Friday, March 13, 2009

GENESIS: Chapters 39 & 40

Chapter 39
Summary:(As explained already in Chapter 37) when Joseph arrived in Egypt as a captive of the Ishmaelite traders, he was purchased by Potiphar, a officer of the Pharaoh. Potiphar was the captain of the Pharoah's bodyguards and his chief executioner.

God greatly blessed Joseph in the home of his master so that everything he did, he succeeded. Potiphar took notice of this and realized that God was with Joseph, so Joseph gained favoritism with him. Soon Joseph was put in charge of the administration of the household and all of Potiphar's business affairs. God now began to bless Potiphar for the sake of Joseph. As the household ran smoothly, the crops and flocks flourished and multiplied, and Joseph was give complete responsibility over everything that Potiphar owned.

Potiphar's wife began trying to seduce Joseph, but he refused her advances reminding her of his loyalty to Potiphar and that what she was suggesting was a great sin against God. However she kept on trying, and Joseph attempted to keep out of her way as much as possible. One day she catches Joseph alone, grabs his sleeve, and begs him to sleep with her. As he struggles to flee from her, Potiphar's wife is left with Joseph's jacket still in her hands and she decides to scream rape. When Potiphar arrived home his wife tells him that Joseph had tried to rape her and that she was saved only by her screams, while clutching his jacket. None too amused, Potiphar throws Joseph in prison.

God blessed Joseph in his prison as well, and granted him favor with the chief jailer. Soon the jailer entrusted Joseph with the administration of the prison, and due to God's blessings, the prison ran smooth and efficiently.
Thoughts:Joseph, apparently being God's chosen one now - ahead of his father Israel/Jacob - is (much like his father, his grandfather Isaac, and great-grandfather Abraham before him) blessed with a King Midas-like touch, where everything he does excels to the maximum. Even as a slave (and later a model prisoner) Joseph makes the best of the situation by being the best slave he can be, while upholding his loyalty and moral standards by refusing to be seduced by the lady of the house.

However, when Mrs. Potiphar, being the sexually frustrated wife that she is, can't get Joseph to mess around she finds herself accusing Joseph of trying to rape her in order to get him thrown into prison. Much like his life as a slave, Joseph also excels at being a model prisoner and is soon running the prison (with God's help of course).

Nothing is said about whether Potiphar's home-life goes to shambles or not, but I can only assume if he's visited the jail anytime while at work, that he's probably headed for Egyptian Divorce Court soon enough.
Chapter 40
Summary:Sometime later the Pharaoh got upset with his chief baker and his wine taster and threw them into jail. They remained in prison for a while and Potiphar assigns Joseph to wait on them.

One night both the baker and the wine taster had strange dreams, but couldn't find anyone to help figure them out. When Joseph hears about their dreams he tells them that interpreting dreams is God's business and asks them what they had dreamed.

The wine taster went first and told Joseph that in his dream he saw a vine with three branches that began to blossom, soon providing clusters of ripe grapes. The wine taster finishes his dream, explaining that he had squeezed the grapes into the Pharaoh's wine cup and then gave it to him to drink. Joseph tells him that the dream means that in three days the Pharaoh will release him from prison and give him his job back. He then tells the wine taster to have pity on him and put in a good word to the Pharaoh on his behalf.

The baker went next, telling Joseph that in his dream that he was carrying three baskets of pastries on his head, the topmost being filled with all sorts of baked goods for the Pharaoh, but that the birds swept by and ate them. Joseph explained to the baker that his dream signified that in three days the Pharaoh would decapitate him and impale his body on a stake, leaving the remains for the birds to pick at.

The Pharaoh's birthday came three days later and preparing for his party he summoned both the baker and the wine taster from prison. As Jacob predicted, the wine taster was given back his job and the baker was executed. However, the wine taster forgot all about Joseph and never mentioned his plight to the Pharaoh.
Thoughts:Dreams can be fascinating experiences, but they are not by any means some sort of magic fortune telling experience. Our dreams are a reflection of our subconscious, which means that the things we dream about are not predicting the unknown, but tapping into what we already do know. Dreams can seem magical where we can often do the impossible, but they are not telling us things we don't already know.

To the ancients of the Bronze Age, who out of ignorance and superstition believed a lot of crazy things - like seamonsters dwelling in the oceans, the sun revolving around a flat earth, and mythical beings like giants - dreams must have seemed like a pathway to the gods to them. However fascinating dreams may be and the things they might tell us about ourselves, dreams do not tell the future any more so than a fortune cookie at a Chinese restaurant.

I'm sure for the sake of our story we could assume that perhaps the supernatural, in the form of God, could have possibly guided these dreams, but it isn't stated and is presumptuous at best. The problem with taking the angle of a biblical apologist is that while trying to assert that the bible is in fact "truth" or the "word of God", it takes a lot of human interjection, guesses, and theory to explain things. If we're to assume truth in the biblical text, then shouldn't we just work with the information we have and not inject far fetched theories to explain the gaps? What I'm getting at is that the miraculous defies credibility, and if the miraculous did, or could happen, then the bible should be our only source of when and where that could have occurred. Inventing miraculous explanations of your own accord shouldn't be an option when there's no basis for making such a wild claim.

Anyways, Joseph's story is meant to further enforce his connection and alliance with God - as he states that interpreting dreams is God's work - and sure enough his psychic predictions for both the baker and the wine taster come to fruition just as Joseph had said they would. We close off the chapter once again with a dig at how villainous the Egyptians can be when the wine taster forgets all about poor Joseph rotting away in prison.

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