Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Genesis 47:1-12 comments: our pilgrimage on this earth

1 ¶  Then Joseph came and told Pharaoh, and said, My father and my brethren, and their flocks, and their herds, and all that they have, are come out of the land of Canaan; and, behold, they are in the land of Goshen. 2  And he took some of his brethren, even five men, and presented them unto Pharaoh. 3  And Pharaoh said unto his brethren, What is your occupation? And they said unto Pharaoh, Thy servants are shepherds, both we, and also our fathers. 4  They said moreover unto Pharaoh, For to sojourn in the land are we come; for thy servants have no pasture for their flocks; for the famine is sore in the land of Canaan: now therefore, we pray thee, let thy servants dwell in the land of Goshen. 5  And Pharaoh spake unto Joseph, saying, Thy father and thy brethren are come unto thee: 6  The land of Egypt is before thee; in the best of the land make thy father and brethren to dwell; in the land of Goshen let them dwell: and if thou knowest any men of activity among them, then make them rulers over my cattle. 7  And Joseph brought in Jacob his father, and set him before Pharaoh: and Jacob blessed Pharaoh. 8  And Pharaoh said unto Jacob, How old art thou? 9  And Jacob said unto Pharaoh, The days of the years of my pilgrimage are an hundred and thirty years: few and evil have the days of the years of my life been, and have not attained unto the days of the years of the life of my fathers in the days of their pilgrimage. 10  And Jacob blessed Pharaoh, and went out from before Pharaoh. 11  And Joseph placed his father and his brethren, and gave them a possession in the land of Egypt, in the best of the land, in the land of Rameses, as Pharaoh had commanded. 12  And Joseph nourished his father, and his brethren, and all his father’s household, with bread, according to their families.

Remember, every shepherd is an abomination unto the Egyptians but this Pharaoh was very welcoming and confirmed Joseph’s grant to his family to dwell in the land of Goshen. Note in this passage how evil is defined in the context of a long, wearisome and difficult life. Jacob laments that not only have his days been full of trouble but that he has not lived as long as his father and grandfather.

Here, we also see, by way of comparison between verses 6 and 11 with the land of Goshen and the land of Rameses being linked synonymously. Scholars locate these areas, as well as the Hyksos capital of Egypt, in the northeastern part of Egypt and the new capital of the Egyptian so-named 19th dynasty (by us, not them), what is called Lower Egypt in the area of the eastern Nile delta. Again, whether this is correct or not we will never know in this life most likely. But it is an educated guess based on what evidence has been found. This will become more important in our study of Exodus and the actual location of the crossing of the Red Sea. If scholars are correct then the branch of the Red Sea that the Hebrews are near to would be what we call today the Gulf of Suez.

Joseph supplied his family with the means they would need to survive and the Pharaoh made whomever Joseph thought competent, made them herdsmen over his own cattle.

In verse 9 I like the use of the word pilgrimage to describe our sojourn on the earth in a physical body. Physical life since the fall of man is relatively short and contains an inordinate amount of pain especially, for people who don’t die suddenly, when we die. Although that is not always the case it certainly is in many cases. Our life here is a pilgrimage and we must not forget that. It is a journey with a beginning and an end, then, if the person believes the testimony of Jesus Christ, there is a spiritual life with God that goes on for eternity.

The Greek poet Homer used Aeon to refer to a life or a lifespan. This is unlike Plato who used it to refer to the spiritual world behind the one we see. In some cases, like in Matthew 12:32 aeon is used to refer to the world as it is set up today, the world or period of time or age between the fall of man and eternity. But, here, in this passage the Hebrew word mawgur is used for pilgrimage whereas elsewhere it is used for a dwelling place or to sojourn or to be a stranger. 

We are strangers here, passing through. Our lifetimes are an age, a period of time, and a journey. It is something to think about.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Genesis 46:28-34 comments: Joseph's reunion with Jacob

    28 ¶  And he sent Judah before him unto Joseph, to direct his face unto Goshen; and they came into the land of Goshen. 29  And Joseph made ready his chariot, and went up to meet Israel his father, to Goshen, and presented himself unto him; and he fell on his neck, and wept on his neck a good while. 30  And Israel said unto Joseph, Now let me die, since I have seen thy face, because thou art yet alive. 31  And Joseph said unto his brethren, and unto his father’s house, I will go up, and shew Pharaoh, and say unto him, My brethren, and my father’s house, which were in the land of Canaan, are come unto me; 32  And the men are shepherds, for their trade hath been to feed cattle; and they have brought their flocks, and their herds, and all that they have. 33  And it shall come to pass, when Pharaoh shall call you, and shall say, What is your occupation? 34  That ye shall say, Thy servants’ trade hath been about cattle from our youth even until now, both we, and also our fathers: that ye may dwell in the land of Goshen; for every shepherd is an abomination unto the Egyptians.

Chapter 45, verse 10 told us that Goshen was close to where Joseph ruled from. It is commonly understood that the New Kingdom period of ancient Egypt, the period of the Egyptian Empire was from around the 16th century BC to the 11th century BC. This marked the peak of Egypt’s power. It includes the time that Egypt had hegemony over the land of Canaan which is important to understanding Numbers 14:9 and various extra-Biblical documents from Canaan pleading for help from the Egyptians. It was preceded by the Hyksos invasion and rule. I believe that Joseph’s Pharaoh was from this time, that he was a Hyksos, and that is why he was favorable to Joseph and his family. This is called Egypt’s Second Intermediate Period. Of course, much of this is educated guesswork as the Egyptians did not refer to any of their eras the way we refer to them and no one ever called themselves, “the Hyksos.” These are all made-up terms by scholars.

In any event, Judah went first to meet Joseph and Jacob and the rest followed. Christ is the first to rise from the dead never to physically die again, to be resurrected. Judah is Christ’s physical ancestor. Here is more typology that is great subject material for sermons. Joseph prepared himself to greet his father in Goshen.

Joseph promised to introduce them to Pharaoh. Here is more evidence for my view that the Pharaoh of Joseph’s time was a Hyksos, of the so-called Shepherd-kings. To the leadership Joseph’s family of herders would be welcome but to the Egyptians they were an abomination. The land of Goshen separates their living from the rest of Egypt.

The word cattle includes all herd animals not just beef cows as we use the word today.

Genesis 13:7  And there was a strife between the herdmen of Abram’s cattle and the herdmen of Lot’s cattle: and the Canaanite and the Perizzite dwelled then in the land.

Genesis 30:32  I will pass through all thy flock to day, removing from thence all the speckled and spotted cattle, and all the brown cattle among the sheep, and the spotted and speckled among the goats: and of such shall be my hire.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Genesis 46:5-27 comments: Jacob and family prepare to go down to Egypt

5 ¶  And Jacob rose up from Beersheba: and the sons of Israel carried Jacob their father, and their little ones, and their wives, in the wagons which Pharaoh had sent to carry him. 6  And they took their cattle, and their goods, which they had gotten in the land of Canaan, and came into Egypt, Jacob, and all his seed with him: 7  His sons, and his sons’ sons with him, his daughters, and his sons’ daughters, and all his seed brought he with him into Egypt. 8  And these are the names of the children of Israel, which came into Egypt, Jacob and his sons: Reuben, Jacob’s firstborn. 9  And the sons of Reuben; Hanoch, and Phallu, and Hezron, and Carmi. 10  And the sons of Simeon; Jemuel, and Jamin, and Ohad, and Jachin, and Zohar, and Shaul the son of a Canaanitish woman. 11  And the sons of Levi; Gershon, Kohath, and Merari. 12  And the sons of Judah; Er, and Onan, and Shelah, and Pharez, and Zerah: but Er and Onan died in the land of Canaan. And the sons of Pharez were Hezron and Hamul. 13  And the sons of Issachar; Tola, and Phuvah, and Job, and Shimron. 14  And the sons of Zebulun; Sered, and Elon, and Jahleel. 15  These be the sons of Leah, which she bare unto Jacob in Padanaram, with his daughter Dinah: all the souls of his sons and his daughters were thirty and three. 16  And the sons of Gad; Ziphion, and Haggi, Shuni, and Ezbon, Eri, and Arodi, and Areli. 17  And the sons of Asher; Jimnah, and Ishuah, and Isui, and Beriah, and Serah their sister: and the sons of Beriah; Heber, and Malchiel. 18  These are the sons of Zilpah, whom Laban gave to Leah his daughter, and these she bare unto Jacob, even sixteen souls. 19  The sons of Rachel Jacob’s wife; Joseph, and Benjamin. 20  And unto Joseph in the land of Egypt were born Manasseh and Ephraim, which Asenath the daughter of Potipherah priest of On bare unto him. 21  And the sons of Benjamin were Belah, and Becher, and Ashbel, Gera, and Naaman, Ehi, and Rosh, Muppim, and Huppim, and Ard. 22  These are the sons of Rachel, which were born to Jacob: all the souls were fourteen. 23  And the sons of Dan; Hushim. 24  And the sons of Naphtali; Jahzeel, and Guni, and Jezer, and Shillem. 25  These are the sons of Bilhah, which Laban gave unto Rachel his daughter, and she bare these unto Jacob: all the souls were seven. 26  All the souls that came with Jacob into Egypt, which came out of his loins, besides Jacob’s sons’ wives, all the souls were threescore and six; 27  And the sons of Joseph, which were born him in Egypt, were two souls: all the souls of the house of Jacob, which came into Egypt, were threescore and ten.

Verse 15 tells us for that either Dinah wasn’t Jacob’s only daughter or, as said earlier, the daughters could logically include daughters-in-law. Arguing about the count becomes nonsensical when we know everyone wasn’t included in the count of those that mattered to God’s ministry of reconciliation. There are obviously servants to consider, as well, which are not mentioned.

We also come to differences in the count given for different reasons at different times.

Exodus 1:5  And all the souls that came out of the loins of Jacob were seventy souls: for Joseph was in Egypt already.

Deuteronomy 10:22  Thy fathers went down into Egypt with threescore and ten persons; and now the LORD thy God hath made thee as the stars of heaven for multitude.

Acts 7:14  Then sent Joseph, and called his father Jacob to him, and all his kindred, threescore and fifteen souls.

Some argue about these differences with fundamentalists trying to gloss over what they fear naggingly in the back of their minds is an error in the text. However, the problem is with the modern reader who is infected with a mental problem I call modernism. You read the Bible like you would read the owner’s manual for your car rather than as you would read a letter sent to you from afar, in this case a distant time, a personal account of something dear to the writer. The Holy Ghost, through the wisdom and understanding, the meaning of Biblical inspiration which is not word-for-word dictation, given to Moses refers to events from the perspective of their importance to the point He is trying to get across (see Job 32:8; 2Peter 3:15). In one reference He may include wives who are not included in another or He may be referring to an event from another angle and only include specific others. The modern fundamentalist who claims to believe the Bible literally, which they don’t really, in their attempts to explain by juggling numbers what the Bible says, is really expressing their own disbelief and lack of faith by trying to explain a contradiction that isn’t there.

I went over this kind of thinking when I was discussing years back in my comments on 15:12-16 regarding the length of years that the Hebrews were to be persecuted. The point is all of the number references are correct and any differences can be explained by the Holy Ghost counting people in one who are not counted in another. We will find this again in the numbers who will die in a plague later in another book. Verses 26 and 27 warn us that our calculations may not be based on God’s calculations which will keep the doubter or the skeptic spinning his or her wheels trying to find an equation that will make him or her feel better.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Genesis 46:1-4 comments: God speaks to Jacob

1 ¶  And Israel took his journey with all that he had, and came to Beersheba, and offered sacrifices unto the God of his father Isaac. 2  And God spake unto Israel in the visions of the night, and said, Jacob, Jacob. And he said, Here am I. 3  And he said, I am God, the God of thy father: fear not to go down into Egypt; for I will there make of thee a great nation: 4  I will go down with thee into Egypt; and I will also surely bring thee up again: and Joseph shall put his hand upon thine eyes.

There, at Beersheba, the scene of encounters between these patriarchs and God in the past, Jacob, Israel, honored God as did Abraham and Isaac.

Genesis 21:33  And Abraham planted a grove in Beersheba, and called there on the name of the LORD, the everlasting God.

Genesis 26:25  And he builded an altar there, and called upon the name of the LORD, and pitched his tent there: and there Isaac’s servants digged a well.

These were animal sacrifices. We have a different sacrifice in this dispensation. If you want to honor God, as a Christian, this is the prescription from Paul.

Romans 12:1 ¶  I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. 2  And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

No amount of ritual or animal sacrifice today does the worship of God justice nor is it what He requires. Even under the Law God made it ever so clear what He really wants from man.

Micah 6:7  Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil? shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? 8  He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?

God calms Jacob’s heart about going down into Egypt comforting him with the promise that God will be with him. He then promises to bring Jacob back from Egypt although there are two clear meanings there as we know today. One, Jacob will be returned for burial as God, in stating that Joseph shall put his hand upon thine eyes as a euphemism for death where someone covers the eyes of the dead person, tells him he will die there, and, two, his descendants will be brought back into the land that is promised.

Jacob’s response to God, Here am I, is used several times by people answering that they are ready to hear and obey God, most notably in 1Samuel 3 for the child, Samuel.

God reminds Jacob that it is promised that he will make of him a great nation. The word nation in the Bible is a reference to a people, not a modern nation-state, the likes of which did not really exist like we know it today beyond 500 years ago.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Genesis 45:16-24 comments; Joseph sends his brothers to bring back their families

16 ¶  And the fame thereof was heard in Pharaoh’s house, saying, Joseph’s brethren are come: and it pleased Pharaoh well, and his servants. 17  And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, [Say unto thy brethren, This do ye; lade your beasts, and go, get you unto the land of Canaan; 18  And take your father and your households, and come unto me: and I will give you the good of the land of Egypt, and ye shall eat the fat of the land. 19  Now thou art commanded, this do ye; take you wagons out of the land of Egypt for your little ones, and for your wives, and bring your father, and come. 20  Also regard not your stuff; for the good of all the land of Egypt is yours. 21  And the children of Israel did so: and Joseph gave them wagons, according to the commandment of Pharaoh, and gave them provision for the way. 22  To all of them he gave each man changes of raiment; but to Benjamin he gave three hundred pieces of silver, and five changes of raiment. 23  And to his father he sent after this manner; ten asses laden with the good things of Egypt, and ten she asses laden with corn and bread and meat for his father by the way. 24  So he sent his brethren away, and they departed: and he said unto them, See that ye fall not out by the way.

Word of Joseph’s reunion with his brothers has now gotten around Pharaoh’s court. This Pharaoh, a type of God the Father, is pleased and so are his servants, probably his ministers, that this Saviour of the Egyptian people has been blessed with this reunion. Pharaoh opens up his arms to offer a place of abode for Joseph’s family. He orders Joseph to gather up his family in Canaan and bring them back to Egypt. Everything that the Egyptians have his family will have. It is a bold promise and one reason why I think this Pharaoh and his top officials ethnically represent the Hyksos dynasty rather than native Egyptian, being more sympathetic to foreigners from Canaan. So, now, a caravan heads back to Canaan to get Jacob and the rest.

Remember how when Rebekah watered Abraham’s servant’s ten camels and I talked about typology in 24:10-28. Let me review for a moment.

“For one example of prophetic interpretation, the phrase And God said is repeated ten times in the first chapter of Genesis. Perhaps, in symbolic, typology these ten camels, brought by a type of the Holy Ghost to a type of God’s church represent God’s word in Abraham, a type of God the Father, sending the Holy Ghost to gather His church for Christ, who in type is Isaac, already sacrificed in type and resurrected in type, based on how the church responds to the words of God. What is happening here is then telling us in shadow what has happened in the spiritual world since before creation.

Ephesians 1:4  According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love:

The part played by the bride-to-be for Isaac, the church for Christ, is laid out by the servant of Abraham, or the Holy Ghost, as one who when approached by the Holy Ghost, responds. The Holy Ghost makes the truth of the gospel brought by the Holy Ghost on ten camels, in a manner of speaking, representing what God has said, apparent and the bride-to-be responds. The bride for Isaac waters the camels as the church glorifies the gospel of Christ by its response to that gospel, confirming that the church is indeed chosen, but chosen by her response. Below, Paul expresses his wish to present the church as pure to Christ as His bride.

2Corinthians 11:2  For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.

And this marriage will be complete at the end of human history.

Revelation 19:9  And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he saith unto me, These are the true sayings of God.”

Back to this passage of Scripture, Ten represents many things, particularly God’s order and what He said, His words. Here, a type of Christ, Joseph, is sending by order of a type of God the Father, Pharaoh, provisions in numbers of ten to take back to nourish God’s people with the intent purpose of drawing them, bringing them to Egypt, which is here a type of Heaven. Heaven clearly is the end habitation of God’s people but He does not leave them without spiritual nourishment in the meantime in the period before their return. Of course, there are many much better sermons that can be taken from this one passage as with all.

Numbers like three hundred and five have great significance in the rest of the Bible and there are many opinions as to what they signify. But numerology is always a risky business and almost always a matter of opinion. You see a number and then start looking for its application in all sorts of ways, some clear from the text and others a total stretch. Be careful how you represent God and remember that Job’s three friends were criticized, not for lying in every particular as many of the things they said were true, but for misrepresenting God’s reasons and intentions, which they had no way of knowing.

Corn and bread and meat also might have a significance as three types of nourishment; one natural and raw, one prepared by human hands, and one as the general reference for food in the Bible. Could these refer to corn as God’s word in its raw form from the pages of the Bible, bread as God’s word interpreted by a human with the help of the Holy Spirit, and meat as the deepest and true doctrine that God’s word provides for us. I am sure there are other possibilities as well regarding the spiritual nourishment God’s food provides.

Job 34:3  For the ear trieth words, as the mouth tasteth meat.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Chapter 45:1-15 comments: land of Goshen

1 ¶  Then Joseph could not refrain himself before all them that stood by him; and he cried, Cause every man to go out from me. And there stood no man with him, while Joseph made himself known unto his brethren. 2  And he wept aloud: and the Egyptians and the house of Pharaoh heard. 3  And Joseph said unto his brethren, I am Joseph; doth my father yet live? And his brethren could not answer him; for they were troubled at his presence. 4  And Joseph said unto his brethren, Come near to me, I pray you. And they came near. And he said, I am Joseph your brother, whom ye sold into Egypt. 5  Now therefore be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves, that ye sold me hither: for God did send me before you to preserve life. 6  For these two years hath the famine been in the land: and yet there are five years, in the which there shall neither be earing nor harvest. 7  And God sent me before you to preserve you a posterity in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance. 8  So now it was not you that sent me hither, but God: and he hath made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house, and a ruler throughout all the land of Egypt. 9  Haste ye, and go up to my father, and say unto him, Thus saith thy son Joseph, God hath made me lord of all Egypt: come down unto me, tarry not: 10  And thou shalt dwell in the land of Goshen, and thou shalt be near unto me, thou, and thy children, and thy children’s children, and thy flocks, and thy herds, and all that thou hast: 11  And there will I nourish thee; for yet there are five years of famine; lest thou, and thy household, and all that thou hast, come to poverty. 12  And, behold, your eyes see, and the eyes of my brother Benjamin, that it is my mouth that speaketh unto you. 13  And ye shall tell my father of all my glory in Egypt, and of all that ye have seen; and ye shall haste and bring down my father hither. 14  And he fell upon his brother Benjamin’s neck, and wept; and Benjamin wept upon his neck. 15  Moreover he kissed all his brethren, and wept upon them: and after that his brethren talked with him.

Joseph could no longer contain himself and he told his Egyptian staff to leave the room. But, they could hear his emotional outcry to his brothers. It takes him a bit to convince them that he is, indeed, Joseph their brother. The brothers are dumbfounded. What they meant maliciously God turned to good. He does that with human actions on a regular basis. People throughout history have done many wicked things, often for power and profit, which God has permitted to be done but used to put forth His own purpose such as Europe conquering the world and enslaving millions by their will for power and profit yet God used their evil desire to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ and today faith in Christ is growing at its greatest rate in the so-called third world with people of faith in every part of the world. This does not make slavery and conquest less evil and murderous but simply shows that, as with Joseph’s brothers actions God will not let it go without using it in some way for His purpose.

Joseph introduces himself to his brethren and could it be that the Jews in Israel in the end of history learn of who Jesus really was and is in the same time frame? Some preachers have noted that if there is a seven-year Tribulation at the end of history, of which that last 3 ½ years is called the Great Tribulation, that Jesus might make Himself known to the Jews in a special way 2 years into it. Who can say? Prophecy revealed is not set up for us to gloat over a pretense of smugly declaring how we know the future in detail but as a warning and for the following reason.

John 14:29  And now I have told you before it come to pass, that, when it is come to pass, ye might believe.

He has already planned for them to live in the land of Goshen, which some say was the area of northeastern Egypt where the Nile entered the Mediterranean Sea. It was lush and fertile land and a place separate from the rest of the Egypt. Of course, this is an assumption based on the conclusions of a 19th century scholar, Henri Naville. We must be careful in accepting this. Goshen is a word transliteration from a Hebrew word which may or may not have originated from an Egyptian word. Goshen could be in northeastern Egypt or it could have been elsewhere and drawing conclusions on lack of evidence is the bane of scholarship. Let us say that it was a suitable place for herds and it is doubtful that the Pharaoh would have imagined how numerous the Hebrews would become. 

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Chapter 44 comments: dramatic tension comes to a peak

Chapter 44

1 ¶  And he commanded the steward of his house, saying, Fill the men’s sacks with food, as much as they can carry, and put every man’s money in his sack’s mouth. 2  And put my cup, the silver cup, in the sack’s mouth of the youngest, and his corn money. And he did according to the word that Joseph had spoken. 3  As soon as the morning was light, the men were sent away, they and their asses. 4  And when they were gone out of the city, and not yet far off, Joseph said unto his steward, Up, follow after the men; and when thou dost overtake them, say unto them, Wherefore have ye rewarded evil for good? 5  Is not this it in which my lord drinketh, and whereby indeed he divineth? ye have done evil in so doing. 6  And he overtook them, and he spake unto them these same words. 7  And they said unto him, Wherefore saith my lord these words? God forbid that thy servants should do according to this thing: 8  Behold, the money, which we found in our sacks’ mouths, we brought again unto thee out of the land of Canaan: how then should we steal out of thy lord’s house silver or gold? 9  With whomsoever of thy servants it be found, both let him die, and we also will be my lord’s bondmen. 10  And he said, Now also let it be according unto your words: he with whom it is found shall be my servant; and ye shall be blameless. 11  Then they speedily took down every man his sack to the ground, and opened every man his sack. 12  And he searched, and began at the eldest, and left at the youngest: and the cup was found in Benjamin’s sack. 13  Then they rent their clothes, and laded every man his ass, and returned to the city. 14  And Judah and his brethren came to Joseph’s house; for he was yet there: and they fell before him on the ground. 15  And Joseph said unto them, What deed is this that ye have done? wot ye not that such a man as I can certainly divine? 16  And Judah said, What shall we say unto my lord? what shall we speak? or how shall we clear ourselves? God hath found out the iniquity of thy servants: behold, we are my lord’s servants, both we, and he also with whom the cup is found. 17  And he said, God forbid that I should do so: but the man in whose hand the cup is found, he shall be my servant; and as for you, get you up in peace unto your father.

Joseph sets the brothers up yet again for a shock by not only filling them with food and wine and also giving them provisions for their return journey, but then placing a special silver cup in the sack of Benjamin. All of the men’s money was returned again to them.

This silver cup, which it is said that Joseph used to drink from and to divine with has some special significance. It was common for nobility in the ancient world to use cups for the purposes of divining the will of the spiritual world. Several sources attest to this. The same instrument used by the pagan was also used by the people of God before the Law was given and after to divine God’s will. As an example the casting of lots takes place many times to divine God’s will because, unlike we today who believe heavily in randomness and luck based on randomness, the ancients believed that there was a point to everything even if humans were unable to discern it. Just type in the word lots in a computer concordance or look it up.

Divining was used to try to understand that plan or the intention of spiritual entities; gods, devils, and, in the sense of the people of God, His will. If you believe that no flip of the coin results from chance and that God is in control of all reality and events then this becomes easier to understand although its purpose may be truly ungodly and an abomination based on intent. Judging from Joseph’s character and his close relationship with God, being used by Him, I am confident that Joseph was not seeking answers from devils, pagan entities, but from God alone.

In this bit of deception, as you read, Joseph accuses them of stealing his cup in order to bring them back to him. Now, Joseph states that he is going to keep Benjamin as a servant, even though Judah offered all of them as Joseph’s servants, and they can go back to their father.

    18 ¶  Then Judah came near unto him, and said, Oh my lord, let thy servant, I pray thee, speak a word in my lord’s ears, and let not thine anger burn against thy servant: for thou art even as Pharaoh. 19  My lord asked his servants, saying, Have ye a father, or a brother? 20  And we said unto my lord, We have a father, an old man, and a child of his old age, a little one; and his brother is dead, and he alone is left of his mother, and his father loveth him. 21  And thou saidst unto thy servants, Bring him down unto me, that I may set mine eyes upon him. 22  And we said unto my lord, The lad cannot leave his father: for if he should leave his father, his father would die. 23  And thou saidst unto thy servants, Except your youngest brother come down with you, ye shall see my face no more. 24  And it came to pass when we came up unto thy servant my father, we told him the words of my lord. 25  And our father said, Go again, and buy us a little food. 26  And we said, We cannot go down: if our youngest brother be with us, then will we go down: for we may not see the man’s face, except our youngest brother be with us. 27  And thy servant my father said unto us, Ye know that my wife bare me two sons: 28  And the one went out from me, and I said, Surely he is torn in pieces; and I saw him not since: 29  And if ye take this also from me, and mischief befall him, ye shall bring down my gray hairs with sorrow to the grave. 30  Now therefore when I come to thy servant my father, and the lad be not with us; seeing that his life is bound up in the lad’s life; 31  It shall come to pass, when he seeth that the lad is not with us, that he will die: and thy servants shall bring down the gray hairs of thy servant our father with sorrow to the grave. 32  For thy servant became surety for the lad unto my father, saying, If I bring him not unto thee, then I shall bear the blame to my father for ever. 33  Now therefore, I pray thee, let thy servant abide instead of the lad a bondman to my lord; and let the lad go up with his brethren. 34  For how shall I go up to my father, and the lad be not with me? lest peradventure I see the evil that shall come on my father.

Judah pleads for his father, that Benjamin not be kept as a servant but that Judah take his place. He offered himself as surety for Benjamin’s safety, after all. He implores this mighty Egyptian official, whom he does not know as his brother, Joseph. Judah, who in 37:26 persuaded his brothers that, rather than kill Joseph, they should sell him to the Ishmaelites, was instrumental in Joseph having the opportunity to be the de facto ruler of Egypt’s internal policies regarding the preparation and survival of this famine.

This is a time of great tension and, as far as the brothers know, the fate of Benjamin, their fate, and their father’s all hinge on this Egyptian official’s sense of mercy. It is a time of desperation, fear, and anxiety. To them, everything hinges on this official’s decision. Can you imagine how filled with confusion and dread and apprehension they must be? I wonder if they imagined how filled with confusion, fear, and apprehension Joseph must have been when he was thrown in that pit and then sold by his own brothers as a slave to traveling traders.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Genesis 43:15-34 comments: Joseph's feast with his brothers

15 ¶  And the men took that present, and they took double money in their hand, and Benjamin; and rose up, and went down to Egypt, and stood before Joseph. 16  And when Joseph saw Benjamin with them, he said to the ruler of his house, Bring these men home, and slay, and make ready; for these men shall dine with me at noon. 17  And the man did as Joseph bade; and the man brought the men into Joseph’s house. 18  And the men were afraid, because they were brought into Joseph’s house; and they said, Because of the money that was returned in our sacks at the first time are we brought in; that he may seek occasion against us, and fall upon us, and take us for bondmen, and our asses. 19  And they came near to the steward of Joseph’s house, and they communed with him at the door of the house, 20  And said, O sir, we came indeed down at the first time to buy food: 21  And it came to pass, when we came to the inn, that we opened our sacks, and, behold, every man’s money was in the mouth of his sack, our money in full weight: and we have brought it again in our hand. 22  And other money have we brought down in our hands to buy food: we cannot tell who put our money in our sacks. 23  And he said, Peace be to you, fear not: your God, and the God of your father, hath given you treasure in your sacks: I had your money. And he brought Simeon out unto them. 24  And the man brought the men into Joseph’s house, and gave them water, and they washed their feet; and he gave their asses provender. 25  And they made ready the present against Joseph came at noon: for they heard that they should eat bread there.

The brothers take the amount of money they intended to spend on the last trip that was returned to them and the same amount of money again, to buy more food. They were then greeted at Joseph’s house in a manner that probably surprised them somewhat. Joseph’s steward, whom we would call a butler today, calms their fears and gives them the story about the money being in their sacks on the last trip being a miracle. This is the steward’s story, perhaps ordered by Joseph. The reader is under no requirement to view this as from God Himself. Joseph had their money put back in their sacks. A great lesson is learned here. Just because a character in the Bible says something that does not mean that it is true or necessarily a doctrine. Read the text and the background, the context, before picking a verse and preaching on it.

    26 ¶  And when Joseph came home, they brought him the present which was in their hand into the house, and bowed themselves to him to the earth. 27  And he asked them of their welfare, and said, Is your father well, the old man of whom ye spake? Is he yet alive? 28  And they answered, Thy servant our father is in good health, he is yet alive. And they bowed down their heads, and made obeisance. 29  And he lifted up his eyes, and saw his brother Benjamin, his mother’s son, and said, Is this your younger brother, of whom ye spake unto me? And he said, God be gracious unto thee, my son. 30  And Joseph made haste; for his bowels did yearn upon his brother: and he sought where to weep; and he entered into his chamber, and wept there. 31  And he washed his face, and went out, and refrained himself, and said, Set on bread. 32  And they set on for him by himself, and for them by themselves, and for the Egyptians, which did eat with him, by themselves: because the Egyptians might not eat bread with the Hebrews; for that is an abomination unto the Egyptians. 33  And they sat before him, the firstborn according to his birthright, and the youngest according to his youth: and the men marvelled one at another. 34  And he took and sent messes unto them from before him: but Benjamin’s mess was five times so much as any of theirs. And they drank, and were merry with him.

Joseph is now overwhelmed at the presence of his beloved brother, Benjamin. The brothers are amazed at the feast set before them. The Egyptians not eating side by side with the Hebrews reveals the hostility and disgust these civilized people of one of the ancient world’s superpowers feel toward these herders from the area we today call Palestine. The arrangements are revealed with Joseph seated separately, appropriately for his rank it can be presumed, the Egyptians separately, and the brothers seated by eldest to youngest. Benjamin gets five times as much food as the brothers did but it apparently doesn’t affect them. They drank and were merry with Joseph.

A mess from which we get “mess-kit” and “mess hall” in old military terms also means a portion of food or a dish as in a mess of meat. Just think of it as a meal or as a specific dish in a meal as Nicholas Culpeper in his 1652 work ‘The English Physician’ wrote a “mess of warm broth.”

2Samuel 11:8  And David said to Uriah, Go down to thy house, and wash thy feet. And Uriah departed out of the king’s house, and there followed him a mess of meat from the king.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Chapter 43:1-14 comments: Desperation (revised)

1 ¶  And the famine was sore in the land. 2  And it came to pass, when they had eaten up the corn which they had brought out of Egypt, their father said unto them, Go again, buy us a little food. 3  And Judah spake unto him, saying, The man did solemnly protest unto us, saying, Ye shall not see my face, except your brother be with you. 4  If thou wilt send our brother with us, we will go down and buy thee food: 5  But if thou wilt not send him, we will not go down: for the man said unto us, Ye shall not see my face, except your brother be with you. 6  And Israel said, Wherefore dealt ye so ill with me, as to tell the man whether ye had yet a brother? 7  And they said, The man asked us straitly of our state, and of our kindred, saying, Is your father yet alive? have ye another brother? and we told him according to the tenor of these words: could we certainly know that he would say, Bring your brother down? 8  And Judah said unto Israel his father, Send the lad with me, and we will arise and go; that we may live, and not die, both we, and thou, and also our little ones. 9  I will be surety for him; of my hand shalt thou require him: if I bring him not unto thee, and set him before thee, then let me bear the blame for ever: 10  For except we had lingered, surely now we had returned this second time.

So, now there is nothing left of what Joseph had given his brothers. The famine is getting worse. Jacob tells them to go again to Egypt to buy food. Now, it is Judah who says to let Benjamin go and offers himself up as a guarantee against the young man’s return.

First Reuben then Judah tried to persuade their father to let Benjamin go with them.

    11 ¶  And their father Israel said unto them, If it must be so now, do this; take of the best fruits in the land in your vessels, and carry down the man a present, a little balm, and a little honey, spices, and myrrh, nuts, and almonds: 12  And take double money in your hand; and the money that was brought again in the mouth of your sacks, carry it again in your hand; peradventure it was an oversight: 13  Take also your brother, and arise, go again unto the man: 14  And God Almighty give you mercy before the man, that he may send away your other brother, and Benjamin. If I be bereaved of my children, I am bereaved.

This passage shows that it is the basic food crop that is affected by the famine and not other substances so that the famine has most likely been caused by a failure of the wheat crop throughout the Ancient Near East over several years. The reason I believe this famine has been caused by back to back wheat crop failures due to disease or other causes is that growing almonds takes a lot of water and I’ve even read it takes ten gallons of water to grow one almond. We’ve seen recently by the drought in California that drought takes its toll on nut and honey production. Egypt itself was not dependent upon rain as it was for the annual flooding of the Nile River. Taken together the evidence appears to indicate that it is not a lack of rainfall and water that hindered the wheat, the corn crop, but some other factor such as disease or even too much water. We must remember that many crop failures and famines in Medieval England were caused by too much rainfall. Nevertheless, Jacob’s family must have wheat from Egypt which would one day provide a great deal of the wheat necessary for the survival of Rome, the capital of empire, at the time of Jesus’ earthly ministry.

The famine was sore, very severe. See the definition of sore linked by and with great in a similar context.

Deuteronomy 6:22  And the LORD shewed signs and wonders, great and sore, upon Egypt, upon Pharaoh, and upon all his household, before our eyes:

This has been the cause of many food riots in the recent past, when the cost of food rises too high. Americans spend about 20% of their incomes on food while some countries, particularly in Africa, have to spend 80% of their income on food.

If you want to pick a single indicator of where political instability will occur in the modern world; political, social, or economic then the price of grain is your best bet. Other factors such as tribal hatreds, lack of participation in the political process, etc. set the stage but the rising cost of food is the tipping point. Desperation drives revolutions.

Back to the passage, the brothers must go back to Egypt, and to Joseph.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Genesis 42:29-38 comments: Reuben offers his own sons as surety

29 ¶  And they came unto Jacob their father unto the land of Canaan, and told him all that befell unto them; saying, 30  The man, who is the lord of the land, spake roughly to us, and took us for spies of the country. 31  And we said unto him, We are true men; we are no spies: 32  We be twelve brethren, sons of our father; one is not, and the youngest is this day with our father in the land of Canaan. 33  And the man, the lord of the country, said unto us, Hereby shall I know that ye are true men; leave one of your brethren here with me, and take food for the famine of your households, and be gone: 34  And bring your youngest brother unto me: then shall I know that ye are no spies, but that ye are true men: so will I deliver you your brother, and ye shall traffick in the land. 35  And it came to pass as they emptied their sacks, that, behold, every man’s bundle of money was in his sack: and when both they and their father saw the bundles of money, they were afraid. 36  And Jacob their father said unto them, Me have ye bereaved of my children: Joseph is not, and Simeon is not, and ye will take Benjamin away: all these things are against me. 37  And Reuben spake unto his father, saying, Slay my two sons, if I bring him not to thee: deliver him into my hand, and I will bring him to thee again. 38  And he said, My son shall not go down with you; for his brother is dead, and he is left alone: if mischief befall him by the way in the which ye go, then shall ye bring down my gray hairs with sorrow to the grave.

The brothers return to their father and report what happened to them. Jacob joins in their fear. Reuben offers his own sons as hostage to Jacob if he does not take Benjamin to Egypt and return him again. Their situation must be most desperate. But Jacob refuses to let his precious youngest son, who may be a young adult now, go. Losing him will be the death of Jacob he says.

The earth has been drying out since the flood. Land use studies of the Ancient Near East show the climate was cooler before 1,000 BC. and better suited to crops and forests. The Scriptures themselves give evidence to this wetter, cooler climate so unlike the arid landscape we see today. It is likened to the Garden of Eden.

Genesis 13:10 ¶  And Lot lifted up his eyes, and beheld all the plain of Jordan, that it was well watered every where, before the LORD destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, even as the garden of the LORD, like the land of Egypt, as thou comest unto Zoar.

Exodus 3:7 ¶  And the LORD said, I have surely seen the affliction of my people which are in Egypt, and have heard their cry by reason of their taskmasters; for I know their sorrows; 8  And I am come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land unto a good land and a large, unto a land flowing with milk and honey; unto the place of the Canaanites, and the Hittites, and the Amorites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites.

Josephus, chronicler of the war against the Romans, tells of the climate himself at Christ’s time.

Its nature is wonderful as well as its beauty; its soil is so fruitful that all sorts of trees can grow upon it, and the inhabitants accordingly plant all sorts of trees there; for the temper of the air is so well mixed, that it agrees very well with those several sorts, particularly walnuts, which require the coldest air, flourish there in vast plenty; there are palm trees also, which grow best in hot air; fig trees also and olives grow near them, which yet require an air that is more temperate. One may call this place the ambition of nature, where it forces those plants that are naturally enemies to one another to agree together; it is a happy contention of the seasons, as if every one of them laid claim to this country; for it not only nourishes different sorts of autumnal fruit beyond men’s expectation, but preserves them a great while; it supplies men with the principal fruits, with grapes and figs continually, during ten months of the year and the rest of the fruits as they become ripe together through the whole year” (The Jewish War, Book 3, Chapter 10:8).

So, no matter what you’ve been told the testimony of Scripture and history shows that this area was once a fertile place that was a great producer of food. The famine must have been a very great shock and source of dismay to the inhabitants. Many people probably starved to death. His status as the eldest son, this famine, and his brother’s hostage state were great motivators to get Reuben to make his offer.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Genesis 42:21-28 comments: the brothers are sent packing

21 ¶  And they said one to another, We are verily guilty concerning our brother, in that we saw the anguish of his soul, when he besought us, and we would not hear; therefore is this distress come upon us. 22  And Reuben answered them, saying, Spake I not unto you, saying, Do not sin against the child; and ye would not hear? therefore, behold, also his blood is required. 23  And they knew not that Joseph understood them; for he spake unto them by an interpreter. 24  And he turned himself about from them, and wept; and returned to them again, and communed with them, and took from them Simeon, and bound him before their eyes. 25  Then Joseph commanded to fill their sacks with corn, and to restore every man’s money into his sack, and to give them provision for the way: and thus did he unto them. 26  And they laded their asses with the corn, and departed thence. 27  And as one of them opened his sack to give his ass provender in the inn, he espied his money; for, behold, it was in his sack’s mouth. 28  And he said unto his brethren, My money is restored; and, lo, it is even in my sack: and their heart failed them, and they were afraid, saying one to another, What is this that God hath done unto us?

The brothers’ guilt in regard to Joseph is brought before their minds. They believe that they are in trouble now, forced to pay, for what they did to him. Reuben reminded them that he had pleaded with them to do no harm to Joseph. He views this as cosmic justice for what they did to Joseph. It was acknowledged by preachers such as Jonathan Edwards in his sermon entitled Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God that sin carries with it the burden of justice. We do awful things and awful things come back on us. Heathens understand this in the Hindu concept of Karma and mostly in its popular Western application of getting what you have coming to you. God has His ways of dealing with people, sometimes slowly, and nations, sometimes slowly, in regard to their wickedness and evil treatment of others but God repeatedly warns people;

Genesis 4:10  And he said, What hast thou done? the voice of thy brother’s blood crieth unto me from the ground.

Numbers 32:23  But if ye will not do so, behold, ye have sinned against the LORD: and be sure your sin will find you out.

You cannot escape the evil that you do to others. Do you beat-up your wife or children? It will come back to you. Are you cruel to other people or to animals? God sees all that you do. The fact that some people seem to get away with much evil is no guarantee that you can walk in your wickedness with impunity. Bible figures lamented what seemed like a lack of needed judgment at times.

Jeremiah 12:1  Righteous art thou, O LORD, when I plead with thee: yet let me talk with thee of thy judgments: Wherefore doth the way of the wicked prosper? wherefore are all they happy that deal very treacherously?

But, judgment does come and God does visit those who act wickedly. The brothers see this situation they are in as just payment for their mistreatment of Joseph.

Joseph hears, of course, what they are saying but since Joseph feigned to be Egyptian he spoke through an interpreter so they didn’t know he spoke their language. We use the word interpreter today for a person who translates languages, for instance, at the UN.

Joseph can’t help but cry but he doesn’t want them to see him. He then bound Simeon and sent the rest of them away filled with food and provisions for the journey home but he also ordered their money to be returned to them.

When they realize that they have their money back they are terrified and ask What is this that God hath done unto us? Clearly, they believe that they are going to be in deep trouble with this Egyptian government official. They have no idea that it is Joseph or what he is up to.

This is important to add to the long list of things that indicate the Bible is telling us that there is no such thing as blind chance, that God works through our reality, through people and events, to accomplish something which we may have no understanding of in our finite minds. Moderns would do well to ask this question when things go awry or seem unexplainable. What is this that God hath done unto us?