Back Home in Palestine; Slowly Going Nowhere

So easy it is to get caught up in the adventures of Joseph that we have almost forgotten that this story is not about a person but a family. The scene now shifts back to Canaan where we first began (Chapter 42). It is now twenty years later, and we catch a glimpse of the old man, Jacob, sitting at the entrance of his tent with his eleven sons, the older of whom are now showing signs of graying age. The famine that we know so much about through Pharaoh’s dreams and Joseph’s interpretation has now settled over the Land of Promise. Reports have come that there was grain in Egypt. The topic of discussion most certainly centered on what to do for family survival.

There must have been a certain hesitancy around this circle to mention Egypt, especially for the sons. This is evident by Jacob’s rather gruff words, “Why do you keep looking at one another …?”(Gen. 42:1). They were, no doubt, plagued with old, secret sins─sins which they never mentioned to one another even in their most candid moments, and which they desperately tried to forget. Just the thought of Egypt threatened to rip open wounds that refused to heal. The gruffness of the old man seems to indicate that he was still not at peace with those around him, even his own sons. The glaring fact that he would not send Benjamin, Joseph’s full brother and son of Rachel, down to Egypt with the others reveals that Jacob did not change much over the years (Gen. 42:4). He grasped onto Benjamin with the favoritism that he once held for Joseph. By all accounts the family had not progressed in soul searching─their souls lay dormant, each man living within his own locked room.

Here the reader is invited to wonder how these brothers could live with themselves and their crimes for so long. Our first reaction may be judgmental until we begin to see ourselves in these men. We sinners are masters in the art of absolving our guilt. No doubt the brothers began by justifying themselves, much like we would in their position, by blaming their obnoxious father and his dreaming pet son, a creature of his idol Rachel, that woman who caused so much grief for their good mother Leah. In all honesty we feel for them, for it is true that they got a raw deal in life. But it is equally true that life isn’t fair, a fact that Joseph himself often contemplated in prison. The brothers went the wrong way with the wrongs against them. They labored under the sins of anger, resentment, and hatred─pride’s offspring.

Once we have justified ourselves of our crimes, we simply block them out of our memories. It is sobering to consider our power to erase our memories of evil deeds done, as the story of King David, who hid himself from his crimes for a whole year, testifies (II Sam. 12). Selective memory, of course, comes at a great cost to the soul, which writhes underneath the surface in pain, at least until the conscience is dead, and then the soul dies before the body. Some of the brothers might have been self deceived like Achan who stole from the Lord and thought that he could get away with it (Joshua 7). Whatever their motives, it is clear that the brothers could not come to terms with their own evil. Dealing with our own evil is a most elusive thing. We need help from without. We all need an honest mentor that understands the ways of the soul and can help us out of our funk of going nowhere, leading us to the truth. Jacob and his sons were about to meet up with theirs.

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