The Bible’s Old Testament: Genesis part V: Jacob’s End

Genesis V – When I was a kid, my brother tortured me a bit.  He “accidently” bashed my head into our TV consol while we were wrestling (I got a concussion), inadvertently severed an inch off the top of my middle finger with the front door weather stripping while we were playing tag (the fingertip hadn’t been preserved well enough in the Dixie cup to be re-attached), and liked to tell Dad I swore so that I would get punished and he would… well, I’m not sure why he did that.

I got over it, and I can see why someone would—accidents happen and people mature, etc. I don’t imagine having this same reaction had I a brother similar to Joseph’s, as discussed in Genesis.

The second half of Genesis focuses on Jacob’s family saga.  Drama. Of course, Jacob was the one who had schemed against his own brother Esau, in order to win his father’s blessing (being helped by his mother, no less). But when he is a father, Jacob and his large clan continue the line of bitter deceit. The message here seems to be: watch your back; otherwise, your jealous brothers (Reuben, Judah, et. al.) will sell you (Joseph) into slavery. God has plans for you, though, for being a slave will allow you (Joseph) to position yourself—from an Egyptian jail—to end up as the Pharaoh’s right hand man and leader of Egypt. So there’s always a silver lining?

Joseph does (sort of) move past this; however, I don’t see getting over your brother selling you into slavery and covering up your death, saying an animal attacked and defiled your body.  In fact, here are his bloody clothes as evidence (a plan which most of the brothers devised and then presented to Reuben, one of the eldest brothers). Will Joseph, the victim, have his revenge some day? Turns out the dreams he boasted about to his brothers, the ones where he saw himself ruling over his brothers, didn’t fill him in on this aspect.

But, have no fear, Judah suffers in other ways. He gets tricked into sleeping with his daughter-in-law because she posed as a prostitute and got pregnant (38:16). He doesn’t seem that broken up over this, so maybe he was only doing what men during this time did—have sex with any and all women they chose. But I didn’t know she was my daughter-in-law…. I’m guessing that if a woman had written this part it would sound a little different.

Meanwhile, in an Egyptian jail, Joseph manages to secure his freedom by analyzing the Pharaoh’s dreams. Joseph is able to see the coming famine and plan accordingly.  But not everyone did. So, ignorant of their brother’s status in Egypt, his brothers travel to the area to buy some of the rumored food.  In a fun plot twist, Joseph—now the powerful ruler in Egypt—accuses these brothers of being spies. (Seems that they don’t even recognize their brother.) He puts them through the ringer until they return with Benjamin, the youngest brother, whom Jacob kept safe at home.  When the brothers do return with Benjamin, Joseph forgives and forgets, and throws a feast—though he is above sharing a table with them.  Turns out Egyptians had a thing against Hebrews, a prejudice Joseph honors.

So Joseph is a bigot? I don’t know that I would be keen on breaking bread with them either. But perhaps his true feelings surface when, post-feast, Joseph sets them up—he has people plant a silver cup in Benjamin’s bag so he’ll be thought a thief.  One brother slave coming right up. But all’s good when Joseph reveals himself and the whole family is invited—with the Pharaoh’s blessing—to settle in Egypt.

Now Joseph can turn his attention to the people of Egypt, who have given him all their money, and then livestock, to buy food during the famine. When they run out of livestock—no problem—he’ll take their land and enslave them. For this they are grateful (47:25). I’m guessing that the new slaves were not happy they’d been enslaved just so they could eat.

When Jacob is dying, he blesses his son, though a lot of these blessings sound more like curses (49:28). He also seems to be calling out some of their bad behavior. And when Joseph dies at 110, he tells his brothers—now that he is not around to protect them in perhaps hostile land—that God will be around to lead them out of Egypt.  Eventually.

So ends Genesis.

About virgowriter

Brad Windhauser has a Master's in English from Rutgers University (Camden campus) and an MFA in creative writing from Queens University of Charlotte. He is an Associate Professor (Teaching/Instruction) in the English Department at Temple University. His short stories have appeared in The Baltimore Review, The Santa Fe Writer's Project Journal, Ray's Road Review, Philadelphia Review of Books, Northern Liberty Review, and Jonathan. His first novel, Regret (a gay-themed thriller set in Philadelphia) was published in 2007. You can read more about (and buy) it here: His second novel, The Intersection, is being published by Black Rose Writing September 2016. He is one of five regular contributors to On his solo blog, he is chronicling his experience as a gay writer reading the Bible for the first time: Follow his work at:
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