Adventist Media Response and Conversation

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Lesson 13 the End of the Beginning

Lesson 13 Sabbath Afternoon

This week, as we come to the end of the beginning, we can see something of the principle stated above unfold. Despite the best, or the worst, of human intentions; despite what seems to be deceit, disappointment, sin, and disaster, "something else results from the actions of men than what they intend and achieve." That "something," of course, is the Lord working out His divine plan in human history.

By now most have seen the theme of the book of Genesis, that theme being God’s bringing about the nation of Israel. Here in the story of Joseph we see the change in the brothers, which leads to a united family who moves from the Promised Land to Egypt. Setting up the Exodus, which is the return to the Promised Land from Egypt. Thus Israel is not an invader of the nations in the Promised Land, they are merely returning to their land. No doubt as powerful a motive as that of having a God declare a land to be yours. Fighting with other nations over recovering your own land is more worthy then fighting with other nations to take over their lands.

The stories of Genesis often have other recurring themes. For example time leading to a change in people. Esau when Jacob left wanted to kill him, years later Esau runs to hug Jacob. So in the story of Joseph the brothers change from selling Joseph to extreme allegiance to their younger brother Benjamin and from betrayal of their father Jacob to extreme love for their father, a betrayal similar to the betrayal of Esau by Jacob.

Rachel leaves with the family gods and Jacob tells Laban kill whoever they find with the gods. Joseph’s brothers saying something very similar to the Egyptian servants when they are accused of taking the silver cup.

It is quite likely that these repetitious similarities are used as a literary device. But they also so that the stories are created literature which is different from the literal view that is often taken of these stories. They are not simply stories to express the lives of the patriarchs they have a larger goal.

Consider Joseph, he is raised to the level of Second in command of the nation of Egypt, the most powerful of the ancient world kingdoms, yet Joseph is on hand to sell grain when his brothers arrive to buy grain. That is somewhat like the U.S leader of Homeland Security operating the metal detector at an airport. Not likely.

Gen 41:57 And all the countries came to Egypt to buy grain from Joseph, because the famine was severe in all the world.

Like the story of the Flood there is a narrow focus in the book of Genesis. Certainly China was not coming to Egypt to buy food, all the world often means all the world in their area of familiarity. The stories try to explain the world they see around them and to them that was the world. By our standards those things referred to would not be all countries or the whole world. But then Genesis is an introduction to both God and the people of Israel; we should not expect it to be an all-encompassing document.

Sunday Dec 24

As we read the rest of Genesis 41 and the first 17 verses of Genesis 42, we can see the providence of God unfolding. We see the steps leading to the fulfillment of Jacob's dreams way back in Genesis 37. The dreamer's dreams (Gen. 37:19) were soon coming to fruition in a manner that only the sovereign Lord could have arranged. This story is an amazing testimony to the power of God to fulfill what He says He will do in ways that far transcend our human understanding. The famine driving his brothers into his hands was, clearly, the Lord working out His will.

When Joseph had his dream about things bowing to him is it possible that he had an interpretation of those dreams? Others saw clearly a meaning in the dreams yet why would the dream include something that never occurred?

Gen 37:9-10 Then he had another dream, and he told it to his brothers. "Listen," he said, "I had another dream, and this time the sun and moon and eleven stars were bowing down to me." 10 When he told his father as well as his brothers, his father rebuked him and said, "What is this dream you had? Will your mother and I and your brothers actually come and bow down to the ground before you?"

Why the inclusion of Joseph’s mother? As Rachel died in chapter 35

Gen 35:19-20 So Rachel died and was buried on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem). 20 Over her tomb Jacob set up a pillar, and to this day that pillar marks Rachel's tomb.

Was Jacob wrong in his interpretation or are the sun and the moon someone else, if so who?

Wednesday Dec 27
Jacob revealed the corporate destiny of each tribal line. Yet, each line was composed of individuals with free will and free choice, especially in regard to their relationship with God, just as each of us experiences free will, as well. Whatever predictions God makes about nations and their future aren't the same as predestinating individuals to either salvation or damnation. God's foreknowledge of our choice isn't the same as predetermining those choices.

Do you think that any of the children of Israel saw these blessings and curses to be a reflection of their own tribal groups? If you were trying to start a new nation, with some unity would you offer characterizations of each tribe? With some tribes not even having any good qualities? Is the poetry of a blessing a divine declaration?

Just some thoughts for those who look deeper into the stories then the SDA Lesson Study Guide. As nice as it is to talk about the Bible stories the way we learned them as children, as adults there is a need to go beyond the superficial story. The superficial story with it focus on forgiveness, and God’s power to lead to a good outcome will always be there. But the stories without those superficial meanings are also important and for our overall knowledge of what the Bible is and is not we must look at the stories with more critical eyes. Until the SDA church realizes this, it is up to you Sabbath School leaders to ask the questions and probe the conventional thinking.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What do you think, please, of Obadiah Shoher's interpretation of the story? (here: ) He takes the text literally to prove that the brothers played a practical joke on Yosef rather than intended to murder him or sell him into slavery. His argument seems fairly strong to me, but I'd like to hear other opinions.