Why didn't you lie?
In Genesis 20 Abraham lies concerning Sarah, his wife, when they travel through Gerar to live in the land of King Abimelech. In Genesis 26, Isaac, when confronted with a famine in the land, goes down to dwell in Gerar, and he, like his father, lies to King Abimelech concerning Rebeccah, his wife, likewise saying that she is his sister.
So when Jacob sends his sons down to Egypt when there is a famine in the land of Canaan, and they return with the news that the ruler of the land (Joseph) has accused them of being spies and are required to bring their youngest brother to him. It should not come as too great of a surprise that part of Jacob's response is the question: "Why did you deal so wrongfully with me as to tell the man whether you had still another brother?" That is, 'Why didn't you lie?' Why were you so free with information about your family? The family custom seems to have been protection of family through deception. Of course these deceptions were always found out, but they always resulted in great blessing for Abraham and Isaac.
The concern of Abraham and Isaac had been for their wives, that the ruler of the land (Abimelech) would take them. Now the ruler of Egypt has demanded that the youngest son of Jacob be brought to him to prove their innocence. The tables have been turned. Perhaps Joseph knew these customs of his family and for this reason asked very pointed questions, as the brothers relate that he did (Gen. 43:7). Notice now, it is Joseph who is doing the deceiving. He is the righteous deceiver, but his family well receive great blessing nevertheless.
Sunday, July 25, 2004
Why didn't you lie?
Posted by Toby at 7:21 AM
Thursday, July 22, 2004
Wednesday, July 21, 2004
I saw his fiercesome face
beleaguered by a daily-hourly bending
sun, the flash and grin of his dreadful blade
borne aloft and gripped with concrete fingers.
His eyes like daggers mocking with heat,
sped storied curses through the victim’s throat,
and I saw them turn and latching hold,
defy his arms’ attempts to lift aught
with which to defend from the flying foe.
The quiet paces sent up swirling spits of dust
like Edenic mists, a slice of space
unheeding the rush and roar, and headless
stood the curse-bound corpse, a mast-less
bark—toyed by torque, then bidden sink.
Posted by Toby at 9:07 AM
Tuesday, July 13, 2004
The Ten Spies
It cannot be a coincidence that in Genesis 42 and Numbers 13 both tell stories of ten spies. In Genesis 42, the ten sons of Jacob are accused by Joseph (in disguise) as being spies of the land of Egypt. In Numbers 13, the ten spies return from the promise land, decide that it is inaccessible (based on the stature of its inhabitants), and begin making plans to return to Egypt. Of course in Gen. 42, the ten men are not really spies, they are merely looking for food in the wake of a famine. In Num. 13, the men are spies, but the fact that they find plenty of food, does not secure their interest in the land.
--there are ten ‘spies’ in both stories
--there are two ‘others’ in both: (Joseph/Benjamin) and (Joshua/Caleb)
--Joseph is the vice-ruler of over all of Egypt/Joshua is the vice-ruler over all of Israel
--In Gen. 42, the ten end up in Egypt via Joseph. In Num 13, the ten make plans to return to Egypt, but die by a plague before the Lord.
--In Gen. 42, the famine is in Canaan. In Num 13, Israel is in the barren wilderness.
--In Gen 42, Egypt is the land with plenty to eat. In Num 13, Canaan is flowing with milk and honey. Both lands have good things flowing out of them.
--Both groups of ‘spies’ return with bundles/clusters: money bundles/grape clusters
What does this all mean? The story of Joseph and his brothers is clearly a story of Joseph testing his brothers. Joseph is testing his brothers to see if they have learned to give themselves up for others, rather than sacrificing others for themselves. And this theme of service is connected with the greater story of Egypt. God placed Joseph at the head of Egypt in order to preserve life (Gen. 45:5), using his influence and power as an instrument of salvation to the nations. Without Egypt (& Joseph), the famine would have swallowed up the nations surrounding Egypt. But Egypt is, in this story, a type of the Canaan to come. It is also, in light of the book of Genesis a picture of a transfigured Eden. It is a garden in the midst of a wilderness. Rivers flow out of this land giving life to the nations. Joseph is a new Adam ruling and tending the land in righteousness. The story of Joseph and Egypt is a story of patience and the reality that greatness is found in giving up one’s life, laying down one’s life for another. This story closes Genesis, placing it as the bookend opposite the Garden of Eden at the beginning. This is a shadowy picture of what that garden should have become, but for Adam’s sin. Egypt pictures the good life.
Joseph finds through testing his brothers, that they too have learned this lesson. Judah, in particular, the brother who had organized the selling of Joseph into slavery, is willing to stand in Benjamin’s place if he cannot return to his father. They are willing to give up their own lives for others.
This is the larger context of Numbers 13-14. Now, God himself is testing his people to see if they have learned this lesson. What is the lesson? Israel is now a corporate “Joseph”. They, like Joseph were sold into slavery and made to labor for the Egyptians. As Joseph was delivered from the dungeons through miracles and wonders (interpreting Pharaoh’s dreams), God delivered Israel from Egypt by performing signs and wonders in the land of Egypt. God has destroyed the greatest civilization in the world, leveling its military, its economy, and slaying all of its first born sons. Because Egypt had forgotten the God of Joseph and Pharaoh did not know the Lord, God cast that nation down. That great nation had been the source of life to the world, but now God has chosen Israel to be his chosen nation. Israel is to be a kingdom of priests (Ex. 19:5-6). And God is testing them. Will Israel be a priestly nation, giving life to the nations around her, being an Eden in the midst of wilderness and famine? Will Israel now be what Egypt had been? God tests the children of Israel, and they fail miserably. Instead of seeing Canaan as a rich and good land capable of giving life, they see the land as a ‘devouring’ land. Instead of seeing the promise land as an opportunity to give and to serve, they see the land as overbearing and they complain. Instead of being willing to give themselves up for their wives and children, they want to return to slavery.
Therefore they will not be given the land. They will not be placed like Joseph as head over the nations. They are selfish, conceited, and fearful, and God will wait until they are ready to give themselves up as living sacrifices. He will send them back down into the dungeon of the wilderness. God will wait until there are Josephs who will rule the land with wisdom. He will wait until there are Judahs willing and ready to give themselves up for their brothers. He will wait until Israel is prepared to be a priestly nation, a nation that serves the nations of the world, teaching and instructing them to fear and serve the true God. Then God will lead them into the land and give them victory. He will make them to be salvation for the world, the life of the world.
Posted by Toby at 11:15 AM
Friday, July 02, 2004
The Icon of God
What is the difference between man and animal? Genesis seems to answer the question as 'the image of God'. We are given a stamp and a seal of the Triune God, and more than that, we are that stamp and seal for the world. The imago dei means that we are supposed to be imitators of God. We are to be artisans and scientists and poets, creators of worlds, workers, and people who take rest after work is completed.
Rationality is often listed as one of the first characteristics that separate man and animals. The ability to think is said to be one of our defining characteristics. But we do not see this in the Scriptures. Genesis in particular shows a God who speaks, creates, evaluates, divides, names, blesses, organizes, delegates, and finally rests. These are the things that make us image bearers. The image of God is, for the most part, something visible and tangible. It can be seen and evaluated. And as God created a son (Adam) to pass responsibilities on to, so we too are given the opportunity to be fruitful even as God was fruitful. Thus even the commands that God gave to our first parents were the means by which we show and effect God's image on the world. Being an image bearer means being an image bestower. As we rule, fill, and adorn the earth we emboss it more and more with the Creator's image.
That is the difference between man and animal. We do certain things. We act in certain ways. We perform specific tasks in specific ways, putting our image which is the Triune image, on our acts. I have a dog and I believe that at this point, he is far more sentient than my son. But my son is nevertheless an image bearer. He acts in ways that imitate his Maker. And this means that he, at 4wks., is not only an image bearer but an image bestower. We are the image of God in and on the world. We are the icons of God, impressing His life on the world.
Posted by Toby at 3:56 PM
Shot of Spenser
Wrath, jealousy, grief, love do thus expel:
Wrath is a fire, and jealousy a weed,
Grief is a flood, and love a monster fell;
The fire of sparks, the weed of little seed,
The flood of drops, the monster filth did breed:
But sparks, seed, drops, and filth do thus delay;
The sparks soon quench, the springing seed outweed,
The drops dry up, and filth wipe clean away:
So shall wrath, jealousy, grief, love die and decay
-Faerie Queene Book II, Canto IV, Stanza 35
Posted by Toby at 3:53 PM