Friday, March 28, 2014

Genesis: Chapter 46

A return to dreams

Once again, I am here

what goes down
will come up

hands and eyes
grow tender

[For full chapter, click here
Jacob's return to life, is a return to dreams. After the protracted mourning, he suddenly has "visions in the night." The alienation and dissolution of the missing years begin to heal. Jacob is once again "hineni", fully present. God is once again the God "of your father", and Jacob's sons are once again his sons, the dead and lost included in the total, gone,but not forgotten. The dead Rachel is resurrected, at last acknowledged as "the wife of Jacob."
Yet the hints of darkness in the last chapter become here explicit. The "going down" to Egypt is fearful. God must promise that there will be a rise, and ability to escape this pit (e'ale, gam ale). Reverberating is the covenant: "You will know, surely know, that your children will be strangers in a land not their own, and they will be enslaved and afflicted (ya-anu)..."
Here, God makes Joseph's redefinition of the narrative in the previous chapter definitive: the darkness of the "going down" will be the source of life: "I will make you there into a great nation." Or, in Joseph's words: "God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction (oni)" The continuity between generations offers comfort. God promises Jacob that Joseph will be there at his death to "lay his hands over your eyes". Instead of an agonizing decent into the Pit mourning his son, a peaceful sleep, and an eventual "rise." Death--an exile--are  no longer fearful: "I will die now, after I see you face, for you are still alive."
In a final knitting together of the shattered family, Jacob "sends" Judah forth forth to Joseph, as he had once "sent" Joseph to look for his brothers, in a chiastic closing that gives Judah a place in his father's trust.)

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