Time to get up to speed on some Genesis! Ooh yeah!
Long story short, Joseph decides to screw with his brothers some more. As they’re leaving, he loads their bags with money, and puts his silver cup in Benjamin’s bag. Joseph tells his steward to follow them and accuse them of stealing.
The brothers are basically like, “Are you serious? We were honest and brought your money back. Why would we steal from you? Fine, you know what? If you find this stolen silver or whatever, then you can just go right ahead and enslave whoever has it.” At this point, after what happened last time, I don’t know why they didn’t search their bags beforehand.
Then the steward is all, “Alright, man. Slaves it is. By the way, Benjamin had this silver cup. Slavery, HOOO!”
The brothers tear their clothes out of grief and return to the city.
The last part of Gen 44 is Judah recounting their entire story to Joseph, including the conversation they had with their father before leaving, and the father’s extreme sorrow should Benjamin not return. Judah finally asks to stay in place of Benjamin rather than return and watch his father die from grief.
“Why have you repaid evil for good?”
— Joseph, Genesis 44:4
“What deed is this you have done? Did you not know that such a man as I can certainly practice divination?”
— Joseph to his brothers, Genesis 44:15
The first quote is a question that I feel ought to be asked of many people, and in a larger sense, of the whole human race. The fact that we are granted life and will, granted the ability to have a human experience and explore this amazing world is good. Scratch that. It’s full-on capital-G Good. It is a goodness and a truth that we are alive and that we exist. But why, as a species, as a people, have we repaid this goodness and truth with evil? Why have we disrespected our brothers and sisters, why have we disrespected the earth upon which we live?
If you ask the Catholics, we are all tainted by Original Sin by virtue of birth, but I prefer a more psychological explanation that requires fewer assumptions. It seems fairly evident to me that we have people who are raised by imperfect parents and they grow up to be imperfect people. This is normal; no one is perfect. The problem is that insecurities arise, prejudices arise, assumptions arise, and hatreds arise. People lack respect and love for their fellow man, they lack understanding, and so we gossip, we despise, we are cruel to one another. We lash out to protect ourselves, but we perpetuate a cycle of pain. Why have we repaid evil for Good? It is a damn shame, but at this point in time, it could not be any other way.
The second quote just sounds intense. Something I could picture being read by Jules Winnfield (as played by Mr. Samuel L. Jackson, of course). “Did you not KNOW that such a man as I… can cer-tain-ly practice di-vi-na-tion?”
Hell yes, I am.
Joseph finally breaks down after Judah pleads his case for his father’s life and the freedom of his brother, speaking passionately for he is truly his brother’s keeper. (See what I did there?) Joseph sends away all his servants and reveals himself to his brothers.
This is my favorite part of this story because Joseph tells his brothers not to grieve or be angry. He tells them it was good that he was sent to Egypt, because now with his ability to interpret dreams he has saved many people from famine and has provided for his family. He tells his brothers that it was God, not they, who landed him in Egypt. I like this because it is a Biblical illustration of the idea of little miracles adding up to bigger ones.
- Brothers become jealous of Joseph
- Brothers decide to sell Joseph to Midianites make money
- Joseph is sold in Egypt to the captain of the guard
- Joseph distinguishes himself in the house of his master, but is imprisoned from a false claim by the master’s wife
- Joseph meets Pharaoh’s butler and baker, who had landed themselves in prison
- Joseph interprets their dreams, the butler is freed
- Joseph is forgotten until the Pharaoh has a strange dream two years later
- The butler remembers Joseph and he is brought before Pharaoh
- Joseph becomes a trusted adviser with great power and is able to mitigate the effects of the coming famine
- Joseph is able to provide for his family during the famine and is reunited with his brothers.
Literally, God could have made this really easy and straightforward, but this is not the way the universe works. All these little things, the infidelity of the wife, the crime of the butler, etc., all these things had to add up over time to put Joseph in exactly the right place. This is the miracle, that all of these people, including him, his brothers, and everyone else… their actions collectively resulted in the new present moment. When a man becomes like a king, it seems more miraculous, but these patterns are all around us, even in the most mundane of places.
Joseph tells his brothers to retrieve his father and family, and that they will dwell in the land of Goshen and be provided for. Pharaoh hears all this and promises Joseph that he will help him take care of his father.
The brothers get back and tell the story to their father, who can scarcely believe it. When he sees the carts laden with food and grain, he knows that there is truth in their words, and vows to see Joseph, his son, before he passes on.
¹ Pulp Fiction, Directed by Quentin Tarantino. 1994 Miramax Films. Image accessed from http://mattfinchmediastudies.blogspot.com/2011/01/characterisation-jules-winnfield.html