Joseph and his Brothers – Held on Sunday, January 19, 2014

Personal Note:

I have been delayed in posting this session; the previous delays were due to losing my computer and then next my car.  This time, however, it was my furnace.  New one is up and operating and I am warm enough to get this done.

Scripture study was canceled this Sunday [01/26/14] so the next post will be two weeks from now – sometime in the first week of February.

Outline of Post on the Scripture Session held on 01/19/14

  1. Previous Week’s [01/12/14] Review
  2. Background to today’s Reading
  3. Reading Gen. 37: 01 – 36
  4. Discussion

Previous Week’s [01/12/14/ Review

Before covering my review I wanted to make clear that there are two commentaries that are guiding my discussions on Genesis.  The first is Walter Brueggemann, Genesis: Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching, Westminster John Knox Press, Louisville KT, 2010.  I was prompted to bring up again the issue of history and the bible because of a comment that Brueggemann makes.

“It is commonly agreed that the Joseph narrative is a work of art designed to make a statement to Israel.  For such expression, questions of historicity are inappropriate.  The most that can be asked concerns the historical setting of the artist and not the historical setting of the purported events themselves.  The proper question is not “When did this happen?” Rather, we may ask, “In what cultural, intellectual context might this kind of literary statement have been achieved.” P. 291.

Perhaps no one expressed the dominant world out which the individuals who make up our study group and, probably many others, better than Tim.  Near the end of our conversation on this point Tim remarked, “As people of faith, we want to believe this story is historically accurate.”

Ken’s response also is worth reflecting on.  He used as an analogy St. Nick who was a real historical character and Santa Claus.  Santa Claus is St. Nick overlaid with thousands of years of cultural to become what he is today.  North Pole, Reindeer, Visiting every home, etc.   The adults all know that Santa Claus is a cultural but not historical reality.  This doesn’t mean that Santa Claus is not real but his reality is not historical.

Ken’s example works on a very fundamental fact.  We have historical evidence that there was a historical person who now bears the name St. Nick.  See  Historical evidence means that there are contemporary written or archeological evidence for St. Nicholas.  At the present time there is no evidence outside of the Bible of the existence of Joseph.  Much more importantly, though, is the simple fact the bible is not a history book; it is not psychology book; it is not geography book, etc.  Even though there is history, psychology, geography, etc. in the book.  Basically the bible is a library of books written over more than a thousand years; the books were written by people of faith, to people of faith, for the sake of their faith.

Background to today’s Reading: Gen. 37: 01 – 36.

The second book that I depend on for our scripture study is Terence E. Fretheim, The Book of Genesis, Vol. 1, The New Interpreter’s Bible, Abingdon Press, Nashville, 1994.

Fretheim identifies 5 scenes in this opening chapter of the Joseph story.

Scene 1:   vv. 01 – 04: Sets the stage for this chapter and the entire Joseph story.

In a few verses our author weaves a story that draws us in.  Different than the tribal stories we have read up to now in Genesis, the Joseph story is much more of a whole and shaped, as I mentioned previously, by the twofold movement from Canaan to Egypt and from Israel the individual to Israel the people.

Scene 2:   vv. 05 – 11: Joseph’s Dreams and the role they play

In our times dreams are either psychologically or neurological introduced into our consciousness.  For the people of the biblical times dreams were the product of external forces, divine in nature.  The brothers view the dream, though, negatively;  Joseph in a narrowly personal  perspective; but Jacob [like Mary later] pondered what could this mean.  Ironically, the dream will be fulfilled with regard to the brothers but not with regard to Jacob.

Scene 3:   vv. 12 – 17: The scene changes from Hebron to Shechem and then Dothan.  Joseph is sent by Jacob to find out the wellbeing [Shalom] of his brothers.

A bit of geography might benefit.  Shechem is about 50 miles north of Hebron and Dothan another 15 miles or so.  If Joseph were to travel on foot, which is what the story might presume, then finding his brothers was a three day journey.

Another bit of irony in this story is Jacob’s desire to know the wellbeing ‘shalom’ of his sons, only to learn of the apparent death of his most favorite son.

Scene 4:   vv. 18 – 28: The brothers plot to kill Joseph

There is a bit of confusion in this scene.  There are the two brothers, Reuben and Judah, who in different ways are portrayed as attempting to thwart the killing of Joseph.  Then there are the Ishmaelites and Midianites and it is unclear who actually buys and sells Joseph.

Scene 5:  vv. 29 – 36: The  effect of the plot

Reading: Gen. 37: 01 – 36


I thought I might record some of the questions that prompted the discussion in scene 1:

How old is Joseph?  What does he do?  What are the reasons given for Jacob love of Joseph? How does Jacob express his love for Joseph?  It seems like the same story all over, dysfunctional family life.  Will it end that way? Is God present in this scene?  When does our author bring God into the story?

You are invited to respond to these or other questions that might arise within you as you read this passage.  Your comments, observations, questions are welcomed.  See “comment” link below

This entry was posted in Scripture and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *