The Orthodox Pages



Part 5

31st October 2013





































































































































































Last week we finished with the death of Abraham's son Ishmael. We also saw that before Abraham died he arranged to find a wife for his son Isaac from his brother's family. Isaac and Rebecca are married but after twenty years Rebecca remained barren. After Isaac beseeched the Lord, Rebecca conceived and gave birth to twins – Esau and Jacob. Rebecca must have had a very difficult and painful pregnancy because she complains to God that it would have been better if she hadn't conceived. She believed that her pregnancy was a blessing from God so she turns to God to find an answer that would explain why the babies were continually turning in her belly. The Lord answered and said to her that "two nations are in thy womb, and two peoples shall be separated from thy belly; and one people shall excel the other people; and the greater shall serve the lesser." The two nations will be the Israelites and the Edomites who will be hostile towards each other.
Esau was born first and he was red in colour and hairy all over. Jacob was born immediately after and as he was coming out of the womb his hand took hold of Esau's heel as a sigh that he would be the greater of the two and Esau will be as a servant to him. The twins were fraternal, in other words non-identical twins and were completely different in character; Esau was the outdoor type who loved hunting and was his father’s favourite, while Jacob was content to stay at home and cook and was his mother’s favourite.
As the firstborn, Esau was the rightful inheritor of all that Isaac had. One day Esau came home fainting from hunger and pleaded with Jacob to give him something to eat. Jacob took this opportunity to sell his food in exchange for Esau’s birthright. Esau thought that if he didn’t eat something he would die and then what would his birthright profit him so he agreed and gave away his birthright for a bowl of lentils. The birthrights consisted of a double portion of the inheritance, to be the head of the Patriarchal family, and to hold the priestly duties because in those days before the official priesthood, the priests were the heads of the family.
Neither of the brothers acted correctly. Jacob seized the moment to steal what was rightfully his brother's, but Esau acted contemptuously and belittled his birthright. He would not have died if he didn't eat at that very moment. It says he did eat and drink, and rose up and went his way and Esau belittled the birthrights, in other words, he was unconcerned at the great loss of the birthrights.
Genesis then tells us of another famine and of events very similar to Abraham's story. Isaac moved from Canaan to Gerara where king was Abimelech. Abraham had also lived for a time in Gerara and again the king was named Abimelech. It is very unlikely that it is the same king because many years have passed so the second king Abimelech is probably the son of the first or Abimelech could be a title like the Egyptian Pharaoh or the Turkish Sultan. From here Isaac must have been thinking of going down to Egypt, because the Lord tells him to remain where he was and that he will be with him and bless him. God then establishes his covenant with Isaac that he will multiply his seed as the stars of heaven and from his seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed.
Like his father Abraham, Isaac feared that they would kill him to take Rebecca if they knew she was his wife and when the men of the place asked of her, he said she is my sister. Isaac remained in Gerara for a long time, then one day the king looked out of the palace window and saw Isaac sporting with Rebecca his wife, in other words they were performing their marital duty. The king asked him why he had lied and Isaac explained that he feared he would be killed for her sake. The king must have heard of what happened with Abraham and his father and gave orders that no one was to touch Isaac or his wife otherwise they would be liable to death. Isaac continued to live in Gerara and the Lord blessed him and the land that he sowed. His sheep and herds of cattle increased and he became very wealthy. Seeing that he was continually increasing, the king told Isaac to leave his land because he had become mightier that them. Isaac then departs and returns to his own lands.
The twins are now forty years old and Esau takes two wives from the Chettite nation. For some reason of which we are not told, his wives were continually quarrelling with Isaac and Rebecca.
The story then jumps ahead to when Isaac is very old and blind. He was 100 years old when Esau got married so now he is probably about 150 years old, which would make the twins around 90 years old. Isaac asked Esau to go hunting and bring him some savoury game to eat and after that he would bless him. This blessing was important because it was the final blessing to be given to the firstborn who would carry on the line of redemption. Rebecca heard what Isaac told Esau and while he was out hunting, she told Jacob to bring her two young tender kids from the livestock and she would prepare the meat as Isaac liked it. This shows us that even though Isaac was very old, he was still in a very good physical condition to be able to eat so much meat. Rebecca tells Jacob to pretend that he is Isaac and take the meat to his father so that he could receive the blessing instead of Esau. This was a problem because even if he could pass off his voice like his brother's, he was hairless and Esau was hairy all over, if his father was to touch him he would realize immediately that it wasn't Esau. Rebecca took Esau's clothing and put them on Jacob and tied the skins from the goats on his arms and neck and Jacob went into his father. Isaac was suspicious and asked to touch him. Sure enough he was hairy but his voice was the voice of Jacob. So after eating and drinking, he told him to come near and kiss him. The smell of Esau's clothing convinced him that it was Esau and gave him the blessing due to the firstborn. Thus for the second time Jacob tricked Esau out of his birthright and became the inheritor of the Messianic promise.
When the real Esau came to his father the cunning deception was revealed, but it was too late because Isaac had made Jacob the head of the family and Esau was to serve under him. Naturally Esau was furious and anticipated the day when Isaac would die so that he could kill Jacob. Rebecca heard that Esau had threatened to kill Jacob and told him to leave and go to Mesopotamia to her brother's house until she would sent word that Esau's anger was passed. To make it sound as it was Isaac's decision she told her husband that rather than Jacob take a wife from the Chettites like Esau whose wives showed disrespect to them, it would be better for him to take a wife from her family in Mesopotamia. So Isaac called Jacob and sent him to find himself a wife from his Mother’s Brother’s family. Esau, seeing that Isaac blessed Jacob on his journey and that his father considered the Chettite daughters as evil, went to his uncle Ishmael and took to wife one of his uncle's daughters, hoping that taking a granddaughter of Abraham his father would be pleased with him.
On his journey Jacob stopped at a certain place to sleep and fell into a dream. He saw a ladder reaching from the earth to heaven and angels ascending and descending on it. Standing above the ladder was the Lord who made his covenant with Jacob telling him that his seed would spread throughout the earth and that from his seed all the families of the earth would be blessed. On waking he set up a pillar on the spot where he slept saying that there was the house of God and the gate to heaven and called the place Bethel which means the house of God. Jacob’s ladder is a foreshadowing of the Mother of God. She became the ladder joining earth to heaven by which God descended and became man and through whom all the earth is blessed. The story continues with how on his way to his uncle Laban, he stopped at a well where he met Rachel who he fell in love with. He told Laban that he would work for him without wages for seven years and then he was to give his younger daughter to him as a wife. Laban agreed and after the seven years were up, Jacob asked for Rachel. A wedding took place, but Jacob couldn’t see who the bride was, as she was probably covered from head to toe in veils. In the morning he saw that he had been deceived and the bride next to him was Leah, Rachael’s older sister. He was told by Laban that it was not their custom to marry the younger daughter before the older, but he could also have Rachel if he worked for him another seven years. So Jacob married Rachel also and worked another seven years.
Leah first gave Jacob the sons Ruben, Symeon, Levi and Judah. Rachel was barren and so gave her maid Balla to Jacob so that she could have children through her. Remember we saw this surrogate arrangement with Sarah, Abraham’s wife when she was also barren. It was accepted that as the maid belonged to the wife then any offspring also belonged to the wife. Balla gave Jacob the sons Dan and Naphtali. Then Leah gave her maid Zelpha to Jacob and bore the sons Gad, and Aser.
One day Leah's firstborn Ruben was out in the fields and found some mandrakes. Mandrake is a plant that produces a small cherry size red berry. It is poisonous and causes delirium and hallucinations. In high doses, it can even send the user into a coma, but in ancient times it was considered a love plant and was used as a remedy to help barren women. Rebecca asked Lear for some of the mandrakes and Lear replied: "Is it not enough for thee that thou hast taken away my husband? shalt thou take away my son’s mandrakes also?" From this verse it is apparent that Jacob had abandoned his duty towards Lear and so Rachel offers to let him sleep with her that night in exchange for the mandrakes. So went Jacob came from the fields Lear met him and told him that he was to come to her that night because she had paid for his services to Rebecca. Lear again fell pregnant and gave birth to a fifth son Issachar and then she conceived again and bore her sixth son Zabulon and after Zabulon she gave birth to a daughter, and called her name Dina. Jacob had other daughters, but only Dina is named because of an episode concerning her which we will see later. The mandrakes didn't seem to work because Rebecca remained barren while Lear had three more children. But then as it says in scriptural language, “God remembered Rachel, and God hearkened to her, and opened her womb and she gave birth to Joseph.”
Now after working for Laban for 20 years, Jacob decided to leave his father in law’s house and return to his own land. Jacob asked for his wages to be paid in livestock. All those years working for Laban, God had blessed Jacob and Laban had become a very wealthy man. Laban recognized that the reason of his prosperity was Jacob and didn't want to let him go. They agreed to separate the flocks. The grey sheep and the specked and spotted goats which were the least would belong to Jacob while the white sheep and unspecked goats would belong to Laban. Jacob remained to look after the folds until the sheep came into heat, conceive and give birth and if any among Laban's sheep were specked then they would belong to Jacob. Laban thought he had a great deal because the majority of the sheep were usually born white. By divine providence, all the sheep born were specked and Jacob became very wealthy. But Laban changed the agreement and said that the marked sheep were his and the white Jacob's. This must have happened for a few years and every time Laban kept changing the deal. Laban was not going to let Jacob go with so much of his livestock so eventually God tells Jacob to leave for the land of his father and that he will be with him.
Thus Jacob secretly sets off with his entire household to return but was afraid off meeting his brother Esau. They had been as enemies ever since Jacob deceived him of his birthright. When Esau heard that Jacob was returning he set off with 400 men to meet him. Jacob thought that he was coming to wage war so he divided his household into two and sent them in different directions so that if Esau killed the one party the other would escape. That night Jacob was by himself and he had a vision that he was wrestling with a man which continued until dawn. At daybreak the man asked him to let him go, but Jacob wouldn’t let go until the other blessed him. The other man was God and told him that from that moment on his name would no longer be Jacob but Israel. And that is how the nation of Israel received its name and the 12 sons of Jacob are the 12 tribes of Israel. The meaning of the vision is that if Jacob could wrestle all night and morning with God, then what has he to be afraid of Esau who is a mere man. When Esau saw Jacob, he ran to meet him, and embraced him, and fell on his neck, and kissed him: and they wept. He wasn’t coming for war but to welcome his twin brother who he hadn’t seen for more than 20 years.
With Jacob now back in Canaan, he bought a field on the outskirts of a city called Salem and pitched his tents there. He must have remained there a few years because when he left his father in law in Mesopotamia, his daughter Dina was six years old and the following event would have her at least 14 or 15 years old. One day Dina went out to see the daughters of the city to see what they were like. Shechem the son of Emmor the Hevite, the ruler of the land, saw her and took her and slept with her and humbled her. It seems though that he didn't rape her, but that she went with him willingly because it says that he was head over heels for her and loved her and spoke according to the damsel’s heart. In other words he seduced and won her heart with sweet words. Shechem was willing to correct his error and asked his father to arrange for Dina to become his wife.
Jacob heard that his daughter had been defiled and when all the boys were come home from the fields he told them what had happened. Needless to say they were furious and wanted revenge for the humiliation shown against their father Israel. Emmor, Shechem's father went to speak to Jacob and ask for his daughter's hand in marriage with his son, and in general to come to an arrangement where the two tribes could intermarry. At this, Dina's brothers, Symeon and Levi thought cunningly and told Emmor that they cannot give their sister to someone that is uncircumcised. But if every male was to be circumcised then there would not be a problem of intermarrying and dwelling together as one people. The demand was legal because every descendant of Abraham had to be circumcised, but hidden behind the demand was revenge. Emmor didn't see this and the demands to be circumcised pleased him. He told his son and he also was willing to be circumcised because he loved Dina. They then went out to the men of the city and told them that the Israelites are peaceful people, we can trade with them and take their daughters as wives and our daughters as their wives and be as one people if every male among us be circumcised, as they are circumcised. The men agreed and everyone was circumcised. On the third day after circumcision there is excruciating pain and taking advantage of this, Symeon and Levi went into the city with their swords and slew every male. They slew Emmor and Shechem and took Dina out of their house and returned her to their camp, then the other boys went back with them and looted everything they could take, they took their sheep, oxen, asses, everything they had in store and took their wives captive. Jacob reprimanded them for what they did because now all the other peoples in the area of Canaan and beyond will think that he is evil and will wage war against him. The boys replied in defence: But shall they treat our sister as a harlot?
God now tells Jacob to move to Bethel and make his dwelling there. From there he travelled southward probably to visit his father Isaac who was still alive in Hebron. On the way, he stopped just outside of Ephratha, later known as Bethlehem, because his wife Rachel who was again pregnant went into labour. The birth was difficult and Rachel died giving birth to Jacob's twelfth son Benjamin. Rachel was buried in Bethlehem and of course you have all heard of Bethlehem because that was where Jesus was born. In the Gospel according to Matthew we read in the second chapter that deals with Christ’s nativity a quote from a prophecy by the prophet Micah: “And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel.” (Matth. 2: 6) Matthew doesn’t quote the prophecy word for word but just refers to it in general because it was well known among the Jews. The Septuagint version of the Book of Micah reads: “And thou, Bethlehem, house of Ephratha, art few in number, to be reckoned among the thousands of Juda, yet out of thee shall one come forth to me, to be a ruler of Israel, and his goings forth were from the beginning even from eternity.” (Micah 5:2) This is a very important prophecy because it mentions that Christ existed before his birth: “his goings forth were from the beginning even from eternity.” Further down after the slaughter of the innocent children by Herod, Matthew quotes another prophecy; this time from the Prophet Jeremiah: “Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying, In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not.” (Matth. 2: 17-18). Rama means a high place and was a hill on the outskirts of Bethlehem. The prophecy mentions Rachel weeping for her children and presents her as a mother representing all the mothers who wept and mourned for their children because Bethlehem was given to Benjamin, the youngest son of Israel and Rachael was his mother who was also buried on that high place in Bethlehem.
Jacob dwelt for a time in Bethlehem and during that time Reuben his firstborn slept with Rachel's maid Balla, the mother of his brothers Dan and Naphtali. Jacob heard of it and considered it an evil act, but we are not told anything else concerning any repercussions against Reuben.
Jacob now comes to his father Isaac in Hebron in the land of Canaan where Abraham and Isaac lived. Isaac lived a 180years and died and was buried by his sons Esau and Jacob. Jacob now living in Hebron increases in livestock and the place cannot provide for both Jacob's and Esau's clans so Esau gathers all his family and belongings and migrates to south of the Dead Sea and established the kingdom of Edom. Genesis then gives us Esau's genealogy with the names of the kings and princes Edom.
With Esau now out of the picture Genesis now gives us the very touching and emotional story of Jacob’s favourite son Joseph. I used to read this story as a young child from the children’s picture Bible and would always end up with tears in my eyes. Even today when I read it I still swell up inside ready to burst into tears. The Church reads the story of Joseph during the services of the last week of Lent and Holy Week because his life, his sufferings, his innocence and sinless life are an image and type of Christ. Holy Monday is also dedicated to Righteous Joseph the All-Good as the Church refers to him (Ιωσήφ του Παγκάλου).
Joseph is seventeen and helps his brothers look after their father's sheep. He informs his father of a grave sin committed by his brothers, we are not told of the sin, but it has been interpreted that it could have been the sin of Sodomy. Jacob loved Joseph more than all his other sons because as it says “he was the son of his old age” but also because he was Rachel’s firstborn and he always loved Rachael from the first time he saw her. Jacob showed his favouritism towards Joseph and made him a coat of many colours. This wasn't just any coat; the usual working coat for that period was short and sleeveless, but this was a long coat with wide sleeves and was the dress of the VIPs of the time. His brothers would have interpreted this action by their father that Joseph was to assume family leadership. All these things made his brothers hate him and were always hostile to him. As already said Joseph is an image and type of Christ. Their two lives have many common elements. One of these is the fact that they were both hated by their brethren: Joseph by his blood brothers and Jesus by his brethren the Jews.

One day he told them a dream that he had, which with interpretation said that he would reign over them and that they would bow down to him. He should have kept quiet because now they hated him even more. One day Jacob sent Joseph to find his brothers who were out tending to the flock. When they saw him afar off, some of them conspired against him to slay him. Reuben the eldest heard what they were planning to do and persuaded them not to shed blood, but rather just cast him into a pit. He planned to help him out afterwards and deliver him to his father. When Joseph came they stripped him of his coat of many colours and cast him into an empty pit. A little later they saw a company of Ishmaelites on their way to Egypt and Judah suggested to sell Joseph rather than kill their own brother. The Ishmaelites were the descendants of Abraham's son Ishmael.
So Joseph was sold for 20 pieces of gold. Again another similarity with Jesus who was betrayed for thirty pieces of silver. The KJB has 20 pieces of silver instead of gold. Reuben was not with the others when they sold him and returned to the pit to help him out. When he saw that he wasn’t there, he returned to his brethren, and said, Joseph is not there where can I go? In other words, how could he return to his father without Joseph? He was the eldest and therefore responsible for Joseph’s wellbeing. The brothers decided to kill a goat and dip Joseph’s coat in the blood. They took the coat to their father telling him that they had found it. Jacob recognized the coat and said that an evil beast hath devoured him. Joseph is without doubt rent in pieces. Thus Jacob wept and mourned for his beloved son.
Joseph's story is suddenly put on hold and the next chapter (38) tells us of Jacob's fourth son Judas and his family. Joseph is an image of Christ, but Judas is the line of salvation, he is the son of Jacob from whom Christ will descend so his story is of great importance and cannot be overlooked. He is the link in the chain from Adam to Abraham to the expected Messiah. His story also serves to show that righteous descendants are by no means harmed by the sinful acts of their ancestors just as Christ is not affected by being a descendant of Judas.
Judas marries a Canaanite woman and has three sons with her, Er, Onan and Shelah. When his firstborn Er is old enough he marries him to a woman called Tamar. But Er was evil in the sight of the Lord and God slew him. Er left his wife childless and without an inheritor. The custom at the time which later became a law was that the second son in line was to take his brother's widow as his wife and give her a child. But the child from this union would not be recognized as his child but as the child of his dead brother, who would also inherit anything that belonged to him.

Judas' second son Onan takes Tamar to wife, but not wanting to get her pregnant prefers to spill his seed on the ground. He probably didn't want to raise a child that would not be recognized as his own or more probably he desired to inherit his brother's wealth himself. His action appeared evil in the sight of God and He slew him also. Onan spilling his seed on the ground has always been interpreted as a form of masturbation and the two words Onanism and masturbation are used synonymously. In reality, Onan used the withdrawal method with Tamar, refusing to father children by her since they would not be considered his, but rather his brother’s. Onan’s sin was not that he spilled his seed, but that he deliberately refused to fulfil his obligation to Tamar and God’s will.

So Tamar is once again a widow with no child and Judah still has one more son. Judah promised Tamar that when his younger son was old enough he would give him to her according to the law. When his son did grow up, Judah was afraid to give him to Tamar lest the same fate also befall upon his younger son. When some time passed, Tamar realized that Judah was not going to give her his son, so one day she dressed up as a prostitute and fooled Judah to sleep with her. As payment for her service, Judah promised to send her a young goat from his flock. As a pledge of his promise Tamar asked him to give her his ring, chain and staff and when he sends the goat they would be returned to him. Judah sent the goat with his shepherd, but when he asked to find the prostitute she was nowhere to be found. After three months had passed, it was reported to him that his daughter in law had acted like a prostitute and was pregnant. Judas gave orders for her to be brought to him and be burnt. When she came before him Tamar showed him the ring, chain and staff and said: by the man whose these belong am I pregnant, do you recognize them? Judah recognized them as his and said Tamar was justified in what she did because he didn't give her his third son as he should have done. Tamar gave birth to twins Phares and Zara. The line of salvation is given to Phares and thus Christ is a descendant of the illegitimate union between Tamar and her father in law.
Returning now to Joseph in Egypt, he was bought by Pharaoh's chief cook named Petephres or as he is better known in English Potiphar who it says was a eunuch. In the KJB it says he was an officer of Pharaoh and captain of the guard. The question arises that if Potiphar was a eunuch then how is he also married? Originally a eunuch was someone who was castrated and most people with a high position in a king's palace were eunuchs. Later the word took a wider meaning and was used to refer to anyone who had a position in the king's court. Thus in the Bible the word eunuch is often used to refer to someone who had the king's trust.
Potiphar saw that Joseph was a righteous person and that God blessed everything he did so he made him overseer over his house. Alas the devil had to stir up his trouble. Potiphar’s wife took a fancy to Joseph and wanted him to sleep with her. Joseph of course refused but she continued to tempt him. One day when they were alone she came and caught him by his garment, but Joseph left his garment and run away naked. She felt insulted that Joseph rejected her advances that she accused him of trying to rape her and Potiphar had him cast into prison. He accepted his sentence without opening his mouth to defend himself. Again here we see a similarity with Christ who was also falsely accused and kept silent. On Holy Monday we sing a hymn which compares Potiphar’s wife as a second Eve: “The Serpent found a second Eve in the Egyptian woman, and with words of flattery he sought to make Joseph fall. But, leaving his garment behind him, Joseph fled from evil; and like the first man before his disobedience, though naked he was not ashamed. At his prayers, O Christ, have mercy upon us.” (Glory of Mattins)
In prison Joseph found favour with the prison guard and was put in charge of all the other prisoners. Time passed and Pharaoh’s butler and chief baker were cast into prison in the same place where Joseph was. Again the Bible calls then eunuchs because they had a position close to Pharaoh. One day they both had a dream and Joseph interpreted the dreams saying that in three days the butler would be restored to his position but the baker would be hanged. And so it was that the butler was reinstated but forgot about Joseph in prison.
After two years Pharaoh had a dream and then another dream and all the wise men in Egypt couldn’t interpret their meaning. The butler then remembered how Joseph interpreted his dream and that everything he said came to pass. Pharaoh sent for Joseph who was shaved and given clean clothing. If you remember from our first talk on the Bible we mentioned that anyone who appeared before pharaoh had to be clean and shaven, because the Egyptians were offended with facial hair. This information was used to show that Moses, the author of Genesis, was aware of these minor details because he himself grew up as a prince in the Egyptian palaces.
A clean Joseph, who is now thirty years old, is presented before Pharaoh who reveals to him his dreams. Joseph interpreted the dreams and told Pharaoh that there would be seven years of good harvest which would then be followed by seven years of famine. He then advised Pharaoh to set someone trustworthy to collect, from all over the land, a fifth of all the grain to be saved for the years of famine. Pharaoh decided that there was no one more trustworthy than Joseph so he set him over all the people and only Pharaoh himself would be above him. Joseph received glory for his patience, he suffered and withstood everything that came his way, trusting in God and not losing hope. Now his suffering was rewarded and he was raised to such a position that people now bowed down to him. His time in prison is symbolic of Christ’s death and his newfound glory symbolic of Christ’s resurrection.
Joseph was given wealth and a wife called Asenath who bore him two sons Manasseh and Ephraim. He began his mission to gather the food together from the seven prosperous years. After this the famine came and all the lands of the Middle East suffered greatly. Jacob, his father, heard that there was corn in Egypt and sent all his sons except Benjamin the youngest to buy some. Benjamin was the only son he had left from Rachel after losing Joseph. When Joseph’s brothers came to Egypt, they came and bowed down before him not recognizing who he was and Joseph remembered the dream he had many years before that his brothers would bow down to him. Not wanting to reveal himself straight away, he accused them of being spies. They denied it and told him that they were 12 brothers, the sons of one man, the youngest was with their father and one other doesn’t exist any more. Joseph insisted that they were spies and the only way to prove their innocence was for one of them to return and fetch the younger brother but until then they would remain in prison. After having them imprisoned for three days he told them they could return, but he kept Symeon a prisoner until they returned with the youngest brother Benjamin.
So Joseph filled their sacks with corn and secretly placed the money they paid for the corn in the sacks together with the corn. On returning, each found his money returned to him and feared at what this could mean. They told their father that they had to return with Benjamin so that the other brother Simeon, who was cast into prison, would be released. Jacob refused: he lost Joseph; he was not going to lose Benjamin also.
But the famine continued and they ran out of corn. Jacob told his sons to go again into Egypt and buy more corn, but his sons reminded him that they would not receive any unless Benjamin went with them. Jacob realized that that was the only way his clan would survive and with reluctance allowed them to take Benjamin, but also insisted they take gifts and double money and also the money they found in the sacks. So they returned to Egypt and again stood before Joseph. He commanded the ruler of his house to take them home and that they were to dine with him at noon. They of course didn’t know the reason why they were taken to Joseph’s house and thought it was to punish them because of the money they previously found in their sacks. The ruler of the house told them not to worry and that he was responsible for the money. He brought out Simeon and gave them water to wash. When Joseph came home they bowed before him and gave him the presents they brought for him. He asked them about their father if he was well and alive and then asked if the person with them was their younger brother Benjamin. At this Joseph couldn’t constrain himself and had to separate himself from them. The Bible text reads: “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. And he washed his face, and went out, and refrained himself, and said, Set on bread.”

So they sat down to eat and each was placed to sit in order according to the firstborn to the last which surprised the brothers that the order of their births should be known to Joseph. The food was placed before them, but Benjamin's share was five times that of the other brothers. After the meal he had their sacks filled with corn and had a silver cup placed in Benjamin’s sack. They left to return home but Joseph sent his steward to accuse them that they had stolen a silver cup. They insisted on their innocence and said that with whomsoever it would be found, let him die, and the rest of us will become the lord’s slaves. So all the sacked were searched and when it came to Benjamin’s sack there it was. They were taken back to Joseph who told them that they could all go, but Benjamin was to be his servant. They tried to explain that they couldn’t return without Benjamin cause that would be the end of their Father Jacob. They pleaded with him to except one of the other brothers instead of Benjamin. Joseph couldn’t constrain himself any longer and wept aloud. He then revealed that he was Joseph their brother whom they sold into Egypt, but told them not to fear or grieve because it was all done with God’s providence so that he could preserve life. In other words he told them that he had forgiven them and held no evil against them. Christ on the Cross said “forgive them for they know not what they do.” Here also they had no idea how their evil deed against Joseph would by God’s providence become their salvation. Joseph was sold for twenty pieces of gold and cast into prison for the good of mankind, Christ was betrayed for thirty pieces of silver and crucified for the good of mankind. Joseph kissed and embraced his brothers and they all wept upon each other.
Joseph explained how God in his providence had made him prosperous and a ruler of Egypt and told them to return to their father, to tell him that he was alive and to bring all of Israel, man and stock to Egypt and he would take care of them because there was still another five years of famine. Pharaoh heard that his brothers had come and ordered that wagons should be sent with them to help carry the women and children. And so it was that Jacob left the land of Canaan with his entire household and travelled to Egypt to be near his son Joseph who he thought was dead. Jacob's immediate family without his son's wives numbered 75 souls, but if we take into account the servants and their families the number of those that went down into Egypt was probably 1000 souls.
Joseph presents his family before Pharaoh and tells him that they are shepherds and at the same time we are told that shepherds of sheep were detestable to the Egyptians. Then Pharaoh commands that they be given the best land in Goshen which was later known as Rameses. The question arises: why did Pharaoh give the best part of Egypt to the Hebrews when the Egyptians hate shepherds? Of course it could simply have been to honour Joseph who saved Egypt from the famine, but there is another answer. We do not known which Pharaoh was in power at the time, but these details probably reveal to which dynasty he belonged. The true Egyptians descended from Noah's son Ham, but around the time of Abraham, about 2000BC, a Semitic tribe known as the Hyksos, who descended from Noah's son Shem, took power of Egypt. Thus, the Hyksos were related of the Hebrews, which could help explain the warm reception Pharaoh gave to Joseph and his family. The Hyksos are also sometimes called “The Shepherd Kings” because as Semites, they were shepherds. As foreign rulers, they were hated by the true Egyptians, and that was why shepherds were detestable to the Egyptians. After Jacob and some of his sons met with Pharaoh, he asked Joseph to put some of them to look after his own herds This also suggests that the Pharaoh in Joseph's time was not one of the Egyptians who hated shepherds, but that he had herds of his own that needed experienced herdsmen to care of them – who were scarce in Egypt. After Joseph died, the Hyskos dynasty came to an end and native Egyptians came to power. In Exodus it speaks of a "new king" who did not know Joseph. This is not just a son or grandson of the king whom Joseph served – but a new dynasty which refused to recognize the validity of the Goshen land grant to the Israelites. Moreover, fearing that the Israelites might one day become powerful enough to overthrow them, the new king acted quickly to enslave the Israelites.
Jacob was 130 years old when he came to Egypt and lived on for another 17 years. On his death bed he called his sons to him so that he could bless them. Reuben the firstborn should have legally had the birthright and the promise to continue the line of salvation, but because he went up to thy father’s bed and lay with his father's concubine Balla, his father now reminds him of this and as punishment his birthright is taken from him and told that he will not progress to anything important. Next in line for the birthrights is Symeon and then Levi, but these are also passed over because they slaughtered the people of Shechem because of what had happened to their sister Dina, after a treaty of friendship was agreed upon by the two nations. Jacob curses them for their anger and as punishment they will be divided and scattered among the tribes of Israel. During the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt, the tribe of Symeon is the weakest tribe and in the land of Canaan it is not given its own territory but is added in servitude to the tribe of Judas. The tribe of Levi is saved from the curse by Moses who is himself from the Levi tribe, but this tribe also doesn't receive it own land in Canaan, but is appointed as the priestly tribe and is divided to perform the priestly duties among all the other tribes.
The birthright is passed on to the next son Juda. Jacob tells Juda that from him would come the Messiah who would be the expectation of the nations. The remainder of the brothers also receive their blessing and then Jacob dies. Before Jacob died he made Joseph promise that he would not bury him in Egypt but in the land of his fathers, in the cave where Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Rebecca and Leah were buried. When He died the Egyptians mourned him for 70 days which reflects how much they loved Joseph and owed him their lives for saving them from the famine. After the 70 days of mourning Joseph set of for Canaan to bury Jacob and all the elders of the land of Egypt went with him to honour the father of their saviour.
The Book of Genesis comes to an end with the death of Joseph aged 110. When Joseph died, he was put in a coffin in Egypt, but before his death he told Israel that one day God would bring them back again to the land of their fathers and that on that day they should take his bones with them. After Joseph's death a new chapter and a new hero and saviour awaits the people of Israel in the Book of Exodus.