It’s been a helluva couple weeks, that I can tell you. One minute, you’re casually blogging away about Genesis, the first book in the Bible, while sparring with a recent diagnosis of depression, the next minute your blubbering in the supply closet over something as simple as some ill-timed constructive criticism from your family, the next your negotiating a new schedule at work because the current schedule has led you to the brink of self-destruction. As Matthew Broderick said in Biloxi Blues, life’s weird, y’know?
So, now that my ship has been righted and I’m back to a more psychological, physical, occupational and morally sound footing, I’m ready to return to the task of deciphering the books of the Bible one by one. Of course, I started with Genesis because, well, it’s the first book in the Bible, but I was kind of procrastinating putting my commentary on the last chunk of Genesis because there’s a lot in there. I mean the first few portions aren’t so bad because I was able to comment on them one piece at a time. But this last portion is just so … busy. So let’s dive right in, shall we?
When last we left out hero Joseph of Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat fame, he had endeared himself to the sitting Pharaoh of Egypt enough that old boy took Joe in as his master servant. A pretty big deal since this effectively put Joe in charge of the Pharaoh’s whole operation so the Pharaoh could go off and do Pharaoh-y stuff, I guess. Apparently, a big Pharaoh’y duty is to have dreams and Joe had mad skills with dream interpretation. Let’s put it this way: Freud had nothing on Joe’s knack for deciphering the subconscious. Starting in Chapter 41, Pharaoh has a couple real noodle-scratchers so he goes to Joe and asks what they mean. Leaving out details, they involved fat healthy ears of grain and withered, windblown ears of grain and fat, good-looking cows and gaunt, ugly cows and things of this nature. Pharaoh went to Joe and said, “Alright, so I had a bunch of dreams about ears of grain and fat cows and ugly cows and you have to tell me what they mean.”
So Joe scratches his chin for a minute and then tells the Pharaoh [hereafter we’ll call him Big P], “Alright Big P. Dig it. You’re gonna have seven years of great conditions for growing grain and raising fat cattle and then you’re gonna have 7 years of crappy grain and anorexic cattle. So we gotta start stockpiling food to prepare for the lean years.”
Remember, this is the book of Genesis and the whole space-time continuum is all funky, so what Joe probably meant is about a year of feast and a year of famine. Regardless, Joe advised Pharaoh to start stockpiling grain and cows and stuff during the good year to prepare for the coming bad year. Meanwhile, the Big P gives Joe a cute little number named Asenath to marry and she bears him two sons.
This is one of the things I sincerely love about these old timey folks. The names. The name Joe chooses for his first son is Manaseh which means, I kid you not, “God has made me forget entirely the sufferings I endured at the hands of my family” and then he gives his second son the name Ephraim, which, again, according to Genesis, literally means “God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction.”
I mean, come on, I think Moses was using a lot of poetic license to give these names their “meanings,” but what do I know? I just shutter to think what pressure a baby with a really long name would have to live under.
“Yes, this is our first son whom we’ve named Massasoit-Erum-Puff Daddy-Mastodon which means “Holy crap, there’s a huge black elephant coming down that hill towards our village, screw the grain and cattle, run for your lives!” Poor kid.
Big P was so impressed with Joe’s interpretations of his dreams, he put him in charge of going around and rationing all the food in these days of plenty to prepare for the lean year.
This is where it gets really convoluted, so I’ll just give you the highlights. Jacob and his ten sons were among those who were hungry as all get out when the famine hit, so Jacob told his sons to go down to Egypt because he had heard they had grub. He kept his son Benjamin with him because Ben was Joseph’s only full brother and I guess Jacob was extra worried about him (Moses doesn’t tell us why.) Anyway, so all Joe’s brothers go to Egypt and Joe recognizes them but they don’t recognize Joe and they tell him that their dad kept one of the brothers while he sent the rest of them to Egypt to ask him for some grub. Only Joe remembered what jackasses his brothers had been to him when he told them about his dreams and they locked him in a grain silo. So Joe accuses them of being spies (for whom it’s not clear) and they insist that they are not spies but Joe still thinks they’re spies so he locks them in a grain silo but tells them that if one of them goes back home and brings back their 11th brother (Joe got the fact that there were originally 12 brothers and one died and the other they left at home), then and only then will he give them some grub. Meanwhile, because Joe knows they are his brothers, he stuffs their bags with grub and the money he took from them when he initially locked them in the grain silo. Then Joe keeps his brother Simeon (who, along with the rest of them, doesn’t know that Joe is in fact his brother) and sends them all back to Jacob with food for their starving families to get Benjamin so they can go back to Egypt to prove to Joe that they are not spies (for whom we still don’t know. Come on, stay with me) and thus Joe will not have them killed.
On the way back home to fetch Benjamin, Reuben, the oldest brother who told the rest of them not to kill Joseph when he was interpreting his own dreams and telling them about it in the first place, pipes up “You morons! I told you we shouldn’t kill Joseph out of jealousy and bring his blood-soaked tunic to Dad to cover up locking him in a grain silo, but you wouldn’t listen! ‘Oh no! Why would we listen to Reuben! He’s only the wisest and most experienced in this fledgling Jewish culture! Screw him!’ you said. Now we gotta go all over hell and back just so this Egyptian guy doesn’t have us killed!”
So they get home and tell Jacob they gotta bring Benjamin back to Egypt to prove to the Pharaoh’s number one guy they are not spies so this guy doesn’t kill the whole lot of them and the icing on the cake is the Pharaoh’s number one guy took Simeon as a hostage. Jacob throws a fit and chastises his sons for telling Joe they had another brother back home.
“You inbeciles! Why the hell would you do that?!?” Jacob said.
At this, Judah, one of the sons and apparently conscious of the ridiculousness of this whole affair interjects,”Look, I’ll be responsible for Benjamin. Send him with us, we’ll prove we’re not spies and that will be that. Jumpin’Judah on a pogo stick! We could have been there and back and there and back twice by now!”
So Jacob finally complies after Reuben assures him everything will be fine and if its not, Jacob can kill his sons. So Jacob sends them off again, this time with some Jolly Ranchers and Dentyne and killer weed and some cash and they go back to Egypt and give all the gifts and Benjamin to Joe. Joe got really emotional when he saw Benjamin, his only full brother in the lot, and went off to another room and blubbered for awhile, then went back into the main hall and they all had a big feast. But the Jews ate by themselves at the kids table away from the Egyptians because “Egyptians may not eat with Jews; that is abhorrent to them.”
Alright, this post is over. And the story isn’t even done yet. But I’ve probably exhausted your attention span a couple times over. But rest easy, dear reader, Genesis is almost done.