Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Genesis 47:13-31

(Warning long post). On Sunday I had the privileged of speaking at my church. Despite the fact that it was a long weekend, start of school holidays and it clashed with the NRL grand final, there were sill 70-80 people there. I was given the text Genesis 47:13-31 as we have been doing a series on the life of Joseph. I found this text really hard, but I hope I did the text justice. I was greatly encouraged by the feedback from the congregation - I go to a pretty good church :)

When the audio goes up, I will also link to it here. In that you will hear more laughter than I had planned. My Dad took a photo with a flash right at the beginning, which threw me a little bit. Also for some reason people found a few things I said amusing at the beginning, which I didn't intend, and then later when I said my "living room"  line, I didn't hear any laughter... but I'm not sad about that.

Below is the transcript I used, with footnotes so you can read some extra comments on the text that I had, and also see where I pulled my information from. Hopefully this may help someone else who has to research this passage.

Good evening and welcome. My task tonight is to speak on Genesis 47:13-31. While I was researching this passage I found a commentary that had suggestions on what topics someone could speak on based off a given chapter. For Genesis 47 they stated:
We feel that the only portion of this chapter suitable as a text for a sermon is the section of verses 1-12.
They then go on to say that the story of the Egyptian famine is too specific to get anything out of it and that Joseph’s oath to Jacob doesn’t offer anything new [1].

So what do we do with that? Last week we looked at verse 1-12, we are moving on. Well I think “all Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” so that we can be “equipped for every good work”[2]; and that still applies to our passage tonight. But faced with some difficulties in the text, and the fact that we are thousands of years removed from the situation, we should pray, so God will help us understand His message to us tonight:

Lord we are thankful for this opportunity to be in your presence and to be among your people. To set our hearts and minds on you. To praise you for who you are and for what you have done for us. Thankyou we can have the privilege of entering into this two way conversation that we call worship; where we say and believe things that we know to be true about you and we pray for those moments where you in turn will clearly and powerfully talk to us through your word; so our lives can be touched and changed and transformed to the very likeness of Jesus. I confess to you Lord that we need your words to us, for I am inadequate, and sinful, and powerless, and apart from you I can do nothing. So please Lord speak to us for we are listening and desire to hear and to heed what it is that you are going to say. We pray this in your powerful and holy name, Jesus.[3]

The story so far

Ok, so for those who are tuning in now, to those who might be popping in on this long weekend or for those who have just forgotten, we have been going thru the life of Joseph.

So far Joseph’s life has been one big roller coaster. He was the favourite son, and then his brothers nearly killed him, but instead they sold him as a slave. He was then a good servant to a powerful man named Potiphar. Joseph got some responsibility looking after his household, and so became a blessing to that household. But then, Potiphar’s wife accused him of attempted rape and so he got thrown into prison.

Again, Joseph showed his skills and kept the prison running gaining some responsibilities, which in turn became a blessing to that prison. During that time he correctly interpreted two guys dreams, one of which was Pharaoh's cupbearer who got released. Three years after that the Pharaoh had some dreams that disturbed him and then, only then, did the cupbearer remember his old mate Joseph. Joseph was brought before the King, correctly interpreted his dreams and declared there was going to be seven years of plenty and seven years of famine. So Joseph again got some more responsibility and was put in charge of Egypt's Department of Agriculture to make sure there would be enough food in the famine.

Meanwhile, back in Canaan, Joseph’s family fell on hard times during the famine and through a series of adventures and misadventures Joseph revealed himself to his family; and brought them to Egypt where they have been given jobs, land and food through this hard time.

Which brings us to our passage tonight. Our text tonight has two main Acts. Act 1 is Joseph dealing with the people of Egypt during the famine and saving them from death and Act 2 is Joseph dealing with his father who is about to die. The plan is that we will look at each act in turn and then draw some ideas from each one. While going over these two stories, think to yourself, “What is the purpose of these? Why are they written here and why in this order? What was the original intent of these stories? And, what does this now mean for us today?”

Act 1: Gen 47:13-26 - Joseph saves the Egyptians from Death

So in this First Act the story moves quickly, going over how Egypt coped for the rest of the famine. If you were Pharaoh, things would be looking pretty good. Again we see that Joseph becomes a blessing to whoever was in charge over him[4]. First it was Potiphar, then it was the jailer, now under Pharaoh, Joseph seems to work out one of the best totalitarian government policies in the history of the world. He gets his master all the money, all the livestock, all the land and all the people in Egypt and 20% of all future produce. That’s quite a good deal... if you were Pharaoh.

We must not forget that this story come right after the meeting Jacob has with Pharaoh where Jacob blessed Pharaoh twice[5]. Right after that we get this story and Pharaoh seemed to prosper[6].

So, Pharaoh gets a good deal because of Joseph. But what about the people of Egypt and Canaan? Does Joseph’s actions sound heavy handed to you? One article I read stated that:
Joseph is here portrayed as ruthlessly pursuing a course of coercive economic centralization. After collecting the surplus product of the seven fat years, he sells back the food to its producers at an exorbitant price - eventually forcing them to hand over their savings, livestock, land, and freedom to Pharaoh, in order to avoid starvation.[7]
Is that a fair assessment of Joseph? Now there is nothing directly in the text that states Joseph acted in a positive or a negative way. The text doesn’t say “and Joseph did good in the sight of the Lord” nor does it say “and Joseph did evil in the sight of the Lord”. Is the account written in such a way that it is not recommending these actions and just recounting them?[8]

Also we need to remember that the Bible is never scared to point out some of the short comings of the great heroes of faith. Noah got drunk[9], Moses killed a dude[10] and later he took God’s credit for providing water in the desert[11]. David got another man’s wife pregnant and then arranged for the husband to be killed[12]. Peter denied Jesus three times[13]. Is this event in Joseph's life just one bad stain on his good track record? Do we see here that power corrupts? Was Joseph in the wrong?

Critics of Joseph ask “what would we think if a politician today did this?” I think that is an unfair comparison as there are lots of differences between Joseph and a modern day politician. We need to look at Joseph in his own day.

My contention is that Joseph was not acting in the wrong. Joseph was being a faithful servant to his master, while also not taking unnecessary advantage of the people starving to death. Feel free to chat to me afterwards if you disagree, but first hear me out.

The people were in a pretty dire circumstance. I think we need to feel it a bit. I’ve never done the 40 hour famine, and I really don’t know much about hunger, so the closest I can get to the Egyptians are the starving ads on TV. The Egyptians and the Canaanites were in no less a predicament than the 4.5 million people in Ethiopia today. We are talking stick thin children with bloated bellied. People walking across dry and cracked land looking for water. I wonder if you offered a starving Ethiopian village food to survive, the tools and the farm land to work on, and told them that at the end of the harvest they have to give back 20% of the food and that they could keep the rest; I wonder how they would react. I wonder how everyone else looking on would react to this deal. Would there be international outrage about this set up? Would there be viral videos going out getting you to support the cause to undo this unjust slavery? I hardly doubt it.

By this time in the story the famine has lasted maybe four years. Things were getting tight for the once prosperous nation of Egypt. The people came to Joseph who sells to them grain so that they would not die. This money doesn’t line Joseph’s pockets, but makes its way back to Pharaoh’s house.

So why didn’t Joseph just give the food away? Why charge them anything at all for the food? Well it didn’t belong to Joseph to give away. It wasn’t his[14]. Under Egypt’s Collect-Food-in-Time-of-Plenty scheme they taxed the people 20% of their produce[15] so that the government could then sell it back to its people. Back in this time, there was no mandate or legislation for the government to look after its people. There was no state welfare; it wasn’t incumbent upon the King to throw the crumbs down to the plebs. But the fact is, that in this case, there was actually food for the people to buy. If there was no forward planning, the death toll would have been a lot higher.

After all the money is gone, the people come back again asking Joseph for food. Joseph then sets up a bartering system with the people so they could trade their livestock for food. This plan seemed to carry them over for another year.

Now, the taking of the live stock puts these animals under Pharaoh’s control and so they become his responsibility. If the owners had no food, then the livestock, who are further down the food chain, were in deep trouble. Instead of killing the animals they are traded to Pharaoh for him to look after. Pharaoh has more mouths to feed, while the people have less.

And you can’t just kill all the animals for food. They were useful to help plough and carry heavy things around. They were the ancient tractors and trucks of their time. During the famine these animals were dead weight to the people. But, if they killed all their livestock, they would be in a whole heap of trouble when in the future it was time to do some farming. All their heavy tools would be gone.

Now the next year comes around and the people only have their lives and their land. I have a feeling that property values were not at an all time high after close to seven years of famine. The land would probably be one big dust bowl. So the people sell that land and themselves, because they had nothing else. The people became slaves[16].

Now we may recoil from this idea, maybe because we are on the other side of the 18th and 19th century slave trade. Now that was wicked. That was racial kidnapping on the grandest scale. It was violent, de-humanising and evil. But during Joseph’s time, slavery was a little bit different, it wasn’t based off race and it was what people did when they had no money. It was a little bit like the European feudal system[17].

400 years later in Exodus 21 there are even rituals for a slave to undergo if they love their master and do not want to be set free[18]. That might sound crazy, but being under someone else’s care meant security in an uncertain time. It meant that the master was to look after them. Like the livestock, the people now become Pharaoh’s responsibility. Remember this isn’t modern day. Back then the government wasn’t responsible to make sure you lived, but now the Egyptians were under Pharaohs care. They were now his responsibility.
And what do you think about the conditions they face under Pharaoh? Were they cruel? Pharaoh gives the people his food so they can live; his livestock to work on his land, in exchange for 20% of food they produce. The rest can be used for themselves, their households and their children. Pretty much being a slave to Pharaoh meant they could no long be self-employed and instead they had to work for him and they got to keep 80% of what they produced.

This is what I don’t get about the critics who compare Joseph to a modern day politician. They protest that this taxation was overbearing and or exorbitant. Just think a little about what you pay in taxes.  This financial year, if you earn over 18 thousand two hundred dollars you get taxed at 19% for every dollar above that. If you earn over 37 thousand dollars this financial year, you have to pay three and a half thousand dollars and 32.5% of every dollar over that[19]. And that is just income tax.

There is stamp duty for houses[20], not to mention yearly rates[21]. There is stamp duty for cars[22] and then there are rego cost on top of that[23].

When it comes to consumer goods, let’s not forget that we pay a 10% GST on most items. However, when it comes to other items like petrol[24], alcohol[25] and smokes[26] they again have their own different tax rate.

So really, my point is that a flat 20% tax wasn’t that big of a deal. I think people would rejoice if the same standard was applied today. Some commentators say that average taxes in that time was around 33%[27] and in Mesopotamia their tax could have been as high as 60%[28].

If all this don’t convince you, we are told in the text what the public opinion of Joseph's policy was. Was there a public outcry stating that this burden is too much? What are the opinion polls saying about Joseph’s new policy? Verse 25 :
“You have saved our lives,” they said. “May we find favour in the eyes of our lord; we will be in bondage to Pharaoh.”
Joseph is heralded as a saviour. The people are more than content, they are grateful to Joseph for ensuing they would not die and have food and work provided for them.

So to end Act 1, we see Joseph as working hard to bless his master, while also saving the Egyptian nation from dying. He was honourable in his job, gave people work to do and made sure they did not starve. For this he was respected and praised by the people.

Act 2: Gen 47:27-31 - Joseph helps his father in Death

The story now moves ahead in to Act 2, from verse 27. Here Jacob is on his death bed and so he calls in Joseph to make a promise to him.

Now what’s with the whole hand under the thigh[29] business? Well that is what people did back then to make important promises or deals. Abraham did the same thing way back in Genesis 24 when he got his servant to promise to find a wife for Isaac. Today we handshake, let’s keep it like that[30].

So Jacob gets Joseph to promise to bury him back in Canaan. Back in Genesis 23 Abraham bought a cave to bury his wife Sarah in. And now, the family cave is the resting place for Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and his wife Rebecca and Jacobs’s wife Leah[31].

So, was Jacob just asking Joseph to continue the family tradition? Was he saying, “Bury me in our families cave as I don’t want it to go to waste. Don’t let it gather up cobwebs, we need to get our monies worth”? Probably not. Maybe he was more sentimental. Was Jacob saying, “I’m a Jew. Bury me with my wife, my father and mother and my grandparents with the rest of my family”? Perhaps, but I think it is more than that.
I think the location of the grave was important to Jacob.

Leaving Canaan was a hard thing for Jacob to do. He had lived there his entire life. In the previous chapter, chapter 46, when Jacob was crossing the Canaanite border he offered sacrifices to God and God reassures him not to be afraid to cross over into Egypt, for God will still be faithful to his promises to him.

Now, despite spending seventeen years in another country with a higher standard of living, Jacob wanted to be buried back in Canaan, which he still considered home. And seventeen years is a long time, epically when surrounded by wealth. Just think back what you were doing seventeen years ago? That would be 1995. Songs like Gangster’s Paradise and Kiss from a Rose were in the charts[32]. Paul Keating was Prime Minster and John Howard was opposition leader. I didn’t even remember that - I had to look it up on the Internet. My point is even after seventeen years Jacob still identified with the land of Canaan. I’ve been in Canberra since 2004[33] and I call myself a Canberran on my Twitter profile. Jacob would have none of that.

I think with Jacob’s request to Joseph, he was not only remembering his family lineage but also the location was meaningful to him; because the land of Canaan is part of God’s promises. Not only is his father and his grandfather buried there, but also that is where God has promised that his family will become a great nation.

Jacob wants his funeral to be in Canaan, so his family have to go there and bury him. He wants them to be reminded the promises of God. And I think we can tell that Jacob has this God centred idea about his burial as what does he do when Joseph agrees to bury him in Canaan? Verse 31: Jacob worshiped God[34].

When facing death, this old man worshiped God, because he trusted in the promises of God.

That was nice, so what?

So there you have it. Two scenes from the life of Joseph. That was nice. Joseph was a good worker and he made a promise to his dad. So are we to now be good workers and to keep our promises? Sure, do that, but Christianity isn’t about trying to be good to please God. I think we can go deeper than that.

What if we put Jesus into the mix? We are Christians - that is what we do with Bible stories.

We could say that Jesus is the true and better Joseph who used his kingly authority to save and purchase a people for his own kingdom.

Jesus is the true and better hope of Israel, who fulfilled God’s oaths to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and brought about the salvation of mankind.

Jesus is the true and better Jacob, who when facing death trusted in the promises of his Father. Jesus not only trusted in the promises of God, he fulfilled them and brought about the forgiveness of sins[35].

Sure, that is right and true as well.

But I’m going to try and stick closer to the text. I think the point to these stories is one of contrast. Just before this passage we are told in verse 11 and 12 that :
Joseph settled his father and his brothers in Egypt and gave them property in the best part of the land, the district of Rameses, as Pharaoh directed. Joseph also provided his father and his brothers and all his father’s household with food, according to the number of their children.
We then see the First Act about how the Egyptian people were hard pressed during the famine, and then at the start of the Second Act in verse 27 we are told that :
the Israelites settled in Egypt in the region of Goshen. They acquired property there and were fruitful and increased greatly in number.
Because of these two sentences that bookend the famine story, I think the point is one of contrasts, of which there are many.

In the first story we see Joseph saving a nation from dying, in the second we see him helping a man to die well.
In the first story we see Joseph saving the Egyptians with them selling themselves and their land, in the second we see Israel prospering and buying land.
In the first story the Egyptians praise Joseph for saving them, in the second we see Israel praising God for His promises to him.
In the first story the Egyptians when facing death looked to the Pharaoh for help, in the second when Israel was facing death he looked towards the Lord.
In the first story the Egyptians were concerned with the here and the now, in the second Israel was concerned with a future promise.

Essentially there is a contrast in how people coped when facing death.  So my big question tonight is: How do you think you will cope when facing death?

Now, we might not be the Egyptians facing starvation. We are not faced with death every day. We do not see how our food ends up on our table and we send our sick and dying to hospitals for others to look after them, while we spend our time in living rooms[36]. Don’t get me wrong, I have a weak stomach, and it is good that we have butches and doctors doing their jobs, but it does mean that we are removed from death, so we may not feel like it is an issue.

And also, unlike the Egyptians, we are not faced with a lack of resources, but a stack of resources[37]. Our abundance of resources diverts attention away from the honest truth that one day we are going to die. It is inevitable. “Man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment”[38]. And no Government plan will ultimately be able to save us from death. Like the Egyptians we can look towards to Government for help in times of crisis, but not ultimately to save us from death.

Ask yourself, “What are you living for? What do you trust in?”

Is your hope in worldliness/happiness?

Our world is subtle. We are told, YOLO[39], You Only Live Once. We are told that the goal for this life is for you to seek your own happiness. Most of that time we are told that happiness is found in your own independent expression that is mainly wrapped up in some object. Like a new phone, or a new car, or a nice holiday “to get away from it all”.

We feel for the slaves in Egypt because they are a slaves and our own Western individual independence cries out that this is wrong. Our world tells you that you must be free to be happy and you must collect things to be happy. It’s funny, the world, your friends or the Bible is telling you do something, and whatever it is that you choose- you have to submit to one of them. The Egyptians submitted their lives to Pharaoh in order to live. Who is it that you submit your life to? What could you not live without? If you can’t give something up, you don’t own it, it owns you[40].

If you have food and clothes in this world, be content with that. Do not fall for the trap of wanting to be rich[41]. It will not make you happy.

When you die, you cannot take your freedom or your stuff with you. If you treasure something that can be taken away from you, then your happiness and joy will be taken away from you[42]. If you based your happiness on something that can be lost, then you are only going to be happy as long as you have that, or as long as that thing is hip.

You need to honestly reflect and think about what you are living for, in order to die well . And seeking your own happiness if futile. The Bible never says that if you seek after happiness you will get it[43]. Happiness is always a by-product of something more, something greater than happiness. The Bible never says, “Blessed are those who seek blessedness; Happy are those who seek happiness”.

Jesus said in that Matthew 6 reading from tonight, don’t worry about your life, about what you will eat or what clothes you will wear. Instead what? Instead seek after the Kingdom of God and His righteousness[44]. So what are we to go after? Happiness or righteousness? If you seek righteousness you get both, if you seek happiness you get nighter.

Here is a quick test to see what you have as your ultimate trust. Why is it that sometimes you lie? Why is it that sometimes you break your promises? Why is it that you have standards and yet you still break them? Because, if God doesn’t show you another way, the normal and natural inclination of your heart is to say “I believe in honesty and integrity. I believe in standards, but sometimes I have to make an exception.” Why?  In order to be happy.

We break our own standards as ultimately we want to be happy and not please God. We think, “Oh I believe in telling the truth, but not if I am going to lose that girl over it - I have to be happy”. Or, “Oh I believe in this principal, but not if it will cost me something - I have to be happy”. When we think this, it shows that the main principal by when we live is for our happiness. Our top priority is happiness and everything else is second and third. We may think “the Kingdom of God is great, but first I’m going to seek happiness”. “I trust in the promises of God, but first I’m going to seek happiness.” And the Bible says that this is the fundamental bend and bias of our hearts and you know what? You will never get happiness that way. It will always escape you, because happiness is a by-product of something greater than itself.

God is committed to your joy and pleasure if you seek Him, and yet if you come to him in order to make you happy, then you are coming to a false God. If you say “well I’m interested in this Christianity and God, and maybe I might try it if it will reach my goal of making me happy”, if that is your approach then you are not coming to a god, you are coming to a butler.

Since God is the creator of you, he therefore owns you. This kind of puts you in the same position as the Egyptian people who were under Pharaoh. You must come to God because he created you and therefore he owns you, and to not come to him and obey him would be an injustice. And so the only way to come to God rightly would be to come to Him without conditions. Forget seeking happiness. God owns everything and He has let you work with His tools on His land. Like what Pharaoh did with the Egyptians.

You might think, “if I come to God in this way that will make me a slave to Him.” Yes! What do you think the word Christian means? Ever noticed how often the word “Christian” is used in the Bible? Three times, and all three are times it is said by unbelievers[45]. It took the early church 100 years to accept that title for themselves[46]. You know what Christian means? Slaves of Christ. Christians sometimes say they belong to Christ - that’s slave talk. We are Christ’s, that’s not a plural that’s a possessive. He owns us. We are Christ’s.

When things go wrong do you think: “What good did it do me to read the Bible and come to church”? Do you think: “I did things for God and followed His rules. He owes me better than this”? If you think that, you know what that shows? You came to God on the basis of a condition. In other words your number one priority is happiness and you are using God to get there.

Instead do you think your number one priority is to serve God and if you get happy great, and to the degree it happens, great... and here is the irony. The less you are concerned about your happiness and the more you are concerned about Him, the happier you get. Under Christ you can have joy in the face of suffering. Read Philippians.

The Egyptian people were given food to live and they were grateful for the gift of life. Jacob when facing death trusted in the promises of God.

Is your hope in the promises of God?

If you treasure something that can be taken away from you, then your happiness and joy will be taken away from you. And know what?  The promises of God cannot be taken away from you. Do you trust what the Bible says[47]? What do the prophets and kings and apostles say? What or where do they put their hope?

Whoever wrote Lamentations says “Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lords great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, ‘The Lord is my portion, therefore I will wait for him’”[48] Do you believe that God’s compassion and faithfulness never fails? Do you wait or rely on Him in your life?

Job says “I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God”[49]. Do you believe that your Redeemer lives and that one day you will see Him?

David says, “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff they comfort me”[50]. Do you believe that God is with you and has overcome evil for you?

Paul says, “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord”[51]. Do you believe that those who are Christ’s cannot be separated from the love of God?

And Jesus himself said, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand”[52]. Do you believe that Jesus will not lose any one who has been given to Him?

Those who are Christ’s have no condemnation for their sin[53]. They are free from the slavery of sin over their lives and now can freely live under their new master who cares for them and love them. We do not need to feel guilty under God, because Jesus has saves us from sin. There is no hostility between God and us anymore, because Jesus took that away. We are no longer condemned. Is your life based on this promise?

We didn’t earn this, we didn’t do anything for this to happen, it was all God’s work. Because God is trustworthy and because this doesn’t depend on us, we can now live in such a way to use our God given life and resources in service to Him. Is your life based on this promise?

As trustworthy and reliable as Jesus’s resurrection was, so we can trust that one day we will be resurrected with Jesus[54]. This means death has no longer any power over us. Is your life based on this promise?

We are no longer slaves to death because we are Christ’s. Our hope is in Jesus who was raised from the dead. We can live a new life here. Not seeking after our own stuff. We are part of a bigger plan; we serve a greater master than ourselves. Is your life based on this promise?

God’s plan is to bring about a New Kingdom, where God rules and things like justice and community are sought. We can now invite more people into this New Kingdom and live in such a way to demonstrate what it will be like in the future. Is your life based on this promise?

 Jacob faced death, resting in the promises of God, for that was where his security was. If you had to face death tonight, would your trust rest in something that cannot be taken away from you?

My prayer tonight is that you will rest in the certain promises of God, trusting him as your master so that you will serve Him using the tools and the land that He has given you.

[2] 2 Timothy 3:16-17
[3] Most of this prayer was taken from Voddie Baucham in his talk at the 2006 Desiring God conference
[4] McKenzie, B. A. (1983). Jacob’s Blessing on Pharaoh: An interpretation of Gen 46:31-47:26. Westminster Theological Journal, vol 45, pp389-399. This argues that the prosperity Pharaoh gets via Joseph is because of Jacob’s blessing and is the main point of the famine story. If my passage was Gen 47:1-26 I would have leaned on this more.
[5] Gen 47:7, 10
[6] Cut from the talk: Later in Exodus 1 we are told about a Pharaoh “who did not know about Joseph” (Ex 1:8). This new Pharaoh saw the prosperous Jews as a threat and so he persecuted them. This persecution leads to the Egyptians suffering under the hand of God with the plagues. It seems that while Israel was in Egypt the nation flourished because of God, and those who acknowledged it got to share in it. When they didn’t, things turned bad. See Ross cited in Dr Thomas L. Constable (2012), Notes on Genesis (pdf), p264
[7] Lerner, B. D. (1989). Joseph the Unrighteous. Judaism, vol. 38, no. 3, p278
[8] I got this line from Edward Donnelly (2008), Joseph & The Famine (The same sermon two years earlier can be found here)
[9] Gen 9:20-23
[10] Ex 2:11-12
[11] Nub 20:10-12
[12] 2 Sam 11
[13] Mark 14:66-72
[14] Trevor Rimes (2000), Joseph deals with the famine.
[15] John Gill states that the grain was bought for in the first place, but the impression I get from Gen 41 is that it was taken.
[16] Older English translations go with the variant reading of Joseph moving people to the cities. Even if this reading is correct verses 19 has the people selling themselves and verse 23 has Joseph saying he has bought the people for Pharaoh. I think modern translations are correct. This variant may have come about from a miscopy of the word “to slaves”- לַעֲבָדִ֔ים (la·‘ă·ḇā·ḏîm) to be “moved to cities”- לֶֽעָרִ֛ים (le·‘ā·rîm). See also Dr Bob Uylty’s You can Understand the Bible, vol1b - Genesis 12-50 (pdf), p331.
[17] Joel Beeke (2011), Prospering in Egypt. Edward Donnelly (2008), Joseph & The Famine (These two sermons had very similar points and flow. I wonder if they drew from the same resources. To be fair my flow could generally be said to be the same as theirs as well.)
[18] Exo 21:5-8
[19] Individual income tax rates, site: ato.gov.au. An average Canberrian income is actually approaching $80,000, well above the national average. But I think SMAS wouldn’t have that many people earning over $80k as it is a younger congregation made up of students and young workers.
[20] Stamp duty in the ACT for houses above $300,000 is $9,500 plus 5.5% of the house value. Houses over $500,000 will have you paying $20,500 and 5.75% of the house value
[21] Rates in the ACTare $555 per year and about 0.3% - 0.4% of the value of you land
[22] Stamp duty on new cars, site: privatefleet.com.au
[23] Rego in the ACT is between $780 - $973 per year, depending on your car
[24] Excise tariff working pages, site: law.ato.gov.au. When you buy petrol you are paying 38 cents per litre in tax.
[25] If you buy a 700ml bottle of bourbon that is about 40% alcohol you are paying about $21 in tax. My maths could be wrong, but its $75.17 per litre of alcohol, see link above. So, of the 700ml, 40% is alcohol (280ml = 0.28L) so that’s 0.28 * $75.17 = 21.0476.
[26] Every smoke costs you 34 cents in tax. That means a pack of 25 has you paying $8.50 just in tax. See link in note 24
[27] Joel Beeke (2011), Prospering in Egypt. Edward Donnelly (2008), Joseph & The Famine.
[28] Kent Hughes (2003), Prospering in Egypt. Edward Donnelly (2008) in Joseph & The Famine says “other countries” tax was 75%. Some point to 1 Maccabees 10:28-20 that mentions a third grain tax and a half fruit tax, but it might be too late to be a comparison for ancient Egyptian times.
[29] I am aware that “thigh” could be an euphuism for “groin” but I don’t think that is that important. If this is true there could be a link with the promises of circumcision and making an oath on that. If you don’t like that action, who are you to judge a three to four thousand year old custom in light of our post-Victorian, sexualised culture?
[30] I took this line from Mark Driscoll (2005), Joseph Rules in Egypt
[31] Gen 49:31. I’m not sure why Rachael wasn’t buried there, but she was buried in Bethlehem instead: Gen 35:19-20
[33] I said 2004 in my talk, but after having a conversation with my family, it seems I have been in Canberra since 2003
[34] The NIV84 and NIV11 goes with the Greek LXX translation of Jacob worshipping on the end of his staff, but I think a more accurate translation is the ESV and HCSB that goes with the Hebrew MT text with Jacob worshipping on the end of his bed. This variant came about because the Hebrew word for “bed” - מִטָּה (mittah) is very close to the Hebrew word for “staff” - מַטֶּה (matteh). Some claim there is then an issue with Hebrews 11:21 saying staff, but it is well known that the author of Hebrews used the LXX throughout that book and not the Hebrew text. The author used ordinary means with the information that was contemporary to them to write Hebrews. See also H. C. Leupold, Exposition of Genesis: Volumes 1 and 2,Chapter 47 and Adam Clark’s Commentary on Genesis Chapter 47.
[35] Tim Keller doesn’t directly say any of these “true or better” comparisons, but it was his sentiment here that I had in mind when writing these. Although it may sound like I am dissing the “typology” idea, I think it is a valid method - read Hebrews.
[36] No longer do house have front parlours where recently deceased family members would be laid. Now we have funeral homes for that kind of thing.
[37] I came up with the line myself, kinda by accident, but I liked the rhythm it so it stayed
[38] Heb 9:27
[39] Yeah, I’m hip. Judge me.
[41] 1 Tim 6:8-10. If I could have had a third reading it would have been from here.
[42] Matt Hand (2008), A Salvation Paradox.
[43] Most of the following rant on happiness comes from this clip by Tim Keller. You can see that I ripped him word for word in some places.  Hopefully this citation is enough to disbar me from my plagiarism.
[44] Matt 6:25-34
[45] Acts 11:26 by the people of Antioch; Acts 26:28 by Agrippa; 1 Pet 4:16 by people punishing them for the crime of Christianity.
[46] F.F. Bruce (1980) New Testament History p235, Peter Williams, Things which ought to be better known about the Resurrection of Jesus and Thayer’s Greek LexiconI
[47] I leaned a bit on my man J. C. Ryle in this section using verses from his chapter on Assurance in his book Holiness
[48] Lam 3:21-24
[49] Job 19:25-26
[50] Pas 23:4
[51] Rom 8:38-39
[52] John 10:27-28
[53] Rom 8:1
[54] 1 Cor 15


  1. I'll stick by what I wrote in my article. You have got to remember that ancient farming was subsistence farming - having to give in 20% of the yields could easily keep the farmers just tottering on the verge of malnutrition. I have expanded my critique of Joesph in a lecture at the Shalem Center's 2012 conference on Philosophical Investigation of the Hebrew Scriptures, Talmud and Midrash. I hope to publish my ideas in the near future,meanwhile, the abstract (which is somewhat different from the final draft of the paper) can be found at http://www.bibleandphilosophy.org/conference/2012/speaker.php?id=19
    The text of my original paper ("Joseph the Unrighteous") can be found at: http://www.scribd.com/doc/97804995/Joseph-the-unrighteous

  2. Hi Dr Lerner,

    Thank you very much for taking the time in visiting and commenting on my blog. Also thanks for the links.

    I went back to your article again to see what you said about Joseph and the implicit criticism that the Torah has to say about him. I'm not sure if you will be back to my measly little blog (and that is fine, I don't want to waste your time), but I really would like to know what you think about these two points in the text.

    My main issue with your reading is that Gen 47:25 sounds like the people were grateful to Joesph and they praised him. I don't know Hebrew, so maybe you can show how the tone is not as positive as I think it is.

    Another small point is that in Gen 47:19 the text has the people suggesting to Joesph that he buys them. It wasn't Joesph's idea, the people wanted it. Joesph seems to enact the people's plan, of which in 47:25 (to me) they sounded positive to Joseph.

    Again, thank you for your links and your comments.

  3. Dear Andrew (if I may...)
    Sorry it took me so long to get back to your blog, which, judging from this post, is not "measly" but rather at the level of conventionally published writing.
    As for Gen. 47:25; Having exchanged all their wealth for food which they had produced themselves, the people of Egypt are dragged down into poverty by Joseph's policies. Facing death by starvation, they are so desperate that they are thankful when Joseph is willing to cut a final exploitative deal with them to keep them alive. (After all, what good would it be to Pharaoh if all his subjects starved to death?). Their thankfulness actually underlines the desperateness of their situation.

    I read Gen 47:19 along the same lines. Having spent all their wealth buying back food which they themselves had produced, the Egyptians make one final desperate offer - to become slaves rather than die of hunger.

    A shocking parallel to the biblical story: A victim tells his mugger, who is waving around a pistol: "Please, take my wallet, take my watch and iPhone, just don't kill me." When the mugger agrees (and a rational mugger would rather not become a murderer - that is bad for business) the victim is tremendously grateful. That gratefulness underlines the victim's desperation.

    Keep up the good work,