Last time, Shirlee and the kids discussed how God explained Pharaoh’s rather obvious dream through Joseph, and Pharaoh put Joseph, formerly a prisoner, in charge of the entire country. Joseph immediately began a program to collect and store food for redistribution during the coming years of famine. Now, his family is coming to buy food.
Shirlee pulled into the church parking lot, her tires crunching on the weed-ridden gravel. She was still a little peeved at John, who’d called Social Security and Medicare “welfare”. Of course she collected both; she was of age, and her long-deceased husband had paid into the system!
She had even done the calculations. At her current age of 63, she would not exceed the amount he’d paid in, plus earnings on that money, until she was 67! As she climbed the steep stairs to the second-floor Sunday School classroom, she thought about living to 75 or 80, or longer. She sure had no trouble getting around now! But if God willed that she live longer, then surely He would want her to keep her home and medical care, so why would she deny the benefits she deserved? It’s not like she was stealing.
She’d just make sure it didn’t come up in class. Speaking of which, they were all in their seats waiting for her. Odd.
Shirlee took her place at the desk at the front of the room. “Good morning, all. Did you have a good week?”
“Yes,” replied Mark. “We studied socialist welfare states in school.”
Shirlee sighed. “That’s nice. But we’re here to talk about the Bible, not economic systems.” Before Mark could reply, she continued, “And we’re on Genesis 42. Last week, you remember, Joseph began a system to save up food during seven years of plenty, and now the seven years of famine have begun. People are coming from all around to buy food from the Egyptians, the only ones who had the sense to store up food.”
“But Shirlee,” said Mark, “Doesn’t that conflict with Jesus’ teaching in Luke 12?” He opened his Bible and read:
Consider the ravens: for they neither sow nor reap; which neither have storehouse nor barn; and God feedeth them: how much more are ye better than the fowls? (Luke 12:24)
Ginny piped up. “That’s hardly fair, Mark. Jesus wasn’t born yet.”
“Doctrine of the Trinity says Jesus is God,” countered Mark. “And God is unchanging (Psalm 102:25-27). So it doesn’t matter if Jesus wasn’t born yet.”
“It doesn’t conflict at all,” said Shirlee. “God told them there would be a famine, and told them to store food. And He had a purpose for creating the famine. If you let me tell the story, you’ll find out what it was.” She glared at the arguing teens. “May I tell the story now?”
Without waiting for a response, Shirlee turned to Genesis 42 and began paraphrasing it for the kids.
The famine had spread well beyond Egypt, all over the world, and Israel was hit as well. All the different countries sent people to Egypt to buy food, and Joseph sold food to them. (Genesis 41:55-57)
“But . . .”
“Yes, Ginny, what is it?”
“I thought they were saving up a portion of the harvest in the seven good years so they could feed the Egyptians in the seven bad years, not so they could sell it at a profit to their neighbors!”
“Supply and demand,” laughed Mark. “They had the supply, and could make lots of money from it, I bet.”
“We have no idea how much the Egyptians charged, Mark, but it is only kind and reasonable to sell to their neighbors as well in a time of worldwide famine,” replied Shirlee.
“But that’s not the deal Joseph laid out for Pharaoh,” argued Ginny. “It was supposed to be . . .”
“It became the storehouse for the world, Ginny. Or at least those who could send people there to buy food.”
“Must have been seven really good years,” said Mark as he rubbed his chin thoughtfully. “To take in twice what they needed, or more like three times, so they could risk selling some instead of keeping it all for themselves!”
“Yes, Mark, I’m sure they were really good years.” Shirlee turned back to her Bible.
Jacob learned that there was food in Egypt, so he sent his ten older sons to buy corn. He kept his youngest, Benjamin, at home to be sure he’d stay safe.
The ten brothers came to Egypt, and went before Joseph to buy food, as all buyers had to do. They bowed their faces to the ground. He recognized them, but they didn’t know who he was. He spoke to them through an interpreter, pretending he didn’t know Hebrew.
Joseph asked where they were from, then accused them of being spies. They insisted that they were just there to buy food, and were all sons of one man. They explained there had been twelve brothers, and the youngest stayed behind, and another was dead.
So Joseph, pretending not to believe them, said that they would not leave Egypt unless the youngest also came. He threw them all in prison for three days after telling them that he’d keep them all there and let only one go and get the youngest brother. (Genesis 42:1-17)
“AH HA! A jerk!” Ginny was grinning, thrilled to see that yet again, one of ‘those Bible people’ was being ‘a jerk’.
“How so, Ginny?”
“First of all, he’s a liar. He is pretending not to know his brothers, going so far as to use an interpreter. Lying is a sin!”
Mark interrupted as Shirlee was about to reply. “It wasn’t a sin when his father, Jacob, lied to his father, Isaac . . . Right, Shirlee?”
“Apple doesn’t fall far from the tree,” muttered John.
“And then he’s going to lock his brothers all up in prison to punish them for selling him into slavery, even though he ended up the number-two ruler of all Egypt because of it! Jerk!” Ginny seemed finished.
Ginny was in luck. Shirlee was in one of her rare patient moods. “We’ll see how much a jerk you think he is at the end, Ginny,” she said, turning back to the book.
On the third day, Joseph went to his brothers in prison, and told them that he’d let all but one go, to fetch the missing brother. He kept Simeon, and tied him up in front of them.
Then Joseph had their sacks filled with corn, and their money secretly put into the sacks, and sent them on their way.
At an inn on the way home, one of the brothers found his money in a sack when he opened it to feed his donkey. The brothers wondered what God had done!
Upon arriving home, they told Jacob what had happened, and that the great governor of the land had demanded they bring their youngest brother back in order to free Simeon. Then they emptied out their sacks. Each one found his bundle of money in the sack, and they and Jacob were all afraid. (Genesis 42:18-35)
“They were afraid of their money?” Ginny looked confused. Again. Shirlee was starting to wonder if Ginny’s confused look accompanied by pointed questions was an act. “Why would they be afraid of their own money, Shirlee?”
“I don’t think they were afraid of their money, Ginny. They just didn’t know why it was there.”
“I’d think they’d be happy.”
“When there’s a great famine, and you go to another country to buy food, and you get home and find your money in with your food, then you can be as happy as you like.” She paused, then added, “So, do you think Joseph is still a jerk?”
“Well,” Ginny slowly replied, “It was nice of him to give them back their money. But why keep one of his brothers in jail? He’s still tormenting them. So he’s a half-jerk.”
“I bet he sent Benjamin down to Egypt, but came with them,” offered John.
“Nah, he was afraid of money. He was probably afraid of everything else, too. After all, he had spoken face-to-face with the all-powerful God, but was afraid of a bundle of cash. He probably huddled in fear,” Mark replied, with a scathing tone.
“I bet he prayed,” said Ginny, “and got a message from God about what to do, like when he went back home to face Esau, the non-jerk.”
Shirlee thought a moment, then said, “Those are all some interesting possibilities. We’ll find out what he did next time!”
There was nothing Shirlee liked better than leaving them hanging.
What do you think Jacob did? Find out in Part 5!