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The Bible – Joseph is an Evil Genius

Benjamin embraces Joseph

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Joseph‘s story continues… Ten of his eleven brothers travel to Egypt to buy food to get them through the famine. Incidentally, something has occurred to me: in the tales of Joseph, God seems to be more bothered by getting Joseph into a position of power than in either preventing/alleviating the famine or in making the Israelites get through the famine. If Israel is the chosen land, why on earth are they the ones who have to go begging? If I chose a land, I’d make damn sure that they had enough to eat; were free from ills and didn’t get invaded once a week. If God is all-powerful and all-knowing, why not skip to the end and give Israel everything that they need? Anyway…

Joseph recognises his brothers and pretends not to. It’s not enough for him to crow over them, he wants to really lord it over them. So he jails them and sends one back to get the brother. No he doesn’t, he lets all but one go and they have to bring the youngest brother, Benjamin, back with them. Seriously – chapter 42 lets us see every discarded plan. So, when the 9 brothers return home, they realise that they have been sent home with all the grain they bought and the money they bought it with – this sends the family into a panic because it looks as though they have cheated Egypt. Reading through this chapter, by the way, I get the impression that the brothers have done some growing up and realised that they what they did was wrong, but they are tied up in the story they told when they sold Joseph. Joseph however has not moved on – he has wealth, power, respect and a new family and yet he still wants to make sure his brothers suffer. Joseph is meant to be something of a role model, by the way. As are Doctor Doom, Doctor Octopus, Lex Luthor, and I think you get my point. Anyway, Benjamin is not sent to Egypt, their father decides to hold him back in case he is captured or killed and makes the father unhappy. And the brother who is supposedly in jail? He’s still there.

Upshot is, they return to Egypt, with Benjamin, and more money and gifts for Joseph. And lo, they have a meal.

Genesis 44 – in which Joseph is a complete dick. After the meal, Joseph tells his steward to let them all go with food and money and to hide a silver cup in one of the sacks. He then instructs his steward to let them go on their way and to arrest them for theft after they have a little bit of a head start. I’m not going to mention the details, but all the way to the end of Chapter 47 we have a small family reunion and Joseph uses the famine to buy all of Egypt for the Pharaoh.  Because Joseph has used his dreams to ensure that he has all of the food and doesn’t tell anyone else to stockpile, he sets Pharaoh up as the supreme ruler of Egypt:

20And Joseph bought all the land of Egypt for Pharaoh; for the Egyptians sold every man his field, because the famine prevailed over them: so the land became Pharaoh’s.

23Then Joseph said unto the people, Behold, I have bought you this day and your land for Pharaoh: lo, here is seed for you, and ye shall sow the land.

24And it shall come to pass in the increase, that ye shall give the fifth part unto Pharaoh, and four parts shall be your own, for seed of the field, and for your food, and for them of your households, and for food for your little ones.

Interestingly, tithing to the Church involves giving 10% of your earnings (before deductions) to the Church. Pharaoh, through the ever merciful Joseph, demands 20%. And all is well. Except that Jacob/Israel, the father, takes 2 chapters to die and Joseph is given a bit of one chapter to die. Amazing. So at the end of Chapter 50, they both are dead and buried. There is a bunch of details on the futures of Jacob’s children, which won’t be listed because they are unlikely to ever feature again and they speak more of character than actions.

And with that, we are done with Genesis. Probably one of the most underwhelming books I have read. There are a few important things in there – action, adventure, betrayal – but long stretches of absolutely nothing. If I were telling the tales orally, as would have happened before a written language got to the masses, it would have expanded on the important stuff and skipped (or missed out) huge swathes of boring stuff. However, this is apparently a very important book – even though most of the dramatis personae are dead by the end and won’t feature in the next book: Exodus.

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