Our dialogue with Anaiah, an educated Jew from the 500’s B.C., continues.
Saint Barnabas Blog: You were telling me about Joseph, a younger son of Jacob/Israel, who was sold into slavery in Egypt, only to rise to high position as an advisor to Pharaoh.
Anaiah: Yes. Joseph predicted seven years of plenty, during which food could be stored, followed by seven years of famine. And his predictions come true. In fact, the famine extends widely, so that his brothers must travel to Egypt to buy food. And there, after many years, the family is reunited.
SBB: Does Joseph use his governmental powers to get revenge on his cruel brothers?
Anaiah: No. By various means he tests his brothers to see if they are faithful to one another, and then he reveals himself and forgives them. In the end, his whole family moves to Egypt, including Jacob/Israel his father. But Jacob, when he dies, is carried back to his homeland for burial. When Joseph is near death, he tells his family that “God will surely come to you and bring you up out of this land to the land that he swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.”
SBB: We have been discussing these stories to see what they tell us about God. What have we learned?
Anaiah: We learn that God’s project of saving the world continues through the particular family of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. In the story of Joseph, we see that God’s power extends even to Egypt, land of many gods.
SBB: You say that God’s plan is continuing, but that is a very general statement. Have we learned anything specific about how God’s plan works?
Anaiah: The full glory of God’s plan is still concealed from me, but I find the following points suggestive. First, God’s plan works through people who are not recognized as God’s agents. Isaac gives blesses Jacob in the mistaken belief that he is Esau. Joseph’s brothers do not recognize him when they come to Egypt. Second, time passes, sometimes for years, when it looks like God’s plan has stalled or even come to nothing. Yet over and over the plan revives. Third, there is something very significant about the trip to Egypt and the promise of return. Without knowing, I expect that as God’s plan works itself out we will continue to see unexpected agents and the passage of time. And I happen to know that the return from Egypt is an important, even crucial moment in our history, for reasons that I will explain next time.