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In the last article we'd learned, that there wasn't a country in the known world at the time, that the "seven year famine" couldn't reach: "When the famine had spread over the whole country, Joseph opened the storehouses and sold grain to the Egyptians, for the famine was severe throughout Egypt. And all the countries came to Egypt to buy grain from Joseph, because the famine was severe in all the world." -- Genesis 41:56,57
The Sacred Record points out, that the famine was so bad, that even back in Canaan...
Jacob was forced to send his sons down to Egypt -- in order to buy grain for their household.
But what the "sons of Jacob" didn't realize, is that the brother that they'd betrayed some twenty years before, had now risen to a position from within the land.
But this wasn't just any position, it was a position that had made him the Prime Minister (for Joseph only answered to Pharaoh) of the very state, that they now needed assistance from.
And needless-to-say, this presented Joseph with a very unexpected opportunity? An opportunity to where Joseph could possibly enact revenge, against the very ones that had betrayed some twenty years before. And this was made possible, because the roles have now been, somewhat reversed? For we find that Joseph is no longer at a disadvantage, when it comes to his brothers, for he now holds... the upper-hand.
And this is why I personally believe, that during this time, Joseph is dealing with the temptation of bringing vengeance against his brothers. This is why we find him speaking very angrily to his brothers: "As soon as Joseph saw his brothers, he recognized them, but he pretended to be a stranger and spoke harshly to them. 'Where do you come from?'" -- Genesis 42:7
You know, I often wonder -- that if it were us, who had to face this type of situation (or test)... a situation that had us in the position of being able to enact revenge, against the very people who had once betrayed us, just like Joseph was betrayed some twenty years before. I find myself curious, when it comes to how many of us, would have had the strength and humbleness, to resist taking this type of action? Especially when the action, seems to be justified or reasonable, by the world standards.
Now when it comes to Joseph's father Jacob -- remember that he had four wives who had given him twelve sons and one daughter from between them. Also keep in mind, that from out of the four woman, Rachel was the only one that Jacob truly loved, with all his heart. For she was the one that Jacob had agreed, to work fourteen unfair years for. And Jacob had agreed to this deal, so that he may finally earn Rachel's hand in marriage.
Keep in mind, that the other three women: Leah, Bilhah and Zilpah -- were brought in as tools, that were used to manipulate, or gain some kind of advantage, when it came to Jacob. Know that Leah was deceitfully handed over to Jacob first, in order for Leah and Rachel's father to manipulate and gain further employment services from Jacob. Again, Jacob wanted and truly loved Rachel with all of his heart -- not Leah.
Now when it came to Bilhah and Zilpah -- know that they were Leah and Rachel's maidservants, and they were brought in to help one wife to gain an advantage over the other, when it came to childbearing. For these women had felt, that if they were able to bear Jacob the most children... then perhaps, they would win his favor and perhaps his heart to go along with it.
Personally I like to think, that all of this "family drama" definitely had an effect on Jacob's children. I mean after all -- all we have to do, is to look at the same type of scenario that had happened, when it came to Joseph's grandfather Abraham. For it was during his day, that his wife Sarah and her maidservant Hagar -- who had a similar situation going on, when it came to child-bearing.
And because of their (Sarah and Hagar) animosity towards each other -- Hagar and her son Ishmael... eventually were told to leave from Abraham's household. Now I would also like to point out, that before this had happened, Ishmael had begun to adopt his mother's negative attitude towards Sarah as well. And because of this behavior that Ishmael had adopted, it had caused him to start picking on Sarah's son Isaac. Now when Sarah had caught how Ishmael was treating her son (who was his little brother), she insisted that Hagar and Ishmael leave the household.
Now, as we fast forward from Abraham's account, and head back to Joseph's -- we now find, that Jacob had favored Joseph over all his other sons. Now I can't help but to wonder, if this could have came about, because Joseph was the first born son, of the very woman that Jacob truly loved... Rachel? Could this also have been, that between the four women -- Rachel was the last to be blessed with a child, that she could actually call her own? Oh, how Jacob's heart must have ached, when it came to Rachel's mental and spiritual suffering. And to make matters worse, Rachel had passed away while she was giving birth to her second child Benjamin.
Be that as it may, let's move forward...
Now eventually, Jacob's other sons had became jealous of the attention and favor, that their father had for their younger brother Joseph. For they were also found to be insulted and angry, that their father had given Joseph a very valuable coat that consisted of many colors. And on top of this, Joseph had the boldness and arrogance, to tell them that someday, he will rule over them.
Obviously I could go on, but as you can gather from the text so far, the family situation was quite toxic, when it came to Jacob's overall household environment. Understand, that Joseph had a good heart, and that he'd cared for his brothers. And the evidence of this, was shown when he was frantically searching for them -- for he (and his father) feared, that something bad had happened (or could have happened), for they knew, that they had been traveling in dangerous territory. This is why Jacob had sent Joseph out, to look for his brothers in the first place:
"Now his brothers had gone to graze their father's flocks near Shechem, and Israel [Jacob] said to Joseph: 'As you know, your brothers are grazing the flocks near Shechem. Come, I am going to send you to them.' "Very well," [Joseph] replied. So [Jacob] said to him: 'Go and see if all is well with your brothers and with the flocks, and bring word back to me.' Then [Jacob] sent him off from the Valley of Hebron..." -- Genesis 37:12-14
Joseph would show his loyalty to his brothers, while he'd search all over for them. And he did this, all the way up to the time his brothers had betrayed and sold him into slavery, back in the place that was known as Dothan. Now if I were in Joseph's position, I could have easily understood, how he would begin to see his brothers in a totally different light, from that moment forward?
Just the mere fact, that they did what they had done to him, shows just how cold their hearts and minds had become, when it came to Joseph. So from Joseph's perspective, it's very easy to see, how he could have adopted a mindset that had him thinking: "If they would do this to me... then they would surely do it to my little brother Benjamin?"
So Joseph said to his brothers: "It is just as I told you: You are
spies! And this is how you will be tested: As surely as Pharaoh lives,
you will not leave this place unless your younger brother comes here.
Send one of your number to get your brother; the rest of you will be
kept in prison, so that your words will be tested to see if you are
telling the truth. If you are not, then as surely as Pharaoh lives, you
are spies!" -- Genesis 42:14-16
Now it's at this point, that I believe, that Joseph reveals his possible tipping point? For if his brothers are found to be lying about the well-being of Joseph's little brother Benjamin -- then they will suffer a similar season of captivity, just like Joseph had done, or even worse. But in the meantime, Joseph would give his brothers' sometime to think about the terms he had placed before them. And because of this, Joseph would have them locked up into custody for three days.
Now I for one, don't believe that Joseph would have killed his brothers,
even if they couldn't produce Benjamin? Since Joseph had every right to
do so, and being that the penalty in Egypt at the time, dealt with the
fact that if you were caught being a spy... you were put to death. Now
it's from within Joseph's next statement, that leads me to this
And on the third day Joseph said to them: "Do this and you will live, for I fear God: If you are honest with me, let one of your brothers stay here in prison, while the rest of you go and take grain back for your starving households. But you must bring your youngest brother to me, so that your words may be verified and that you may not die." -- Genesis 42:18-20
I also want to point out, that the mere fact that Joseph mentions that he has the fear of God -- leads me to further believe, that in spite of his personal feelings towards his brothers -- Joseph would not have risked his position of favor and ambassadorship with the Almighty -- in order to gain revenge against his brothers.
And because of this, the power of wisdom and humbleness, was able to have the opportunity to shine through. Now as we journey further, perhaps we'll be able to see just how powerful these traits can truly be, once applied. We'll also learn, if Joseph's brothers will have a moment of reflection, while they sit in prison as they now endure a season of great uncertainty?
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