Tuesday, April 12, 2016


Jacob had two sons whose names start with the English letter J, so I will save Judah for later in the month and tell you about Joseph today.

Joseph was the eleventh son of Jacob, born to Rachel, through Rachel, the natural way, unless those mandrakes really worked.  When Rachel named him she said, "God has taken away my disgrace.  May the LORD add to me another son."  Joseph's name means, "may he add."

Now, if I were Rachel, says this judgmental 21st century woman, and knowing all the trouble she had to have her own child and all the ways she tried to manipulate God into giving her a child, you would think she would be happy, oh so very happy, to have just one child.  She could have said, and I'd like to self-righteously think if I were her I would say, "Thank you God.  I will call this child the name that means....oh let's say, "Thanks."  

But I'm not Rachel and she's not here to discuss this further.  What God wants us to know is what he wants us to learn from as best we can.  I admit I am taking poetic license in this challenge blog.  It is my own reading between the lines of human behavior that causes me to reach sometimes non-biblical and unsanctified conclusions.

Back to Joseph:

What I can imagine, putting my 21st century thinking in an ancient culture, is most likely the
blessing/burden placed on Joseph the day he was born was proof that God had taken away the disgrace of his mother being unable to conceive her own child.

Are there any 21st century women feeling less like a woman because they are unable to conceive their own biological children?  How many women, struggling to conceive, going to extreme lengths to force their bodies to do what only God can bring about, the meeting of a sperm and an egg into a human being, can see themselves in Rachel?

And she had the nerve to ask for two?

We get one of something, something we hoped and wished and prayed for again and again and again. We made promises to God that if he would only give us what we want we would be satisfied and never ask for another thing from him again.  We judge those who abuse children we so desperately try to have, yet those same children we dreamed of having wear us down and the memories of our want and desire for them get shoved under the mess of dirty diapers, sleepless nights, and twenty four seven duty.  We think we'll be satisfied when we get what we are sure would fill the hole in our hearts, but it isn't long and we are longing for more instead of enjoying the amount he has given.

Maybe it's just me who does that.

At any rate, Joseph's blessings from his father were the most endearing of the twelve boys.  (No surprise there, right?)

Jacob said, "Joseph is a fruitful vine, a fruitful vine near a spring, whose branches climb over a wall.  With bitterness archers attacked him; they shot at him with hostility.  But his bow remained steady, his strong arms stayed limber, because of the hand of the Mighty One of Jacob, because of the Shepherd, the Rock of Israel, because of your father's God, who help you, because of the Almighty, who blesses you with blessings of the heavens above, blessings of the deep that lies below, blessings of the breast and the womb.  Your father's blessings are greater than the blessings of the ancient mountains, than the bounty of the age-old hills.  Let all these rest on the head of Joseph, on the bore of the prince among his brothers."

Moses continued the praise of Joseph before he died, "May the LORD bless this land with the precious dew from heaven above and with the deep waters that lie below; with the best the sun brings forth and the finest the moon can yield; with the choicest gifts of the ancient mountains and the fruitfulness of the everlasting hills; with the best gifts of the earth and its fullness and the favor of him who dwelt in the burning bush.  Let all these rest on the head of Joseph, on the bore of the prince among his brothers.  In majesty he is like a firstborn bull; his horns are the horns of a wild ox.  With them he will gore the nations, even those at the ends of the earth.  Such are the ten thousands of Ephraim; such are the thousands of Menassah."  (Ephraim and Manasseh were Joseph's sons whom Jacob claimed as his own on his deathbed).

So, is it any wonder than, this eleventh son of twelve boys was annoying to his older brothers?  Is it any wonder why those brothers, when this boy bragged to them about a dream he had of them bowing down to him, would first try and kill them, but then throw him in a well until slave traders came along and bought him?

Rachel didn't live to see what happened to her boy.  She didn't experience the horror of the lie his half brothers told their father about Joseph's demise.  The Bible doesn't say exactly how old Benjamin was when Joseph was sold, but we know she was not alive to experience the famine, or the drama play out between her boy and his half brothers in Egypt.  She died never knowing what happened to her firstborn son, the boy she would have done anything to conceive and carry in her own body grew up to be a wise leader, innovator, and saved many from starvation.

Perhaps Rachel's years of barrenness were used to instill in her biological son a steadfastness and peace that Joseph exhibited the years he was in prison and then as the right hand man to the King of Egypt.

Joseph could have been bitter and had every right to shake his fist at God.  Maybe he did those cold lonely years in a prison.  But then again, maybe he didn't.  Maybe his mother  Rachel instilled in him a modeling of deep patience and great hope around her boy.  When she could have been bitter, perhaps it was then she prayed hardest.  Maybe little Joseph saw in his mother a great peace in her eyes because she had waited so long to have him.

At any rate, Joseph said the most beautiful words any follower of Christ can sew on their hearts for any circumstance they are now in.  These are the words Joseph spoke to his brothers at the healing reunion of all reunions:

"I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt!  And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you. ..But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance.  So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God."

The mother who had the right to be bitter, gave birth to a son who had a right to be bitter.  But neither of them took the bait.  I like to think that instead of letting bitterness take root because of their circumstances, they both prayed.

The child named May He Add went on to save those who had been added into Jacob's family, including his younger brother, Benjamin, Rachel's second son.



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