Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Genesis: Chapter 50

and future oaths

the lurking deeps

Who will go up?
Who falls?

Carry me

[For full chapter, click here
This closing of Genesis also serves to introduce Exodus. A chapter full of closures, but also hints of slavery and redemption. The oath fulfilled is followed by an oath left unfulfilled, demanding answer.
Jacob is born in state back to Canaan, to be gathered in a moment of homecoming. Yet Joseph promises Pharaoh: "I will return." His hesitant request is a reminder of the fleeting of power, and a dark intimation of things to come. Though Joseph was "put" over Egypt by Pharaoh, in some ways he is still the passive object of Pharaoh's will, bound to Egypt unless granted permission to leave. And indeed, the verse specifies "The children and the animals remained behind"—in a foreshadowing of the later Pharaoh's demand for hostages.
With Jacob’s death, the binding holding the family together dissolves. “We will be your slaves,” the brothers beg, in another intimation of the awaiting enslavement. Joseph’s response not only closes this dark chapter in the family history, but also offers hope for future failures to come. The brothers ask, “Please bear (sa na) the sins of your brothers”—a prototype of Moses’ prayer in the aftermath of the Golden Calf “Please bear (sa na) the sins of this people”. Joseph responds “Do I stand in the place of God?” Failure is not irrevocable. In the end it can “be thought for good, to give life to many people."  Transgression is not erased. As in the case of the Golden Calf, there will be a process of accounting. Pakod yifkod, a precursor to God’s response to Moses: Be-yom pokdi u-pakadeti. Joseph asks a promise of restitution: you send me down here, now take me up. Undo what was done.
The book ends with this promise on hold: Joseph is put in a box, in Egypt. A reverberating cliffhanger. Going “up” from Egypt will not only be a national redemption, but also a spiritual one. Bringing Joseph up is a proof that there is restitution, that sin can be undone.]

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