- I admit that I had to chuckle at this. Jacob is a grouchy old bastard, telling his soms to get off their arses and get dinner. I can just imagine him sitting in his tent, his face screwed up in his best Albert Steptoe impression, demanding his lazy, good-for-nothing sons go all the way to Egypt to get him food.
"But he did not send Benjamin, Joseph's brother, with the others, because he was afraid that harm might come to him."
- So Joe's brother has become 'favourite' in his absence. Jacob clearly has no worries about sending his other ten sons on this long and possibly dangerous journey.
"As soon as Joseph saw his brothers, he recognised them, but he pretended to be a stranger and spoke harshly to them."
- Now, this is hardly surprising and considering what his brothers did to him, probably justified, but he is lying. This man with whom God is supposedly walking hand-in-hand, is a liar. There is nothing noble or virtuous about him, simply a basic, human, desire for revenge. This is backed up in the following expansion of Joseph's motives:
"Although Joseph recognised his brothers, they did not recognise him. Then he remembered his dreams about them and said to them, "You are spies! You have come to see where our land is unprotected."
- Joseph's dreams about his brothers involved them all bowing down to him as symbolic sheaves of wheat. I have to wonder about that symbology too, given that a sheaf of wheat generally has connections with fertility. (Joseph's "rose and stood upright" while his brothers' sheaves "gathered around mine and bowed down to it". That could be interpreted in a very Freudian way.)
Joseph continues to accuse them of spying, while they continue to protest their innocence, saying they were simply:
"Twelve brothers, sons of one man, who lives in Canaan. The youngest is with our father, and one is no more."
- Why would the fact of their fraternity mean they were not spies? They repeat words to this effect several times (indeed, if you take the repeated phrases out of this chapter it would be a quarter of it's length - the same could be said of the entire Bible of course) and Joseph finally puts them all into prison for three days after telling them:
"It is just as I told you: You are spies! And this is how you are to be tested: As surely as the Pharaoh lives, you will not leave this place unless your youngest brother comes here. Send one of your number to get your brother; the rest of you will be kept in the prison, so that your words may be tested to see if you are telling the truth."
- The brothers' mentioning of Benjamin was a ridiculously contrived plot device so that Joseph would be able to demand that his brothers bring Benjamin to him, without him having to reveal who he was. This whole story of Joseph is terribly written. Even taking into account the era and the language contemporary to the authors. It seems however, that this is one of the more popular stories of the Old Testament (consider Andrew Lloyd-Webber's 'Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat') I would surmise that most of the people liking this story read it in an 'updated' version - 'The Children's Collected Bible Stories', or something. Which makes me wonder how much of people's defence of the Bible come from indirect sources? How many religious women cleave to Jesus because they secretly fancied the pants off Robert Powell in 'Jesus of Nazareth'?
After a little googling I found this quote by Powell himself:
"I'm reading the Gospels at the moment and I can find no evidence of the kind of Christ people seem to have invented and created. There is no evidence of Christ, meek and mild. I can find Christ the compassionate, the gentle, but I also find a very temperamental, aggressive, passionate and often angry man a lot of the time."
"On the third day, Joseph said to them, "Do this and you will live, for I fear God: If you are honest men, let one of your brothers stay here in prison, while the rest of you go and take grain back for your starving households. But you must bring your youngest brother to me, so that your words may be verified and that you may not die."
-In three days Joseph went from letting just one of them go home, to making just one of them stay. I guess this makes Joseph look merciful. Instead of like a vindictive asshole.
The brothers agreed to this after talking about how they did away with Joseph and how it seemed that now they must give "an accounting for his blood". It is at this point that it is revealed that Joseph has been talking to them via an interpreter. Another clumsily inserted plot device.
After much repetition, they go one their way, leaving Simeon (second eldest son) with Joseph. On their way back on of them discovered his portion of the silver they'd paid for the grain with was back in his sack:
"Their hearts sank and they turned to each other trembling and said, "What is this that God has done to us?"
-This is a very clear example of how 'God' was used as an explaination for anything beyond their current comprehension. They did not understand how the silver could have been returned to their sack - clearly an Egyptian who'd just accused them of spying would not do such a thing, therefore it must have been God's work. The 'God of Gaps' at work?
It did not occur to them at this point to check the rest of the sacks...
"As they were emptying their sacks, there in each man's sack was his pouch of silver! When they and their father saw the money pouches, they were frightened."
-Their return home is less than joyous. Jacob refuses to send Benjamin to Egypt, petulantly whining that "Everything is against me!" I had not realised the Bible was so fond of exclamation marks.