Joseph: How Faith and Character are formed - Week 7 - God's Agent
Reading: Genesis 43:1-2 & 15-34
Sermon date: 15 July
A NOTE FOR LEADERS: there are probably more questions than can be discussed in one session so choose the questions you want to use and discard the rest (make up your own if you want to).
Once again, I stress that these notes are written to lead you to read the text carefully and in detail; and I remind that the purpose in taking this approach is to force you to enter into the actual human experiences of the protagonists. The other emphasis in the story, the privileged view that we as readers are given because we keep being told that all that happens is God’s plan, can lead us to a false view of history, that it goes smoothly because God is in control. We can easily, under the influence of our readerly privilege, neglect the confusion and pain of actual human experience captured through events in this story.
Last week we saw in ch 42 how news of Joseph’s wisdom in storing grain in a time of famine had reached Jacob in Canaan (though, of course, he doesn’t know that it is Joseph who had led Egypt in this way). Jacob, we saw, sent his sons to buy grain but refused to allow Benjamin, his youngest and new favourite son to go along.
We also saw how Joseph deceived his brothers in a number of ways (thus continuing the deception theme which has been so central in Genesis from the time that Jacob had deceived his brother Esau and will continue to be of critical importance to the rest of the story:
• By hiding his identity and pretending not to know his brothers [42.8]
• By accusing his brothers of being spies, even though he knows well that they aren’t
• By putting the money they had brought to pay for grain back into their bags
We saw how the last deception, especially, had sown terror into the hearts of the brothers and Jacob [42.35, 35-36]
Please read Genesis 43:1-14. Preparing to Return to Egypt
Q1 - What is the difficulty the family now finds itself to be in, and how do they resolve this problem? (* Hint)
Q2 - How has Judah changed? Compare vv.8-10 here with 37.26-27, and take vv.3-5 into account as well (* Hint)
Please read Genesis 43:15-25. Their Reception in Egypt, Part I
Q3 - How is the way the brothers are received this time different from last time? (* Hint)
Q4 - The brothers react with fear – why? (* Hint)
Q5 - How do the brothers attempt to control the danger they feel themselves to be in? (* Hint)
Q6 - What do you make of the steward’s reply in v.23a-b? (* Hint)
Please read Genesis 43:26-31. Their Reception in Egypt, Part II
Q7 - How does Joseph go about preparing the ground for the time when he will reveal himself to his brothers (which we know must come!)?
Q8 - Why is v.28 particularly significant?
Q9 - Comment on Joseph’s emotional state. Why do you think he is in this state?
Please read Genesis 43:32-34. The Meal in Joseph’s House
Q10 - Why does Joseph eat separately and why do you think the narrator emphasizes this detail in v.32?
Q11 - Explain what happens in v.34.
Q12 - What did you learn from this passage? How would you apply it to your life?
Q1 - They have to go back to Egypt for more food, which means they have to take Benjamin [vv.1-5]. Jacob initially refuses to do this and blames his sons for putting him in the position where Benjamin is threatened [vv.6-7]. The impasse is resolved by Judah’s selfless offer [vv.8-10] which makes Jacob realize that he has no choice so he sends them away with piles of gifts as a safety measure [vv.11-14]
Q2 - In ch 37 Judah valued money above his fraternal bond with Joseph. Here his values have changed as he shows compassion for his father and concern for his brother Benjamin. The change is marked in that Benjamin is the new favourite but it seems as though this no longer affects Judah or perhaps the other brothers as it once did. Vv.3-5 especially indicate that Judah now respects his father and is ready to do what ever his father wishes.
Q3 - While Joseph hides himself from them initially we instructs that they be treated like honoured guests whereas last time they were treated like criminals. Thus they are taken to Joseph’s house for a meal, which is a sign of hospitality (though this is a sign for readers: the brothers don’t know why they are being brought into Joseph’s house until vv.23c-24). Towards the end of this section they must have realized that their fears were groundless when Simeon was released and brought to them and their feet were washed – a sign to them that they were regarded as honoured guests.
Q4 - They don’t know that a meal is being prepared for them. They are still haunted by having had their money returned which has convinced them that Joseph intends to enslave them [v.18c] – another sign of their guilt at what they did to Joseph.
Q5 - They explain to Joseph’s steward how they had found their money placed in their sacks. They hope in this way to prove that they are “honest men” (remember how Joseph had questioned their honesty previously?) They emphasize their honesty by pointing to the additional payment they have brought to buy more food.
Q6 - Notice how human action and God’s action are regarded in this story as one and the same, the point being that God works through the ordinary things done by people in their lives each day. It’s a wonderfully concentrated way of emphasizing that God is already “Emmanuel” – with us.
Q7 - He extends ordinary courtesies with them, asking how they are and how their “aged father” is and whether he is still alive. Then he addressed Benjamin with a blessing
Q8 - It reminds us of Joseph’s dream at 37.?? And therefore shows that events are working smoothly to bring to fruition God’s plan for everyone
Q9 - The writer stresses how deeply affected Joseph is; his emotion of joy is uncontrollable so he has to leave the room for some time to compose himself. He is in this state because Benjamin has come, but even more because he has seen that his brothers are now “honest men”, different men from those who tried to kill him and then sold him as a slave.
Q10 - I find it a little shocking that Joseph separates himself from his own kin. Perhaps the narrator wants to emphasize how totally Joseph has become acculturated so that he is now an Egyptian rather than a Hebrew. More likely, however, is that Joseph has not yet revealed who he is and if he ate in contravention of Egyptian custom his brothers might begin to put two-and-two together? In addition, for a man of his high position in Egyptian society to break a sacred code would be a serious violation which could jeopardize his position and authority (presumably Pharoah doesn’t yet know that he is a Hebrew).
Q11 - Benjamin is singled out as special by being given a portion that was “five times as much as anyone else’s”. Benjamin is, in other words, given the status of special guest (which reveals how groundless were Jacob’s fears for his safety).
Tim Long, 09/07/2018