this blog has followed the gospel,of Mark and the book of Genesis in tandem until the completion of the gospel last week. It will now follow Genesis until completion. The series which started on 01/01/2015 can be accessed from my archive. The daily headlines are reminders of the world we live in.
GENESIS 42: 3
So Yosef’s brothers went down, ten of them,
to buy some rationed grain from Egypt.
But Binyamin, Yosef’s brother, Yaakov would not send with his brothers
for he said: lest harm befall him!
The sons of Israel came to buy rations from amongst those that came
for the famine was in the land of Canaan.
Now Yosef was the governor over the land, it was he who supplied rations to all the people of the land.
And Yosef’s brothers came and bowed low to him, brow to the ground.
When Yosef saw his brothers he recognised them
but he pretended no recognition of them and spoke harshly with them.
He said to them:
From where do you come?
They said: from the land of Canaan to buy food rations.
Now although Yosef recognised his brothers, for their part, they did not recognise him.
and Yosef was reminded of the dreams that he had dreamt of them.
He said to them:
You are spies!
It is to see the nakedness of the land you have come!
They said to him: No, my Lord!
Rather your servants have come to buy food rations.
We are all of us sons of a single man,
we are honest,
tour servants have never been spies!
But he said to them:
No, for it is the nakedness of the land you have come to see.
Your servants are twelve
sons of a single man in the land of Canaan.
The youngest is with our father now,
and one is no more.
Yosef said to them:
It is just as I spoke to you saying: you are spies.
Hereby you shall be tested.
As Pharaoh lives, you shall not depart from this place
unless your youngest brother comes here.
Send one of you to fetch your brother
while the rest remain here as prisoners.
This will your words be tested, whether there is truth in you or not –
As Pharaoh lives, you are spies!
He moved them into custody for three days.
Yosef said to them on the third day:
Do This and stay alive!
For I hold God in awe. If you are honest,
let one of your brothers be held in the house of your custody,
and as for you, go, and take back rations for the famine supply of your households.
Then bring your youngest brother back to me,
so that your,words may be proven truthful and you will not die.
The audience, who have seen this moment coming, look to the storyteller to make it memorable and we are not disappointed. It is recorded very simply, “Yosef recognised them,” but mutual recognition is wiithheld, so that the brothers may be tested by Yosef as he was tested by being sold into slavery. Yosef wants to know if they are truly his brothers or still his would-be killers.
They tell him, that one is no more, which is the lie they cooked up for Yaakov, so Yosef is quite justified in his severity. Doubtless he wants news of his father and younger brother but he restrains himself, so that justice may be done. The audience senses that it is justice he desires, not revenge, but we are kept in suspense as Yosef piles on the pressure. There are many folk-tale motifs brought into service by the storyteller: the younger son who triumphs over his elder, the great one who conceals his identity – although here it is his former lowly identity which is hidden, the facts which are concealed from the characters but known to the audience; this storyteller is a master of his craft. But he also knows what not to tell, so that we have to guess the feelings of the characters until he chooses to reveal them.
The issue of justice is always present in the Genesis stories, but we have been conditioned by the ones already told, to know that true justice is often surprising and only obtained after time; and that God’s blessing, while never less than justice, is often more. The storyteller knows that his audience expects another revelation in this story. Meanwhile Yosef’s care that they should go home with food- rations, seems to promise a humane outcome.
Is Yosef a model of good government? Not exactly I think since he is Pharaoh’s temporary agent. Still he plans well and ensures that not only Egyptians but foreigners are supplied with food. We could say that in the terms of the time, he ensures that people have a living wage.
I intend to vote today with justice for the most vulnerable uppermost in my mind.