The Times They Are A-Changing

Having now acquired *absolute control* over the people of Egypt because they were now slaves, and having acquired all their land and livestock, Joseph could now turn his attention to his father, Jacob, who was nearing the day he would die.

“Joseph, my boy” said Jacob, “I’m feeling more and more that I’m to die soon. When this happens I want to be buried in Canaan.”

“Egypt’s not good enough for you, Father?”

“It’s not a question of Egypt not being good enough for me, it’s a question of where I truly want to buried, which is in Canaan where the graves of my forefathers are. Besides, I know God wants it that I’m buried in Canaan.”

“So then, you expect me to bring your body all the way back to Canaan when you’ve breathed your last?”

“In a word: yes.”

“I’m very busy, Father. Being Prime Minister of Egypt demands all my time. Egypt could fall apart during the time I take your body to Canaan and then return.”

“It’s very human to think one is indispensable, son. But someone always steps into the breach in an emergency. Egypt will do fine without you for a short while. You’ll see.”

“I’ll have to take your word for it.”

“It’s not my word you have to take, son, but God’s.”

***

The years went by. One day Joseph was told Jacob, still in Goshen, had taken a turn for the worst. Not having seen his father in quite long, Joseph thought it time for another visit.

“Come on boys” he said to his two young sons, Manasseh and Ephraim, “let’s go see Grandpa. It’s time you met him.”

Meanwhile Jacob was told Joseph was on his way to Goshen. He summoned up the strength to sit up in bed and tell his servants to wash him, give him a clean shirt, and trim his beard, so he could look as a venerable Patriarch should.

***

Joseph’s chariot on arrival in Goshen clattered into Jacob’s encampment area amidst billowing dust. Joseph sprang out and entered Jacob’s tent.

“Father, I hear you haven’t been at all well. I knew I had to come and see you.”

Jacob said, “God Almighty appeared to me at Luz in Canaan and blessed me. He said to me in these words ‘I will make you fruitful and increase your descendants until they become a host of nations. I will give this land to your descendants after you as a perpetual possession’………”

“Er…..I’ve heard all this before, Father,” said Joseph , “I haven’t come here to hear it again. I’m here because I’m concerned about your health……..”

Jacob, however, wasn’t to be side-tracked “……..your two sons, who were born to you in Egypt before I came here, shall be counted as my sons……..”

“You appear to be confused, Father. Manasseh and Ephraim are my sons. You are their grandfather. I and they are happy about this……”

“Sorry son, they’re to be mine, just as Reuben and Simeon are. But, should you beget more sons, they shall be yours. You have God’s word on this.”

Joseph motioned Manasseh and Ephraim who were standing outside, to enter the tent.

“Who are these?” said Jacob.

“My boys. Father, this is Manasseh my eldest, and this is his little brother Ephraim. Boys, this here is your grandfather. Say ‘How do you do'”.

Before they could do so, Jacob had enveloped them in his arms, “Ephraim, Manasseh, what beautiful names, what beautiful boys. This is indeed a happy day for me in my old age.”

After the embrace Jacob laid his right hand on Ephraim’s head, and his left hand on Manasseh’s.

“Father, it’s your right hand that must go on Manasseh because he’s the eldest, and your left hand on Ephraim because he’s the younger.”

“I know what I’m doing, son” said Jacob, “I have it from God that of the two boys it will be Ephraim who shall be the greater. But Manasseh will get his due too, only not as much as Ephraim.”

“This is unjust” said the furious Joseph. “The first-born is always the greater. It’s always been like this with us Hebrews.”

“No doubt” said Jacob, “but the times they are a-changing.”

Source: Genesis 47, 27-31; 48

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4 Responses to The Times They Are A-Changing

  1. Mathilda says:

    Despite the alleged events having happened 4000 years ago, you make them sound so contemporary. I feel I know these characters as you’ve interpreted them.

    I have to say, though, that I’m not sure I’d like to invite them for tea.

    • Christopher says:

      Perhaps you’re afraid you wouldn’t know what to say to any of them, given they lived so long ago, and therefore were of a world as different from yours as can be imagined?

      But, don’t human emotions remain the same no matter how far back you go? Were you to invite, say, Joseph for tea, you might have much to talk about. He could talk about growing up with 11 brothers who didn’t like him, and about the terror he experienced when they threw him down the well, and about what it was like to serve time in an Egyptian jail, and how difficult it was to be prime minister of Egypt, and whether he still thinks about Zuleikha, and, most tantalisingly, about his dreams.

      You might want to talk to him about your own dreams, which he might interpret, thus enabling you to learn more about yourself. This might embolden you to share with him the frustrations of your own life. Who knows what this might lead to!!

      You might therefore find Joseph the most fascinating person you ever invited to tea…….

  2. Charles says:

    Reading this exchange, I remembered a YouTube video I watched some months ago, in which a robotic engineer was having a question-and-answer session with an intelligent robot he’d constructed. He had fed (programmed?) into its “brain” a large amount of general-knowledge information, which the robot could draw on when coming up with its responses to the questions.

    Most of what the robot said seemed to me more intelligent and interesting than what I hear from most humans today. Given the giant steps in robotic technology it won’t be long before robots almost indistinguishable from humans in their appearance and ability to converse, will be ubiquitous.

    If what I saw in the above-mentioned video is any guide, I think I’m going to prefer socialising with these humanoid robots, to socialising with humans.

    What has all this to do with Joseph? Well, were I today to have tea with him, I think I would find conversing with him as interesting as I think conversing with future humanoid robots will be.

    • Christopher says:

      Your comment implicitly asks why most humans today are so boring to speak with. It’s because they don’t know much about what goes on outside their own bailiwick, and don’t have the curiosity to find out.

      That today’s humans don’t know much outside their own bailiwick is a paradox, given that most humans today are hooked up to the internet at home, and so have in effect their very own reference library. Hence today, if you’re ignorant, it’s wilful.

      Wilful ignorance comes out of laziness, because it does take time and effort to ferret out information about anything outside one’s own bailiwick. How many times have people told me they don’t have the time to read books, or search out new knowledge. But these time-strapped people seem to have lots of time to watch television reality shows and game shows.

      Another reason for incuriosity is that if you’re incurious you don’t have to change. The more you learn, the more you may have to change the beliefs which have comforted you all your life. To change these beliefs can be terrifying – almost like dying.

      The “educated mind” has always been the province of the few. It seems it will always be this way, as far as humans go. It’ll be the humanoid robots of the future that will have “educated minds”.

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