.

Anyway...

Lets find out what happened to Joseph, Onward to Genesis 39.

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Genesis 37. What's many colours and red all over?


Genesis 37.

1 And Jacob dwelt in the land wherein his father was a stranger, in the land of Canaan.

We are back with Jacob's family, evidently the last chapter was all we'll ever need to know about the descendants of Esau. Why are we still calling Jacob Jacob? Should we not be calling him Israel?

2 These are the generations of Jacob. Joseph, being seventeen years old, was feeding the flock with his brethren; and the lad was with the sons of Bilhah, and with the sons of Zilpah, his father's wives: and Joseph brought unto his father their evil report.

They have an evil report? It seems we are acknowledging Bilhah and Zilpah as Jacob's wives now and not just slaves he made pregnant. When were the weddings?

3 Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his children, because he was the son of his old age: and he made him a coat of many colours.

Oh! We are calling him Israel now. Was Joseph really conceived in Israel's old age? Joseph was born before Israel left Laban's land. Did he stay with Laban all that long? Isn't Benjamin and not Joseph the youngest of Israel's sons?

4 And when his brethren saw that their father loved him more than all his brethren, they hated him, and could not speak peaceably unto him.

They are a jealous bunch these, the inheritors of Abraham's promise. Why does The LORD favour them?

5 And Joseph dreamed a dream, and he told it his brethren: and they hated him yet the more.

Hated as the reaction to a dream? Is that a bit disproportionate?

6 And he said unto them, Hear, I pray you, this dream which I have dreamed:

Let's hear the dream...

7 For, behold, we were binding sheaves in the field, and, lo, my sheaf arose, and also stood upright; and, behold, your sheaves stood round about, and made obeisance to my sheaf.

OK... In a remarkably surreal dream, Joseph's bundle of hay rises as ruler of his brothers' bundles. I'll admit it's odd but surely no-one thinks it means anything...

8 And his brethren said to him, Shalt thou indeed reign over us? or shalt thou indeed have dominion over us? And they hated him yet the more for his dreams, and for his words.

My mistake, being the dream believing sons of Israel they jump to the conclusion that because Joseph had a dream about the respective positions of bundled crops that somehow they are destined to be subservient to him. Am I the only one that cannot exactly follow their line of thinking? 

9 And he dreamed yet another dream, and told it his brethren, and said, Behold, I have dreamed a dream more; and, behold, the sun and the moon and the eleven stars made obeisance to me.

I'd say that he'd be wise to ignore dreams where celestial bodies are anthropomorphised, that aside though, are there only eleven stars existing at this time? So in Genesis 26. when God promised to multiply Isaac's seed as the stars in the heavens, did he mean he'd multiply them eleven times? That's not very much. 

10 And he told it to his father, and to his brethren: and his father rebuked him, and said unto him, What is this dream that thou hast dreamed? Shall I and thy mother and thy brethren indeed come to bow down ourselves to thee to the earth?

Why does Israel also assign undue significance to the surreal dreams of his son?

11 And his brethren envied him; but his father observed the saying.

Right you are. This is pretty odd behaviour though, even for these descendants of Abraham.

12 And his brethren went to feed their father's flock in Shechem.

I hope they didn't offend the ruling hay sheaf by feeding it's subjects to the flock.

13 And Israel said unto Joseph, Do not thy brethren feed the flock in Shechem? come, and I will send thee unto them. And he said to him, Here am I.

OK.

14 And he said to him, Go, I pray thee, see whether it be well with thy brethren, and well with the flocks; and bring me word again. So he sent him out of the vale of Hebron, and he came to Shechem.

Israel is concerned that Joseph's brothers might be angry with him for involuntarily dreaming about the activities of the sun, the moon, the stars and  some cereal crops.

15 And a certain man found him, and, behold, he was wandering in the field: and the man asked him, saying, What seekest thou?

Do we know who this man is?

16 And he said, I seek my brethren: tell me, I pray thee, where they feed their flocks.

Why does Joseph think this man would know where his brothers are? For that matter is there a reason that Joseph thinks this man would even know what they look like?

17 And the man said, They are departed hence; for I heard them say, Let us go to Dothan. And Joseph went after his brethren, and found them in Dothan.

Turns out he knew. Who was this man?

18 And when they saw him afar off, even before he came near unto them, they conspired against him to slay him.

Because he had a dream? Seriously? What is wrong with these people?

19 And they said one to another, Behold, this dreamer cometh.

This Dreamer? Do they not also dream?

20 Come now therefore, and let us slay him, and cast him into some pit, and we will say, Some evil beast hath devoured him: and we shall see what will become of his dreams.

I still don't quite understand why they believe Joseph's dreams to be prophetic. There doesn't appear to be any precedent set in the narrative that would indicate that a dream that might tangentially be interpreted as a prophesy is likely to bring about the undreamed, arbitrarily concocted events of the interpretation. 

21 And Reuben heard it, and he delivered him out of their hands; and said, Let us not kill him.

Reuben for some reason is less inclined to murder Joseph over a couple of dreams than his brothers.

22 And Reuben said unto them, Shed no blood, but cast him into this pit that is in the wilderness, and lay no hand upon him; that he might rid him out of their hands, to deliver him to his father again.

He still wants to throw him in a pit though.

23 And it came to pass, when Joseph was come unto his brethren, that they stript Joseph out of his coat, his coat of many colours that was on him;

So they steal his coat...

24 And they took him, and cast him into a pit: and the pit was empty, there was no water in it.

...and throw him in a pit. Luckily for Joseph it was a dry pit.

25 And they sat down to eat bread: and they lifted up their eyes and looked, and, behold, a company of Ishmeelites came from Gilead with their camels bearing spicery and balm and myrrh, going to carry it down to Egypt.

Having condemned their brother to death in a pit, the brothers take a light lunch. Nice guys.

26 And Judah said unto his brethren, What profit is it if we slay our brother, and conceal his blood?

Forgetting that the reason that they have condemned their brother to death is so that the events that they imagined his unspecific dreams might possibly have foretold don't come to pass, they begin to wonder if they can make some extra profit from him that killing him alone would not afford them. 

27 Come, and let us sell him to the Ishmeelites, and let not our hand be upon him; for he is our brother and our flesh. And his brethren were content.

Right, so they are going to sell Joseph. One wonders if this whole retribution for a pretty vague pair of dreams thing isn't just some sort of excuse used to justify (poorly) the selling of their brother in some odd attempt to allay their guilt.

28 Then there passed by Midianites merchantmen; and they drew and lifted up Joseph out of the pit, and sold Joseph to the Ishmeelites for twenty pieces of silver: and they brought Joseph into Egypt.

I'm sure his value is relevant however I have no way of evaluating of 20 pieces of silver is considered a lot of a little.

29 And Reuben returned unto the pit; and, behold, Joseph was not in the pit; and he rent his clothes.

Like Hulk Hogan (Late 20th and early 21st Century professional wrestler)? I have never been so emotionally moved as to tear my clothes off, Nor have I ever seen any one so moved (with the exception of Hulk Hogan's theatrics). Is the destruction of clothing a common demonstration of emotional state at this time? Did Reuben walk home naked?

30 And he returned unto his brethren, and said, The child is not; and I, whither shall I go?

Child? I suppose a seventeen year old could be called a child. His brothers are undoubtedly in their twenties and thirties which in my opinion makes their actions all the more petty, these are not hot-headed teenagers.

31 And they took Joseph's coat, and killed a kid of the goats, and dipped the coat in the blood;

The crime of selling their younger brother is not enough, They now plan to engage in deception.

32 And they sent the coat of many colours, and they brought it to their father; and said, This have we found: know now whether it be thy son's coat or no.

The 'Brothers Israel' try to convince their father that the goat blood is in-fact Joseph's.

33 And he knew it, and said, It is my son's coat; an evil beast hath devoured him; Joseph is without doubt rent in pieces.

They succeed.

34 And Jacob rent his clothes, and put sackcloth upon his loins, and mourned for his son many days.

OK... I understand that one might be so upset as to tear one's clothes off, but to then replace them with sackcloth-underpants is just odd. 

35 And all his sons and all his daughters rose up to comfort him; but he refused to be comforted; and he said, For I will go down into the grave unto my son mourning. Thus his father wept for him.

Even after seeing their father reduced to a weeping sack-pants-wearing wreck, the 'Brothers Isreal' maintain their deception and try to comfort his mourning rather than confess.

36 And the Midianites sold him into Egypt unto Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh's, and captain of the guard.

I wonder if they turned a profit.


So this is the beginning of a story that is familiar to many and has been popularized as a piece of musical theatre. SO what can we glean from this rendition?



  • The adult children of Jacob/Israel are are moved to kill their brother on account of a gaudy coat and a couple of dreams. These do not seem like mentally balanced people.
  • The descendants of Abraham engage freely in slavery.
  • Israel is gullible enough not to attempt to investigate the alleged death of his favoured son but instead to mope around sack-clad, taking a bloody coat as proof absolute.


Onward to Genesis 38. for more about Joseph.

Monday, 17 December 2012

Genesis 36. Where's the detail?

Genesis 36.

1 Now these are the generations of Esau, who is Edom.
    Esau is also called Edom? OK, I wonder if he had to wrestle with The LORD to get that name.

2 Esau took his wives of the daughters of Canaan; Adah the daughter of Elon the Hittite, and Aholibamah the daughter of Anah the daughter of Zibeon the Hivite;

    He had racially diverse wives.

3 And Bashemath Ishmael's daughter, sister of Nebajoth.

    One of which is his great-uncle's daughter, which is actually quite far removed in a familial sense for marriages at this time. Jacob married from his first cousins, Isaac the same, and Abraham married his sister. In this regard I'd say Esau is quite progressive.

4 And Adah bare to Esau Eliphaz; and Bashemath bare Reuel;

    No dates! was record keeping not important to these people?

5 And Aholibamah bare Jeush, and Jaalam, and Korah: these are the sons of Esau, which were born unto him in the land of Canaan.

    Esau has five sons, while in Canaan.

6 And Esau took his wives, and his sons, and his daughters, and all the persons of his house, and his cattle, and all his beasts, and all his substance, which he had got in the land of Canaan; and went into the country from the face of his brother Jacob.

    They never really got on did they?

7 For their riches were more than that they might dwell together; and the land wherein they were strangers could not bear them because of their cattle.

    This happened to Abraham and his nephew, these people really seem to have problems with living harmoniously with each other.

8 Thus dwelt Esau in mount Seir: Esau is Edom.

    OK. We understand. Esau is Edom! is this important?

9 And these are the generations of Esau the father of the Edomites in mount Seir:

    Oh! I see, we are told repeatedly that Esau is Edom so that we can more easily associate the Edomites with their ancestor.

10 These are the names of Esau's sons; Eliphaz the son of Adah the wife of Esau, Reuel the son of Bashemath the wife of Esau.

    As stated above.

11 And the sons of Eliphaz were Teman, Omar, Zepho, and Gatam, and Kenaz.

    I really wish there were dates or something I could date these events by. Perhaps I ought to put together a family tree.

12 And Timna was concubine to Eliphaz Esau's son; and she bare to Eliphaz Amalek: these were the sons of Adah Esau's wife.

    OK.

13 And these are the sons of Reuel; Nahath, and Zerah, Shammah, and Mizzah: these were the sons of Bashemath Esau's wife.

    I really don't have any comments as may be the case for much of this chapter.
14 And these were the sons of Aholibamah, the daughter of Anah the daughter of Zibeon, Esau's wife: and she bare to Esau Jeush, and Jaalam, and Korah.

    ...

15 These were dukes of the sons of Esau: the sons of Eliphaz the firstborn son of Esau; duke Teman, duke Omar, duke Zepho, duke Kenaz,

    ...

16 Duke Korah, duke Gatam, and duke Amalek: these are the dukes that came of Eliphaz in the land of Edom; these were the sons of Adah.

    What makes them dukes?

17 And these are the sons of Reuel Esau's son; duke Nahath, duke Zerah, duke Shammah, duke Mizzah: these are the dukes that came of Reuel in the land of Edom; these are the sons of Bashemath Esau's wife.

    OK. More dukes.

18 And these are the sons of Aholibamah Esau's wife; duke Jeush, duke Jaalam, duke Korah: these were the dukes that came of Aholibamah the daughter of Anah, Esau's wife.

    ...

19 These are the sons of Esau, who is Edom, and these are their dukes.

    I have the feeling that we are setting up an Edomite empire, what do each of these dukes rule over.

20 These are the sons of Seir the Horite, who inhabited the land; Lotan, and Shobal, and Zibeon, and Anah,

    ...

21 And Dishon, and Ezer, and Dishan: these are the dukes of the Horites, the children of Seir in the land of Edom.
    ...

22 And the children of Lotan were Hori and Hemam; and Lotan's sister was Timna.

    ...

23 And the children of Shobal were these; Alvan, and Manahath, and Ebal, Shepho, and Onam.

    ...

24 And these are the children of Zibeon; both Ajah, and Anah: this was that Anah that found the mules in the wilderness, as he fed the asses of Zibeon his father.

    A bit of info about Anah, This line reads like I should already know the story about Anah and the mules, although given that this chapter is introducing these characters, I don't see how I could. I wonder if this story will crop up later.
25 And the children of Anah were these; Dishon, and Aholibamah the daughter of Anah.

    Name recycling? I suppose it had to happen eventually.
26 And these are the children of Dishon; Hemdan, and Eshban, and Ithran, and Cheran.

    ...

27 The children of Ezer are these; Bilhan, and Zaavan, and Akan.

    ...

28 The children of Dishan are these; Uz, and Aran.
    ...

29 These are the dukes that came of the Horites; duke Lotan, duke Shobal, duke Zibeon, duke Anah,

    More dukes.

30 Duke Dishon, duke Ezer, duke Dishan: these are the dukes that came of Hori, among their dukes in the land of Seir.

    Even more dukes.

31 And these are the kings that reigned in the land of Edom, before there reigned any king over the children of Israel.

    Ah. OK. So what we have established is that Esau's children set up kingdoms and proper hierarchical structures generations before the children of Jacob managed to get their act together. They are living in the lands promised to Jacob's seed too, it must seem like The LORD has backed out of his promise.
32 And Bela the son of Beor reigned in Edom: and the name of his city was Dinhabah.

    All hail Bela!

33 And Bela died, and Jobab the son of Zerah of Bozrah reigned in his stead.

    Bela is dead! All hail Jobab!

34 And Jobab died, and Husham of the land of Temani reigned in his stead.

    Jobab is dead! All hail Husham!

35 And Husham died, and Hadad the son of Bedad, who smote Midian in the field of Moab, reigned in his stead: and the name of his city was Avith.

    Husham is dead! All hail Hadad!

36 And Hadad died, and Samlah of Masrekah reigned in his stead.

    Hadad is dead! All hail Samlah!
37 And Samlah died, and Saul of Rehoboth by the river reigned in his stead.

    Samlah is Dead! All hail Saul! Anyone bored yet? don't worry, not far to go.

38 And Saul died, and Baalhanan the son of Achbor reigned in his stead.

    Saul is dead! All hail Baalhanan! I notice that there is no hereditary line of kings here, also that each king is from a separate city. Are all of these successions by conquest?

39 And Baalhanan the son of Achbor died, and Hadar reigned in his stead: and the name of his city was Pau; and his wife's name was Mehetabel, the daughter of Matred, the daughter of Mezahab.

    Baalhanan is dead! All hail Hadar! Do we know of Matred or Mezahab, I get the feeling we are supposed to but they have not yet been mentioned in the text. Are there some stories missing from Genesis?

40 And these are the names of the dukes that came of Esau, according to their families, after their places, by their names; duke Timnah, duke Alvah, duke Jetheth,

    OK, More dukes. Are any of them rulers of Edom? it doesn't say.

41 Duke Aholibamah, duke Elah, duke Pinon,
    ...More dukes...

42 Duke Kenaz, duke Teman, duke Mibzar,

    ...and yet more dukes...

43 Duke Magdiel, duke Iram: these be the dukes of Edom, according to their habitations in the land of their possession: he is Esau the father of the Edomites.

    He is indeed!

So a pretty dry chapter, has anything useful come of it?

Aside from the knowledge that Esau's progeny set up hierarchical nations before Jacob's progeny, we've learned pretty much nothing of value. There are a lot of nods to stories we aren't privy to and seemingly important lists of kings however the stories remain unknown and there are no data about the kings apart from their names.

This has been a thoroughly pointless chapter. Sorry Esau, I have nothing against your progeny it's just that the detail is lacking.

Let's hope Genesis 37. has something useful.

Book Index

GENESIS

| 1| 2| 3| 4| 5| 6| 7| 8| 9|10|
|11|12|13|14|15|16|17|18|19|20|
|21|22|23|24|25|26|27|28|29|30|
|31|32|33|34|35|36|37|38|39|40|
|41|42|

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