This blog was following the book of Genesis and the Gospel of Mark in tandem, but completed the latter some days ago. It continues with Genesis alone meantime. I have been urged to “get a move on” with these chapters of Genesis, and although I think they deserve as much consideration as any other part of the bible, have compromised by using an easily downloadable translation, the Complete Jewish Bible, which readers will find below in a large two-chapter chunk. As always the daily news headline is a reminder of the world we live in.
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43 But the famine was severe in the land; 2 so when they had eaten up the grain which they had brought out of Egypt, their father said to them, “Go again, buy us a little food.” 3 Y’hudah said to him, “The man expressly warned us, ‘You will not see my face unless your brother is with you.’ 4 If you will send our brother with us, we will go down and buy you food; 5 but if you will not send him, we will not go down; for the man said to us, ‘You will not see my face unless your brother is with you.’” 6 Isra’el said, “Why did you bring such trouble my way by telling the man you had another brother?” 7 They answered, “The man kept questioning us about ourselves and about our kinsmen. He asked, ‘Is your father still alive?’ ‘Do you have another brother?’ and we answered according to the literal meaning of his questions. How were we to know he would say, ‘Bring your brother down’?”
8 Y’hudah said to Isra’el his father, “Send the boy with me; and we will make preparations and leave; so that we may stay alive and not die, both we and you, and also our little ones. 9 I myself will guarantee his safety; you can hold me responsible. If I fail to bring him to you and present him to your face, let me bear the blame forever. 10 Except for our lengthy delay, we would have been there again by now.”
11 Their father Isra’el answered them, “If that’s how it is, do this: take in your containers some of the land’s best products, and bring the man a gift — some healing resin, a little honey, aromatic gum, opium, pistachio nuts and almonds.12 Take twice the amount of money with you; and return the money that came back with you in your packs — it could have been an oversight. 13 Yes, and take your brother too; and get ready; and go again to the man. 14 May El Shaddai give you favour in the man’s sight, so that he will release to you your other brother as well as Binyamin. As for me, if I must lose my children, lose them I will.” 15 The men took that gift, and they took twice the money with them, and Binyamin; then they prepared, went down to Egypt and stood before Yosef.
16 When Yosef saw Binyamin with them, he said to his household manager, “Take the men inside the house, kill the animals and prepare the meat. These men will dine with me at noon.” 17 The man did as Yosef ordered and brought the men into Yosef’s house.
18 Upon being ushered inside Yosef’s house, the men became fearful. They said, “It’s because of the money that was returned in our packs the first time that we have been brought inside — so that he can use it as an excuse to attack us, take us as slaves and seize our donkeys too.” 19 So they approached the manager of Yosef’s household and spoke to him at the entrance of the house:20 “Please, my lord, the first time we indeed came down to buy food; 21 but when we got to camp, we opened our packs, and there inside our packs was each man’s money, the full amount. We have brought it back with us;22 moreover, we have brought down other money to buy food. We have no idea who put our money in our packs.” 23 “Stop worrying,” he replied, “don’t be afraid. Your God and the God of your father put treasure in your packs. As for your money — I was the one who received it.” Then he brought Shim‘on out to them.
24 The man brought the men into Yosef’s house and gave them water, and they washed their feet, and he provided fodder for their donkeys. 25 Then they got their gift ready for Yosef’s arrival at noon, for they had heard that they were going to eat a meal there. 26 When Yosef arrived home, they went in the house and presented him with the gift they had brought with them, then prostrated themselves before him on the ground. 27 He asked them how they were and inquired, “Is your father well, the old man of whom you spoke? Is he still alive?” 28 They answered, “Your servant our father is well; yes, he is still alive,” as they bowed in respect. 29 He looked up and saw Binyamin his brother, his mother’s son, and said, “Is this your youngest brother, of whom you spoke to me?” and added, “May God be good to you, my son.”
30 Then Yosef hurried out, because his feelings toward his brother were so strong that he wanted to cry; he went into his bedroom and there he wept.31 Then he washed his face and came out, but he controlled himself as he gave the order to serve the meal. 32 They served him by himself, the brothers by themselves, and the Egyptians included at the meal by themselves — Egyptians don’t eat with Hebrews, because that is abhorrent to them. 33 So they sat there facing him, the firstborn in the place of honor, the youngest in last place; and the men expressed their amazement to each other. 34 Each was given his serving there in front of him, but Binyamin’s portion was five times as large as any of theirs. So they drank and enjoyed themselves with him.
44 Then he ordered the manager of his household, “Fill the men’s packs with food, as much as they can carry, and put each man’s money just inside his pack. 2 And put my goblet, the silver one, just inside the pack of the youngest, along with his grain money.” He did what Yosef told him to do.
3 At daybreak the men were sent off with their donkeys; 4 but before they were far from the city Yosef said to his manager, “Up, go after the men; and when you overtake them, say to them, ‘Why have you repaid good with evil? 5 Isn’t this the goblet my lord drinks from, indeed the one he uses for divination? What you have done is evil!’” 6 So he caught up with them and said these words to them. 7 They replied, “Why does my lord speak this way? Heaven forbid that we should do such a thing! 8 Why, the money we found inside our packs we brought back to you from the land of Kena‘an! So how would we steal silver or gold from your lord’s house? 9 Whichever one of us the goblet is found with, let him be put to death — and the rest of us will be my lord’s slaves!” 10 He replied, “Fine; let it be as you have said: whichever one it is found with will be my slave. But the rest of you will be blameless.” 11 Then each hurried to put his pack down on the ground, and each one opened his pack. 12 He searched, starting with the oldest and ending with the youngest; and the goblet was found in the pack belonging to Binyamin. 13 At this, they tore their clothes from grief. Then each man loaded up his donkey and returned to the city.
14 Y’hudah and his brothers arrived at Yosef’s house. He was still there, and they fell down before him on the ground. 15 Yosef said to them, “How could you do such a thing? Don’t you know that a man such as myself can learn the truth by divination?” 16 Y’hudah said, “There’s nothing we can say to my lord! How can we speak? There’s no way we can clear ourselves! God has revealed your servants’ guilt; so here we are, my lord’s slaves — both we and also the one in whose possession the cup was found.” 17 But he replied, “Heaven forbid that I should act in such a way. The man in whose possession the goblet was found will be my slave; but as for you, go in peace to your father.”
18 Then Y’hudah approached Yosef and said, “Please, my lord! Let your servant say something to you privately; and don’t be angry with your servant, for you are like Pharaoh himself. 19 My lord asked his servants, ‘Do you have a father? or a brother?’ 20 We answered my lord, ‘We have a father who is an old man, and a child of his old age, a little one whose brother is dead; so that of his mother’s children he alone is left; and his father loves him.’ 21 But you said to your servants, ‘Bring him down to me, so that I can see him.’ 22 We answered my lord, ‘The boy can’t leave his father; if he were to leave his father, his father would die.’ 23 You said to your servants, ‘You will not see my face again unless your brother is with you.’ 24 We went up to your servant my father and told him what my lord had said; 25 but when our father said, ‘Go again, and buy us some food,’ 26 we answered, ‘We can’t go down. Only if our youngest brother is with us will we go down, because we can’t see the man’s face unless our youngest brother is with us.’ 27 Then your servant my father said to us, ‘You know that my wife bore me two sons: 28 the one went out from me, and I said, “Surely he has been torn to pieces,” and I haven’t seen him since. 29 Now if you take this one away from me too, and something happens to him, you will bring my gray hair down to Sh’ol with grief.’ 30 So now if I go to your servant my father, and the boy isn’t with us — seeing how his heart is bound up with the boy’s heart — 31 when he sees that the boy isn’t with us, he will die; and your servants will bring the gray hair of your servant our father down to Sh’ol with grief. 32 For your servant himself guaranteed his safety; I said, ‘If I fail to bring him to you, then I will bear the blame before my father forever.’ 33 Therefore, I beg you, let your servant stay as a slave to my lord instead of the boy, and let the boy go up with his brothers. 34 For how can I go up to my father if the boy isn’t with me? I couldn’t bear to see my father so overwhelmed by anguish.”
Yosef is playing tricks on his brothers in order to test their character. He selects Binyamin because he wants to see whether his older bothers have leaned to care for this younger brother better than they cared for him. Perhaps he doesn’t altogether realise the pain he is causing his aged father. Yaakov on the other hand, after taking refuge in his favouritism towards Binyamin, recovers his realism. Once he identifies “the man” in Egypt as the source of his pain, he begins to treat him as opponent, as someone akin to Lavan or Esau or God, with whom he has struggled in the past and earned his new name Isra’el, the fighter. He decides to help his sons play the strongest hand they can in a bad situation. They are to bear gifts, so that they appear before Yosef as people of substance rather than as beggars.
The storyteller plays on the notion of Yosef as somehow equivalent to God. His manager jokes with the brothers that their God has put their payments back in the sacks, but of course it was Yosef who did so. Yosef asks that God will be good to Binyamin but the audience knows that it is in his power to be good to him. And it is with God-like cunning that Yosef arranges his final test, which designed to see if under pressure the brothers will abandon Binyamin. In the crisis it Y’hudah, who was humbled and had to learn justice from his daughter-in-law Tamar (Genesis 38), who now intervenes and offers to be a slave to Yosef to save his younger brother from slavery and his father from further grief. The storyteller gives him a noble speech, which shows he has realised the wrong done to Yosef and his duty as the eldest brother.
Y’hudah’s loyalty and courage, as we shall see in the next section, move Yosef so much that he is no longer in control of his own plot. The storyteller is asking a question, “Do human beings simply respond to basic needs, plot their own plots, suffer their own misfortunes and die their own deaths, or is there an encompassing purpose, even if it cannot fully be understood?”
(Tune in again tomorrow dear readers for the answer to this question and much, much, more!)