Genesis 44 – Joseph, You Toolshed, You Absolute Prevaricating Goblin

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Today’s PassageGenesis 44

What the crud, Joseph.

He’s just shown the utmost hospitality to his brothers. He’s ensured their pack animals are fed and their feet are washed after their long journey from Canaan. He’s provided an extravagant meal for them, served in his own home. He’s had to excuse himself upon seeing Benjamin, so overcome with emotion that he weeps in his room while his servants hold things down outside. And now, as the brothers buy their grain and prepare to leave, Joseph has his servants top off their grain sacks with all their money and throw his silver cup into Benjamin’s bag. Then, as the men leave, he has his house steward chase them down and accuse them of stealing his cup.

I had this idea in my head that Joseph had matured over the years, that he showed graciousness and forgiveness to the brothers who had sold him into slavery so long ago. And he does treat them generously, sometimes. But he does so in such a way as to give them heart attack after heart attack. Why does he insist on jerking their expectations around? When the accosted brothers stand before him, he even tells them, “Do you not know that such a man as I can indeed practice divination?” (15). This is the same guy who told Pharaoh that the power to interpret dreams didn’t reside within himself, but within the all-knowing God that simply gives him the correct insights. And now Joseph’s declaring that he has power to tell when his special cup gets stolen? In my opinion, this chapter is a huge step backward for the man.

Something like half the chapter is Judah recounting the whole story from his perspective, which we already know. He emphasizes throughout his account that Benjamin is the only remaining reminder of Jacob’s beloved deceased wife. But of course Joseph knows the backstory, and he knows exactly what he’s doing. He knows that when he insists on keeping Benjamin in Egypt as his slave, he’s tying his brothers’ stomachs in knots. They’ve assured Dad that they’ll return with Benjamin, and if they go home without him, they’ll ensure he lives out the brief remainder of his days on earth in abject sorrow. So now Joseph is forcing Judah to throw–if you’ll pardon the anachronism–a Hail Mary, offering himself up as a slave in the youngest brother’s stead. Is that what you want, Joseph? Do you want the brother who sold you into slavery to sell himself as a slave to you? Is that your idea of poetic justice? Does that irony sate your hunger to see your brothers squirm?

I can’t even handle what an absolute goblin Joseph is being here. But, as we’ll see in the next chapter, he can’t handle it either.

2 thoughts on “Genesis 44 – Joseph, You Toolshed, You Absolute Prevaricating Goblin

  1. I read a booklet that refers to Forgive and Forget: Healing the Hurts We Don’t Deserve by Lewis Smedes in which the reader is reminded that forgiveness is a slow process, each faltering step moving toward wholeness.
    Quoting Smede, it says: “Forgiving is an honest release even though it is done invisibly within the forgiver’s heart. It is honest because it happens along with honest judgment, honest pain and honest hate. True forgivers do not pretend they don’t suffer. They do not pretend the wrong does not matter.”
    Maybe Joseph’s actions show his falteringly working through the pain and hatred and finally coming out on the other side where forgiveness lives.
    I think that Jesus death on the Cross shows that wrong does matter and is costly. And that God paid for it Godself. Through Jesus’s suffering, we are forgiven.


    1. I think you’re right. We are imperfect people, so we wrong each other. And when we go through the process of forgiveness, as Joseph illustrates, we’re imperfect forgivers. I could probably stand to forgive Joseph for being such an imperfect forgiver. :D


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