Sunday, March 15, 2009

GENESIS: Chapters 45 & 46

Chapter 45
Summary:Joseph couldn't keep his deception going any longer and ordered his servants out of the room. He wept aloud and his sobs were heard throughout the palace, and the news quickly carried to the Pharaoh's palace.

He tells his brothers that he is Joseph and asks his brother's if his father is still alive*. His brothers just stared in stunned silence. Joseph asks them to come closer and again tells them that he is their brother Joseph, whom they sold into slavery - which he tells them not to be angry at themselves for, as he tells them that God had planned for him all along to venture into Egypt, sending him ahead to preserve their lives from the famine. He further explains that he has been made into a counselor to the Pharaoh, and manages the entire nation of Egypt.

Joseph then tells his brothers to return to their father and tell him that he, his son Joseph, is alive and well in Egypt and tells them to bring their father and their children back to Egypt and live in the city of Goshen. He explains that there is still five years of famine to be had and that Joseph will take care of them in Goshen. Weeping with joy he embraces his brothers - and the news soon reached the Pharaoh that Joseph's brothers had come, who was pleased to hear the news, as were the Pharaoh's officials.

The Pharaoh told Joseph to have his brothers return to Canaan to get their families and that he would assign to them the best land in Egypt for them to live in. The Pharaoh then gave Joseph a fleet of wagons for the brothers to use to move their families to Egypt.

Joseph prepared the wagons with provisions, gave them to his brothers along with new clothes - but to Benjamin, he also gave him three hundred pieces of silver and five sets of clothes. He sent along with them ten donkey loads of goods, along with ten donkeys loaded with grain and all sorts of other foods for his father to eat along his journey.

Sending his brothers off, he shouted after them to not quarrel along their journey. They returned again to Canaan and to their father Jacob*/Israel telling him that Joseph is alive and ruling Egypt. Although Jacob/Israel at first refuses to believe it, somehow seeing the loaded wagons convinces him that his sons are telling the truth about Joseph. He states that he will go and see his son before he dies.
Notes:1.) Despite having asked this just yesterday in Chapter 44 to his brothers before the feast. His brothers couldn't possibly have answered any differently.
2.) Again, Israel is referred to by his old name of Jacob again.
Thoughts:Joseph finally comes clean to his brothers, tells them not to feel badly about how they had sold him into slavery, and credits his good fortune to God's will. He tells his brothers to fetch their father and their families to come live in Egypt where he can better look after them during the famine.

Word gets back to the Pharaoh that Joseph's brothers had arrived in Egypt and the Pharaoh (despite being noted in the previous chapter that Egyptians despise Hebrews) is happy to have Joseph's family come and live amongst them in Egypt. He gives Joseph a slew of wagons to give to his brothers to help them move and tells him that they can live in the choicest pieces of land in Egypt.

As Joseph sets them off with supplies for their journey, he once again shows favoritism towards Benjamin, giving him a bunch of money and four extra sets of clothes more than the rest of his siblings. The extreme lengths that Joseph takes with giving Benjamin more than his brothers just seems to come off a bit silly in the story. It also seems like there may be some numerological significance with the number five as mentioned with Joseph's dinner portions being five times that of his brothers, and now being given five sets of clothes.

Again the chapter reverts back to Israel's original name of Jacob which adds to the confusion of identifying them as one and the same. It also makes one question whether the whole "Israel" name change is going to stick or not.

Jacob/Israel has a hard time buying his son's story that Joseph is alive and ruling Egypt, but for some inexplicable reason is convinced when he sees all the goodies they brought with them from Egypt.

The chapter ends foreshadowing that Jacob/Israel is not far from death and that his story in the book of Genesis is coming to a close.
Chapter 46
Summary:Israel sets off with all his possessions and came to Beer-sheba where he sacrifices animals to God. During the night God speaks to him in a vision, calling out "Jacob! Jacob!"

As his typical introduction God announces that he is God, the god of Jacob's/Israel's father Isaac. He tells Jacob/Israel not to be afraid to travel to Egypt, reminding him once again that he will make him a great nation there, and that he will bring his descendants back from there, but tells Jacob/Israel that he will die there with Joseph at his side.

So Jacob leaves Beer-sheeba, with his sons bringing him to Egypt, along with their families, in the wagons the Pharaoh had given them.

The chapter now gives another listing of Jacob's/Israel's family that traveled with him to Egypt:
  • Reuben and his sons:
    • Hanoch
    • Pallu
    • Hezron
    • Carmi
  • Simeon and his sons:
    • Jemuel
    • Jamin
    • Ohad
    • Jachin
    • Zohar
    • Shaul*
  • Levi and his sons:
    • Gershon
    • Kohath
    • Merari
  • Judah and his sons:
    • Er*
    • Onan*
    • Shelah
    • Perez and his sons:
      • Hezron
      • Hamul
    • Zerah
  • Issachar and his sons:
    • Tola
    • Puva
    • Job
    • Shimron
  • Zebulun and his sons:
    • Sered
    • Elon
    • Jahleel
It's noted that the sum of the descendants born to Jacob and Leah total 33.

Jacob's children from the slave-girl Zilpah also traveled with him to Egypt and are listed as follows:
  • Gad and his sons:
    • Ziphion
    • Haggi
    • Shuni
    • Ezbon
    • Eri
    • Arodi
    • Areli
  • Asher and his children:
    • son Imnah
    • son Ishva
    • son Ishvi
    • son Beriah, and his sons:
      • Heber
      • Malchiel
    • daughter Serah (sister of Beriah)
For good measure, the chapter lists Joseph and Benjamin's sons:
  • Joseph and his sons:
    • Manasseh
    • Ephraim
  • Benjamin and his sons:
    • Bela
    • Becher
    • Ashbel
    • Gera
    • Naaman
    • Ehi
    • Rosh
    • Muppim
    • Huppim
    • Ard
Finally the chapter also lists the seven descendant's of Rachel's slave-girl Bilhah:
  • Dan and his son:
    • Hushim
  • Naphtali and his sons:
    • Jahzeel
    • Guni
    • Jezer
    • Shillem
The total number of descendants going to Egypt (not counting wives) being 66. With Joseph's two sons included, Jacob's household totaled 70.

Back to our story, Jacob sends Judah on ahead to tell Joseph that they were on their way, set to arrive in Goshen. Joseph jumped into his chariot and met his father in Goshen, and they embraced and wept together.

Israel*/Jacob tells Joseph that he can now die peacefully, as he has finally seen his son Joseph alive and well.

Joseph then tells his brothers and their families that he will tell the Pharaoh that they have arrived safely. He also instructs them to tell the Pharaoh that they are all shepherds, and that have been shepherds since their youth, and that their family has been shepherding for generations. He explains to them when the Pharaoh hears this, he will let them live in Goshen. The chapter finishes by noting that shepherds were hated in other parts of Egypt.
Notes:1.) Despite the fact that God himself renamed Jacob to Israel - stating the he "will no longer be called Jacob" in both Chapter 32 (while wrestling with the strange Man) and in Chapter 35 when he appears to him at Bethel - he reverts back to calling him Jacob again here.
2.) For some reason the chapter notes that Shaul's mother was a girl from Canaan.
3.) The chapter inexplicably lists Er and Onan, and then goes on to explain that they both died back in Canaan.
4.) Inexplicably, the chapter - which has been using the name of Jacob thus far - instead uses the name Israel here.
Thoughts:The first thing that springs to mind when reading this chapter is the flip-flopping between the names Jacob and Israel throughout. He is referred as Israel curiously only at the beginning and end of the chapter, with the rest referring to him by Jacob.

Even more curious is that God calls out to him addressing him as Jacob. This is strange as it was God who changed his name to Israel (twice), and even stating that he "will no longer be known as Jacob" (both times).

God also gets a bit morbid by telling Jacob/Israel that he will die in Egypt, even going so far as to tell him that he will die by Joseph's side. Most people generally don't want to know when and where they're going to die, and probably more so, details about their death.

The chapter continues on giving us yet another long series of lists of Jacob's descendants, initially under the premise of stating everybody that is traveling to Egypt from Canaan, but curiously also includes Judah's sons Er and Onan - whom God killed way back in Chapter 38 which occurs roughly around the same time that Joseph was sold as a slave to the Ishmaelite traders.

The interesting thing to note, however, with these lists is the numbers they produce. The descendants of Jacob and Leah total 33 (not including their daughter Dinah, but including Er and Onan); the descendants of Jacob and Zilpah total 16; the descendants of Jacob and Rachel total 14; the descendants of Jacob and Bilhah total 7. Combined this count makes 70. Now, taking out Joseph and his sons (who are already in Egypt), Er and Onan (who were killed), and now counting Jacob we have 66 descendants traveling to Egypt.

I don't think these numbers are accidental or coincidental, I suspect that they were picked intentionally. I don't know a lot about numerology to explain the entire significance, but the number seven has been considered mystical and magical far predating Judeo-Christianity. There are seven days of the week, seven phases of the moon, the creation story took place over seven days, the seven years of harvest vs the seven years of famine, we will see later on that there are seven deadly sins, etc. Here we have 70 descendants: 7 descendants hailing from Jacob and Bilhah; 14 descendants (14 is a pair of sevens) from Jacob and Rachel; 16 descendants (1+6=7) from Jacob and Zilpah; leaving us with 33 (another notable number) to contend with from Leah, which is exactly half of the total descendants traveling to Egypt - 66. Perhaps I wouldn't make a big deal out of this issue so much if the chapter itself wasn't stressing these numbers in the first place, which is drawing attention to their significance.

Moving along, the chapter finally closes out with Israel/Jacob (being referred to as Israel again) finally at peace with dying now that he has laid eyes once again on his son Joseph seeing him alive.

The last thing we're treated to is an odd instruction by Joseph to his family to explain to the Pharaoh their professions in Shepherding to ensure that the Pharaoh lets them settle in Goshen - as it's mentioned that shepherds are despised and hated in other parts of Egypt(?). So far we've come to learn the the Egyptians hate shepherds and Hebrews, so I'm pretty sure Hebrew Shepherds would aspire even more hatred.

No comments:

Post a Comment