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Tuesday: Joseph and Benjamin — 15 Comments

  1. We bird observers have a language of our own. One word we use is "cryptic". Typically we use that term to indicate that the bird's colouration and behaviour make it hard to find. The word actually means "hidden in plain sight". Birds like Bitterns stand perfectly still among the tall grass with their beaks pointing upwards and unless you know what you are looking for, you will miss them. Even brightly coloured birds are sometimes cryptic. I was looking for a Red-capped Parrot in Western Australia. It is bright red, yellow and green. I thought it would be easy to find but because of its patterning, it could hide easily among the leaves and branches. Often the first evidence of its existence was when it flew out right in front of me.

    How often do we find ourselves staring at something in the face and not recognising it? There are a number of cryptic puzzles that, for example, show a woman's face and ask you if you can see the image of a man riding a horse. We look and look until we grow cross-eyed and then suddenly our eyes see it.

    Joseph's brothers had a cryptic experience when they visited Egypt. Throughout the whole experience Joseph, their brother was hidden in plain sight. They had a vision of punishment that blinded their vision. They saw "punishment" when Joseph saw "testing". It was effectively cryptic vision of their own making.

    • The point that Maurice makes above has great significance for bible study:

      "They had a vision of punishment that blinded their vision. They saw "punishment" when Joseph saw "testing". It was effectively cryptic vision of their own making.

      IF biblical characters such as Joseph's brothers have blinded vision at times, then their reported statements in the bible are also at risk of having an element of misperception. Does this mean that the bible is not inspired of God? Or is the biblical inspiration that everything gets recorded truthfully - even the aspects that in and of themselves are not necessarily true perceptions - revealing the truth that as humans we are vulnerable to misperception at times (2 Timothy 3:16-17)?

      • There are a number of situations in scripture that describe "cryptic" vision. The disciples on the road to Emmaus, were blinded by grief and were unaware they had Jesus walking with them. And, Paul's eyes were so blinkered by his history and education that he did not see the value of Christianity until he was physically blinded on the way to Damascus.

        There are also examples of those who did not look past their cryptic vision and remained blind to the truth. The rich young ruler, who questioned Jesus, and King Agrippa, who was almost persuaded by Paul's arguing for the Gospel.

        We need however to be careful that we do not extrapolate too far. Characters in the Bible may have well got some things wrong, but the essential truth remains clear. We also need to be very careful that we do not attribute clarity of vision to our own views and cryptic vision to those with whom we disagree.

        I have a blurry patch of vision in my left eye and if I close my right eye while I am driving, the traffic in front of me disappears. Fortunately, I know my vision well enough to know the dangers of depending on my left eye. But I wonder if I am willing to recognise my spiritual blindness to the same extent. That underlines the important principle of sharing with and listening to others.

      • As an English teacher I found the Bible to be a rich source of literary devices that are current even in modern literature. Dramatic irony is one of these. It happens when the reader knows something that the characters in the story do not know. The story of Joseph testing his brothers is one of those. We, who are reading the story, know what is going on. The brothers do not.

        The story of Esther and Haman is another instance. When Esther invites Haman for a dinner, we know it isn't because she thinks highly of Haman, but he does. It makes for high drama.

        When Christ speaks with the disciples on the road to Emmaus, we know it is He who speaks with them. They don't..

        That the Bible records that human psychology wasn't much different back then certainly does not speak against its inspiration. Guilt for wrongs done tends to make people feel they are "paying" for what they did - that God is judging them - now, just as it did back then. Sparse as the details in Bible stories are, it is usually clear enough what is mistaken human thinking and what is God's activity. For instance, even when the hardening of Pharaoh's heart is attributed to God, there is an alternate account that says clearly that Pharaoh hardened his own heart. In the end, both versions are true. The sun that melts butter hardens clay. When the Holy Spirit works on a heart, it either melts in submission or hardens in rebellion.
        Even the seemingly simple Bible stories have depths of meaning to the earnest seeker. Thank God!

      • Thank you Maurice and Inge for your contributions to the conversation. I do not disagree with the essence of what you have stated. Nowhere was I suggesting that scripture is unreliable. Rather, in light of the valid point being made by Maurice, I was merely proposing that what Maurice was raising is one further factor among many than is beneficial/necessary to consider as we grow in our study and understanding of scripture.

        As 2 Timothy 2:15 suggests, scripture is something that needs to be "rightly divided (dissected)" and/or "accurately/correctly handled". This description implies that there are things that need to be considered and weighed up - under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. I am not in any way suggesting that a person needs to be an academic in order to enter scripture - they just need to be willing to seek truth via digging/mining as for hidden treasure (a metaphor used by Ellen White) under the guidance of the Holy Spirit who will lead into truth (John 16:13).

        I am also not saying that anyone should believe anything that I propose merely because I propose it. Rather, I present what I find in my study - and the basis of what and why I find that - so that each person can evaluate that for themselves to see what they believe and why (Acts 17:11; Romans 14:5). This is how I learn from others and perhaps I can contribute to this process for others.

        • Phil, thank you for sharing your study finds. It always prompts very good discussion and pushes me to dig deeper, and to look things from different angles.

          • Thank you Borjana for taking the time to express words of encouragement. Praise God!

            And please feel welcome to share your perspective/s along the way should you feel like doing so...

    • …their brother was hidden in plain sight. They had a vision of punishment that blinded their vision.

      When the brothers were taken into Joseph’s house for a meal, they were afraid it was because of the money in their sacks and they thought the money was intentionally placed there (yes) to make them slaves (no). Guilt often makes us misread a situation. Bearing unrepented sins, we feel the noose tighten so that we interpret even kindness suspiciously. Romans 12:20 tells us that showing love to someone who wants to be an enemy “heaps burning coals on his head”. The next verse says that we overcome evil with good this way. Loving acts light fires of repentance in hearts. Kindness leads others to submit to God’s mercy.

      It’s interesting that the brothers didn’t notice a very familiar face, even garbed like an Egyptian and older. That’s another thing that the sin of repeated lying does… Often we begin to believe our own lies. They had told the story so often that Joseph had been killed and was no more that they must have begun to believe it themselves. His dreams coming true such that they were bowing to him never crossed their minds because they were still stuck in their old stories at that point.

  2. Jeremiah 13:23 says, “Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? Then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil.” The story of Joseph’s brothers illustrates that people can change. Joseph put his brothers to the test and learned that they are not the same jealous, evil men who wanted him dead many years before.

    Indeed, while we cannot change our own spots, Christ implores us, “Come now, and let us reason together,” Says the LORD, “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” (Isaiah 1:18). We can’t change ourselves. But the Holy Spirit can change us! We can die to self, and be reborn into something new. Hallelujah!

    What wonderful hope for us! If God can change Simeon, he can do it for me. He can do it for the lost child whose mother has not ceased praying. He can do it for the spouse whose heart has grown cold. Oh, what God can do in our hearts if we will only let him!

  3. What were the lessons that Simeon learn while he was in prison? Why was he the one chosen to take the rap for the brothers?

    • We can only speculate, but these are my thoughts: It was Simeon who broached the idea that they should kill Joseph. It is Simeon (with the support of Levi) who led in the slaughter of the Shechemites. Though the Bible doesn't say, from what we've seen of him, he may have been the worst bully toward Joseph. He certainly had the disposition for cruelty. Simeon was not treated with cruelty while in prison, and as soon as his brothers returned, he was reinstated to them and invited to Joseph's house with the rest.

      I do not believe Joseph was being vindictive. Some time alone in a cell was probably good for Simeon to reflect. God alone knows, and since Joseph stayed close to God, the inspiration may have been from God.

    • Simeon was chosen following the conversation Joseph overheard that the brothers had right in front of him, thinking that Joseph could not understand them. This is just before he went away and wept in chapt 42. He learned that the eldest, Rueben, had tried to save him(42:22). Then he chose Simeon to be held captive until the rest returned.

  4. I wonder why Joseph went to such a great length to ‘test’ the brothers. What could or would he have done should they have shown a disposition of disrespect or outright hostility because of his treatment of them? Since Benjamin was his leverage, would he have really kept him and send the brothers back to their father to tell him the failure of their mission? I do not think so.

    I think that all along, after he realized that the men were the sons of his father by the other women, he wanted desparately to meet his blood-brother Benjamin. This is, in my opinion, the core purpose of all the play-acting – wanting to find out how they interact with his only true brother by the same mother.
    I think that Benjamin might have been about the same age when he met him again as he was when his brothers sold him into slavery. What an emotional turmoil he must have experienced when being confronted by the possibility to reunite with his brother and father but deciding to hide who he really was until it was the right time!

    It appears that his relationship with the other brothers was based on common curtesy and deference due to the fact that they shared the same father; but with Benjamin – his interaction with him was truly personal and from the heart! When he deemed it to be the right time, I see Joseph revealing his true self; showing his loving and caring disposition to all his father’s sons and their families, not just toward Benjamin. He extended the invitation to bring all families to Egypt to save them from the famine, and Pharaoh degreed it to be done.

    Our Creator, heavenly Father and God to the family of Israel, moved His hand in mighty ways to touch the lives of many more people from that time on! Savely tucked away in the land of Egypt, the members of the tribes increased steadily. Leaving behind their nomadic lives and settling down they learned to develop many new skills to establish their people.
    I can see God becoming personally involved in so many more lives and so with becoming a more approachable, personal God to all the members of this large family.

  5. The word "cryptic" actually means "hidden in plain sight"

    Insightful ...

    The comments on cryptic and cryptic thinking caught my interest !

    Further thoughts brought to mind, why Cryptic messages in the Hebrew Scriptures ?

    My thoughts ponders to who are the main characters that give the vision/message and who is going to be in the dark.

    It seemed like a very simple answer, God through his Word and Spirit is the giver of the messages in the old testiment, and the god of this world, known as Satan and his angels are kept in the dark about the eternal covenant in the Godhead to produces sons and daughters.

    1 Corinthians 2:8-16 (CSB)
    8 None of the rulers of this age knew this wisdom, because if they had known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.
    9 But as it is written, What no eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no human heart has conceived -- God has prepared these things for those who love him.
    10 Now God has revealed these things to us by the Spirit, since the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God.
    11 For who knows a person’s thoughts except his spirit within him? In the same way, no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.
    12 Now we have not received the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who comes from God, so that we may understand what has been freely given to us by God. 13 We also speak these things, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual things to spiritual people.
    14 But the person without the Spirit does not receive what comes from God’s Spirit, because it is foolishness to him; he is not able to understand it since it is evaluated spiritually.
    15 The spiritual person, however, can evaluate everything, and yet he himself cannot be evaluated by anyone.
    16 For who has known the Lord’s mind, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ.

    Jude 1:6 (CSB) and the angels who did not keep their own position but abandoned their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains in deep darkness for the judgment on the great day.


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