We’ve just spent some time with Joseph and Moses during our Hebrew Bible readings for the last couple of Sundays. One thing that jumps out at me is the group of people who come under the heading of ‘The Patriarchs’. We often hear God describing himself as the ‘God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob’, but not of Joseph. Broadly defined all the key figures from Adam to Jacob are Patriarchs. However, in Judaism, only three are recognised.
Joseph misses out and yet much is written of his life in Genesis and he is ‘in the family’, being the legitimate elder son of Rachel, the wife that Jacob really loved. But he was not the conduit for the inheritance. This fell to Judah, the fourth son of Leah, the older daughter Jacob was tricked into marrying. Judah then became the father of the Kings of Israel.
Well, it’s all rather strange but one view is that Joseph’s story does not fit the mould set by the others. His story takes place in Egypt, a foreign land whereas the others are in Canaan. Then the way God deals with people seems to have changed during Joseph’s time. God had direct two-way communication with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob but there was no communication with Joseph.
Another view was that Joseph was the first emigrant from Israel, made a stack of money, married out of his social and religious cohort (a non-Jewish wife) and never returned.
And yet another thought is that Joseph was ‘The Righteous’ and Judah was ‘The Penitent’. Joseph forgave his brothers which was a righteous thing for him to do given their treatment of him. But it is thought that there is something even greater than forgiveness and that is repentance. Judah was repentant – not so sure about the other brothers!
Well, I guess we have all been in the position of offering forgiveness to others. Sometimes we do it easily, at other times, when the hurt is deep it takes more courage. And yet, to admit wrong, to say we are sorry, to be contrite, can call for even more courage.
An amazing book to read on ‘forgiveness’ (its title is The Book of Forgiving), is written by ABP Desmond Tutu and his daughter reflecting on, and sharing stories, from his time as Chair of the ‘Truth and Justice Commission’ in South Africa. If you think forgiveness is hard to do in your circumstances, you will change your mind after reading some of the stories in this book.
Love and peace,