Friday, February 22, 2013

Genesis 48-50 Letters of Ignatius [Magnesians 1-3]

Genesis 48 – Soon after promising his father that he will return his body to their lands in Canaan, Joseph visits his dying father. Jacob tells his son about the promise God made to him at Luz; and he says “’I am claiming as my own sons these two boys of yours, Ephraim and Manasseh, who were born here in the land of Egypt before I arrived. They will be my sons, just as Reuben and Simeon are. But any children born to you in the future will be your own, and they will inherit land within the territories of their brothers Ephraim and Manasseh” (48:5-6).

He blesses the boys, apparently making some uncustomary switch of hands – blessing the younger boy Ephraim with his right hand and the older boy with his left. Once again, the “worldly” traditions are ignored by God and his agents.
Joseph is upset that the hands are not on the heads as custom dictates, but “his father refused. ‘I know, my son; I know,’ he replied. ‘Manasseh will also become a great people, but his younger brother will become even greater. And his descendants will become a multitude of nations’” (48:19).

Then Jacob reassures Joseph that one day they will return to Canaan and that he (through his sons) will be given “an extra portion” (48:22) of the land there.

Genesis 49 – Finally Jacobs calls all his sons together so he can bless them and prophesy about their futures:

Reuben the first-born is “first in rank and . . .power” but because he is “unruly as a flood” and has defiled Jacob’s “marriage couch” he will no longer be first (49:3-4).

Simeon and Levi, “two of a kind” whose “weapons are instruments of violence,” will have their anger cursed; they will be scattered among the descendants of Jacob, dispersed throughout Israel (49:5-7).

Judah, Jacob’s “young lion” will “grasp [his] enemies by the neck” will keep hold of the “ruler’s staff . . . until the coming of the one to whom it belongs, the one whom all nations will honor” (49:8-10).

Zebulun “will settle by the seashore and . . .be a harbor for ships” (49:13).
Issachar is a “sturdy donkey resting between two saddlepacks.” When he learns how good the countryside is, he’ll start to work very hard (49:14).

Dan will “govern his people, like any other tribe in Israel.” He will be a “snake beside the road” that bites horses’ hooves so their riders are thrown off (49:16-17).

Gad “will be attacked by marauding bands” but will attach them when they retreat (49:19).

Asher will “dine on rich foods and produce food fit for kings” (49:20).

Naphtali “is a doe set free that bears beautiful fawns” (49:21).

Joseph is “the foal of a wild donkey” – he was attacked savagely but “his bow remained taut, and his arms were strengthened by the hands of the Mighty One of Jacob, by the Shepherd, the Rock of Israel” (49:22-24). May all the blessings of God rest on his head (49:25-26).

Benjamin is “a ravenous wolf, devouring his enemies in the morning and dividing his plunder in the evening” (49:27).

After giving his blessings, Jacob “joined his ancestors in death” (49:33).

Genesis 50 – Joseph has his father’s body embalmed and he is mourned for seventy days. When the period of mourning is over, Joseph approaches Pharaoh to beg that he be permitted to take his father to Canaan to bury him. Pharaoh agrees.
Joseph goes with his whole family and many of Pharaoh’s officials. They hold a “great and solemn memorial service” (50:10) and bury him “in the cave in the field of Machpelah, near Mamre . .  the cave that Abraham had bought as a permanent burial city from Ephron the Hittite” (50:12).

Then they return to Egypt. Joseph’s brothers become worried that their brother will somehow now start to take revenge on them for their past sins. They send him a message saying “Before your father died, he instructed us to say to you: ‘Please forgive your brothers for the great wrong they did to you—for their sin in treating you so cruelly.’ So we, the servants of the God of your father, beg you to forgive our sin” (50:16-17).

Joseph breaks down and weeps when he reads their letter. Then they come and bow down again before him. He says, “’Don’t be afraid of me. Am I God, that I can punish you? You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people. No, don’t be afraid. I will continue to take care of you and your children’” (50:19-21).

They all continue to live in Egypt. Joseph lives to be 110 years old. Before he dies, he reassures his brothers that God will come and lead them back, and he asks that they remember to bring his bones with them when they return. The Egyptians embalm him when he dies and place his body in a coffin.

The Epistles of Ignatius [Letter to the Magnesians]
Introduction: Magnesia-on-the-Maeander was 15 miles from Ephesus. The bishop of this church, Damas, along with several other people, also came to see Ignatius when he was in Smyrna. As in all of his letters, Ignatius focuses a lot of his attention on issues of authority in the early church, encouraging all Christians to obey their bishops. The bishop of Magnesia was apparently very young; Ignatius is concerned that some may try to justify NOT accepting his authority for this reason.

Page references are from Penguin Books’ Early Christian Writings: The Apostolic Fathers (1987).

1 – Ignatius praises the “disciplined way of life” the Magnesians are known for, and he prays “for their corporate as well as their spiritual unity—for both of these are the gifts of Jesus Christ, our never-failing Life. May they be one in their faith, and one in the love which transcends all other virtues; but chiefest of all may their be one with Jesus and the Father, since it is only by enduring in Him all the prince of this world’s indignities, . . . that we can come to the presence of God” (71).

2 – He notes the privilege he felt at the visit of their bishop Damas and two other “clergy” from the church and a deacon.

3 – He urges his readers not to take advantage of bishop Damas’ lack of years, but to show him every possible respect, having regard to the power God has conferred on him. He states that “propriety requires an obedience from you that is more than mere lip-service. It is not a question of imposing upon a particular bishop who is there before your eyes, but upon One who is unseen; and in such a case it is not flesh and blood we have to reckon with, but God, who is aware of all our secrets” (71).

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