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The Postmodern Catholic

Unit III God's Chosen Ones
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God’s Imperfect Instruments

Remember, these stories show how the Hebrews did not hide or ignore the failings of character of their heroes.

In fact, it is the defects of the characters that become the way God works through them, through Israel, the Chosen People, and through us

Jacob and Esau: twins who began fighting in the womb

Esau was oldest, a hunter, a man of passions, his father’s (Isaac’s) favorite; the rightful heir to the Father’s Blessing

Jacob: younger; quiet, crafty; "kept to his tents"; mother’s favorite

Remember, these stories are meant to explain the People of Israel’s self-image as God’s Chosen People

The Patriarch (Father), was meant to parallel the "Father" in heaven

Central to this story is who gets the father’s blessing and why

Jacob and Esau continued

His mother’s favorite (Rebecca)

Trick’s his father into giving him his blessing and inheritance

Esau never really valued his blessing since he gave it away for a bowl of stew.

The Father’s Blessing also highlights the illiterate, tribal culture where there were no written contracts

Esau furious at Jacob

Jacob flees for his life

His mother sends him to her brother Laban’s household back East

Like Jacob, who learns some hard lessons due to his defects, we also learn about life and our relationship with God more through our defects than our strengths

Jacob’s Dream

After fleeing his brother Esau, Jacob goes to Bethel where he comes to face himself and God. At Bethel:

Jacob dreams of a heavenly ladder where he saw angels going up and down

Jacob "wrestles" with a mysterious figure, possibly God

Jacob gains new strength through this wrestling

God renews the covenant with Jacob and changes his name to Israel, or "he who wrestles with God"

 

Laban’s House

Jacob travels to his uncle’s household and meets his beloved wife Rachel

He works for Laban for seven years to earn Rachel as his wife

Jacob is tricked and marries Leah, Rachel’s older sister

He works seven more years to marry Rachel

Jacob learns humility and patience with Laban and eventually prospers

Laban’s House continued

Jacob’s household prospers.

Leah has many sons (the tribes of Israel)

Rachel struggles to have any and remains barren

The theme of struggle between Leah and Rachel is a main theme in these stories

Jacob’s Children

Leah gave birth to seven children: Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Zebulun, and a daughter Dinah

Rachel finally gives birth to Joseph and Benjamin

The twelve tribes of Israel are thought to have derived from the children of Jacob, or Israel

Joseph and his brothers

Of course, Joseph becomes Jacob’s favorites, and is spoiled by his father

Just as Jacob stole his father’s blessing from his brother Esau, so it seemed that Joseph was stealing the blessing from his older brothers

As a symbol of this favoritism, Joseph received from his father a flowing robe or tunic

Joseph’s Dreams

Jacob’s favoritism bred contempt for Joseph by his older brothers

Joseph does not seem top care as he reports his dreams and tells how they imply how he is to rule over his brothers

The stacks, or sheaves of wheat bowing down to Joseph’s sheaf

2nd Dream of the sun, moon, and eleven stars bowing down to Joseph even insulted his father Jacob

Joseph Sold into Slavery

Joseph is sent by Jacob to check on his brothers who planned on killing him and telling their father wild beasts got him

While actually two stories spliced together, Gen 37:1-37 shows his oldest brother Reuben showing mercy and convinces them to leave Joseph in a cistern

Reuben planned to come back and rescue him but while they were gone, some Midianite traders passed by and sold him into slavery in Egypt

Joseph in Egypt

Three main points to Joseph’s saga:

Joseph and Potiphar’s wife

His role as Dream Interpreter and how it helped pharaoh and win his freedom

The reunion with his brothers

Potiphar’s Wife

Joseph became a servant of Potiphar, the pharaoh’s Chief Steward

Potiphar saw that "the Lord was with Joseph" and entrusted him with his entire household

Potiphar’s wife eventually tries to seduce Joseph

Joseph resists but the woman lies to her husband who then has Joseph imprisoned

The Dream Interpreter

Genesis views dreams as gifts from God

Joseph’s ability to interpret dreams mark’s Joseph as being "blessed by God"

While in prison, Joseph befriends two of pharaoh’s servants

These two, the cup-bearer and the baker, ask Joseph to interpret their dreams, which he does: one is released, the other dies

Dream interpreter continued

Joseph remains in prison for two years while the pharaoh began to have troubling dreams

In one, seven full ears of corn are eaten by seven lean ears of corn

The cup-bearer remembers Joseph and brings him to interpret the dream

Joseph interprets the dream to mean there will be seven years of plenty followed by seven years of famine

Because of this, the pharaoh saved corn during the seven years of plenty and prevented disaster during the years of famine

Reunion with His Brothers

Joseph marries Asnath and has two sons: Ephraim and Manasseh

As the famine spread throughout the region, people from around Egypt began to come to Egypt for food, including Jacob’s son’s and their families

Reunion and Reconciliation

The famine would draw Joseph’s brothers down to Egypt.

Joseph was now governor or Regent of Egypt and the dispenser of the grain

Like his earlier dreams foretold, his brothers, not knowing who he was, bowed down before their younger brother

Joseph recognized them but kept his identity hidden

 

Joseph first claims they are spies

Joseph then tells them to bring their youngest brother Benjamin to be a hostage

He then locked them in jail for three days

(What might this parallel or foreshadow?

The brothers began to talk among themselves in their own language about how they were being punished because of what they did to Joseph earlier

Joseph, of course, heard and understood their discussion

Joseph turns away and cries

Joseph then had their grain containers filled, and hid their money in their sacks before they returned home

They return to Jacob and tell the story of the Lord of the Land who spoke sternly to them and told them to bring back their youngest brother

If they did this he would know they are honest men and would restore their lost brother

The Second Journey to Egypt

The famine grew worse in the lands

Jacob was still reluctant to let the brothers bring Benjamin back to Egypt

Finally, he agreed with instructions for the brothers to bring extra money and gifts for the "Lord of the Land"

When Joseph saw they had returned his brother Benjamin, he gave instructions to slaughter an animal for celebration

The brothers, however, were scared as ever, thinking Joseph knew of the money that was in their sacks, and was preparing to punish them

They then confessed to the steward (Joseph’s servant) that their sacks contained their money in full

The steward tells them not to worry but to prepare for a celebration

At Joseph’s house, they were bathed, and feasted

Final Test

Joseph again gives them as much grain as they can carry

He then instructs his servant to plant a gold chalice in the sack of Benjamin before they leave

Joseph then instructs his servants to ride out and confront his brothers about the chalice and to accuse them of stealing

They are returned to Joseph’s house

Joseph said since the chalice was found in Benjamin’s sack, he should remain with him

Judah then begs Joseph to let the boy go because it would kill his father and to take him instead

Joseph cannot continue with the deception and reveals his identity

Joseph tells his brothers not to worry about selling him into slavery

He says that God sent him ahead to Egypt so that they would all survive the famine

He invites all, including his father and the rest of the tribes, to come live in Egypt with him

They settle in the land of Goshen and live happily ever after

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D. “The more I am able to affirm others, to say ‘yes” to them in myself, by discovering them in myself and myself in them, the more real I am. I am fully real if my own heart says yes to everyone” Thomas Merton