Torah Study Notes 12-27-14

December 27, 2014

p. 288

45:1  Joseph’s deception of his brothers  is really intended for his father.  He could have sent a message to his father but clearly he wants to know what has been learned by his father from the negative effects of favoritism. Now all of the sons are to be included in the covenant. Note that children can be treated differently based on their talents but should all be loved equally. The key here is reconciliation so that there is a single people Israel.

45:4 “I am Joseph your brother” “ But God sent me ahead of you…”  Is Joseph rationalizing all that has happened in order to put any animosity behind him? Note the word “now” at the beginning of line five. Only now does all of this begin to make sense to him. Previously God had no role in the story. Here we begin to see an issue of free will of which more later when “God hardens the heart of Pharaoh.”  God’s role is diminished previously in the Isaac wife/sister story of which we are given three versions. In the story of Jacob only he encounters God – the wrestling match.  God is withdrawing. The act of maturing requires less supervision. Note that the brothers are now transformed. They now want to save the father’s favorite – Benjamin – even at great risk to themselves.

45:8 Settle in the land of Goshen and be near to me. Understand this in temporal terms and what Joseph’s understanding is “now.” Is Joseph a prophet in the sense of an individual who experiences directly within them the presence of God and is able to interpret that presence? Jacob is attuned to the presence of God within him and is a prophet. Joseph, who relies on dreams rather than direction from God is not a prophet in the traditional sense.  Note that Joseph’s first son is named Menasha which means “to forget” or putting the past behind. It is possible to leave the covenantal line as has Esau and Ishmael. Theme and variation are important constructs in the telling of a story. A question is presented here as to what it means to have one universal God at a time where that was unique. The entire scripture is the story of a a people coming to grips with this in the face of a dominant polytheistic culture. See the work of Wellhausen on this subject who argued that early Israel was still polytheistic.  He did not see the comprehensive narrative arc. Compare the Koran approach which flattens the narrative. There Abraham proclaims the oneness of God without exploring how faith is incorporated into one’s life.

45:16 Pharaoh is pleased and offers the brother residence.

45:21 Benjamin gets 300 pieces of silver and three changes of clothing. Why is Benjamin favored? He was going to be sacrificed by Joseph unless the brothers came forward with the goblet. Benjamin bore the brunt of the terror.  LL: Isaac was terrified at his binding but not subsequently “favored” in this sense.

45:25  They went up from Egypt and told Jacob all that had happened. Assume for the moment that Jacob knows all of this but doesn’t believe that the brothers know. It could be read that he doesn’t trust them and never accepted the story of the coat. There are rabbinic discussions and explorations along this line. In the Koran it is important that Joseph is not born a prophet but has the gift of prophecy conferred upon him – like Mohammed. Note that the Hebrew Scripture was not translated into Arabic until well after the death of Mohammed. Even Mohammed’sv words were not written down until almost a century later. There are no surviving variant texts of the Koran.

LL Note: I have been reading The Bible Unearthed: Archeology’s New Vision of Israel and The Origin of Its Sacred Texts by Israel Finkelstein and Neil Asher Silberman. Here is  an abstract of what they say about Joseph: “The tale of Joseph’s rise to prominence in Egypt, as narrated in the Book of Genesis, is the most famous of the stories of Canaanite immigrants rising to power in Egypt, but there are other sources that offer essentially the same picture – from the Egyptian point of view. The most important of them was written by the Egyptian historian Manetho in the third century BCE; he recorded an extraordinary immigrant success story, though from his patriotic Egyptian perspective it amounted to a national tragedy. Basing his accounts on unnamed “sacred books” and “popular tales and legends” Manetho described a massive, brutal invasion of Egypt by foreigners from the east who he called Hyksos, an enigmatic Greek form of an Egyptian word that he translated as “shepherd kings” but actually means “rulers of foreign lands.” Manetho reported that the Hyksos established themselves in the delta at a city named Avaris. And they founded a dynasty there that ruled Egypt with great cruelty for more than five hundred years.… Subsequent studies showed that (the Hyksos) inscriptions and seals were West Semitic – in other words, Canaanite. Recent archeological excavations in the eastern Nile delta have confirmed that conclusion and indicate that the Hyksos “invasion” was a gradual process of immigration from Canaan to Egypt, rather than a lightning military campaign.” … Manetho suggested that after the Hyksos were driven from Egypt, they founded the city of Jerusalem and constructed a temple there…”   LL/

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