“The Gospel According to Torah”
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Summer Reading 2018
Wednesday, July 25:
The dramatic revelation in the literary artistry gives us a fitting climax for this long novella of the Jahwist tradition.
Yosef does not exact vengeance, but takes the high road of fraternal mercy, with much tearful reconciliation. Theologically, he reframes his brothers’ earlier betrayal as part of a providential plan to prepare for future famine. This line of reflection would easily survive the editorial hand of post-exilic traditions!
Pharaoh invites the clans to immigrate to the best land in Egypt, to ‘live off the fat of the land’ (recall Steinback’s Mice & Men?) and to send many gifts ahead for all the brothers, but most of all to Benjamin, and to Yaakov. There are plenty of nuances for anybody who has received refuge or asylum, charity or relief, from official hosts – a very current issue this summer in Canada.
Read it again for the hints of justification by itinerant resident aliens in any age, that ‘we’ were invited, ‘we’ were promised welcome, ‘we’ were given and did not steal what we end up enjoying. Yaakov is revivified – and plans a reunion with Yosef before he dies. Who are ‘we’ in this chapter of the story?
Genesis Chapter 45
Then Joseph could no longer control himself before all those who stood by him, and he cried out, ‘Send everyone away from me.’ So no one stayed with him when Joseph made himself known to his brothers.
2And he wept so loudly that the Egyptians heard it, and the household of Pharaoh heard it.
3Joseph said to his brothers, ‘I am Joseph. Is my father still alive?’ But his brothers could not answer him, so dismayed were they at his presence.
4 Then Joseph said to his brothers, ‘Come closer to me.’ And they came closer. He said, ‘I am your brother Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt.5And now do not be distressed, or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life.
6For the famine has been in the land these two years; and there are five more years in which there will be neither ploughing nor harvest. 7God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. 8So it was not you who sent me here, but God; he has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt.
9Hurry and go up to my father and say to him, “Thus says your son Joseph, God has made me lord of all Egypt; come down to me, do not delay. 10You shall settle in the land of Goshen, and you shall be near me, you and your children and your children’s children, as well as your flocks, your herds, and all that you have. 11I will provide for you there—since there are five more years of famine to come—so that you and your household, and all that you have, will not come to poverty.”
12And now your eyes and the eyes of my brother Benjamin see that it is my own mouth that speaks to you. 13You must tell my father how greatly I am honoured in Egypt, and all that you have seen. Hurry and bring my father down here.’
14Then he fell upon his brother Benjamin’s neck and wept, while Benjamin wept upon his neck. 15And he kissed all his brothers and wept upon them; and after that his brothers talked with him.
16 When the report was heard in Pharaoh’s house, ‘Joseph’s brothers have come’, Pharaoh and his servants were pleased. 17Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘Say to your brothers, “Do this: load your animals and go back to the land of Canaan. 18Take your father and your households and come to me, so that I may give you the best of the land of Egypt, and you may enjoy the fat of the land.”
19You are further charged to say, “Do this: take wagons from the land of Egypt for your little ones and for your wives, and bring your father, and come. 20Give no thought to your possessions, for the best of all the land of Egypt is yours.” ’
21 The sons of Israel did so. Joseph gave them wagons according to the instruction of Pharaoh, and he gave them provisions for the journey. 22To each one of them he gave a set of garments; but to Benjamin he gave three hundred pieces of silver and five sets of garments. 23To his father he sent the following: ten donkeys loaded with the good things of Egypt, and ten female donkeys loaded with grain, bread, and provision for his father on the journey.
24Then he sent his brothers on their way, and as they were leaving he said to them, ‘Do not quarrel along the way.’
25 So they went up out of Egypt and came to their father Jacob in the land of Canaan. 26And they told him, ‘Joseph is still alive! He is even ruler over all the land of Egypt.’ He was stunned; he could not believe them.27But when they told him all the words of Joseph that he had said to them, and when he saw the wagons that Joseph had sent to carry him, the spirit of their father Jacob revived. 28Israel said, ‘Enough! My son Joseph is still alive. I must go and see him before I die.’