Christopher's Bible Blog

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Location: Colorado Springs, Colorado, United States

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Genesis 37-50: Many-colored sleeves

Genesis ends with Joseph's story, which is refreshing to me after reading about his forebears' exploits. The first thing we learn about Joseph is his robe--which NRSV says is "a long robe with sleeves," signifying exemption from labor according to Oxford. This is quite different from the "coat of many colors" I heard so much about as a kid, and makes for a more compelling reason for his brothers' jealousy (unless they just really liked rainbows).

The second thing we learn about Joe is that by 17 he hadn't learned much about when to keep his mouth shut. 37:5-11 show him telling the bros about dreams he had, whose obvious interpretations showed that they would wind up being subservient to him. Let me tell you, if I were trying not to be sold into slavery by my siblings, I'd keep that stuff on the DL, but Joe did not - how surprised could he have been when that's exactly what happened? Oops. The interesting thing I'd forgotten about is that the other eleven originally intend to kill him, before deciding that they may as well make a few bucks - in this case, greed leads to the betterment of mankind.

Chapter 38 gives us a detour, wherein we learn about Onan (among some stories I don't get but would love to have explained). The sin of Onan has frequently been stated as... how do I say it politely? It rhymes with "blasturbation." That's always kinda annoyed me, since the act he performs reads more like something that rhymes with "bloitus blinterruptus." Of course, his actual sin is disobeying God, which is certainly worse than blanking the blonkey.

After Joseph gets to Egypt, he is once again hornswoggled, this time by Potiphar's wife who, having had her sexual advances rebuked, accuses him of attempted rape (39). Oops. It's very "Edward Scissorhands."

In jail, he finds his talent for interpreting dreams, as opposed to just running off at the mouth about them. He correctly predicts the fates of the Pharaoh's cupbearer and baker, though the former turns out to be a lousy secretary. He's supposed to put in a good word for Joseph and get him out of the pen, but instead - oops - forgets for two years. Finally, Joe gets his big break sussing out visions for the Pharaoh, consequently ensuring Egypt's survival through a global famine, and at the end of Ch. 41 gets picked for what sounds like "Vice Pharaoh." Go Joe!

When his estranged family comes looking for food, Joe messes with them quite a bit (justifiably), but ultimately embraces them like brothers. Thus the people of Israel relocate to Egypt and live well, until the Pharaoh gets all nervous and starts oppressing them in the beginning of Exodus, which we leave until the next entry.

Purely examining the plot, as though it were a novel, this is pretty cool - Genesis, with all its anti-heroes, ends with an account of a genuinely righteous and affable guy... who unwittingly leads his people into centuries of servitude. "Oops" is a word that comes to mind frequently.