Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain

Genesis 44

Joseph tells his steward to fill his brothers bags with as much food as they can carry, and also to put their money in the mouth of their bags. He also had his silver goblet placed in the mouth of his youngest brother’s bag. The brothers leave at dawn, but not long after, Joseph sends his men after them to accuse them of stealing. The brothers did not believe that they were being accused of stealing, but the goblet was found in the youngest brothers bag. All of the brothers returned to Joseph’s house.

“How could you do such a thing?” Joseph asked them. “Did you not know that such a man as I could discern by divination what happened?”

Joseph requests that the youngest brother become his slave as punishment. Judah then stepped forward to explain the situation regarding him taking the place of the youngest brother, so as to spare their father the pain of losing him.

In this chapter, Joseph claims to have powers of divination, and that this is how he came to the knowledge of the stolen goblet. However we the reader know that this is a lie, that the goblet was planted. This is very, very dishonest. Not only that, but this is abusing people’s beliefs for his own personal gain. This is the kind of thing that angers me very much, because people are so easily fooled by suck trickery. What astounds me is that this chapter directly shows one way in which charlatans deceive their marks, and yet people go on believing others who engage in similar behavior.

This also provides a clear example of a larger concept that informs my skepticism. That you cannot suppose a supernatural phenomena until all natural phenomena have been ruled out. In this particular circumstance, the idea that Joseph divined the knowledge that the brothers stole his cup is a supernatural phenomena. This should not be trusted, but because the brothers have a belief system that allows for this, even with out evidence, they accept the claim. Not only that, but they truly should have suspected trickery when the presence of the cup was an utter surprise to all of them. Don’t they know that they did not pack their own bags?

Lessons I Learned:

  • Don’t trust those who claim to have supernatural power.

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