Mikeitz: Confronting The People Who Sold You Into Slavery (December 9, 2018)

1) What happens when the tables are turned? —> Confronting the people who sold you into slavery.

It’s Bible study coffee time.
Sunday, December 9, 2018.
2) Yesterday in synagogue we read about Joseph reuniting with the brothers who sold him into slavery. (Genesis 41:1 – 44:17) 

(This kind of illustration is why modern readers have trouble relating the Bible to real life.)
3) “For a Better Day,” by Avicii, is a better illustration.
It shows how children are bought, sold, chased and stuffed into car trunks all over the world. For money.

4) This is Avicii, who died at the age of 28.

The song he produced about child sex trafficking? Released 28 August (2015).

They said it was a suicide, “no criminal suspicion,” but his collaborator recalled he seemed “healthy.”


5) Joseph’s brothers were jealous of him, because father Jacob loved Joseph more than he loved them.

So they sent him to the pit of degradation.

This is a still from the movie “Trafficked” (2017).

9) But he was still a slave, and his former life had been torn from him, he’d suffered from his own brothers’ loathing for quite some time, and you can imagine he’d be vulnerable to the perverse practices of the Egyptians.
11) Joseph was situated in the middle of all of this, & totally powerless.
The Bible tells us he was “handsome in form and appearance,” which is like emphasizing the handsome part (handsome this way, handsome that way) and so Potiphar’s wife asks (commands) him to sleep with her.
12) Typically we imagine the reverse situation, of a female being attacked by a male who has complete power over her. 

We tend to under-rate the amount of trauma that male victims experience.
13) The wife of Potiphar tries to seduce Joseph by saying he need only “lie with” her (Genesis 39:7), but Joseph knew her true intentions, and even as she would not let up, “he did not heed her, to lie with her or to be with her.” (Verse 10)

14) And so of course, in Verse 14, she cries rape (although she is the powerful one).

“she called to the men of her house and spoke to them, saying, “See, he has brought in to us a Hebrew to mock us. He came in to me to lie with me, and I cried out with a loud voice.”
15) As she falsely accuses Joseph (“believe all women,” right?) the wife of Potiphar also manages to say that the Hebrews are somehow at fault, that they think of the Egyptians as inferior (projection/reversal at work).
15) Not only is Joseph a trafficking victim (forced labor), he is the victim of ongoing sexual harassment, and then he is falsely accused.
16) As Psychology Today notes, the person falsely accused undergoes a trauma “similar to being bullied. Even if one is rich, successful, famous or ‘has it all,’ the psychological devastation can be ruinous.” (Remember what they did to #Kavanaugh?)

17) So Joseph has every reason to be a cauldron of bubbling rage.
18) But Joseph decides to be good.

A 2012 study published in the Journal of the American Psychiatric Nurses Association (18[3]: 146–155) found that “helping others was a salient concern for most participants who experienced sexual violence.”

19) Joseph’s goodness is demonstrated by his honesty in interpreting dreams, and by the fact that God blesses him to interpret them accurately.

He is thrown in jail because of his slave master’s wife, but eventually redeemed and works for Pharoah (as basically @stevenmnuchin1).
20) Interestingly, through God’s intervention, Joseph did what we are often advised to do by savvy career counselors. He made his own job by accurately predicting a market need (surviving famine) and demonstrating to Pharoah his trustworthiness.
21) But no matter how good Joseph wanted to be, trauma is trauma.
22) And at some point, the brothers who sold him come back. Not only to reintroduce themselves, but actually to ask for his help.
23) In Genesis 42:6, Joseph comes face to face with his brothers.
24) וְיוֹסֵ֗ף ה֚וּא הַשַּׁלִּ֣יט עַל־הָאָ֔רֶץ ה֥וּא הַמַּשְׁבִּ֖יר לְכָל־עַ֣ם הָאָ֑רֶץ וַיָּבֹ֨אוּ֙ אֲחֵ֣י יוֹסֵ֔ף וַיִּשְׁתַּֽחֲווּ־ל֥וֹ אַפַּ֖יִם אָֽרְצָה
25) The Hebrew here is so vivid.

–“Now Joseph was the ruler over the land” – the tables were turned. (Although technically he was still a slave, right? To Pharoah.) 

–“it was he who sold grain to the entire populace of the land” – monopoly over sustenance
26) — “and Joseph’s brothers came and prostrated themselves to him, with their faces to the ground.”

With their faces to the ground.

Fully splayed out.
28) But Joseph knew who THEY were, “and he spoke to them harshly.”

What does this mean – why does the Bible call it out?
30) But we also need to assess the difference between 

–God’s lessons for us, and 

–the intentions of the people who carry them out.
32) This schism in the Jewish community continues to this day.

Some Jewish people believe it’s better to be totally insular, to avoid temptation.

Others believe in engaging.
33) There is another explanation for the break between the brothers, and in this version each side disagrees with the other (it isn’t just the brothers against Joseph.)
35) Mashiach ben Yosef – descendant of Joseph, child of Rachel, who symbolizes self-realization for the sake of one’s mission in life.

Mashiach ben David – descendant of Leah, who symbolizes subservience, for the same reason.

These will converge.

36) It’s kind of like, when your parents fight, and you know they’re talking about mustard versus ketchup but the real reason for the fight is much deeper.
37) Why did Joseph speak to his brothers harshly?

Generally commentators agree that he did not want the brothers to recognize him at first. 


One opinion: he wanted to test their hearts. To see if they had changed.
38) So Joseph continued to be good. “Goodness,” here, means he controlled his temper.

“You can recognize a person’s real character by his wine cup (koso), his purse (kiso) and his anger (kaaso).” (Talmud)

בשלושה דברים אדם ניכר בכוסו בכיסו ובכעסו

39) There is more to the story, but this is the lesson for the day.

Very, very soon, the people who have acted absolutely horribly, who have tortured and tormented the children of this planet for eons…are going to come crawling on their hands and knees with apologies.
40) How do we handle our feelings about this?
It’s a lot to process.
41) To make a long narrative short, Joseph puts his brothers through a mini-version of what he himself had been through. He tests them to see whether, if they are placed in the same situation, they will again sell out one of their brothers (this time for a dire material need.)
42) If you’ve been watching @POTUS play with the Deep State over the past two years, isn’t the dynamic kind of similar?
43) Because Joseph is good, and not bad – because he has chosen altruism, and faith instead of anger and bitterness – he wants his brothers to find redemption too.

And so he makes it possible for them to be tested, and to succeed.

44) “The brothers had sinned by selling their brother as a slave. The ultimate sign of their repentance and transformation would take place if they would be in a similar situation they had been in then, but refused to repeat their mistake.”
45) “Thus, Joseph concocted the perfect scenario that mimicked the climate 22 years earlier.”
46) “The sons of Leah had been offended that Rachel, Joseph’s mother, was Jacob’s most beloved wife, and by extension they loathed Joseph. Thus, Joseph targeted Benjamin, his mother’s second son.”
47) “The brothers had been jealous that Joseph was the most beloved son of Jacob, and so was Benjamin, ‘whose soul was bound in his soul.'”
48) “Joseph had gotten in their way…Benjamin was now accused of stealing Joseph’s cup, and because of him the brothers all had to return to Egypt and confront the difficult ruler (Joseph), who had already been on their case for a while.”
49) “Most importantly, as a consequence of Benjamin’s alleged theft, Joseph offered to merely take Benjamin as a slave and let the brothers ‘all go in peace to their father.’”
50) “This was the ultimate test: Would they watch their brother be sold into slavery and then come home and share a made-up story about him being killed by a beast?”
As he is doing all this, Joseph’s heart is breaking. Genesis 43:30–

“And Joseph hastened, for his mercy was stirred toward his brother, and he wanted to weep; so he went into the room and wept there.”
52) (picking up the numbering) But because Joseph loves his brothers, he is selfless, and he wants them to be redeemed. 

He doesn’t wait for God to create a circumstance for them.
53) “Here was the brothers’ opportunity to get rid of the only remaining son of Rachel…Their younger brother was getting in their way, and they could easily leave him in Egypt as a slave…”
54) “And yet, this time they did a full 180-degree transformation. Same place, same situation, same possible agenda—but they were not going to repeat their mistake. They were willing to fight, to beg and to insist that Benjamin come back with them.”
55) “Aha! This was exactly what Joseph had been waiting for—proof that they loved their brother completely and were willing to put everything on the line for him.”
56) “This was Joseph giving them the gift of repentance. 

This was Joseph bringing closure to himself and to them. 

This time they got it right.”
57) What is our job, when these animals come begging for mercy?
58) “Love….is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”

– 1 Cor 13:4-13
59) But we are not exactly there yet.
So what must we do?
60) “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.” (Ephesians 10-11)
61) “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Ephesians 12)
62) “Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.”

– Ephesians 13
63) God bless you. And God bless America.

(Photo by Jorge Pintado via Flickr Creative Commons.)



Missing some Tweet in this thread?

By Dr. Dannielle Blumenthal. All opinions are the author’s own. Public domain.