Genesis 41-45

I’m happy to be almost finished with Genesis.

41: Joseph interprets Pharaoh’s dreams. This story continues to be very different in tone from the other stories of the patriarchs. It’s moralistic and linear. It’s odd that all Pharaoh’s soothsayers couldn’t interpret his dream, because I had the general impression throughout the Bible that prophets who aren’t called by God are fakes and are making up interpretations to begin with. It’s also odd to me, but may be a modern perspective, that Pharaoh would make Joseph second in command with no verification of the truth of his interpretation. It’s hard to tell how much of his rise was clever manipulation. It kind of sounds like he’s setting Pharaoh up when he suggests an overseer, but he’s so bland. Joseph marries the daughter of a priest, probably a sun worshiper. There’s no mention of religious tensions.

42: Joseph’s brothers come to Egypt. First Joseph tells the brothers that the test will be for all but one to be detained and the one to bring Benjamin. After three days, he changes it to detaining one brother and sending all the rest back to get Benjamin. Perhaps he believes that his brothers have also gotten rid of his full brother, who was also probably favored by Jacob. He detains Simeon, and when they return to Jacob, he acts as if Simeon is already gone, while telling them that he is the one who bears all the bereavement. Reuben steps up again as the one who appears to be trying to work things out – he was the one who wanted to spare Joseph – he promises the lives of his own two sons in return for Benjamin’s safety, something that would presumably not make their grandfather feel better.

The brothers act surprised twice when they find the silver in their packs, once on their return trip and once when they are emptying their packs at home. It’s unclear whether these are two versions of the story or if they’re acting out the story for Jacob.

43: Joseph’s brothers return with Benjamin. The ten brothers appear to lie to Jacob. In the previous chapter, they offered their family information to Joseph to convince him they weren’t spies, and here they tell their father that Joseph asked them specific questions about the family. This time Judah promises to be responsible for Benjamin, and Jacob accepts, perhaps a foreshadowing of Judah’s eventual inheritance of the birthright. Jacob was called Jacob in the previous chapter, but is called Israel here. Despite the famine, Jacob appears to still be wealthy, as he can offer more silver as well as many types of expensive goods.

Joseph seems to favor his full brother, perhaps deservedly since Benjamin was the only one not involved in his being sold into slavery. The Egyptians found it abhorrent to eat with the Hebrews, although presumably they ate with Joseph regularly. It seems a sign of contempt that might foreshadow their later slavery, but the commentary says that the Egyptians were prohibited from eating lamb, which was a primary Hebrew food.

44: Joseph frames Benjamin with stealing. Joseph’s household manager is responsible for putting the goblet in Benjamin’s bag and also for accusing him. It makes sense that he would be aware of both, if Joseph wanted to make sure no harm would come to his brothers because of the accuser’s anger. He tells them that Joseph uses the goblet for divining. Like when Rachel stole the household gods, the manager is promised that when the goblet is found, the thief will die, but this time the goblet is easily found.

Judah recounts the entire story of Jacob’s responses to Joseph. He acknowledges that Jacob acts as if Rachel were his only wife and elaborates on Joseph’s story of being allegedly killed by wild animals that wasn’t in the previous chapter. While I don’t condone the brothers’ past treatment of Joseph, I feel dully sad that they’ve acquiesced to being less loved, that losing Judah would be less terrible to Jacob than losing Benjamin. Judah asks to take Benjamin’s place.

45: Joseph reveals himself. Ugh at the moralizing. I think this is the first place that Hebrews/Jews as a remnant is introduced. Pharaoh is happy to have Joseph’s family come to live in Egypt. The thought that the ancestral land where Jacob lives is the land promised by God to Abraham doesn’t seem to come up.


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