Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Genesis 43-44 and Letters of Ignatius [Ephesians 16-18]

Genesis 43 – The famine continues to ravage the land. When the grain from Egypt is gone, Jacob wants them to go back and get more. Judah reminds him what they face there is they go back without Benjamin. This time [in this Yahwist source] it is Judah who takes mature responsibility for seeing to it that Benjamin returns safely. “’I personally guarantee his safety. You may hold me responsible if I don’t bring him back to you’” (43:9).

They go back, and they take gifts and twice the silver they took before—assuming they will be accused of having cheated the Egyptians the first time.

When they get to Egypt, Joseph invites them to eat with him but they are so worried, they cannot stand it.  They confess about having found the money returned to their sacks last time and offer twice the payment for the grain this time. The steward reassures them and sees Simeon released to them.

When they gather later at Joseph’s table, they bow down to him again and he asks after their father.  He is much affected when he sees his full brother and leaves again to cry (43:30).  After regaining control, he returns.  They eat—it is interesting that Egyptians with Joseph have to eat at a separate table. It says the Egyptians “despise[d] Hebrews and refuse[d] to eat with them” (43:32). Joseph fills their plates and gives Benjamin five times more than he gave the others.

Genesis 44 - When the brothers are ready to leave, Joseph orders food to be stuffed into each man’s bag along with the silver they brought; but in Benjamin’s bag he also plants his “personal silver cup” (44:2).  He is going to take one last revenge on them. 
After they leave he orders men after them to accuse them of repaying his kindness with theft.  And when Joseph’s silver cup is found in Benjamin’s bag, they are overcome with distress.  They “tore their clothing in despair” (44:13) and then return to the city. We are reminded of Benjamin’s mother, Rachel’s theft of the household idols from her father Laban’s house in 31:32.

When they return to Joseph, again they prostrate themselves before him a third time: Judah says, importantly, to him “What can we say to my lord?  How can we plead or how try to prove our innocence?  God has uncovered your servants’ guilt” (44:16).  It is Judah who finally addresses the bottom line—that he cannot go back without Benjamin, having given his solemn word and knowing the anguish he father would suffer. In Judah’s response to Joseph, the word “father” is repeated twelve times.

The Epistles of Ignatius [Letter to the Ephesians]
16 – “[S]ubversive doctrines” out there are in some cases “defiling” households [church communities]. “Even in the world, defilement of this kind is punishable with death; how much more when a man’s subversive doctrines defile the God-given Faith for which Jesus Christ was crucified” (65). People who bring these doctrines in are most certainly destined for the “unquenchable fire” and also those who give them “a hearing” (65).

17 – The ointment Christ’s head was anointed with was to create a fragrance of “incorruptibility upon His Church” (65). So you must not permit the odor of gross error to “snatch you . . . away from the life that lies before you” (65)

18 – As for me [Ignatius], my spirit is “now all humble devotion to the Cross: the Cross which so greatly offends the unbelievers, but is salvation and eternal life to us” (65-66).

“Jesus Christ our God was conceived by Mary of the seed of David and of the Spirit of God; He was born, and He submitted to baptism, so that by His Passion He might sanctify water [the water of baptism]” (66).

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