This blog has been following the book of Genesis and the Gospel of Mark in tandem since 01/01/ 2015. The whole series can be accessed from my archive. Reflection on the Gospel text was completed on Saturday, but I will continue to note points of contact between Genesis and Mark. The daily headlines are reminders of the world we live in.
GENESIS 39: 20
Yosef’s lord took him and put him in the dungeon house
in the place where the king’s prisoners are imprisoned.
But while he was there in the dungeon house
YHWH was with Yosef and extended kindness to him:
he put his favour in the eyes of the dungeon warden,
and the dungeon warden put into Yosef’s hands all the prisoners that were in the dungeon house,
whatever had to be done, it was he that did it.
The dungeon warden did not need to see to anything at all in his hands,
since YHWH was with him
and whatever he did, YHWH made succeed.
Now after these events it was that the cupbearer and the baker of the king of Egypt fell afoul of their lord.
Pharaoh became infuriated with his two officials, with his cupbearer and the chief baker,
and he placed the in the custody of the chief of the guard, in the dungeon house, the lace where Yosef was imprisoned.
The chief of the guard appointed Yosef for them, that he should wait upon them.
They were in custody for many days.
Then the two of them dreamt and dream, each man his own dream, in a single night.
By this point in the Yosef story the audience as begun to take the favour of YHWH to Yosef almost for granted while recognising that this favour creates will arouse the enmity of others unless it is used with great wisdom. The favour of God is not favouritism but rather the secret purpose of God to bless all humanity through his beloved family. Yosef has to learn how to use the great abilities that God has given him. Perhaps this time, when the opportunity arises, he will be ready to take advantage of it.
But now comes a reminder of where this all started: prisoners have dreams, as Yosef once had. The audience is reminded of Yosef’s clumsy and mistaken use of dreams, which led to his brothers’ hatred. In a quiet way, the storyteller sets a severe standard of wisdom for Yosef to reach, without any explicit criticism of him. But his use of repeated opportunities and foul-ups tells the audience that Yosef is being tested.This reinforces the theology of Genesis that partnership with God is not a bucket list of goodies, but a schooling in the purposes of an invisible and inhuman person of whose existence one has no proof. This schooling is of benefit to all believers in all times, especially to those whose prayers are bucket lists.
The story of Yosef, as of each of the fathers of Israel, has a rhythm and shape which is also seen in Mark’s story of Jesus. Here also we see the “favour of God” and a partnership through which God’s goodness is to be transmitted to humanity. Although Jesus is shown as utterly attentive to God’s purpose, he too is schooled and tested; he “learns obedience through suffering” as the book of Hebrews puts it. He too is particularly troubled by God’s invisibility and apparent absence, in times of suffering. The shape of Joseph’s life, visions of God’s favour, arousing the enmity of his own people, “descending” into Egypt, land of the dead, rising again to power and bringing God’s goodness for his own and other people, is also the shape of Jesus’. Reading the Genesis narratives is one of the best keys to understanding the Gospels.