Friday, December 02, 2005

Advent: Week 1 Day 6

Another duplex: the rest of Joseph's story and Jacob blesses Judah

Upper left: Joseph feeds his family

Here we see the prophecy of Joseph's dream fulfilled: his brothers come and bow down before him! (See yesterday for more about this.) In the background, the workers come with the food supplies Joseph gives to his family. It is a very touching scene, for Joseph, instead of gloating and rejecting them, weeps bitterly. "I am your brother, Joseph! Is my father still alive?"
My aunt told me an of an old Italian proverb, which translates as "the blood calls". This time, we see Joseph (son of Jacob) not as Joseph-the-Carpenter, but as Jesus, rejected by His "brothers" (all mankind!) yet sent to rescue His family from starvation! He indeed feeds us from His bounty, and weeps when He sees us, coming pitifully and fearfully, to bow before Him. "I am your Brother!" He tells us. "Come forward, and I will give you what you need."

We should here note that eventually Jacob and the whole clan move to Egypt; it ought to be recalled that Jacob had another name, Israel - so his children are called the Israelites.

Lower right: Jacob, about to die, blesses Judah.

Some time later, Jacob and all his descendants now live in Egypt. Jacob pronounces his farewell (a verbal last will) to each of his sons... Judah, though not the oldest, and not even the hero of the rescue, receives a dramatic blessing, which I will quote in full, as it reveals the next step on the ladder coming down from heaven (see yesterday's entry!):
"Juda is a lion's whelp: to the prey, my son, thou art gone up: resting thou hast couched as a lion, and as a lioness, who shall rouse him? The sceptre shall not be taken away from Juda, nor a ruler from his thigh, till he come that is to be sent, and he shall be the expectation of nations. Tying his foal to the vineyard, and his ass, O my son, to the vine. He shall wash his robe in wine, and his garment in the blood of the grape. His eyes are more beautiful than wine, and his teeth whiter than milk." [Genesis 49:9-12, emphasis added]

Here is the next phrase of the great prophecy: The one who is to come, the ruler, will come from the tribe of Judah! (A friend tells me that this is the origin to which "Aslan" of the Narnia tales of C. S. Lewis may be traced.)

On the back of my old beat-up paperback edition of Chesterton's The Everlasting Man it says: "More thrilling than any detective story." And it is - but so is the Bible. (This is to be expected, the Bible is merely the story of the Everlasting Man, Jesus Christ.) Here, with these words from Jacob to Judah, we have the next clue in the Great Story - which, as Chesterton remarks, happens to be a true story (one that actually happened!) Whenever I hear that verse from "Oh Little Town of Bethlehem" that says "The hopes and fears of all the years" I think of this strange, slow working out of clues and details down through millennia. We look at the Hebrew people and see this as referring to them. But wasn't Egypt an important part, too? Sure it was - that strange long strip of green along the Nile, with strange grandiose architecture and some 5,000 years of recorded history. And so were other races and peoples, in varying degrees, which we do not have time to explore at present. (My use of the word "tribe", however, is a clue to one other race whom we shall hear more about, and which like Egypt played a major role in this story, perhaps even a greater one than Egypt!) But with Joseph and the transfer of the Israelites to Egypt, the scene was set for one of the singularly great events in history, which we see tomorrow, and which has been remembered with high ritual for over three thousand years.


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