Friday, September 25, 2015

All Things New: Judah, the Guilty Road, Part 1

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi

There are so many overlapping stories in the last half of the book of Genesis...

Only two brothers are mentioned by name in the narrative of  Joseph's abduction in Genesis 37:17-35...and they are Reuben and Judah.  Most of the statements and decisions were attributed to 'his brothers', but we know at least two of them were not in agreement with the rest.  They may have been in agreement with each other, but they did not have the chance to put their thoughts together and override the hotheaded ones.

Here's what we do know:  Joseph had already taken a 'bad report' back to his father about the way four of his half brothers...Dan, Naphtali, Gad and Asher, who were the sons of the maidservants...had handled the flocks.  So those four had a special grudge against Joseph, and now they saw his fancy coat headed their way to check up on them and report back again.

We do not know if the 'bad report' was that they were not properly caring for the flocks, or if it had to do with moral failures while they were in the field, or both, or something else entirely.   That 'bad report' may have been the reason all the brothers were together; it's possible that those four were no longer trusted to take the flocks without some sort of supervision.  Do you suppose one of those four was the first to call out, 'Here comes that dreamer!'  Or that one of the other three was the next to chime in with the idea to kill him and throw him into one of the cisterns?

It really didn't matter...the other brothers were offended with Joseph as well for being a know-it-all, braggart of an obnoxious kid who kept their father from seeing the value of any of his other sons. The mutter was taken up, and, even if it had been originally spoken in bitter jesting, the general offense of them all turned the talk to a serious contemplation.  Could they do it?  Could they get away with it?

Reuben was not in earshot when it began; he may have been taking care of an urgent matter because, once he got his brothers to agree to just put Joseph in the cistern, he seems to have disappeared for a time, leaving them to eat supper while Joseph hollered from the cistern.  He patently was not there when the Ishmaelites and Midianites came by with their trading caravan on the way to Egypt.  But Judah came up with an idea.  He hadn't picked upon Reuben's intention to rescue the boy...or maybe he had.  My heart wants Judah to be acting out of concern for Joseph's life...if not at that moment, then in the future...and jumping at an opportunity to get him away from the murderous elements of the family.  But it is possible that he had an eye for a quick buck and was as eager to get the nuisance out of his life as any of the rest.

What will we gain if we kill our brother and cover up his blood?  Come, let's sell him to the Ishmaelites and not lay our hands on him; after all, he is our brother, our own flesh and blood.

At least Judah used the phrase 'our brother'... so much harder agree to bloodshed than when he was just 'that dreamer'.  And, when he put it that way, his brothers agreed.

So they hauled him out of the cistern, someone did some negotiating and twenty shekels of silver was traded for the boy, and they saw him hauled away...ignoring, I'm sure, his entreaties to them to not take him away from his father.

Reuben returned to the cistern a bit later, expecting to find Joseph. Joseph, of course, was gone, and Reuben tore his clothes in grief, perhaps concluding that they had killed him anyway.   The boy isn't there!  Where can I turn now?  We assume the other brothers told him what had happened and gave him his two-shekel share of the price before they came up with the plan to ruin the coat and present it as evidence that Joseph died in the wilderness.  I wonder if he and Judah had words over his foiled attempt to save Joseph, and Judah's decision to send him away.  But no angry words or what-if scenarios prevailed; they could not leave the sheep and go after the caravan to buy their brother back, and perhaps Judah convinced Reuben that Joseph really was safer far away from his adversaries. He may have put forth the possibility that Joseph, preserved alive, could return some day, after everyone had gotten over being angry, and they could all be reunited like their father and his brother Esau.

No one went after the caravan.  The coat was torn and bloodied, and they returned home to tell their father a devastating lie.

Even so, I don't think they were prepared for the extreme grief Israel exhibited.  He refused to be comforted, insisting he would mourn for Joseph until the day he died.   Reuben would've taken it hard...if things had gone his way, there would have been no grief.  Were there whispered conversations when no one was around...'If only...'  'If you...' ?  Judah could bear it no more.  The grief of his father, the oppressive blame shifting that was going around his brothers...he had to get away.

At that time, Judah left his brothers and went down to stay with a man of Adullam named Hireh.  There Judah met the daughter of a Canaanite man named Shua.  (Gen. 38: 1- 2a)

Judah left his family,  met and married a girl from the pagan culture around him and had three sons: Er, Onan and, sometime later, Shelah.  To all appearances,in his attempt to cut himself off from the irritation and aggravation of his family and his own guilty conscience,he was falling away from the worship of the God of his fathers.

Running away from guilt never works; somehow, the guilt always comes along and taints everything.  Is there anything in my life that has caused me to try to run away?  What errors has that introduced into my life?  Am I ready to take it all to God in repentance and confession --release it all to Him and receive forgiveness?

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