Posts Tagged Joseph

We and our Land

A true farmer loves his land.  In the story of Joseph and the famine that hit Egypt there is a telling little verse  (Genesis 47:19). The Egyptians have run out of food and money, and they have sold all their animals back to the king already in exchange for another year’s worth of  food.  However the famine is unrelenting.  The next year they return to Joseph to beg for help and there is an interesting bit of parallelism in the request.

“Why should we die before your face- also us and also our land.  Buy us and our land, for food, and we and our land will be your slaves.”

Particularly they specify, “Give  food for for us so that we will not die, and seed-grain for our land so that it will not die.”

Humans were hard-wired, beginning with Adam, to care for the land. When we forget that we abandon a God-given trust.

Just a snippet from the beautiful literary crafting of the book of Genesis.

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Closing the eyes of the dead

In my last post on Translation thoughts I left off the last phrase of verse four, “Joseph will lay his hand on your eyes.”  How God understands our fears and speaks to them. Here he gently reassures a frail elderly Jacob. ( He was after all a hundred and thirty, and joined the women and small children to ride to Egypt in a wagon.)

His son Joseph will be there at his death bed and be there afterward –  to close his eyes, to see to his funeral arrangements, and to take his remains back to be buried in the family plot in Canaan.

I wondered if “closing the eyes of the dead” was another Hebraic idiom borrowed into English.  The first English Bible translations tended to translate idioms quite literally and many have become comfortably ensconced in our consciousness .  We would be loath to give them up.

In this case, closing the eyes of the dead,  pre-dates Christianity, back to earlier fears of ghosts that haunt.  In checking out the roots of the expression I found a fascinating article, The Primitive Ghost and his Relations, by James G. Frazer- published in the Popular Science Journal in 1885. Closing the eyes of the dead, and much more.

And No! No! No, No!  I am not going to write about Halloween this year.

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Going down to Egypt

“Going down to Egypt” is something the patriarch Abraham was prohibited from doing. He was to walk by faith in the land of his promised inheritance. Once, under threat of starvation, he ran to Egypt for deliverance and paid for it, almost losing his sister/wife to Pharaoh’s harem.   His son, Isaac, didn’t repeat going to Egypt, but he did take refuge with the Philistines when hunger loomed. He also encountered a king with an eye for a beautiful woman.  Jacob knew the family history. Now facing famine himself, he apparently thought twice about making a similar expedient choice. Despite his longing to see his son, and Joseph’s own compelling certainty that this was a divine provision,  Jacob stopped first at Beersheba to offer sacrifices to his God.

He received a response.

God spoke to Israel in visions of the night and said,

“Jacob, Jacob.” And he said, “Here I am.”

He said, “I am God, the God of your father; do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for I will make you a great nation there.

I will go down with you to Egypt, and I will also surely bring you up again. . .

Genesis 46:2-4 (NASB)

Going down to Egypt, as the result of an independent risk analysis is fraught with pitfalls.  It’s different when God orchestrates and  accompanies. You see, Egypt is the kind of place you would like to eventually come back out of.

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