Joseph and his generation are no more, and the Israelite people have multiplied in number while remaining in Egypt. A new king has come into power who does not know about Joseph and his service to the pharaoh of his time. The king feels threatened by the presence and number of the Israelites in Egypt, and plots to stop their increase in number. The first thing he did was set the to slavery, forcing upon them hard and difficult manual labor. He then commands the Egyptian midwives to kill any male children born to the Israelites. The midwives did not follow this command though, as they feared God. Pharaoh then commanded all his people to throw any male child born to be thrown into the Nile. Continue reading
Jacob is dead. It takes 40 days to embalm him. He is mourned for 70 days by the Egyptians, and then is taken to his chosen burial place. Funeral rites are held, and Joseph mourns his father for 7 more days. Upon his return to Egypt, his brothers fear he will seek out retribution for them trying to kill him. They lie and say it was their fathers dying wish that Joseph forgive them.
But Joseph replied to them: “Do not fear. Can I take the place of God? Even though you meant harm to me, God meant it for good, to achieve this present end, the survival of many people. So now, do not fear. I will provide for you and for your children.” By thus speaking kindly to them, he reassured them. (Genesis 50:19-21)
Joseph dies at the end of the chapter, and is buried in a coffin in Egypt. Continue reading
Jacob is on his deathbed, and calls his sons to gather so that he can tell them what is going to happen to them after he dies. This is presented in dense poetry, so I’ll do my best to distill it here.
- Rueben: will no longer excel as he once did in rank and power.
- Simeon and Levi: condemned for their violence and fury. Told that they will be scattered and dispersed amongst the land of Israel.
- Judah: will receive the praise of his brothers, he won’t stop until he has taken control of the people.
- Zebulun: will live by the ocean, and will be “a haven for ships.”
- Issachar: is a toiling serf.
- Dan: Will achieve justice for his people.
- Gad: will become a raider.
- Asher: will produce rich fruit for kings.
- Naphtali: will produce lovely fawns.
- Joseph: receives many blessings and is called a prince among his brothers.
- Benjamin: called a ravenous wolf.
Jacob asks to be buried in the same cave as Abraham, Isaac, Sarah, Rebekah, and Leah. At the end of the chapter, Jacob takes his last breath.
The sons listed here are the fathers of the traditional twelve tribes of Israel. I don’t really have much for this one, it seems to mainly just be foreshadowing and moving the story along. I will say that I do like the apparent condemning of the violence of Simeon and Levi.
Jacob/Israel is dying. Joseph goes to visit, bringing along his two sons. Jacob tells Joseph of the promise God made to him of land and descendants. Jacob then asks for Joseph to bring him his two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, so that he may bless them and accept them into his lineage. With his blessing, Jacob made it known that the younger boy, Ephraim, would become greater than his older brother.
I find it interesting that Ephraim and Manasseh were able to hear which of the two of them was expected to do better. I see this in a way as setting them up for self-fulfilling prophecy. From now on everyone is going to expect Ephraim to succeed over his brother. This could in turn lead to more opportunities for success, as well as less emphasis placed on Manasseh. This could also be a very early distillation of The Pygmalion Effect. This describes the results from studies that show when teachers expect students to perform better, they do. It was observed that when some students were randomly selected to be labeled as gifted or bright in their student records, they happened to perform better due to teacher expectation.
What all does this matter for the chapter being discussed? Jacob has blessed one child to perform better than the other, in an effort to help fulfill a promise made by God. Everyone now knows that Ephraim will be the one to continue the fulfillment of this. It is very likely that much will be done, even if not consciously, to aid Ephraim in carrying this on, including him passing it on to his progeny if necessary. Even he knows what is expected of him, so he will be driven to behave in ways that will work in favor of completing the promise. All of this, combined with the continual reaffirmation that God promised them land and a multitude of progeny aids in the fulfillment of this promise. The odds are being stacked in their favor.
Joseph’s family arrives in Egypt, and Pharaoh says they should settle on the best land. The famine has continued to devastate the people of Egypt though. The Egyptian people come to Joseph for food. First they spend all of their money, then give over all of their livestock in trade. Finally Joseph convinces all of the people of Egypt (except the priests) to sign their land over to the Pharaoh in exchange for grain. Once all of the land is acquired, Joseph Makes it law that one-fifth of all produce from the land must be given to Pharaoh. In the final section of this chapter, Jacob/Israel asks Joseph to swear to him that when he dies, Joseph will bury him with his ancestors.
There is really some rather shrewd business practices that take place in this chapter, which are made even more so by the fact that they a in essence carried out by the government. I understand that this is considered a much different time, and Egypt was under the rule of a pharaoh. However I set out reading this book with an eye to what is has to offer as a kind of guidebook for modern life. To which I say that this really does not show what I would consider to be “best-practices” in terms of how a government and it’s people should interact.
A government should exist for the benefit of its citizens. Not the other way around, which is exactly what takes place in this chapter. The people of Egypt are on the verge of starving to death, and Joseph takes them for everything they’re worth. This is really distasteful. A much better plan would be to just have everyone take the grain in the first place, and then still tax them on everything grown in effort to replenish the food stores. This would be both a kind and loving thing to do, as would likely result in better health and longevity for the people of Egypt.
I can only draw two conclusions about this in regards to God’s opinion of what is happening. He is either apathetic to it, or he approves of it. Apathy is really the worse of the two options in this case, because people are being taken advantage of at one of their weakest moments. These a the people of his creation, and here he is turning a blind eye when he could be making a huge impression. What better way to gain converts than by miraculously feeding the hungry? Approval makes a little more sense, but is still frightening. God could be approving of this because it benefits his favored family. This does draw a rather distinct line in the sand when it comes to who God cares about though. On one side being the family of Jacob/Israel, and on the other, everyone else.
The majority of this chapter is spent on accounting for all of the people included in Jacob’s house/family that went with him to Egypt. They are organized by mother. Jacob finally arrives in Egypt, and reunites with his son Joseph. Jacob is brought to tears with joy. Joseph then goes to tell the pharaoh that his family has arrived. He also informs them that he will tell the pharaoh that they are shepherds, and to say the same when they are asked. This is because shepherds are abhorrent to Egyptians.
Joseph reveals himself to his brothers, and immediately asks about his father. He tells his brothers to hurry home, get their father and to have everyone move down to Egypt, where he will provide for them. Pharaoh then hears about Joseph’s brothers, and also says that they should move to Egypt, where they will be provided with the best that Egypt has to offer. They returned to their father, who did not believe them until he saw all that Pharaoh and Joseph had sent with them. He then exclaimed, “My son Joseph is still alive! I must go and see him before I die.”