21 January 2010

Jan 21

Reference links:
Old Testament

Having imprisoned his brothers for three days, Joseph releases them on the condition that they return with Benjamin and leave behind Simeon. Joseph sells the brothers grain and they leave for home, minus Simeon. Without their knowledge, he has their payment for the grain returned to their sacks. As far as I can figure, Joseph does this just to mess with his brothers' heads. Any better ideas?

Some textual analysis. Scholars currently believe that Genesis came from multiple sources, although there is disagreement as to the nature of those sources.  Sometimes the different texts are stitched together well enough that a reader reading a translation and not paying super close attention will not notice the seams. In today's reading, we see a seam.

The text has two versions of how Joseph's brothers discover that he returned their money to them. The first version has them find it on their way home:
When they stopped for the night and one of them opened his sack to get grain  for his donkey, he found his money in the top of his sack. "Look!" he exclaimed to his brothers. "My money has been returned; it's here in my sack!" Then their hearts sank. Trembling, they said to each other, "What had God done to us?"
The second version has them find it after they return home and have told their father what happened in Egypt:
As they emptied out their sacks, there in each man's sack was the bag of money he had paid for the grain! The brothers and their father were terrified when they saw the bags of money.
It is possible that after one brother found the money in the first sack, the rest of the brothers did not bother to look in their own sack. Thus, when they found even more returned money, they were even more terrified. But that does not seem plausible. Furthermore, the brothers had been telling their father about the trip just before the second discovery. They did not mention their first discovery at the time. Assuming that these are just two inconsistent tellings of the same discovery provides a simpler explanation.

In any case, upon seeing the money, Jacob assumes Simeon must remain a prisoner forever. He refuses to let them take Benjamin back to Egypt. But the famine continues and eventually the men have to go to Egypt again to avoid starvation. They bring Benjamin, goods of the land, and twice the money they paid before (so they can return that which had been returned to them).

Joseph calls the brothers to his own home. They fear that
he will seize [them], make [them] slaves, and take [their] donkeys
I found this statement hilarious. They will be seized, made slaves, and have their donkeys taken. I personally would not bother worrying about the donkeys at that point.

Instead, Joseph prepares a feast for him. But he has not yet revealed himself.

New Testament

One more parable in today's reading: the Kingdom of Heaven is like a fishing net. After pulling up the net full of different fish, the good fish are kept and the bad fish discarded. Once again, this parable supports a view that whether or not one will be saved depends on some unchangeable essence of your self. An individual does not have any influence on the outcome.

In today's reading, Jesus returns to his hometown of Nazareth. He taught and performed miracles in the synagogue. The people were amazed, but then scoffed saying,
He's just the carpenter's son, and we know Mary, his mother, and his brothers -- James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas. All his sisters live right here among us. Where did he learn all these things? And they were deeply offended and refused to believe in him.
In response, Jesus says
"A prophet is honored everywhere except in his own hometown and among his own family. "
Jesus makes a good point that often those who know you best who make the worst judgments. They tend to overstate your accomplishments or fail to give them the weight they are due. We also learn  that Jesus had brothers and sisters. This seems like something of a sticking point for the Catholic belief that Mary always remained a virgin. (Do Catholics still believe that?)

Today's reading describes the death of John the Baptist. Herod Antipas, the son of Herod the Great, had him killed. Herod Antipas and his wife, Herodias, rather disliked John because he said their marriage is invalid, but Herod did not want to kill John because he feared the response of the people. One night, he promises his daughter anything she wants after she performed a particularly pleasing dance at a party. Her mother persuades her to ask for John the Baptist's head on a platter. Not wanting to go back on his promise, Herod gives in and has John beheaded and his head delivered. Eww.

Psalms and Proverbs

Today's psalm is a continuation of yesterday's. It will be continued tomorrow. Something about these lines captures my imagination:
He reached down from heaven and rescued me;
he drew me out of deep waters.
As for the rest, the psalmist says more of the same old same old: he has been faithful to God and that is why God is faithful to him.

In today's proverbs reading, like in yesterday's reading, we read more about the importance of getting wisdom. I got it. Can we move on to actual wisdom now?