bible blog 1694

This blog has been following the book of Genesis and the Gospel of Mark in tandem since 01/0/2015. The series can be accessed from my archive. The daily headlines are reminders of the world we live in.


Hercules and Leo, used in medical experiments

Hercules and Leo, used in medical experiments


So it was, when Yosef came t his brothers

that they stripped Yosef of his coat

the ornamented coat he had on,

And took him and cast him into the pit.

Now the pit was empty – no water in it.

And they sat down to eat bread.

And they lifted up their eyes and saw;

there was a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gil’ad,

their camels carrying balm, balsam and ladanum,

travelling to take them down to Egypt.

Yehuda said to his brothers:

What gain is there

If we kill our brother and cover up his blood?

Come, le us sell him totheYishmaelites –

but let not our hand be upon him,

for he is our brother, or flesh!

And his brothers listened to him.

Meanwhile some Midyanite men, merchants, passed by;

they hauled up Yosef from the pit

and sold Yosef to the Yishmaeltes for twenty pieces of silver.

They brought Yosef to Egypt.

When Re’uven returned to the pit:

look, Yosef was no more in the pit!

He rent his garments and said:

Th child is no more!

And I- where am I to go?

But they took Yosef’s coat,

slew a hairy goat,

and dipped the coat in the blood.

They had the ornamented coat sent out,

and had it brought to their father and said:

We found this;

pray recognise if it is your son’s coat or not!

He recognised it and said:

My son’s coat!

An ill-tempered beast has devoured him,

Yosef is torn, torn to pieces!

Yaakov rent his clothes

he put sackcloth on his loins

and mourned his son for man days.

All his sons and daughters rose to comfort him,

but he refused to be comforted,

he said:


I will go down to my son

in mourning, to Sheol!

Thus his father wept for him.

Meanwhile, the Midyanites had sold him into Egypt

to Potifar, Pharaoh’s court official,

Chief of the Palace Guard.

josephThis famous passage is a little confusing. Where did the Midyanites suddenly come from? And why do they get mentioned at the end when they have already sold Yosef to the Yishmaelites, who are after all, almost family, since descended from Yishmael brother of Yitzhak?

I think the storyteller is stitching different versions of his tale and leaving some loose ends.

Yehuda’s intervention is more cunning than Re’uvens earlier attempt to turn the brothers away from murder, and seems to have gained their approval before the Midyanites forestall them. The Ishmaelites are heading for Egypt, which is mentioned here as a destination for the first time since the story of Avraham. For the audience who know the bones of the story, it opens a new dimension of ancestral experience.

If Yosef’s danger has reminded the audience of the intended sacrifice of Yitzhak, the detail of a goat’s blood would remind them of the sacrificial ram in that tale. Again the beloved son escapes by the skin of his teeth. Then immediately the storyteller provides another reminder, this time of Yaakov’s deception of his father. Here, Yaakov/ Yisrael is deceived by his sons, who bring him the blood-soaked coat that their father has given to Yosef. The father’s grief is soberly rendered. There are folk-tale elements to the Yosef story but there is also a realistic portrayal of character and emotion. Grief and suffering are part of the experience of all the fathers of Israel, but Yaakov/Yisrael is more afflicted than the others, perhaps because of his early character as a chancer. He above all is Israel/ Yisrael, the one who fights with God and receives a blessing which will descend through his twelve sons to  all the families of the earth.The audience is meant to see that the  “ill” or “evil” actions of the brothers, due to the hatred his arrogance has aroused in them, is an essential part of the story of the blessing.


33 And when the sixth hour was come, there came darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour;

34 and at the ninth hour, Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? which is, being interpreted, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?

35 And some of those who stood by, when they heard it, said, Behold, he calls for Elias.

36 And one, running and filling a sponge with vinegar, fixed it on a reed, and gave him to drink, saying, Let alone, let us see if Elias comes to take him down.

37 And Jesus, having uttered a loud cry, expired.  liver

Mark puts Jesus on the cross from the third hour to the ninth, six hours of torture, but quite a short time for a crucified man to suffer, some enduring for a whole day or more.

The darkness that comes over the land is a sign of apocalyptic suffering, the darkness before the dawn. Jewish speculation had imagined the “woes of the Messiah” as a time of terrible suffering PRIOR to the coming of the Anointed One. Mark uses this in presenting the suffering OF Messiah Jesus, which will however be continued in the suffering of his followers. Mark has had Jesus prophesy the “Abomination of Desolation”; here, perhaps, Mark sees that prophecy fulfilled in Jesus, who, overwhelmed by torture, cries to the God who has abandoned him. Is this accusation softened by the fact that it comes from Psalm 22? Not at all. Mark means his readers to see that Jesus has been abandoned by God, just as we all are, when evil or misfortune comes to us. Only superstitious thugs think that Elias can rescue anyone.

It’s vital for us to take Mark’s picture seriously. His attribution of these terrible words to Jesus may be questioned but not his intention of displaying Jesus as abandoned to the malevolence of others. Jesus shared to the full God’s weakness in the world. God, the source of all goodness, can only share in the victories and defeats of human goodness in this world. All his goodness cannot add one second to the time a drowning child’s hand can hold onto a piece of wreckage or prevent the reproduction of one cancer cell in the human liver.

Resurrection is not a denial of this fact. Heaven is not here yet. Until the time of the “rule of God”, until God’s will is done on earth, heaven and the cross are the dimensions of God’s victory. 

Today Bob Cummings, a scholar and teacher, died in Glasgow, bringing to an end fifty years of dear friendship between us. I believe he is in heaven but that in no way lessens my grief at losing him.

Michel de Montaigne – Essais

  • Si on me presse, continue-t-il, de dire pourquoi je l’aimais, je sens que cela ne se peut exprimer qu’en répondant: parce que c’était lui; parce que c’était moi.

Should someone keep pushing me to say why I loved him, I do not feel it can be expressed other than by replying, “Because it was him,because it was me.”

One comment

  1. “God, the source of all goodness, can only share in the victories and defeats of human goodness in this world.” What an amazing statement, true incarnational theology! The Orthodox in me responds very well to statements like this. And I love your recourse to “reminders” in Genesis. I’m surprised you didn’t carry that theme into the Mark narrative. This is a tremendous post, and I love your homage to your departed friend. I get tired of saying “May he rest in peace.” I much prefer what you wrote. I hope some day to meet you – here preferably, on this earth, before heaven! Reference for the Montaigne quote, please?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: