Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 41:50-52

50 And unto Joseph were born two sons before the years of famine came, which Asenath the daughter of Poti-pherah priest of On bare unto him.

51 And Joseph called the name of the firstborn Manasseh: For God, said he, hath made me forget all my toil, and all my father’s house.

52 And the name of the second called he Ephraim: For God hath caused me to be fruitful in the land of my affliction.

As God had promised, there comes to Egypt seven years of plenty. But aside from just the bounteous grain this is also a special “time of plenty” specifically for Joseph. He has been made a ruler in Egypt, given a wife, and now the blessing of two sons. What a whirlwind period this must have been for Joseph! For a time, he was in the lowest pit of human existence, but now the riches are coming at a furious pace.

Manasseh’s name means “making to forget,” meaning that Joseph has been made to forget all the years of suffering, but also to forget the old life he once dreamed of. Once he was of the family of Jacob in Canaan, and presumably his ambitions were tied to those people and that place. But now he has been given a new station and a new calling to fulfill. This is his work now and this is his family. He can’t ever go back to just living under his father’s roof and tending the flocks.

In fact, one transformation that I imagine Joseph never anticipated is that he would be married to an Egyptian woman. That, of course, means marrying out of the covenant, something that was a typically an embarrassment to the lineage of Abraham. But while “strange wives” will become associated with the Israelite people giving up their God, this is not the case with Joseph.

Yes he is married to an Egyptian, yes he is in the employ of the Pharaoh, yes he is surrendering any ambitions related to his father’s house…but never is he giving up his worship of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Joseph has the fortitude of spirit to become an Egyptian while still retaining all his covenants as well.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 39:11-12

11 And it came to pass about this time, that Joseph went into the house to do his business; and there was none of the men of the house there within.

12 And she caught him by his garment, saying, Lie with me: and he left his garment in her hand, and fled, and got him out.

Yesterday I mentioned that Joseph sought to remove himself from temptation by avoiding proximity to Potiphar’s wife. I also pointed out that every addict knows that the best way to maintain sobriety is in just this same way, to simply remove oneself from the path of temptation as Joseph did.

But at the same time, as every addict knows, now and again trouble will find you, even when you’re not looking for it. Without realizing it, Joseph had stepped into a trap, and temptation literally grabbed him by the girdle, pulling him towards sin.

And so, like Joseph, our defense must be two-pronged. Stay away from evil whenever possible, but also be ready to emphatically turn it down when it shows up anyway. Joseph showed great wisdom by not trying to reason or argue with Potiphar’s wife anymore. He didn’t even try to fight her off of him. To dabble around temptation is only to let its hooks sink in deeper. Instead he wriggled out of his clothes and ran! Potiphar’s wife might have architected this situation to try and remove all of Joseph’s options, but he would always retain the ability to choose.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 39:7-10

7 And it came to pass after these things, that his master’s wife cast her eyes upon Joseph; and she said, Lie with me.

8 But he refused, and said unto his master’s wife, Behold, my master wotteth not what is with me in the house, and he hath committed all that he hath to my hand;

9 There is none greater in this house than I; neither hath he kept back any thing from me but thee, because thou art his wife: how then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?

10 And it came to pass, as she spake to Joseph day by day, that he hearkened not unto her, to lie by her, or to be with her.

Things had been going well for Joseph in Potiphar’s household, but now trouble began brewing for him once again. In the previous verses we have learned how he gained power and prestige, and also how he was “goodly” and “well favoured.” It is not too shocking, then, that Potiphar’s adulterous wife would single him out for her lust. The phrase that she “cast her eyes upon Joseph” is something that anyone who has been subjected to sexual objectification by another will immediately understand the meaning of. And Potiphar’s wife is the worst sort of predator, not being deterred even when Joseph explicitly tells her that “no,” he doesn’t want anything to do with this.

I find very interesting Joseph’s argument against Potiphar’s wife. At the beginning he mentions the trust that Potiphar has put in him, but at the end it is God’s trust that he invokes as the reason for turning Potiphar’s wife down. Lying with Potiphar’s wife would be a betrayal of Potiphar, would be a betrayal to the teachings of Joseph’s father, would be a betrayal to Joseph’s future wife, yet none of these are the trespass that are greatest in Joseph’s mind. What he asks is “how then can I sin against God?” Clearly Joseph loves his Lord, and he does not want to hurt Him by such an act.

I find very interesting Joseph’s argument against Potiphar’s wife. At the beginning he mentions the trust that Potiphar has put in him, but at the end it is God’s trust that he invokes instead. Yes, lying with Potiphar’s wife would be a betrayal of Potiphar, would be a betrayal to the teachings of Joseph’s father, would be a betrayal to Joseph’s future wife, yet none of these are the trespass that is greatest in Joseph’s mind. What he asks is “how then can I…sin against God?” Clearly Joseph loves God, and does not want to hurt Him by such an act.

Also notice in verse ten that it says Joseph not only rebuked her temptations but went to lengths not “be with her.” This use of “with” is from the Hebrew word עִם, which is used as an adverb or preposition, and means to be physically next to, or to be equal with. Thus, Joseph was avoiding being in the same space as her, or to have a relationship of equal confidence. He knew that she represented trouble for him, and he did all that he could to physically keep that temptation at bay.

Which, as anyone who regularly struggles with temptation knows, is imperative if one is to remain pure. Truly an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Making the effort to not be tempted in the first place is the best way to ensure you will never fail.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 38:11-14

11 Then said Judah to Tamar his daughter in law, Remain a widow at thy father’s house, till Shelah my son be grown: for he said, Lest peradventure he die also, as his brethren did. And Tamar went and dwelt in her father’s house.

12 And in process of time the daughter of Shuah Judah’s wife died; and Judah was comforted, and went up unto his sheepshearers to Timnath, he and his friend Hirah the Adullamite.

13 And it was told Tamar, saying, Behold thy father in law goeth up to Timnath to shear his sheep.

14 And she put her widow’s garments off from her, and covered her with a veil, and wrapped herself, and sat in an open place, which is by the way to Timnath; for she saw that Shelah was grown, and she was not given unto him to wife.

Judah had now lost two of his three sons, each while they were married to Tamar. He spoke kindly to her, promising that his third son would be her husband once he was old enough, but in the meantime she needed to return to her father’s house.

Evidently that was a lie, though, as in verse fourteen we learn that the third son, Shelah, was now old enough to marry, but still not given to Tamar for a husband. Judah was perfectly content to have her live out the rest of her days as a widow, with little prospect of finding any other husband to care for her, and thus no children to care for her either. Thus he was really pawning her off, not wanting to deal with her problem.

But if Judah thought his troubles were past him he was soon disappointed by the death of his wife. He had elected to go and join himself with a pagan people, and had intermingled his family with their lineage and their ways, and all around him his household was dying prematurely.

Much humbling had been inflicted upon Judah, but still his moment of repentance was not at hand. There was yet another uncomfortable trial to pass through before he would be willing to admit his own unworthiness, and it would come at the hand of Tamar, waiting on the road in a veil.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 38:6-10

6 And Judah took a wife for Er his firstborn, whose name was Tamar. 

7 And Er, Judah’s firstborn, was wicked in the sight of the Lord; and the Lord slew him.

8 And Judah said unto Onan, Go in unto thy brother’s wife, and marry her, and raise up seed to thy brother.

9 And Onan knew that the seed should not be his; and it came to pass, when he went in unto his brother’s wife, that he spilled it on the ground, lest that he should give seed to his brother.

10 And the thing which he did displeased the Lord: wherefore he slew him also

Things didn’t turn out very well for Judah’s first two sons. Each of them died prematurely, as a result of one wickedness or another. We do not know what Er’s crime was, but Onan’s had to do with not fulfilling his obligations under levirate law. This law stated that if a man was married, but died without children, then his brother would take his wife and have children with her. This was meant both as a respect to the prematurely deceased brother, as well as a boon to the widow, who would depend upon the care of her children in her elder years.

The details of this ritual will later be spelled out in the law given by Moses, but evidently it was already a custom many years prior. Certainly it seems a strange tradition today, one that is based on social constructs that we have long since distanced ourselves from. As such, I think it would be difficult for any of us today to fully appreciate all the feelings that would have been going through Tamar, Judah, and Onan at this time. It does that this was an intensely awkward situation for them, though, and surely it is an awkward passage for us to read through as well.

Which brings up an interesting point. The religious are often stereotyped as being stuffy and prudish, but the book that is the very bedrock of Christian and Jewish belief is an unapologetic and explicit record. The sexuality, violence, and depravity that affected these people was very real, and the book does not shy from recounting these details. Among all the other things that the Bible is, it is a very intimate look into both the best and worst of humanity.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 38:1-6

1 And it came to pass at that time, that Judah went down from his brethren, and turned in to a certain Adullamite, whose name was Hirah. 

2 And Judah saw there a daughter of a certain Canaanite, whose name was Shuah; and he took her, and went in unto her.

3 And she conceived, and bare a son; and he called his name Er.

4 And she conceived again, and bare a son; and she called his name Onan.

5 And she yet again conceived, and bare a son; and called his name Shelah: and he was at Chezib, when she bare him.

In Genesis 39 we will return to the story of Joseph, but first the Bible takes a detour to develop the story of Judah. Judah was the fourth-born of Leah, the last of the first set of sons born to Jacob. After him two sons were born to Bilhah, then two to Zilpah, then two again to Leah, and finally two to Rachel.

This there were three sons elder than Judah, and we have previously discussed how Reuben had sullied himself by adultery with his father’s wife Bilhah, and also Simeon and Levi by slaying the men of Shechem. Thus far all Judah has been guilty of is despising his brother and suggesting that they sell him to Egypt, though that might have been an attempt to save Joseph’s life. Now, however, we will take a view on Judah’s adult life, and it is a distasteful scene, fit for a modern soap opera.

It begins with Judah leaving his father to spend time with the people of the land. Then, like his uncle Esau, that leads to him taking a Canaanite woman to be his wife, someone who is outside of the covenant. There can be no doubt that he knew this was offensive to his father and God, but it does not seem like he was concerning himself with matters of virtue heretofore anyway. Together, Judah and this Canaanite woman have three sons: Er, Onan, and Shelah. Now the stage is set and next we will begin to see how their unpleasant inter-relationships worked out.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 26:34-35

34 And Esau was forty years old when he took to wife Judith the daughter of Beeri the Hittite, and Bashemath the daughter of Elon the Hittite:

35 Which were a grief of mind unto Isaac and to Rebekah.

Esau’s choice to marry the Hittite wives is another example of how he sought his immediate desires over the blessings of God. His family was living in Gerar, many miles away from the covenant bloodline. But rather than take a trip to the home of his forefathers to find a wife who knew and followed Jehovah, he sought immediate gratification from the idolatrous wives who lived next door.

As with his birthright and the mess of pottage, Esau showed an aloofness for the things of God, a failure to see the weight and significance in anything that did not immediately feed his physical, carnal appetites. When we first met him in Genesis 25:27 he was called a “man of the field,” and that is an incredibly astute description. Esau was a man of the earth, a man of the physical realm, whose thoughts extended no higher than the dirt of the plain.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 12:10-11, 13, 15-18, 20

10 And there was a famine in the land: and Abram went down into Egypt to sojourn there; for the famine was grievous in the land.

11 And it came to pass, when he was come near to enter into Egypt, that he said unto Sarai his wife, Behold now, I know that thou art a fair woman to look upon:

13 Say, I pray thee, thou art my sister: that it may be well with me for thy sake; and my soul shall live because of thee.

15 The princes also of Pharaoh saw her, and commended her before Pharaoh: and the woman was taken into Pharaoh’s house.

16 And he entreated Abram well for her sake: and he had sheep, and oxen, and he asses, and menservants, and maidservants, and she asses, and camels.

17 And the Lord plagued Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai Abram’s wife.

18 And Pharaoh called Abram, and said, What is this that thou hast done unto me? why didst thou not tell me that she was thy wife?

20 And Pharaoh commanded his men concerning him: and they sent him away, and his wife, and all that he had.

This is an interesting and perplexing piece of Abram’s story. Abram stating that Sarai is his sister seems dishonest. At another part of the story he will explain that Sarai actually is his half-sister (daughter of his father Terah, but not of his mother), but not mentioning the fact that they are also married still fells like a lie of omission.

There is another account of these events in the Pearl of Great Price, where it states that calling Sarai his sister was an instruction given to Abram by God, Himself. Though obviously that record isn’t canonical to those who aren’t members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

So there are a number of different ways that one might interpret this story. For some it might be a sign of just how harsh an environment Abram was coming into, where such tactics were necessary for survival. For some it might be an indication that the men in Egypt wouldn’t stay their hands from violence unless they were first given a show of force from God. And for some this story might be evidence that Abram was flawed, imperfect in spite of being a prophet, still needing to improve like the rest of us.

But no matter which of these interpretations one holds to, there is a common message in them all, a message that things work out. Even if the world is dangerous, or the truth is difficult to speak, or our better parts fail us, all remains in God’s hands, and all works out according to His purposes. Though the road may be bumpy, so long as we strive with Him, we will ultimately get where we need to go.

Our Own Reality- How Many Ribs?

One day I had a conversation with my wife, and in passing I mentioned the different number of ribs between men and women. She asked me what I was talking about, and I said “oh, you know, how men have one less rib than women do.” She smiled and told me that that wasn’t true, and a quick Google search confirmed that she was right.

And to be honest, I don’t remember how that notion ever got into my head to begin with. I assume it was some childhood misunderstanding based on the story of Eve being made from one of Adam’s ribs. The idea took hold, was never challenged (I mean, how often do you really talk out loud about how many ribs people have?), and so I never critically considered whether it was true or not.

It’s an embarrassing story I suppose, but I thought it worth sharing, as I learned an important lesson about human nature from it. It was a firsthand experience of how we intensely desire to hold onto our notion of reality, even when it is clearly flawed.

Because, you see, when my wife corrected me I felt like I would rather die than admit I was wrong. Even when the internet search backed up her claims, I didn’t want to believe the evidence I was seeing. Though it was irrational, I wanted to maintain that my reality was the right one and she and the rest of the world were still wrong. To be clear, I didn’t maintain that stance, but I wanted to.

And I don’t think I’m too unique in that. Many people exhibit that same desire to be right, even when it’s clear they’re not right. I have known people that repeat the same destructive behavior over and over, all while maintaining that things will work out better this time. I have known people that remain in toxic relationships, all while spinning a story about how things really aren’t so bad. I have known people who stay away from loved ones because they aren’t willing to admit that they were the one in the wrong.

So yes, It is actually very common for us to fabricate our own realities, deluded as they are, and hold firmly to them no matter what. Even when we know that they are wrong, it is hard to let them go. Even when we know what the actual truth is, it is easier to keep living the lie.

Knit Our Hearts- Amos 3:3, Genesis 2:24

Can two walk together, except they be agreed?

Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.

COMMENTARY

Can two walk together, except they be agreed?
I’ve already mentioned that an essential element to building a companionship is sharing a cause. When two agree on a principle, then they can agree on an action, then they can walk together. Not only do they achieve the fruit of their labor, they also sow a relationship with each other in the process.
Sometimes finding that shared principle takes some work, but I am convinced every two individuals can find one. We all come from the same divine source, after all, we are more alike than different.
Perhaps one brother could be your companion in community service, while another sister could be your companion in wholesome creation, and yet a third could be the one you are accountable to in your repentance.
Not any one person is meant to be all things to us, but all are meant to be something.

Therefore shall a man…cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh
I would be remiss to do a study on mortal companionships and not make note of its most significant form: the marriage covenant between husband and wife.
In every other relationship we can have brotherhood, sisterhood, and friendship. We can unite our strengths, and we can mutually improve one another. And of course, husband and wife should also have this same standard of brotherhood and sisterhood, and also of being friends.
But to that base marriage adds something more. It is the union of the two distinct halves of humanity. One male, the other female, each essential to creating the one. Masculinity perfecting the feminine, and femininity perfecting the masculine. The two find completion in one another and discover God within their oneness. A union so consummate that God has reserved to it the very creation of life.