Thursday, March 31, 2005

Who was Abraham? (7)

Based on the works of scholars, who will be revealed when the blogging for this topic ends. Works of other authors may be included, but where these are done, full acknowledgement will be made.

Advice: Those who may take offence in seeing biblical (OT) quotations or liberal discussion of OT biblical characters should not read this topic.

In Genesis Chapter 41, the Pharaoh had troubling dreams about seven cows and then seven ears of corn. No one could interpret the dreams, not even all the magicians and wise men of Egypt. (Genesis 41:8)

Anyone who has worked in organizations know how those around the throne (of any kind) operate, would find the honest admittance of ignorance in the Pharaoh’s court rather unusual. Had one of those magicians or wise men made an interpretation, even a false one, poor Joseph would have continued to languish in prison.

Of course, it being a saga in the bible, we may ascribe the strange humility or reticence of those magicians and wise men as designed by God. The stage was thus set for Joseph to ascend to power.

The Pharaoh’s chief butler, who had experienced Joseph’s amazing ability, strangely remembered him after two long years, and recommended the Hebrew prisoner to the Pharaoh. (Genesis 41:9-13)

Joseph interpreted the Pharaoh’s dreams as we now know it.

We have now come to the second strange part of the story. Based on the words of a foreign criminal – remember Joseph was a prisoner, jailed undoubtedly on a false charge, but nevertheless still an incarcerated criminal – that could not be realised until at least 14 years had passed, Pharaoh decided to elevate him to the position of CEO of his nation.

And Pharaoh said unto Joseph. Forasmuch as God hath shewed thee all this, there is none so discreet and wise as thou art:

Thou shalt be over my house, and according unto thy word shall all my people be ruled: only in the throne will I be greater than thou.

And Pharaoh said unto Joseph. See, I have set thee over all the land of Egypt.

(Genesis 41:39-41)

Then Pharaoh gave his own ring to 30-year old Joseph, set him up as the new Grand Vizier, virtually the No 2 man after the Pharaoh, provided him with an Egyptian name and married him off to an Egyptian lady, the daughter of a priest. (Genesis 41:42-46)

But consider once again - Joseph was a common criminal, a Hebrew whose career resume would state shepherd until 17, slave, convicted rapist, prisoner.

Purely on the basis that he made an as yet unfulfilled prediction of the Pharaoh’s dreams, a prediction that would only be known for its veracity after more than a decade had passed, the King made him the Grand Vizier of Egypt. Why not some other Egyptian officials who probably possessed more knowledge and experience on agricultural logistics and grain production? And what happened to the Grand Vizier before Joseph's promotion?

Was it conceivable that the mighty Pharaoh, any Pharaoh for that matter, would make such an illogical decision?

James L Krugel published in 1997 a book called The Bible As It Was, which basically expands, explains and clarifies the Torah, the first five books of the Old Testament. At the time of publishing of his book, Krugel was Starr Professor of Hebrew Literature at Havard University and Professor of Bible at Bar Ilan Univeristy in Israel.

Krugel quoted Philo, a Greek-speaking Egyptian Jew in Alexandria who lived from 20 B.C.E to C.E 50. Philo apparently wrote that the Pharaoh consulted his companions quietly, out of Joseph's hearing, about the advisability of appointing Joseh, to which they with one accord praised and applauded his words ...

Krugal also quoted the Jubilees, purportedly a book of divine relevations to Moses, but identified as written around the second century B.C.E or even later. Jubilees retold the Book of Genesis with more details, as it certainly would. It stated in Chapter 40:8 'All of Pharaoh's princes, all of his servants, and all who were doing the king's work loved him because he conducted hmself in a just way.'

As expected, the two references haven't been helpful in explaining the strange appointment of Joseph, the great-grandson of Abraham, to such an exalted position in the House of Pharaoh. Why would the Pharaoh's princes and staff love an unknown foreigner, who was also a common criminal, a state prisoner?

Krugel's book has been obviously for the converted, to fill in unexplained gaps in the first five Books of the Old Testament.

Could it then be that the answer to this mysterious elevation of Joseph from criminal to Grand Vizier lie in Judah’s praise of him ‘for thou art even as Pharaoh’ (Genesis 44:18). Was that statement just apple-polishing by his worried brother, or intended by the authors of the Torah as a symbolic (covert) message?

To be continued ........

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