But Joseph said to his brothers, "Do not be afraid! Am I in the place of God? Even though you intended to do harm to me, God intended it for good, in order to preserve a numerous people, as he is doing today. So have no fear; I myself will provide for you and your little ones." In this way, he reassured them, speaking kindly to them.
Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel writes, “Abraham is respected and admired; Isaac is pitied; Jacob is followed; but only Joseph is loved.” Many would agree with this assessment of the patriarchs of Israel, so unforgettably portrayed in the book of Genesis.
Wiesel is not alone in his opinion of Joseph. At a Bible study I led on Genesis, when we finished the final chapter, one woman offered, “‘My favorite verses in the entire Bible are in this chapter," and she recited from memory: "Even though you intended to do me harm, God intended it for good.” When we asked why these particular verses meant so much to her, she said quietly, "Because I am part of a very complicated family.”
There are many reasons to love Joseph: he starts life as a spoiled brat, envied and despised by his brothers, but he gradually changes into a responsible, compassionate adult. He has innate ability (interpreting dreams), which at first he turns only to his advantage, but gradually learns to use carefully and respectfully.
Above all, he learns to give up judgment, self-absorption, and control. He sees his brothers as fellow children of God, not as objects. He sees God’s hand in their complicated family relationships, and speaks these poignant words that lift everyone to new levels.
A book I highly recommend for anyone who seeks insight and humor!) into the Old Testament is Good Book: The bizarre, hilarious, disturbing, marvelous, and inspiring things I learned when I read every single word of the Bible, by David Plotz. He writes: “I decided to really read the Bible, not to find contradictions, or to mock or scoff, but out of genuine curiosity and fascination. I needed to understand the book that has shaped my religion and my world.
“For me,” he continues, “Joseph is the most persuasive argument in Genesis for faith. His consistent belief in the Lord, even through slavery and prison, carries him forward. This faith doesn’t merely make him great and powerful. It also makes him good. It makes him able to weep, and weep, and weep some more, and forgive.”
Help us, O Lord, to see your loving hand in our sorrows as well as in our joys, so that we, like Joseph, may grow in wisdom and understanding. Amen.
Copyright © 2010 Margaret Jones.