WHO WAS ABRAHAM AND WHY DOES HE MATTER?
Abraham is the linchpin of the entire Bible. Everything we’ve seen so far was a set up for Abraham. He is the patriarch of the Hebrew people and basically everything in the Bible revolves around Abraham and his offspring. It blew my mind the first time I read the Bible; the whole thing is essentially the story of one family. The whole Bible is really just a detailed, glorified genealogy of the ‘sons of Abraham’. Judaism isn’t a religion, it’s a heritage. If you’re a true Jew it wasn’t a choice, you were literally born into it.
Pretty interesting to think that a good chunk of the civilized world is operating based on what this one family was up to out in some nondescript desert three thousand years ago.
So, why Abraham? What’s so great about him? Other than hearing the voice of God, or maybe just hearing voices, his one claim to fame was being blessed by Melchizedek, the priest of God Most High. It’s an interesting story.
Abraham had been traveling around with his nephew, Lot, looking for a place to stay. Lot went off to the Jordan Valley and settled in a town called Sodom. Abraham stayed in the land of Canaan. Remember Canaan?
Apparently, this one group of kings had been in charge and pretty much ruled the whole area. Well, another group of kings had had enough and decided to rebel. It turns out Lot was in with the wrong group of kings and when the first group eventually prevailed, they took all the people and possessions of Sodom and took off with them, including Lot.
When Abraham heard about it he gave chase with a little over 300 men. He tracked them down and kicked their ass, recovering his nephew Lot, all the people of Sodom, and all their stuff.
Needless to say, the people of Sodom were stoked. Melchizedek, king of Salem and priest of God Most High, blessed Abraham.
Soon after Abraham had a vision where God promised him that his offspring would possess all the land from the Nile to the Euphrates river. This is why it’s called “The Promised Land”.
And that’s it. That’s why Abraham and his entire family are blessed into perpetuity. That’s why the Jews claim to be the ‘chosen’ people. That’s where anything you want to talk about Semitism or anti-Semitism began. Because Abraham kicked some ass and was blessed by this one random priest and then he had a vision. I’ll let you make of that what you will.
Allow me to mention two things before we leave this.
First, when you read about this battle it sounds like it was a really big deal. I mean, five kings against four, the heated battle, the conquest and the plundering of cities. Sounds like it was an epic battle. But in reality, these kingdoms were nothing more than clans1 and the kings were the head of the clan. When you consider it only took Abraham and 318 men to beat down five kings it puts things in perspective.
Secondly, the fact that Abraham had 318 fighting men at his disposal and could take down five kings would indicate Abraham was quite the king himself. The image we have of this guy wandering the desert pitching his tent here and there is in no way accurate. Abraham commanded a large army and had the wherewithal to maintain his entire community. Make no mistake, Abraham was already a very powerful, wealthy guy. Well find out how he might have gotten that way later on.
I’m just going to go over this real quick because there’s more to this story a little later on. But we need to touch on this first.
First of all, for you sticklers of detail, at this time Abraham’s name was Abram and Sarah’s name was Sarai. They changed their names soon thereafter to Abraham and Sarah so that’s what I’m going to call them.
Sarah was Abraham’s wife but Sarah had a problem. She was barren and couldn’t have children. Children were a big deal in those days. Being a rich and powerful man, Abraham needed an heir and it looked like Sarah wasn’t going to come through.
But Sarah had a plan; she would give her servant, Hagar, to Abraham so he could have children by her in Sarah’s name. Apparently this was rather common, so Abraham was glad to oblige. Hagar immediately became pregnant, eventually having a son whom she named Ishmael.
But once the deed was done, even though it was her idea, Sarah got jealous and gave Abraham a load of grief about it. Abraham, in his unparalleled parenting skills, told Sarah that Hagar was her servant and she could do whatever she wanted with her and her new son2. So Sarah treated them both with contempt and made their lives a living hell.
Much has been made about what happened to Sodom and Gomorrah but just in case you don’t know the story, here it is.
Sodom and Gomorrah are often called “The Cities of the Plain”, the plain being the Jordan river valley. These two cities are almost always referred to together so apparently they were so close together they were basically one town3.
To put this in perspective, let’s remember this was the same Sodom and Gomorrah that, less than twenty years earlier, Abraham had saved their ass with a little over 300 men. So this wasn’t a giant metropolis. It was basically two patriarchs who had bonded together for safety’s sake and created a decent sized town with some permanent buildings.
Abraham had set up camp up on a hill some distance from Sodom and Gomorrah, but still at a point where he could keep an eye on them down in the valley. Let’s also remember it wasn’t just Abraham up there. If he’d had over 300 men with him twenty years before, it’s a good bet he had a formidable group up on the hill with him.
One day three angels showed up at Abraham’s camp.
It’s important to note that angels in those days were not what we think of as angels today. The original Aramaic definition for angel is ‘messenger’. Angel was a common term used for anyone who did “God’s work”. It could be a priest or a common man, as long as they were doing the Lord’s work. So don’t think of these guys as apparitions with white robes and wings, etc. They were just guys doing the Lord’s work. Different people have different ideas of what the ‘Lord’s work’ is, but apparently the Lord’s work for these guys was blowing up Sodom and Gomorrah.
Anyway, Abraham was so happy to see these guys he immediately threw a giant feast. It doesn’t specifically say so, but chances are pretty good Abraham already knew these guys. It’s hard to see why he would make such a fuss and throw a big party for three complete strangers.
During the party, these angels announced that in a year’s time Sarah would bear Abraham a son. Neither Abraham nor Sarah believed it because Sarah was well advanced in years and had “ceased to be in the way of women” as it were. In other words she was an old lady, at least 90, who’d gone through menopause. No way was she going to have a baby.
After the prediction, the story gets a little sketchy. All of a sudden it sounds like Abraham is talking directly to God and not the three guys. It’s hard to tell if these guys are just guys or God himself. From the narrative it sounds like they’re both.
Well, whoever they are, they tell Abraham they’re going to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah because the people are so wicked. But Abraham argues with them long enough to get them to spare his nephew, Lot, who still lives down there.
This won’t be the last time we’ll see a man bargaining with God and coming out on top.
The next thing you know there are only two angels going to Sodom and Gomorrah. No mention of what happened to the third guy. Maybe he went ahead to plant some explosives.
Well, when these two angels get to the gates of the city they run into Lot and Lot is as excited to see them as his uncle was. Lot takes them home and throws them a feast.
It makes me wonder if Abraham, the angels and Lot were all in cahoots to blow up the city. Why is anybody’s guess. The Bible says they were wicked so maybe their wickedness was they were messing with Abraham somehow. Who knows? 6
Whatever it was, the people of the town were not digging these new strangers and demanded Lot turn them over. I’ve always wondered why they would care about two strangers who were friends with Lot. Lot was no newcomer. He’d lived there since before his uncle had saved their whole town. You’d think they would’ve liked him and welcomed his friends. But that was not the case.
The men of the city knew something was up with these strangers and whatever it was, they didn’t like it.
But Lot wouldn’t turn them over. He even offered up his two virgin daughters instead. He said the mob could have his daughters and do with them whatever they pleased, just don’t hurt these friends of mine. What? It’s apparent these guys were really important to Lot. Hard to believe he’d just met them and now was already willing to give up his virgin daughters for them.
But the mob didn’t want the girls, they wanted the newcomers. Why? Sounds like they knew these guys were up to no good and Lot was in on it. We’ll never know because just as the mob was about to break down the door, the angels struck them all blind. Sounds like they had some sort of ancient pepper spray.
The bottom line is, the mob went away and didn’t bother them anymore. Like they just forgot about it. Convenient, to say the least.
The next day, the angels convinced Lot to take his wife and two daughters and head for the hills. The Bible says God rained down fire and brimstone. Seeing as brimstone is literally sulfur, it’s likely these guys were versed in some sort of primitive explosives and basically blew up the town. Let’s remember, this wasn’t Los Angeles, it was basically a village made of sticks and clay. It wouldn’t take much.
And as the story goes, just as the town was blown to smithereens, Lot’s wife turned back toward the town and she became a pillar of salt. What that pillar of salt actually represents7 is open to debate but that’s not what we’re doing here. I’ll leave it to you to do some more research on your own if you feel like it.
The story gets a lot more lurid when, after escaping the fire and brimstone, Lot and his daughters end up camping out in a cave. His daughters were afraid they’ll end up old maids since there are no men around so they came up with a plan.
They got Lot so drunk he blacked out and while he was unconscious the older daughter had sex with him. How she managed this is anybody’s guess. I don’t know how anybody that drunk could perform, much less consummate. But it worked so well they did the same thing the next night and this time the younger daughter rode the pony. Good thing mom wasn’t around.
To make a long story short, both daughters got pregnant. There’s no mention of what Lot thought about his supposedly virgin daughters getting pregnant with no other men being around. Maybe he wasn’t as drunk as we’ve been led to believe.
The son of the older daughter was named Moab and became the father of the Moabites. The younger daughter’s son was named Ben-ammi and he would become the father of the Ammonites.
Both of these groups would end up being mortal enemies of the sons of Abraham, later known as the Israelites. Talk about a family feud. And that’s just the beginning.
After they blew up Sodom and Gomorrah, Abraham packed up and took off for Gerar which nowadays would be the southern part of modern day Palestine. Here he ran into Abimelech who was the king of that particular area.
For some reason Abraham thought the locals would kill him to get to Sarah, so Abraham told Sarah to tell everybody that she was his sister (which she was), and not his wife. Why anyone would want a 90 year old, post-menopausal woman is beyond me but that shows what I know because Abimelech immediately swooped in and scooped her up.
But before he could do anything inappropriate God came to him in a dream and said he was going to kill him for taking another man’s wife. “Whoa now there God!,” says Abimelech, “This guy said she’s my sister. What am I supposed to do?” And God says, “Well, okay, just give her back.” 8
Relieved, Abimelech gave Sarah back to Abraham, along with a bunch of sheep, cattle, slaves and money and said “My land is before you, dwell where it pleases you.” In other words, “Take your wife and hit the road.”
The funny thing is that Abraham and Sarah had done this same thing about 25 years earlier when they went to Egypt.9 Except that time it was Pharaoh who’d snatched up Sarah. I’m guessing she was better looking back then but still, you’d think Pharaoh could do better.
However they did it, they got the same result. God told Pharaoh to give her back, or else, which he did, along with lots of sheep, cattle, and servants. This was the beginning of Abraham’s wealth building.
Were Abraham and Sarah working a con? Sure sounds like it.
Well, lo and behold, just like the two angels had predicted, Sarah got pregnant and had a son in her old age. They called him Issac.
As you might remember, Sarah was none too happy with Hagar and Ishmael before all this but now she was downright homicidal. She ordered Abraham to cast out this slave woman and her son. Depending on how you look at it, either Abraham had no backbone or, like the Bible says, God told him to go ahead and do it because God would take care of them and, in fact, make of Ishmael a great nation.
So Abraham gave Hagar and his first born son a little bread and a bota bag full of water and sent them off into the desert to die.
But just before they perished, God came to them and showed Hagar a well that had been there the whole time. They were saved! Ishmael grew up in the wilderness, became an expert with the bow, went off to Egypt, got a wife and that’s that.
The next we hear of Ishmael is when Abraham dies. Obviously he was still in the picture somehow but we never hear about him except that he had twelve sons and he was hostile toward his relatives. Not too surprising seeing how he and his mother were treated. Tradition has it that Ishmael is the father of the Arabic people. They’re still at each other’s throats to this day.
The way the story goes, God wanted to test Abraham. After all, he’d chosen him from all the people in the universe to be the father of his ‘chosen people’, so I guess God felt Abraham needed to prove himself. Loyalty, as we’ll see over and over, is a big thing to God.
Well, the way Abraham had to prove himself loyal was to sacrifice Issac as a burnt offering. Pretty harsh, but to a guy who’d just sent his first born son off to die in the desert I guess it’s not as big a deal as it might be to you or I. And from what we read later on, offering up the first born son was not uncommon in those days.
I guess God figured if Abraham was willing to sacrifice Issac, he’d pretty much be willing to do anything.
So off they went up the mountain to do the deed. Issac was not aware of it yet because Abraham tricked him into going. But when he found out, he just went along with it and didn’t try to run or anything. Like it was okay.
Abraham tied him up, piled on the sticks and was ready to light him up when, at the last second, God pulled the plug. Apparently Abraham had passed the loyalty test so Issac was off the hook.
Since Abraham showed his loyalty, God promised to bless him, to multiply his offspring like the stars of heaven and the sands of the desert. They would possess the gates of their enemies and all the world would be blessed because of him. Note the Aramaic penchant for exaggeration. We’ll see it often.
If we leave out the possibility that Abraham was a delusional schizophrenic hearing voices, it still doesn’t sound like something an all-knowing, loving God would do. It sounds a lot more like a loyalty test by an insecure tyrant. More mythology in the image and likeness of humanity?
In a lot of these early Old Testament stories this God sounds like a narcissistic, irrational, petty despot. But seeing that these stories were created for people who were used to being ruled by petty, irrational despots it makes perfect sense. In the long run, if you do what they want, good things happen, if you don’t, it will go very badly. Very superstitious, very mythological, very ignorant but, at the same time, very logical, especially at the time.
Without getting into the whole history, suffice it to say Issac lived and married his cousin, Rebecca. She bore him two sons, Jacob and Esau.
It’s interesting to note that before Jacob and Esau came along, Issac and Rebecca moved into Abimelech’s territory. Remember Abimelech? I don’t know if this was just the custom at the time or if they were trying to pull the same scam Abraham and Rebecca did, but when they got to Abimelech’s neck of the woods, Issac told everybody that Rebecca was his sister, not his wife. But before anyone could snatch her up, Abimelech caught wind of it and told them to get out of town. He’d seen this scam before.
Jacob and Esau were born twins but could not have been more different if they’d tried. Esau was a big, hairy guy who loved to hunt and be outdoors while Jacob was fair and quiet and liked to stay inside with the women. As you might expect, Esau was Abraham’s favorite while Rebecca loved Jacob.
Technically Esau was the older son since he’d come out first and, being the older son, he was entitled to all that was the first born’s right, which in those days was basically everything. By this time Issac was worth a fortune.
But Jacob was a sneaky little guy and he and Rebecca went about methodically taking away all of Esau’s rights.
The first thing Jacob did was get Esau to trade him his birthright for a bowl of stew. Really, I’m not kidding. A birthright, especially that of the first born child, was more precious than gold. But it seems Esau had come in from the field and was exhausted and Jacob was making stew. Rather than just give his brother some stew he made Esau sell him his birthright for a bowl of stew.
I guess Esau was a pretty impetuous guy, or just not too smart, but he went for it. Jacob made him swear so that sealed the deal.
After Esau ate his stew he realized what he’d done and was pretty pissed about it. But he couldn’t take it back, after all, he’d sworn to it.
Later on, when Issac was about to die, he called Esau to him and asked him to go hunt down a deer and prepare the venison just the way he liked it. Afterward he would give him his blessing.
Well, Rebecca heard Abraham and put a plan in motion. She told Jacob to go get a couple of sheep and she would prepare them the way Abraham liked. Then Jacob could take it to him and, pretending he was Esau, receive the blessing. Abraham was blind so he’d never know. “But Esau’s hairy,” Jacob says; “No problem,” says Rebecca.
So Rebecca fixed the food and dressed Jacob up in Esau’s clothes so he’d smell like the outdoors. She put sheep skins on the back of his hands and his neck so he felt hairy like his brother. Then she sent Jacob in to see his dad.
Jacob straight up lied to Issac, pretending he was Esau. But Issac wasn’t convinced so he made him come near. Even though he heard Jacob’s voice he could smell the field on his clothes and the sheep skins did the trick so he was convinced it was Esau.
And so Issac blessed Jacob, thinking he was blessing Esau. In essence the blessing said he would be super prosperous, he’d lord over his brothers and his mother’s sons would bow down to him. Those who cursed him would be cursed and those who blessed him would be blessed. With that, Jacob took off.
But scarcely had Jacob left when Esau came in with his food and was all ready to get his blessing. It didn’t take long before he and Abraham figured out that Jacob had scammed him. But here’s what’s weird; rather than say, “Wait a minute! That little sucker tricked me!” Issac told Esau he was out of luck and basically screwed. Even though he’d blessed Jacob, thinking he was Esau, since Jacob was the one in front of him, the blessing stuck with Jacob.
I could never understand why Abraham didn’t just go get Jacob and slap him for being a thief and a cheat. At the very least, he thought he was blessing Esau so shouldn’t the blessing actually belong to Esau anyway? Doesn’t make an ounce of sense. But it works for the story.
As you might expect, Esau wanted to kill Jacob. But Rebecca got wind of it and she tricked Abraham into shipping Jacob off to live with her brother, Laban, about 600 miles north at a place called Haran. Needless to say, Jacob was more than ready to get out of Dodge.
Along the way to Laban’s house Jacob had a dream. God restated his intention to give all this land, the “Promised Land”, to the children of Abraham, which now apparently meant Jacob.10
I encourage you to read about Jacob’s time with Laban, it’s worth the read, but I’m just going to skim it here.
Jacob went to live with his uncle, Laban and immediately fell in love with Laban’s daughter Rachel.11 The Bible says Rachel was very beautiful but I’m not sure how he’d know that if she was all covered up in a burka, as was the custom at the time12. But that’s what it says.
Jacob made a deal with Laban to work for him for seven years so he could marry Rachel. “Sounds like a good deal to me,” said Laban.
Well, when the wedding day finally came along, Laban pulled a switch and tricked Jacob into marrying Rachel’s older sister, Leah, instead of Rachel. How that happened is beyond me. Either the women were so covered up he couldn’t tell, or everybody was so drunk they couldn’t see straight. However it happened, Jacob didn’t realize the bait and switch until the next morning and by then he’d already ‘gone in unto’ Leah, if you know what I mean, and now it was too late.
Needless to say, Jacob was irate. But Laban blew him off saying it was the custom to marry off the older daughter before the younger. Like he couldn’t have said that before? And didn’t he make a deal for Rachel in the first place? Anyway, since Jacob wanted Rachel so bad he agreed to work another seven years to get her.
Lying and cheating just seems to be par for the course with these people.
Well, as luck would have it, Rachel was barren, but not Leah. Leah started popping out kids left and right. Rachel was so jealous she gave Jacob her servant so she could have kids through her.13 It didn’t take long before it turned into a competition. Leah gave Jacob her servant so she could have even more babies through her servant.
Then, lo and behold, Rachel miraculously became fertile and gave Abraham a son of her own, Joseph. I don’t know about you, but I’m starting to see a pattern here where the barren wife all of a sudden isn’t barren anymore and gives birth to the favorite son.
When it all washed out, Jacob had eleven sons and one daughter.
These eleven sons would eventually become twelve and the families of these sons would forever be known as the twelve tribes of Israel. Israel because, not too much later, Jacob would change his name to Israel
So, all in all, Jacob had been working for Laban for at least 20 years when God finally told him it was time to go home. He and Laban worked out a deal of what his wages should be but, as you might imagine, Laban tried to cheat Jacob again. But Jacob was too smart for that and he cheated Laban right back and made a run for it.
But Laban chased him down and confronted him about running off with his daughters and all his stuff. I won’t get into it here, but it’s worth the read if you’re interested. Lots more lying and cheating going on. Eventually Laban let Jacob and his daughters go on their way.
So Jacob headed back to the land of Canaan, which today would be modern day Israel, Jordan and parts of Syria and Lebanon. But he was afraid of his brother, Esau, and what he might do. It was twenty years ago but, after all, he did cheat Esau out of his birthright and blessing. He thought Esau might be out for blood.
By now Jacob has accumulated a ton of wealth himself. Besides his wives and children he’d gotten male and female servants, huge flocks of sheep and goats, camels, donkeys, cows and bulls, all of which he was herding down to Canaan. This was essentially like an old fashioned cattle drive like you see in the old Western movies. Most everybody was walking and, with over 600 miles to cover, it took awhile.
Somewhere along the way Jacob met up with some ‘angels of God’. Not much is said about them but, since we already know an angel is a messenger, it’s likely these guys showed up to impart some important information. About Esau perhaps?
Whatever it was, we’ll never know because soon after, Jacob learned Esau was coming to meet him. And he has four hundred men with him.
Jacob was totally spooked. He split up his company and, hoping to buy some time, sent herds and flocks out ahead of the main group as a gift to Esau.
An interesting thing happened the night before Jacob and Esau met up. Literally, the Bible says Jacob ‘wrestled with a man’ all night long. Interestingly, later on this ‘man’ is referred to as God. So Jacob wrestled with God and actually got the better of him. Not bad for a 70 year old man.
This whole narrative makes no sense at all until you find out, in the original Aramaic phraseology, this whole wrestling with a man thing actually refers to an emotional and spiritual act rather than anything physical 14. What really happened was that Jacob was up all night agonizing over his decision to go home. Was it the right thing to do? Should he go on? Should he turn tail and run back to Laban? Eventually he ‘prevails against the man’, overcomes his doubts, trusts God, and decides to push on.
This is just one of many instances where, if we try to take a translation literally, we completely lose the meaning.15
But it turned out Esau had done very well on his own and no longer had any problem with Jacob. After all, he’d stayed home and basically taken over Issac’s entire estate. He was doing okay and held no grudge.
So they met up, made up, and went their separate ways.
Jacob ended up being the patriarch of Israel and Esau, the patriarch or Edom. As time went on the two countries ended up being sworn enemies. Imagine that, another family feud.
There is one story from this time that deserves mention.
Shechem was a town that, like most places in those days, was named after the guy who ran it. Shechem was the son of Hamor, the king of the territory. Remember, this was a very tribal society; the places weren’t huge, maybe a couple of hundred people, but it was still significant who owned them and they called themselves kings and princes and so forth.
Well, when Shechem saw Jacob’s daughter, Dinah, he couldn’t help himself and, as what seems to be the custom, he raped her. When Dinah’s brothers found out, they were out for blood.
But, lo and behold, Shechem actually fell in love with Dinah and wanted to marry her. Shechem’s father came to Jacob and wanted to make a deal. He basically offered Jacob anything he wanted if he’d give Dinah to his son. And he sweetened the deal by offering up all his daughters to intermarry with Jacob’s sons so they could be one big happy family.
But Dinah’s brothers said they’d only agree if Hamor and all his clansmen got themselves circumcised. For some reason they all agreed. I don’t know, but I’m pretty sure I’d have to think about it real hard before I’d whack off the head of my pee pee just so I could get at some strange women. But apparently these women were pretty hot and the men were tired of marrying relatives. They also thought they’d eventually take Jacob for everything he had anyway so they went along with it.
Jacob’s sons had other ideas. On the third day, when the newly circumcised men could barely walk, Dinah’s brothers swooped into town and killed them all. They plundered the town, taking all the flocks and livestock along with all the women and children. It gives you an idea of the size of the place if eleven guys could do that much damage.16
This was the first of what would eventually be many genocidal carnages perpetrated by the sons of Abraham.
Nonetheless, Jacob and his tribe were on the run once again. The word must have gotten out about these crazy band of killers because, as they headed west toward Bethel, all the other people in the area gave them a wide berth.
Along the way, God reiterated to Jacob his promise to Abraham and Issac; that his offspring would possess all the land he could see and beyond.17 He also changed Jacob’s name to Israel. Not really sure why. Could it have been so the people of the land wouldn’t confuse him with Jacob and his homicidal sons?
Also, Rachel died while giving birth to Benjamin, Jacob’s twelfth son. As I said before, these twelve sons make up what are famously known as the twelve tribes of Israel.
When Rachel died, Israel buried her and set up a pillar over her tomb. The reason I mention this is because the Bible very clearly states that the pillar is still there “to this day”; a clear indication that this story was not a first person account but written after the fact.18 According to the Bible this event happened at least 1900 years before Jesus and wasn’t recorded until almost 650 before Jesus. That’s a pretty significant gap. More on that later.
Israel had a soft spot for Joseph and Benjamin since they were the children of Rachel, the only woman he ever really loved. In fact Joseph was Israel’s favorite son and he made no bones about it.
This made Joseph’s brothers super jealous19. One day they were all out in the fields with the sheep and they had the opportunity to kill Joseph. They were going to throw him in a pit and leave him there to die but his brother, Rueben, got cold feet. As fortune would have it, a caravan on its way to Egypt happened to be passing by. So rather than kill Joseph and have his blood on their hands, they decided to sell him as a slave to the caravan and off they went.
To hide the deed, the brothers soaked Joseph’s coat in sheep’s blood and told Israel they’d found it on their way home. Apparently a wild beast had eaten Joseph. Israel was devastated.
I’m not sure why of all the families in the universe, God liked this family so much. Seems like they’re a bunch of lying, cheating scoundrels. But what do I know? Obviously he’s got his reasons.
So off to Egypt Joseph went. To his great fortune, he was sold to Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, the captain of the guard. It turned out Joseph was a very competent dude and before long he was running Potiphar’s house.
But to his great misfortune, Potiphar’s wife wanted to get frisky with Joseph. But Joseph was an upright guy and wouldn’t go for it. There’s a saying that there’s nothing like a woman scorned and Potiphar’s wife certainly proved it. She told her husband Joseph tried to rape her. Potiphar promptly sent Joseph off to prison. Why he didn’t just kill him is anybody’s guess.
But again, Joseph was a competent guy and pretty soon he was the most trusted trustee in the prison and basically ran the joint.
While he was there he met up with Pharaoh’s cup bearer and baker who had recently fallen out of favor and landed in prison. One night they both had dreams and Joseph correctly interpreted them. Good for the cup bearer, not so much for the baker.
Two years passed and Pharaoh had a couple of disturbing dreams that nobody seemed to be able to figure out. But the cup bearer remembered Joseph and told Pharaoh about him. So Pharaoh called for Joseph and he interpreted the dreams. Egypt will have seven years of bumper crops followed by seven years of famine. The dreams were a heads up that it was time to prepare.
Rather than pick one of his trusted men to make the preparations, Pharaoh took this unknown Hebrew slave/prisoner and put him in charge of everything, second only to Pharaoh.
Nobody knows who this unnamed Pharaoh was and there is no written record of any of this in all the archives of Egyptology. But we’ll take the Bible at its word and, for now, agree it’s all true.
To make a long story short, the famine came and the whole world20 was starving to death, including Israel and his household. So Israel sent his sons down to Egypt to buy some food.
The brothers ended up in front of Joseph but didn’t recognize him. After all, it had been almost 20 years and Joseph was all dressed up like Pharaoh. Why some foreigners looking to buy a little grain would end up in front of the second-most powerful guy in the country seems strange, but let’s not quibble.
After tormenting them awhile, Joseph finally relented and made himself known. The brothers liked to have shit themselves but Joseph put them at ease. No hard feelings. After all, if they hadn’t sold him into slavery he never would have been able to save the world. So it all worked out, right?
Joseph told them to go get dad and bring him and all his household to Egypt. Pharaoh was into it and said his father and his entire household could live in the best part of the country and enjoy the fruits of the land.
That’s the short version of how the Israelites ended up in Egypt.
1 Family groups
2 Even though he was Abraham’s sole heir.
3 Like Las Vegas and Henderson, NV
4 Although nobody ever says it.
5 And possibly had a run-in or two
6 Literalists will invariably link the town name, Sodom with anal sex and say they were all a bunch of perverts who needed to go. The Bible makes no reference to that.
7 Or did she just go back and get burned up in the firestorm
8 I paraphrase here
9 Genesis 12:11-20
10 But for some reason, not Esau.
11 Jacob’s cousin.
12 And in some places, still is.
13 If you’ve ever seen ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ you’ll get the picture.
15 The ever-present trap of literal translation.
16 Though they might have had help from all of Jacob’s men-servants. It doesn’t say so, but it’s possible.
17 Modern day Israel and more
18 See “Documentary hypothesis”
19 Except Benjamin since he was second favorite.
20 In the Old Testament, the Middle East is basically the whole world