Sunday, July 21, 2013

Thoughts on the Story of Joseph

This last week I had the opportunity of discussing the biblical story of Joseph to a very polite audience. Some aspects of that story are more striking this time reviewing it.

One of the highlights of Joseph's story is his forgiving his brothers. But Joseph does not just blindly forgive his brothers. He remembered what they did to him. So, he tested them to see if their repentance was real. He first threw them in prison (Genesis 42:17) just as he had been cast into prison because of their actions. Then he took Simeon as a hostage (Genesis 42:24) and demanded that they bring their younger brother with them next time (Genesis 42:15, 20). Their younger brother was, of course, Benjamin, the only one of the brothers with whom Joseph shared a mother. In doing this, Joseph could see whether they would be willing to betray another brother for monetary gain (and perhaps revenge) the way that they had him. If they returned, he could see if they had been mistreating Benjamin. When they came back, he contrives to have Benjamin imprisoned indefinitely (Genesis 44:1-13) to see if they cared at all about his mother's children.

Three chapters narrate Joseph's tests of his brother's forgiveness (Genesis 42-44) before the one that narrates his forgiveness (Genesis 45). Joseph did not practice blind forgiveness.