How Insensitive

The *last posting* ended with Joseph welcoming his father and brothers and their families as they entered Goshen where they would settle.

As Prime Minister of Egypt, Joseph felt an obligation to tell the Pharaoh of his family’s arrival in Goshen because his extended family numbered close to one hundred – a not inconsiderable number in those days. Joseph also felt it would be nice if the Pharaoh could meet his father, Jacob, and some of his brothers too. But, which brothers should he select? And how many?

Joseph thought five would be plenty. Who to select was, though, tricky, He could choose the ones most handsome, to show the Pharaoh what fine brothers he had. Or he could choose the meanest looking, to show the Pharaoh his brothers were not to be messed around with. Or he could choose just the five oldest brothers, or just the five youngest. But any of these criteria of selection would likely cause dissension among the brothers.

Joseph then had a bright idea. Choose from among his brothers just the oldest born to each of their respective mothers, so each mother would be recognised This would eliminate accusations of bias. Joseph therefore chose Reuben – the oldest son of Leah; Gad – the oldest son of Zilpah; Dan – the oldest son of Bilhah; and Benjamin – the younger son of Rachel. Benjamin, as a younger son (whose older brother was Joseph) was the anomaly here. But Rachel had to be recognised.

Thus were four brothers chosen, to correspond with the four different mothers. But, how  to choose the fifth? Joseph settled on Naphtali, because his mother, Bilhah, had been the servant of Jacob’s favourite wife, Rachel (who was Joseph’s mother too).


The Pharaoh’s chief of staff cleared his throat loudly at the entrance of the Royal Residence.

“What is it?”

“The Prime Minister’s here, Your Majesty, with five men who he says are his brothers, and one very old man who he says is his father.”

“Send the brothers in, and the Prime Minister too. I’ll see the father later.”


After the introductions the Pharaoh said, “Well boys, tell me what you do for a living and what your plans are.”

“If I may speak for all of us, Your Majesty” said the oldest brother, Reuben, “we’re all of us shepherds, and always have been, and our old father, Jacob, too, and all of our forefathers were as well. We’re all hard-working boys, dedicated to making Goshen the best it can be.”

“I don’t want any partying or trouble-making” said the Pharaoh.

“I can put these concerns of yours at rest, Your Majesty” said Joseph. “I’ll be watching my brothers with an eagle eye. Any infractions, and I’ll send them back to Canaan where they’ll die quickly because of the famine there.”

“That’s what I like to hear” said the Pharaoh. “I hereby give my approval for you all to live in Goshen. Now you may go. Send your father in.”


“Well well well, we meet at last” said the Pharaoh as Jacob shuffled in to the Royal Presence, “Joseph’s told me so much about you. You’ve led quite a life. I’m dying to hear more about it.”

“In the name of God I bless you” said Jacob.

“I’m not sure you can really do that” said the Pharaoh, “for, as Pharaoh, I’m the embodiment of the sun-god Ra, who’s above all other gods, including yours. However, as a courtesy I’ll not only accept your god’s blessing, but will bless you and your god too.”

“God thanks you and accepts your blessing in the spirit in which He blessed you.”

“Joseph’s told me you’re one-hundred and thirty. I don’t expect to live that long, since I know of no Egyptian who’s lived past one-hundred and twenty.”

“Well, I’m still quite young for a Canaanite Hebrew. Did Joseph tell you my grandfather, Abraham, lived to one-hundred and seventy-five; and my father, Isaac, to one-hundred and eighty?”

“I’d heard. What enables you Canaanite Hebrews to live so long?”

“Who knows. Perhaps our diet – scorpions, bread, olive-oil, that sort of thing. Perhaps our vigorous nomadic outdoor lifestyle, with lots of vitamin D generated in our bodies by plenty of exposure to the desert sun. Also, we’re God’s chosen people, so I’ll guess God arranges that our life-spans are longer than those of other non-chosen peoples. However, I’m only guessing about this last part.”

“I’m glad you had the sensitivity to say that. But, if I may be insensitive for just a moment, you do look terribly old, even for a one-hundred and thirty year-old. I hope you don’t mind my saying this.”

“Not at all Your Majesty. I endured so much manipulation from my mother, Rebecca; and so much terrorism from my ape-like twin-brother, Esau, who our father favoured over me; and so much treachery and unfaithfulness from my wives, with the exception of Rachel who was my true love; and so much mendacity and outright wickedness from my sons, who once threw Joseph down a well and left him for dead and lied to me about it. This has all aged me so terribly, I expect to be dead very soon.”

“Just take it one day at a time” said the Pharaoh.

Source: Genesis 47, 1-12

This entry was posted in Genesis 47 and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to How Insensitive

  1. Mathilda says:

    Abraham died at 175; Isaac at 180; and Jacob was still going strong at 130. Do you believe that, particularly as this was 4000 years ago?

  2. Christopher says:

    I see the longevity of these three patriarchs as entirely believable.

    For instance, research shows the ancient peoples of the middle-east had healthier diets than we do today. The ancient Hebrews – to whom these three patriarchs belonged – ate wheat, barley, bread, and cheese.

    Also fruits like dates, olives, grapes, pomegranates, peaches, apples, pears, citron and carob. And figs, honey, wild onion, garlic, eggs, lentils, and herbs. They may, for all I know, also have eaten scorpions, or even snakes. But I haven’t heard they’re bad for you if you do eat them.

    The Ancient Hebrews also ate red meat and salt, but in very small quantities.

    This, then, was a healthy diet. They didn’t eat junk foods like we do today, and there were no KFCs, or Big Macs or cream cakes and their like, that today clog our arteries.

    There were no motor cars. So the Ancient Hebrews would have walked a lot, and hiked, thus getting lots of exercise. I’m going to guess there was almost no obesity then.

    This all points to a healthier lifestyle than we have today. Hence your average Ancient Hebrew would likely have lived longer than your average modern American, and have been more healthy when still living.

  3. Tamarind says:

    There’s been much public discussion over the last few months about whether Joseph stored in the Pyramids the grain that he later distributed to Egyptians during the seven year famine. Lots of people, among whom was a prominent Presidential candidate, say this grain was stored in the Pyramids.

    Are you one of these people?

  4. Christopher says:

    I say this grain could have been stored in the Pyramids, although I think this unlikely because there’s not much empty space inside the Pyramids.

    The Pyramids are a mystery. No-one knows for sure who built them, and when, and why. They’re so huge, so complex, and so exactly put together, it’s unlikely they could be built even today. Hence it’s unlikely the Ancient Egyptians built them, because they would appear not to have had the requisite technology.

    I’m of the view the Pyramids were built by a technologically advanced civilisation that catastrophically disappeared twelve thousand to thirteen thousand years ago, due to huge continental shifts that brought in the last Ice Age. So the technology and knowledge were lost, and had to be gradually thought out again by the survivors and the generations that followed…….

  5. Lucy says:

    This blog is enthralling. A small sparkling oasis of intelligence in the midst a vast indifferent desert of vapidity. I’m recommending it to all my friends.

  6. Mikey says:

    I discern you may be a fan of the music of Carlos Jobim. Are you?

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