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Sunday, February 01, 2009

Some thoughts on Joseph

The story of Joseph is well-known. In re-reading it recently, I was struck by some particulars that I had forgotten, or never knew:

1) Joseph's two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, first ancestors of two prominent tribes of Israel, were half Egyptian. (Perhaps their own children were more Egyptian than Israelite -- we don't know who Ephraim and Manasseh married. We do know that Manasseh had a son, Machir, by an Aramean concubine -- 1 Chronicles 7:14. It seems almost certain that others of Jacob's sons married unrelated women. Judah married a Canaanite woman. His offspring were by Tamar -- Genesis 38 does not make clear whether she, too was a Canaanite, or if he married her.)
Genesis 41:50 Before the year of famine came, two sons were born to Joseph. Asenath, the daughter of Potiphera priest of On, bore them to him. 51 Joseph called the name of the firstborn Manasseh. “For,” he said, “God has made me forget all my hardship and all my father's house.” 52 The name of the second he called Ephraim, “For God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction.” (All scripture from the ESV.)

2) Joseph, who had been a steward himself, although perhaps not with that title, trusted his steward:
Genesis 43:16 When Joseph saw Benjamin with them, he said to the steward of his house, “Bring the men into the house, and slaughter an animal and make ready, for the men are to dine with me at noon.” 17 The man did as Joseph told him and brought the men to Joseph's house. 18 And the men were afraid because they were brought to Joseph's house, and they said, “It is because of the money, which was replaced in our sacks the first time, that we are brought in, so that he may assault us and fall upon us to make us servants and seize our donkeys.” 19 So they went up to the steward of Joseph's house and spoke with him at the door of the house, 20 and said, “Oh, my lord, we came down the first time to buy food. 21 And when we came to the lodging place we opened our sacks, and there was each man's money in the mouth of his sack, our money in full weight. So we have brought it again with us, 22 and we have brought other money down with us to buy food. We do not know who put our money in our sacks.” 23 He replied, “Peace to you, do not be afraid. Your God and the God of your father has put treasure in your sacks for you. I received your money.” Then he brought Simeon out to them.

The steward seemed to recognize, and honor, possibly even to worship, Joseph's God.

3) Joseph gave the priests of a foreign god special privilege:
Genesis 47:20 So Joseph bought all the land of Egypt for Pharaoh, for all the Egyptians sold their fields, because the famine was severe on them. The land became Pharaoh's. 21 As for the people, he made servants of them from one end of Egypt to the other. 22 Only the land of the priests he did not buy, for the priests had a fixed allowance from Pharaoh and lived on the allowance that Pharaoh gave them; therefore they did not sell their land.

I find that remarkable. Was this because his own wife was from a priestly family? I don't know.

Thanks for reading.

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