Thursday, March 17, 2016

Thursday - Genesis 47 - Some Disjointed Thoughts

Joseph presented five of his brothers and his father to Pharaoh. The brothers followed the counsel of Joseph and made sure that Pharaoh knew that they were animal farmers (Genesis 46:33-34). Despite the fact that Egyptians disdained anyone of such employ, the Hebrews’ honesty concerning their occupation procured for them (potentially) good jobs (and also assured the continued purity of their race during the centuries that their descendants would spend in that land).  Not only did Pharaoh offer to the Jews the best of the land... actually, the best of his land... he offered to hire the best among them to watch over his livestock (Genesis 47:5). That job was to become a gargantuan opportunity when Joseph collected all of the livestock in Egypt in exchange for grain from the storehouses (Genesis 47:18). Let us not forget that the famine was still prevailing.
Isn't it neat that Jacob blessed Pharaoh, not the other way around? Hebrews 7:7 says, "And without all contradiction the less is blessed of the better." Not that Jacob was full of himself. Notice the derogatory tone and self-depreciating choice of words that he used in introducing himself to the king (Genesis 47:9). At 130 years of age he thought very little of himself (despite his privileges, successes and prominent position in God’s plan).
Now, tucked into the broader scope of this story is something of a political commentary. There are things that the government can do. Government is not JUST a necessary evil. God ordained it. It has a wholesome purpose. It exists primarily to promote general morality in society by executing justice upon those who violate natural law (Ecclesiastes 8:11). It can and should provide security and stability in exchange for the taxes that it collects.

Notice though, that even in the best circumstance, when the government (under Joseph) entered the role of provider rather than protector... and when it became preventative rather than reactionary... the product was a total loss of independence and freedom for the common folk. By the time the seven-year famine was over Pharaoh owned everything in Egypt. That might not be intrinsically evil, but it is undeniably true. Pharaoh ended up with all the money (Genesis 47:14), all the cattle (Genesis 47:17), all the land (Genesis 47:20) and all the people (Genesis 47:21). Of course that was OK as long as a righteous and benevolent leader was in charge. Joseph let these slaves keep 80% of everything that they produced (Genesis 47:26). But, history tells us that eventually there arose a leader in Egypt that not only didn't know Joseph, he didn't know Joseph's ways. The same power in his hand corrupted him. It drove him insane and drove his nation into the ground... poor, powerless and basically irrelevant.

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