Monday, August 16, 2010

One Book Down, 65 To Go

So it turns out seven years of famine is a long time. According to Genesis, after a single year of it everyone is out of money and out of food again, the economy has failed, and everyone in Egypt is knocking on Joseph's door asking for bread. This leads me to the conclusion that Pharaoh and Joseph, having advanced warning of the famine, chose to NOT spread the word to everyone to store up food, but instead just stored up their own food, all for sweet, sweet profiteering. Your money is worthless? No problem, Joseph accepts cattle. You're out of cattle and there's still four years of famine to go? Don't sweat it, Pharaoh will buy your land! And you! Just sell yourselves and your families into the service of Pharaoh for all time, and Joseph will graciously give you just enough food to not die, because that's the kind of stand-up fellow Joseph is.

Granted, it's not slavery so much as a legitimization of taxes until the end of time. Joseph gives the people of Egypt seed, and they agree to give Pharaoh 20% of their crop forever. My question here is, what exactly was Pharaoh's authority before Joseph buys all of Egypt for him? Why didn't Pharaoh own it already? Was he just a rich guy everyone agreed to listen to and bow down to? Before the faminie, during the years of plenty, he takes 20% of everyone's crop to begin with-did he pay for it, or is this a typical tax? There's no mention of buying it, just taking it, but now I'm back to my original question, namely, what makes this arrangement something new?

Israel reaches the end of his life, after living for seventeen years in the lap of luxury at the expense of the starving Egyptian people, so it is time to bless the next generation of patriarchs. Israel gives Joseph's younger son the better blessing-you'll recall Israel, formerly Jacob, has something of a history with younger sons getting better blessings. Everyone is all, "No, Israel, you're blessing the wrong son," but Israel knows better: if you don't give younger kids the good blessing under your supervision and on your terms, they'll just get them off the street.

Right before Jacob dies, he tells his sons what he thinks of them, and gives them their fortunes. There is an unexpected amount of occult, fortune telling and dream interpreting both being methods of predicting the future, but I guess it doesn't count if you're Chosen.

Simeon and Levi are scolded by their father for killing men in anger-these are the two brothers that massacred an entire city because they didn't like their sister's boyfriend, so this part reads like a massive understatement, but it is nice to see we're finally acknowledging that these two are psychopaths who shouldn't be trusted with founding a book club, much less a fucking nation. Maybe leaving the inheritance to the youngest son isn't such a bad idea after all!

Once Israel dies, Joseph's brothers are once more afraid Joseph will take revenge for the whole selling and death faking thing, so they throw themselves at his feet and declare that Israel's dying request was that Joseph forgive his brothers. Now, nowhere does it say Israel said any such thing, so I think this is just a lie they make up as a last-ditch attempt to save their cowardly asses. Fortunately Joseph has some good perspective on the whole thing, having been made second in command of all Egypt as a direct result of their dickery, and he forgives them, presumably graciously accepting their offers of lifelong servitude.

Genesis ends with Joseph's death at the age of 110-hardly more than a child, cut down in his prime! Still, as far as Genesis stories go, the story of Joseph is a nice one to end on; it resembles a proper story more than most, and has a nice message of forgiveness and making the most of any situation. To the best of my knowledge, it is the only Genesis story deemed worthy of immortalization via musical.

Next up, a giant retrospective of Genesis as a whole. I will actually put some effort into it, so it might take a while, but stay tuned!


  1. Does he ever get his dream coat back?

  2. This is the delightfully hilarious antidote to all the darkly snarky Chris Hitchens I've been reading lately. *bookmarks*

  3. Wow, more power to you. My first introduction to Hitchens was his, "Women aren't funny unless they're jews or dykes, and those don't count as women" incident, and it made my skin crawl because a)privileged straight white guys shouldn't say 'dyke', and b) atheists should know better than to engage in shameless and ultimately meaningless equivocation, and also should know better than to be jackasses. I'm not sure I could take a whole book of him...