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G E N E S I S. The Story of Beginnings

Genesis 1:2. The Breath of Yahweh

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was empty and void. Darkness covered the abyss. God's SPIRIT hovered like a bird over the water.” Such is the usual translation of this opening statement of the Bible. From these words, all sorts of theological and philosophical conclusions have been drawn. Yet the basic meaning has often not been touched.

First there is the name of God. The word used is “Elohim.” This is a generic word such as a deity. This in itself is surprising. In spite of all the editings of the Old Testament writings, the proper name, “Yahweh” was not inserted. Throughout this opening account of creation, the term “Elohim” is used exclusively. Yet the separate account of the origin of man immediately following says “Yahweh, the Deity.” The writers leave no doubt that they are talking about the work of Yahweh.

Next comes the verb “bara” which is translated by the word “create” and then defined as “making something from nothing.” The word is a lamedh-aleph verb in Hebrew. This means that it comes from a late period in the Hebrew language. The root word is “bar” which is the Aramaic word for “son” or “child.” The verb would mean “to beget a son” or “to beget a child.” Thus the action of God in this act of producing all things is seen as a manifestation of his “Fatherhood.” The world around us, including mankind, is to express this fatherhood in the “Family of Mankind” or the “Brotherhood of Man.” This verb is used many places in the Old Testament and God is always the subject. The action of this verb is something that only God can do.

“The heavens and the earth” is a totality phrase to include everything. Just to make sure the reader does not make a mistake, all things are enumerated. The picture, before the action of God, was “tohu webohu.” These words are not used elsewhere in the Bible and may possibly be a derivation from the names for the gods of chaos “Tehom and Behom.” The point that the editors are making is that there was only an empty void of some sort.

This story begins with God living by himself. He looks around him. All he can see is an endless desert for miles and miles. At the end of the desert is this deep pit called the abyss. It is bottomless. Everything is dark. The wind blows hard and never stops.

God says, “First, I need some light.” So he made the light and pushed the darkness to the outskirts. Now he could see everything clearly. He liked this. He called the light “day” and the darkness “night.” The first job was finished. But the earth was floating in the water and covered on all sides.

Then God said, “I have to get that water off the top of the earth so that things can live there.” He made a big blue tent and set it over the earth. This took all the water off the top of the earth and held it above the tent. He called this tent “sky.” The second job was finished. God saw that it was good. But there were still lots of deep ponds and lakes and seas.

So God said, “I’ll gather all that water into a large basin so that I can have dry land.” This is what happened and God called the dry land “earth” and the huge pond of water “sea.” God could see that he really had something to work with and he was happy. So he planted seeds for all the different trees, shrubs, grasses and plants. They all sprang up and the dry desert was now rich with every kind of fruit, vegetable, and grass. The third job was done. It all looked so good. However, there were really no lights to make it easy to see everything.

Then God said, “I’ll make some lights and put them in the sky. I’ll need a large lamp for the day and it will have to shine over the whole earth. Then I need another lamp to shine at night. That will not have to be so bright.” He made the lamps but the night lamp was not quite bright enough so he made a lot of little night lights and put them all through the sky. The big light of day was called the “Sun.” The smaller light of the night was called the “Moon.” All the little night lights were called “Stars.” Now the picture was really great. The fourth job was finished. Yet something was missing. There were no living animals.

Then God said, “I want the water to be full of all kinds of fish. I want all the different kinds of birds to fly around in the air.” As soon as he said it, these commands were carried out and all the fish were in the water and the birds were in the air. The fifth job was finished. He was really smiling now. But he could see other things to do.

Then God said, “I need other kinds of animals. too.” So he made all the elephants, camels, horses, tigers, lions, pigs, rabbits and all the animals that we know today. It looked good. God liked what he saw. But there was nobody really in charge.

Then God said, “I’ll make people who are like me. Their job will be to work together and take charge of the whole earth and use it so that everything stays good.” So he made people. And with that the world was as we see it today. The sixth and final job was done.

Now God sat back to look over what he had done and to enjoy the harmony and peace of the whole world working together. And he saw that it was very good.

That's the story as it is told in the opening chapter of Genesis. If the reader will notice, there is absolutely no word about how this universe came to be except that it comes from God. Today, scientists in every field are discovering more and more about this universe. They say that the universe evolved over millions of years. As they probe deeper and deeper into this universe they discover greater and greater wonders. What would the authors of the Genesis story say to this?

They would add a few words and put them in the mouth of God. He would be sitting there with a huge grin on his face and saying, “This is what I was trying to tell you from the very start. This world is really great. Get out there and discover it and learn all the untold secrets you have not yet probed.”

There is no conflict between Revelation and Science. The only conflict that exists is between the closed world of theologians and church authorities and the probing open minds of scientists. Does scientific knowledge lessen our respect for the wisdom of God? Absolutely not! Every time we learn something new about the universe, the greater is the picture of what it means to be made in the image of this God and to have the care of this universe to bring it to its fullness.

Genesis. 2:5-25. How Did Families Start?

How did the family start? Or even more importantly, why did the family start? These are questions that are often asked. There are many answers. I’ll give you one answer as it is found in the Bible.

As the story opens, God had just made the earth and the sky. But there was nothing on the earth or in the sky. There were no people. Steam rose up out of the earth that watered the whole surface.

God reached down and took some of the wet clay and fashioned a body. He breathed into its nose and the clay form became a living being. This creature was called “Adam” which in Bible language means “clay.”

God then planted a garden called “Eden” which means “happiness.” He put Adam in this garden. Everything started to grow. God told Adam his plan. The garden belongs to God but Adam was in complete charge. Everything in the garden was for his use except the fruit of the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. He was not to eat of this fruit and if he disobeyed and ate of this fruit, death would come.

The picture looked great until God looked and saw that Adam actually had nobody like himself with whom to share. So God cast him into a deep sleep and took one of his ribs. He fashioned a body around it and presented the person to Adam. She was called “Woman.”

The Hebrew words are more meaningful. “Ish” means man, and “Ishah” means woman. As soon as you see the words in Hebrew you know they are related to each other. There was to be a bond between these two people that was to be closer than any other bond. This bond superceded even one’s family, and the two were to become one person. They were to help and complement each other in every way.

This is the second story of creation. Details that were omitted in the first story are supplied in the second. In reality, this second account of creation is the older story chronologically. This would have been the first picture and then the first story was added as an introduction to answer some of the questions left over in this story.

Genesis. 3:1-24. Creation Tested; Failure to Obey and the Results

The loyalty of these first people had to be tested. The test was simple. It was the test of obedience to a rule. The rule was this: The couple was in charge of the whole of creation but they must exercise their authority under the guidance and authority of God.

Now the serpent enters the story. The serpent was one of the principal images of the false gods or idols. The myth writers were always trying to make a god or idol to take the place of the true God. If man made his own god, he could decide what this god could tell him to do. He could get his god to permit or command any action he wanted.

The serpent goes first to the woman. He asks her why she doesn’t eat of the forbidden fruit. She gives the right reason. The serpent suggests that she could run this garden much better on her own plan. She falls for the serpent’s line and goes over to the man whom she is supposed to be helping. She presents the same false ideas to him and he listens. He falls into this false sense of pride.

Now they see themselves for what they are. They are disobedient children and they run to hide. God appears. The serpent is there because he is too dumb to know he has destroyed all that was good.

As the couple stands before God, they try to evade the issue. They say the only reason they were hiding is because they were naked. God asks why this bothers them unless they had failed to follow his plan.

Now the hero, the man, shows his lack of integrity. He passes the blame to the woman! She is not about to accept all the blame so she points her finger at the serpent.

God looks at the three. He has had dealings with this serpent before. The same pride had cost the serpent his leadership in the court of God and banished him to the exile of Gehenna. Now God says that the serpent, crawling around on its belly, shall be a constant reminder of the evil influence of the devil or Satan.

Woman shall be punished. She will keep her blessings of bringing children into the world. Now, however, it will be done in labor and pain. She will want her husband and want to work with him but she will resent the partnership.

The man shall be punished in his productivity. He will have to work to control and give proper usage to the whole of the universe but now he will do it in sweat and tears. All this labor and toil will go on until one day he will die and return to the dust from which he came.

The final blow comes when they are driven from the Garden of Happiness and forced to work in hardship all the days of their lives.

That’s the end of the picture of the first creation except for the details on how this punishment unfolded down through the centuries. God is good, and therefore justice and mercy have to prevail. Mankind has to become a responsible steward of creation. So we have a parallel story down through the centuries. Hardship, setbacks and failures will face man at every step. Wars and fighting will break out and wholesale murders will be the rule.

At the same time, there will be a point in time when this picture will be righted. A new or second Adam will come. He will atone for the failure of the first Adam and set in motion the re-creation of the universe and mankind. With this new Adam will be a new Eve to assist in the restoration of the world as Yahweh wanted it.

Information of Editings of Genesis. To omit this information on editing
continue the commentary on Chapters 4-11. The Noah Story. page 7.

Editions of the Creation Story

The Story of the Old Testament was edited over the centuries by different writers and different groups. We can see the evidence of the changes and the additions that took place.

The Creation Story, as we have just described it, comes from what is known as the Priestly Edition of the Old Testament. This edition was written in the 6th-5th Centuries B.C. The people most influential in this updating were Ezechiel, Isaiah II and III, and Malachi.

There is evidence of an editing in the 2nd-1st Centuries B.C. This editing is called the Apocalyptic and is influenced especially by Daniel and the author of Wisdom. The word and notion of "bara” as explained above, would come from this late period.

There is an important point of doctrine in this editing. A new word is inserted in the text for the verb “to make.” That verb is “bara” in Hebrew. It is a lamedh-aleph verb and comes from the Aramaic. The root of the verb is the noun “bar,” which is the Aramaic word for “son” or “child.” The verb means to “beget a son” or “beget a child.”

The teaching about the universe takes on a whole new slant. Instead of saying simply that “God made all things,” the writer presupposes that fact and tells “WHY” all of creation appeared. The writer sees God as exercising his “Fatherhood.” All of creation is to become or be ‘the Brotherhood of Man in the Fatherhood of God.”

In this sense, the “FAMILY UNITY OF MANKIND” is the most important truth to be seen in the whole work of creation. When Jesus begins his work a few years later, he picks up this notion from Daniel’s title “Son of Man” and applies it explicitly to his work. This “FAMILY UNITY” or the “BROTHERHOOD OF MANKIND” is to be the principal effect and sign of the teaching of Jesus Christ.

Creation and Science

There is a lot of hubbub in some areas about the conflict between the findings of science and the teachings of Genesis on creation. This is absolutely ridiculous. There is no conflict whatsoever.

The writers of the Genesis account did not have the slightest idea how God produced the world and all that is in it. They were not even interested in that point. Their one concern was “WHY.” They saw the work of God as the evidence of his Fatherhood and the way in which the family of mankind should be united and work together.

As science and scientists continue to unfold the glories of nature, so the wisdom of God is unfolded. The fact that all things gradually evolved rather than at a snap of the fingers, and all things sprang into being, is evidence of great wisdom. So all power to science to keep on learning what God put into this universe from the beginning.

Man becomes king in proportion as he refuses to limit himself, as he realizes that God’s creation belongs to all God’s creatures - in proportion as he claims the universe.

DEUTERONOMY 32:11: Everything was in total darkness and the “breath of God” hovered over the water like a bird over its nest. This image of the bird is developed fully in Deut. 32:11 and there the bird is an eagle over its aerie. This breath will be the source of the life of all living things as they are brought into the picture. This “breath” appears time and again in the writings of the Bible, and assumes more and more importance and meaning in the story of the universe.

ISAIAH 11:1-2: This breath is shared by all the prophets as they point out the path of righteousness and warn about the dangers of straying from that path. Isaiah starts with a description of the qualities of this “Breath” (Is. 11:1-2). Following the Latin translation, the word “spirit” is always used. I am going to use the word “breath” to avoid confusion with other meanings of the word “spirit.”

"A shoot springs from the stock of Jesse,
A scion bursts from his roots:
On it the breath of Yahweh rests:
A breath of wisdom and shrewdness,
A breath of decision and strength,
A breath of knowledge and loyalty.
Reverence for Yahweh is its breath."

These are frequently called the seven fruits or gifts of the Holy Spirit. It is important to understand what these words mean in themselves.

WISDOM means the ability to make wise judgments as a leader.

SHREWDNESS refers to a very sharp insight into the meaning of each action, person, or event.

DECISION emphasizes a resolute determination to follow through on these insights.

STRENGTH points out the power necessary to operate.

KNOWLEDGE is the recognition of the real or actual value of decisions.

LOYALTY is care for the good name of the family.

REVERENCE or RESPECT is a summary of all the qualities put together.

With this notion of the "breath of Yahweh" clearly in mind, we shall go on with the Bible story of the origin of all things.

Genesis Chapters 4-11. The Noah Story.

These chapters go a bit beyond Noah at the beginning of his career and at the end. However, he is the central character so I’ll call it the Noah Story. We left Adam and Eve, the first couple, as they were expelled from the Garden of Happiness and Delight to earn their bread by the sweat of their brows.

The first result is the story of Cain and Abel. These are the first two children of Adam and Eve. Cain is a farmer and Abel is a shepherd. Abel is well disposed toward Yahweh and everything goes well for him. Cain is a dour selfish man and nothing succeeds. He does not examine his motives or actions. He sees Abel as the cause of his failures. He lures Abel out into a field and kills him.

Yahweh calls to Cain: “Where is your brother, Abel?” Cain tries to pass off his crime with a smart remark. “How should I know? Am I my brother’s keeper?” But Yahweh does not give in. He asks: “What have you done? The blood of your brother is crying out to me from the ground!” Then Cain is punished. He will continue to live and work but his life will be plagued with failures and sadness.

Cain was overwhelmed at the magnitude of his punishment. He tried to beg out from under it. Yahweh made one concession. Cain was guilty and was being punished but he was not to be bothered by other people.

The story of mankind goes on and finally we are given a summary description of the failure of people in general. The picture was one of sin, deceit, lust and moral corruption. Yahweh was so upset that he was on the point of destroying the whole of mankind. However, there was one man who was living as he should. His name was Noah.

Noah had three sons: Shem, Ham and Japhet. Noah is given orders to build a boat. The technical name for this boat today is an ark. This word comes from the Latin word “arca” which means a “box” or “chest.” Noah is given the dimensions and then orders to take some of all the animals on earth on to this ark. He is to go on board with his family. Then Yahweh will make it rain for forty days and forty nights until even the peaks of the mountains are covered with water. In this way Yahweh will preserve a nest egg of his first creation but he will show his justice by punishing all the rest.

Finally, the rains stop and the water recedes. Noah realizes they will soon leave their haven of safety. Noah sent birds out to see if the time to leave the ark had come. His last bird was a dove and it came back with an olive branch in its beak. Then Noah knew the waters were down to the treetops and soon they could get out on dry land.

(N.B. This account of the flood is a perfect example of the editing of the Bible stories. There are three accounts put together. Today, as the story is told in books, classrooms or sermons, the variations are totally ignored. cf. Jerusalem Bible. copyr.1966. Gen. 6, footnote c).

They leave the ark, and the story of creation begins where it had left off. Noah raised some grapes and made some wine. He did not know the power of the wine and became drunk and was lying inside his tent naked. Ham saw his father in this state and made a joke of it. Shem and Japhet covered Noah up. Ham and his descendants are cursed because of his action.

The earth is re-peopled, and the leaders devise a plan to prevent any future flood catastrophes. They decide on a tower or Ziggurat. Yahweh sees the sinful pride of the people and he causes all the different languages in the world. People can no longer talk to each other or only in small groups. So they break off into various nations. Unity is not achieved again until Pentecost and the establishment of the Holy Spirit - the spirit of harmony, sharing and peace.

That's the Noah Story. Again, the picture is not very favorable for the people who make it up. As the Old Testament unfolds, the story will become progressively worse.

Genesis: 12:1-37:1.
Founders of the Chosen People: The Patriarchal Story

There was a man named “Ab-Ram.” This name means “noble father.” He came from Ur of Chaldea and migrated to the land of Canaan. He probably went along with a crowd of nomads who were moving from east to west at the time. Yahweh promises to give this whole land to him and his descendants. Abram builds an altar to Yahweh in Bethel.

A famine hits the land and Abram takes his wife, Sarai, and his nephew, Lot, and they head into Egypt. Sarai is a very beautiful woman and Abram fears the Egyptians will kill him and take her. So he tells Sarai to say she is his sister. Then he will be treated well because of her. The Egyptian officials told the Pharaoh of her beauty so they gave Abram lots of gifts and Sarai was taken to the harem of the Pharaoh. But Yahweh inflicted severe plagues on the Pharaoh's household because he had taken Sarai.

Then the Pharaoh learns that Sari is Abram's wife. Pharoah tells Abram the lie had almost destroyed him. Abram was urgede to take his possessions and get out. Pharaoh even gives Abram an escort to the border.

They arrive in Bethel, and Abram and Lot have much wealth in flocks and tents and all that goes with them. The shepherds of Lot start to argue and fight with the shepherds of Abram. Abram calls his nephew to him and says that he wants no trouble. Lot is to choose the direction he wants to go and Abram will go the other way. Lot looks around and sees the Jordan Plain to the east. He chooses that area and settles among the towns of Sodom.

Abram looks over the land of Canaan and decides this will be home for him and his family. He settles in and builds an altar to Yahweh at Hebron. Meanwhile, the area of Sodom and Gomorrah is attacked, and Lot and his family and possessions are all taken captive. Abram is told and he gathers together his band of men. They go out and defeat the enemies of Lot and recover them and their property.

When they return, the King of Sodom wants to set up an alliance with Abram. Abram refuses. Melchisedech, a priest of the Most High God and a king, pronounced a special blessing* on Abram.

*Reference to New Testament:
Note this blessing carefully because it antedates the formation of the Chosen People and the promises made to Abraham. This will be a very important point in the New Testament’s Letter to the Hebrews chapters 5-7 and the priesthood of Jesus Christ. His priesthood is according to the order of Melchisedech and antedates the priesthood of the Temple in the Old Testament.

Abraham is succeeding except that he has no children. Then Yahweh promises him children as numerous as the stars of the heavens. He gives the whole land of Canaan to Abraham and his descendants. Meanwhile, Sarai has conceived no child and she is getting quite upset. She gives her servant, Hagar, an Egyptian slave-girl, to Abraham and she conceives. Then Sarai and Abraham would adopt the baby. However, Hagar made fun of Sarai because she could not conceive. The boy is born and his name is Ishmael.

Now comes the all important Covenant and the sign chosen for the Covenant. Abram is to become the father of numerous nations. His name will be changed from Abram to Ab-Ra-Ham. This is a shortened form for “Father of Numerous Nations”. The sign for all these blessings will be circumcision. Any male descendant of Abraham who is not circumcised will be ejected from the people. Sarai will change her name to “Sarah,” which means “Princess” because she shall become the mother of nations and kings. She is to have a son and his name will be Isaac. This name means “She smiles” or "She laughs.” It signifies the joy that she had when she finally became a mother.

The next incident of note is the appearance of the three visitors at Abraham’s tent. Abraham shows all the generosity of a proper host. The visitors are Yahweh and two of his companions. He promises that Sarah will have a son by the same time next year. Yahweh is on his way south to wreak a bit of punishment on the towns of Sodom and Gomorrah. He tells Abraham about it. Abraham intercedes.

This is the famous bargaining scene with Yahweh: Abraham goes from 50, to 45, to 40, to 30, to 20, to 10. With each number, Yahweh agrees he will spare the cities if that number of good and honest people can be found. But there are not that many good and honest people in the two cities.

With the coming of dawn, Lot and his family are being conducted out of the area. They will be spared but they must not look back. Lot’s wife looks back and she is turned into a pillar of salt. (This punishment is in keeping with the theory that the Salt Sea or Dead Sea was formed by an explosion of salt under a fresh water lake.)

There are other details that should be read. The next big incident is the sacrifice of Isaac. Yahweh wants to test the strength of the faith and obedience of Abraham. He tells him that he is to offer Isaac in sacrifice. So they get the wood and set out. Isaac asks his father where the victim is. Abraham says that God will provide. Abraham has the boy on the altar and is all ready to offer his son when Yahweh stays his arm. The boy is released and a ram caught in the bushes is offered instead. Then Yahweh says that all nations of the earth shall be blessed in this obedience of Abraham.

The rest of the story of the Patriarchs is rather routine. Esau sells his birthright for a mess of pottage. Jacob tries to fleece his father-in-law, Laban, and almost gets taken. The story of Joseph is the highlight of the Jacob Story.

Genesis: 37:2-50:26. The Joseph Story!

The last chapters of Genesis are for the most part the story of Joseph. He is one of the 12 sons of Jacob, or Israel, as he is better known. Joseph was a favorite of his father because his mother was Rachel who was Jacob’s favorite wife. Joseph was despised by his brothers because of this favoritism, and also his tendency to get them into trouble with their father by tattling on their misdeeds.

The boys were all together, taking care of the sheep, and Joseph was with them. The older brothers had done something that was wrong or displeasing to Jacob. They had done it on the sly, but Joseph promptly reported it to the father. This definitely would make him an outcast with his brothers.

Then Jacob decides to show his special love for Joseph, so he bought him a special cloak. It was multi-colored and would draw the attention of everyone immediately. The equivalent, today, would be a mink coat among a lot of used denim jackets. Finally, Joseph was inclined to have dreams and always, he was the hero in the dreams. His brothers, and even his father, were his servants.

The brothers had finally come to the end of their tether. One day as they saw Joseph approaching their camp, they decided to kill him. They would dip his cloak in the blood of a sheep and tell the father that wild animals had killed him.

Reuben, the oldest boy, heard the plotting and objected - not because he liked Joseph, but because he was responsible for the whole group. He could easily get into irreversible trouble with Jacob. He suggested they put Joseph down in a well and leave him there. Reuben’s plan is to come back and pull Joseph out of the well and tell him to head for home. The next time it might be worse.

Meanwhile, a caravan of traders came by the well and found Joseph. According to one account, they took him out of the well and saw that he would bring a good price with the royal family in Egypt as a slave boy. According to another account, Judah suggested they sell Joseph to the traders.

The fact is that Joseph was taken to Egypt as a teenager and sold to one of Pharaoh’s commanders. Joseph was an accomplished lad and was well liked by his Egyptian master. The Egyptian made Joseph his personal attendant and put him in charge of the household.

Joseph grew into a handsome young man and his master’s wife fell for him. She tried to seduce Joseph but he refused to have anything to do with her. She tried to force him into bed with her and Joseph resisted. So, this lady twisted the story and claimed that Joseph had tried to force himself on her. His master had him put in prison.

Joseph came to the fore again. He gained the confidence and good will of the chief jailer. Joseph was put in charge of the jail and its inmates and everything prospered. Some time later, the royal cup-bearer and the royal baker offended the Pharaoh in some way. He had them put in prison and the commander of the guard put Joseph in charge of caring for their needs.

One morning, both of these men were very sad. Joseph inquired about their problems and each of the men said he had a dream the previous night. The Egyptians believed firmly in the importance of dreams and their interpretations as messages from the gods. Here they were with dreams and no one to interpret them.

Joseph asks for the dreams. The royal cup-bearer takes the lead. In his dream, there was a grape vine with three branches. It put forth buds, blossomed, and grew clusters of ripe grapes. The cup-bearer picked some of the grapes, squeezed the juice into the cup, and brought the cup to Pharaoh.

Joseph interpreted. The three branches are three days. In three days, you will be released and restored to your position. You will give the Pharaoh his cup. Now, said Joseph, remember me when you get near the Pharaoh because I was kidnapped and brought here to Egypt.

The royal baker was heartened by the interpretation so he told his dream to Joseph. He was carrying three trays on his head. The top tray had all the favorites of the Pharaoh. The birds ate the cakes off the tray on his head.

Joseph interpreted this dream also. The three trays are three days. In three days, your cause will be reviewed again and you will be found guiltier than was supposed. You will be hanged on the gallows and the birds of the air will eat the flesh off your bones.

Three days later, the two men were released from prison. The cup bearer was restored to his position with the Pharaoh, and the baker was hanged. However, the cup-bearer forgot about Joseph when he was back in the court.

Some time later, Pharaoh had some dreams. He was standing by the Nile and some cows were coming up out of the river. First, there were seven healthy, fat cows and they began to graze near the river. Then seven skinny, gaunt cows came up out of the river. They went over to the herd of fat cattle and ate them. With that, the Pharaoh woke up.

He went back to sleep and had another dream. He saw a stalk of grain and seven healthy ears were growing on the stalk. Then came seven damaged seared ears and they ate the seven good ears. Again, the Pharaoh awoke and realized it was all a dream.

All the magicians and wise men of Egypt were called in to give the meaning to these dreams. But they were helpless. They did not have a clue as to the meaning. About that time, the cup-bearer remembered Joseph from his time in prison. He told the Pharaoh of the incident. Pharaoh called for Joseph.

Pharaoh starts off with a bit of flattery and praise. Joseph humbly puts all the power of interpretation with God. Pharaoh tells what he dreamed. Joseph interprets. He tells Pharaoh that both dreams are saying the same thing. There will be seven years of plenty and then seven cropless years of emptiness. So during the good years, the Pharaoh should store all the extra food for the seven lean years.

Pharaoh is so pleased with what Joseph says that he puts him in charge of the whole project. Joseph rises to become the right hand man in the kingdom. He is married to a great lady and then he travels throughout the land to make sure that all the orders are followed. Egypt is a land overflowing with all the extra grain, fruit and food.

Joseph has two sons from his marriage during these years of plenty. He calls the first boy Manasseh, and the second Ephraim. Manasseh means “he has made me forget” and Ephraim means “he has made me fruitful.”

Then the cropless years strike, not only in Egypt, but throughout the entire area. Word gets out that Egypt has food for sale. The Pharaoh puts everything in the hands of Joseph. He is to make the decisions since he is the one who foresaw and prepared for this emergency.

Jacob and his family run out of food. They hear about Egypt. Jacob sends ten of the boys to buy food. He refuses to send Benjamin, Joseph’s full brother by Rachel. When the boys arrive in Egypt, Joseph recognizes them immediately but they do not recognize him.

Joseph wants to see if they have repented of their misconduct toward him and have changed their ways. So he treats them almost rudely. He tells them they cannot return unless they bring Benjamin - their youngest brother. He takes all of them into custody for three days.

When he lets them out of custody, they get into a heated discussion about this whole set-up. They did not know Joseph could understand their language. They expressed their understanding of and sorrow for their injustices to Joseph. Joseph is so overcome he goes off by himself to cry. Simeon is kept as a hostage until they return.

Joseph gives orders that the money is to be put back in the sack of each man. When they came to the end of the first day’s journey, they opened their bags and found the money. They were shaken by their discovery but they continued on their way home.

They ran out of food again. Jacob wants them to go back to Egypt. Reuben says they have to take Benjamin. Jacob is really shaken. He has lost Joseph and Simeon and now they want Benjamin. Reuben offers two of his own boys as hostages. Finally the brothers return to Egypt with Benjamin.

The sons of Jacob brought double money to make up for what they had found in their sacks when they returned from the first trip. When Joseph saw Benjamin, he ordered a banquet to be prepared and took the sons of Jacob to the big house. They were really scared. Joseph comes into the room and asks about Jacob. When he sees Benjamin he is overcome with emotion again and has to leave the room. They sit down to eat and they notice that Benjamin gets portions much larger than all the others.

When they are ready to leave, Joseph orders his men to fill the sacks, put their money back in the sacks, and then put his special cup in the sack of Benjamin. The sons of Jacob leave and the Egyptian police take after them.

They accused one of the men of taking Joseph’s favorite cup. The cup was found in Benjamin’s sack. The men were brought back to Joseph. Judah tells the whole story and how evil their actions against Joseph had been and how grieved Jacob really was. Then Judah offers himself as hostage to take the place of Benjamin.

When Joseph saw how repentant they were, he could not contain himself. He sent everyone out of the room and he revealed his identity to his brothers. Then comes the all important part of the story. Joseph interprets the true meaning of the events.

Interpretation of Events

"Do not grieve for having sold me into slavery here. In God’s plan, he wanted me here to prepare for your coming. So it was not your selfish act that sent me here but the wisdom and foresight of God. Now go back, get your father and tell him all that has happened."

Then Joseph embraced each of his brothers in turn. He sent them back to get the rest of the family and warned them not to fight with each other on the way.

Jacob and his family come to Egypt. They are 70 people in all. They are welcomed by Joseph and the Pharaoh, and are given the land of Goshen as their special area. The Israelites were shepherds and the Egyptians had no use for shepherds so they gave them a piece of land to themselves.

The Israelites and the Egyptians prospered. They lived separately but got along because of Joseph and the Pharaohs who knew him. All this would fit well into the Hyksos period of the history of Egypt. (1720-1560 B.C.) The "Hyksos" were the foreigners who ruled Egypt and they seemed to have welcomed outsiders into the country.

Jacob is getting to be an old man. He will soon die. He wants to reward Joseph for what he has done for his people. So Jacob takes the two sons of Joseph, Ephraim and Manasseh, and gives each a share in the family riches. This means that the tribe of Joseph actually got a double portion of the inheritance.

Jacob’s Deathbed Blessing.

Then we have the long deathbed blessing of Jacob for all his sons. Reuben was the eldest and should have received the birthright, the double portion of inheritance, and the family name. However Reuben had taken one of Jacob’s concubines at one time. So he is set aside.

Background information: The son receiving double portion of inheritance was expected to use that extra portion to take care of family members if family members needed help.

Then come Simeon and Levi but they are to be passed over because of their dastardly deeds against the Schechemites (Gen. 34:25-31). These people had asked for an alliance. Simeon and Levi had told them that all the adult males had to be circumcised. Then on the third day, when the pain was the greatest, the Israelites attacked the camp and wiped out the people.

Finally, we come to number four son, Judah. From the tribe of Judah shall come the king of the Israelites. This prophecy, Gn. 49:10, will be picked up by Daniel, 7:13-14, and then carried over into the New Testament and fulfilled by Christ. (Heb. 7:14; Mt. 21:5)

Jacob dies, and pursuant to his wishes, is buried in the land of Canaan. Pharaoh gives special permission for them to take the body back to bury it.

Now that Jacob is dead, the brothers are afraid that Joseph will take revenge for their mistreatment of him. Joseph learns of their fears and assures them that he sees all these actions as the providence of God. They intended evil but God has turned their evil actions to good and saved the whole people.

Finally, Joseph dies and has an Egyptian burial in keeping with the times. All during the lifetime of Joseph the Israelites prospered in Egypt. The Pharaohs knew Joseph and how he had saved their world. So, in gratitude, they made a special place for the Israelites in Egypt.

The Joseph Story could then be summarized as:

"Jacob Dotes .. Joseph Gloats"

"Brothers Plot ... Joseph Got!"

"Brothers Scared ... Joseph Cared!"

"Brothers' Needs ... Joseph Feeds!"

The Exodus Story will start when this picture has turned sour and the Israelites are seen as a threat rather than a boon.

Conclusion to the Joseph Story.

That's the story exactly as it is written in the Bible. Now the question is whether this is a factual presentation or a sort of fable to explain how this group of desert nomads became the nation of Israel.

We know that the opening chapters of Genesis from Adam to Abraham are stories of origin which are clearly fables. The Patriarchal stories of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob have all the earmarks of the same kind of literature. Then I would think that the story of Joseph would round out the picture in the same style of literature.

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