Wednesday, March 23, 2016

It's Thursday March 24

Number 60 - part two

Verses 13 – 26

Having settled his family in Goshen, Joseph got back to the task of managing the famine that the whole region was enduring, for things were getting worse and Egypt and Canaan were wasting away,(v13). Joseph was busy selling grain to both Egyptians and Canaanites and presenting the money to Pharaoh. Eventually, the peoples' money was gone and with the fear of imminent starvation, Joseph had the people bring their livestock in exchange for food. A year later, they had no livestock left, so the people offered their land to Joseph and he bought that for Pharaoh, in exchange for food. Pharaoh now owned all the livestock and land. 
   Next, the people even sold themselves to him, (v23) and were reduced to servitude or relocated to cities. That would probably have been of no great loss as nothing would grow, so farmers could not farm(v 21). Also, they were probably nearer to the food distribution centres/barns. As hard as this seems, there was no complaint from the people, only praise that Pharaoh/Joseph had saved their lives(v 25) What is our judgement on Joseph's methods???

    Whilst Pharaoh no doubt possessed most of the land when the 14 years began, the ordinary people owned sufficient land to provide food for their families. Had they done the same as Joseph did for Pharaoh in those seven years of plenty, surely they would not have been in the dire straits they now found themselves? 

Finally, Joseph put in place a law whereby Pharaoh would give seed for the people to sow in exchange for receiving one fifth of the crop produced, once the famine was over. The four fifths left could be kept as seed for their fields and food for their families.

27 – 31

It seems that whilst the Egyptians grew poorer, the Israelites grew richer, acquiring property. Jacob realised that his death was drawing closer. His one desire on death was to be taken back to the land of Canaan, the Promised Land, and he had Joseph vow that he would ensure that his wishes were carried out. He needn't have worried, for God is as good as his word and he had promised twice (28:15, 46:4), that he would bring him back to the land.

Genesis 48:1-22

Here is a poignant picture of an old man who knows his end is near. When told that his father is ill, Joseph immediately leaves what he is doing to take his two sons to see his father. Hearing that his son is coming, dear old Jacob 'rallied his strength and sat up on the bed.' No doubt he didn't want to upset his son or grandsons at sight of his deterioration.

Jacob then tells Joseph of the vivid memory he still had of meeting with God at Luz (Bethel), where he dreamt of that staircase linking earth and heaven with angels ascending and descending it. There, God had promised him that he would be the father of a people and that his descendants would have the land of Canaan as a permanent possession.

He then told Joseph that his two sons would be recognised as his sons. What he was saying was that whilst they had only known Egypt and its customs and culture, and that their mother was Egyptian, they were to see themselves as Hebrews, belonging to Jacob not Egyptians. When you look later at the tribes of Israel, all are named after Jacob's sons, but you will not find a Joseph tribe. The tribes ofEphraim and Manasseh are named. Jacob then spoke of his dearly beloved Rachel, Joseph's mother, and her death(see also 35:19).

v 8 Poor Jacob is failing. Although he had been talking about Joseph's sons, he did not seem to recognise them standing there. When told, Jacob asked that they be brought to him, and they sit on his knees. He is deeply moved, (Read verse 11 again). Joseph then removed his boys from his father's knees and bows low before his father. What reverence, what respect. Later, God would give a law to Moses in which it would state, 'Honour you father and mother.' Those who love do not need the law. Joseph shows his father such honour here.  As great a man as Joseph is in the eyes of the world, in his own eyes he is less than this old wandering shepherd, his dad; and he shows it. He could not bow lower than he does. 

Joseph then places Manasseh, the oldest, to the right hand of his father and Ephraim to the left. Dear Jacob crosses his arms and puts his right hand on Ephraim and the left on Manasseh, whilst he blesses Joseph. He then testifies to Joseph and his children of how good God had been to him, that he had been his shepherd throughout his life, praying that the Angel who delivered him from harm would 'bless these boys.' His longing, (as we said earlier) was that they would follow the pattern of his grandfather and father, Abraham and Isaac.

Joseph, seeing that his father had placed his right hand on his younger son Ephraim, wasn't happy and sought to correct what he thought was an error. But Jacob knew what he was doing. He had the foresight or inspiration from God to know which of the sons were to be the greater. Manasseh's tribe would be the weaker, divided, with half the tribe on one side of the River Jordan and the other half on the other, when the Children of Israel settled in Canaan. But it would be from Ephraim that the great leader, Joshua, would com. 

So often in the bible it is the  younger son who takes precedence over the elder son or older sons. (Examples - Abel above Cain, Shem above Japheth, Abraham above Nahor and Haran, Isaac above Ishmael, Jacob above Esau, Joseph above Reuben, Moses before Aaron, David before his brothers.....

Finally, Jacob gives a reassurance to Jacob that though he is about to die, God will one day take Joseph to where his forefathers are. Physically, that land was the land of Canaan, where Abraham and Isaac were buried and where Joseph had promised to bury his father Jacob. Spiritually, it is a promise to all who belong to the Lord, to take us to the land of our spiritual fathers, those who have gone before us, the heavenly Canaan. We are told not to mourn like those who have no hope, (1 Thessalonians 4:13)

Howard Webber
Bournemouth


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