Joseph Makes Himself Known – Held on Sunday, March 30, 2014

Outline of Post on the Scripture Session held on 03/30/14

  1. A Question: Did Judah own the Brothers’ guilt for what they had done to Joseph?
  2. Background to today’s Reading
  3. Reading Gen. 45: 01 – 28
  4. Discussion

A Question: Did Judah own the Brothers’ guilt for what they had done to Joseph?

In my post of last week [To read: Go to Archives (Top Right of the Home Page) select March, click on post Held on Sunday, March 30, scroll down to Discussion section to read the group’s take on the guilt question] I presented my reasons for thinking that Judah in fact did acknowledge the brothers’ guilt.  As the post states there was doubt to disagreement that the text supports Judah having in fact acknowledged their guilt.  I was pretty sure that not everyone in the group had reviewed the post, I decided to review the evidence presented there because owning one’s guilt is critical to moving forward.

In our Sacrament of Reconciliation, this is why we confess our sins to the priest, that is, to the community.  It is no small matter.  What is particularly alarming in modern American culture, as I read it, is the near complete failure to distinguish between authentic and inauthentic guilt.  Such failure leads many to fail to learn what authentic guilt has to teach us and in that aftermath, to not recognize evil for what it is or perhaps even worse to confuse evil with good.  What would be your take on this observation of mine?

On a communication note: What I find common among those who post, there is always a struggle to know if anyone or who has read the post, let alone if it is read, what understanding actually takes place.  So I click on …

Background to today’s Reading: Gen. 45: 01 – 28.

The Joseph Narrative begins in Chapter 37 but it until now in Chapter 45 that God’s role in all of this fully comes to light.  Here we read in v. 5

But now do not be distressed, and do not be angry with yourselves for having sold me here. It was really for the sake of saving lives that God sent me here ahead of you

In this single verse the story teller reveals what we have suspicioned all along, God is at work.  What might be missed though is the telling difference between God’s work with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and God’s work now with Joseph.  Common to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is the Promise, Land, Posterity, and Blessing.  With Joseph it is different.  God’s work is “for the sake of saving lives.”  What then has happened to the Promise?  We will learn that the Promise moves from their forefathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob [Israel] to Israel the nation [the Twelve Brothers / tribes].  Israel’s family will be called by Joseph and approved by Pharaoh to move from the Promised Land to Egypt.  Everything is being staged for the Exodus, the story of YHWH’s deliverance from slavery and oppression to freedom, the story of settling in the Promised Land, and the twisting of the story with the birth of a nation and its desire for an earthly king.

In Exodus 01: 08 we read the great shift that makes all of this possible

Then a new king, who knew nothing of Joseph, rose to power in Egypt.

Reading: Gen. 45: 01 – 28


As Ken listened to the reading of this chapter a question arose with regard to v. 24 “Let there be no recriminations on the way.”  What does “recrimination” mean?  Faryl was to look up its meaning but I’m posting to the question in a larger context.  A different version of v. 24 reads “Don’t quarrel* along the way,” and the * is explained “Or be ‘agitated.’  One Greek word, three English words, ‘recriminations,’ ‘quarrel,’ and ‘agitated.’  It makes little sense in my world to take the Bible literally and, at the same time, to recognize that meaning matters but meaning is nuanced.

My notes of our conversation goes on for some 6 pages, but it is Saturday and I must prepare already for tomorrow.  There is, however, one part of our conversation that I think of special import.  We have arrived at the realization that these stories have a profound symbolism to them.  Yes it is a story of Joseph in Egypt, of what his brothers did to him, and ultimately how it is that God was a work.  But it is more.  It is even more an account of

  • how family life is fraught with problems,
  • how we do evil to one another,
  • that brothers are more than blood brothers but rather define our relationship with all others, brothers and sisters,
  • how guilt can be a controlling factor,
  • how difficult it is to own one’s  guilt in the concrete, in the real,
  • how there are victims and perpetrators and in some ways we are both

But beyond all of these and other factors, there is God in this story whose involvement is described in these words, “It was really for the sake of saving lives that God sent me here ahead of you.”

I raised a question with the group, how does God in the concrete “send” “ahead”  How do we understand God’s engagement with us that honors God’s  transcendence and our freedom.  As Michael said, we are not just puppets.  As I wanted to reinforce our lives are predestined.  What we do matters, yet God in this story has been at work all along and in some fundamental way God’s actions cannot be frustrated.  How do we talk about our lives, God’s involvement, etc. that holds all of these facts together?

At the end, Kai reinforced that we must start where we are, nudged along, the whole of the Roman Catholic traditions thought on these profound issues cannot be given all at once but only gradually.  That is where we are.  One step at a time.

A couple of road signs might be prove helpful.  The sentences naming the road signs are easy to type on to this webpage but not easy to understand yet the written word can be worth writing.

  • God is the primary cause of the universe all other causes are secondary causes.  To understand the difference between and relationship of primary and secondary causes is an intellectual journey.
  • We [human beings] are essentially free but not effectively free.  God does not replace our freedom with God’s freedom.
  • Finally evil exists and cannot be overcome by violent means.  So it is that Jesus dies on a cross.

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

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