The Family of Jacob, Together at Last

Week twelve: Genesis 42–50

It’s family reunion time in Genesis Chapters 45 and 46. Like most family reunions, attendees, food, travel arrangements, accommodations, lists, love and forgiveness are all part of the process.

 Reunion plans begin after a dramatic relationship-reveal.  Joseph meets the sons of patriarch Jacob, who’ve come to Egypt AGAIN, to buy provisions for their famished families. After some stressful shenanigans engineered by Joseph to punish his siblings, the now prime minister of Egypt, informs them he is the brother they threw into a ditch then sold. Terrified, nevertheless the brothers have demonstrated they have changed. Humble, honest, and devoted to their father, they prove willing to sacrifice for one another.

A lot of weeping, hugging, and kissing transpires and:

“It was heard in Pharaoh’s house…. and it pleased the Pharaoh well, and ….

Pharaoh said unto Joseph, Say unto thy brethren… go, get you unto the land of Canaan; … take your father and your households, and come unto me; and I will give you the good of the land of Egypt…” Gen 45:16-19

With Pharaoh’s support, Joseph invites his entire family to live in Egypt. Pharaoh, without reading Marie Kondo, counsels the family of Israel not to bring all their things (Genesis 45:20) “Also regard not your stuff; for the good of all the land of Egypt is yours.”

Pharaoh’s admonition “to regard not your stuff,” and the family reconciliation, demonstrate:  traveling light means letting go of things AND leaving behind resentments.

It highlights the potential of radical repentance and forgiveness to promote healing and happiness. The Savior teaches this. He promises it will bless us eternally as well as temporally. We FEEL the power of repentance and forgiveness flood the pages of this Biblical epic.

After the feasting, tears,and gifts, after wagons are loaded with supplies to sustain the entire mishpocheh on the journey to Canaan and back to Egypt, Joseph warns his band of brothers: “See that ye fall not out by the way.”

Gen 45:24 (KJV) or “Do not quarrel on the way!” (RSV) .

This principle: that parents provide for children’s needs while prohibiting children to fight among themselves, is echoed in the Book of Mormon. King Benjamin admonishes in Mosiah 4:14:

“And ye will not suffer your children that they go hungry, or naked, neither will ye suffer that they transgress the laws of God, and fight and quarrel one with another…”

All the food, money and new clothes won’t bring joy if jealousy, greed or blaming prevail on the journey. As it was in Joseph’s time and Mosiah’s time, so it is with our families as we travel towards our heavenly home.

Back in Canaan, convincing their 130-year-old Father Israel to move to Egypt is not a slam dunk. First, he doesn’t believe the son he has mourned for nearly a generation is alive. Jacob loves his other sons but doesn’t trust them entirely. However, the compelling evidence of twenty asses bearing gifts from Joseph to his father convinces him. “It is enough!” He exclaims, acknowledging Joseph must be alive and agreeing he must see him before dying.

 An archaic form of the Hebrew phrase, “It is enough!” is used in 45:28, but the idea of “enough already”… is repeated in the Passover haggadah and has been for over a millenia (Seder Rav Amran). “Dayenu!” which still means, “it would have been enough!”  is sung at Passover to remind all that the first miraculous blessing of God to Israel would have sufficed to elicit utter devotion. The sacred history of many miracles and great deliverance is recited. Celebrants recall, recognize and experience the blessings heaped on blessings Jehovah has given those with eyes to see and ears to hear. Counting blessings, past and present, reminds us we all, if we choose to acknowledge them, have received more gifts from God than we should ever need to overflow with gratitude to our Heavenly parents.  (Song ‘Dayenu’.)

So “Israel journeyed with all that he had,” … More than 66 souls “which came into Egypt,” much livestock and “their goods which they had gotten in the land of Canaan,” But first, to Beer-Sheba, to sacrifice and seek guidance where Jacob’s father had already built an altar and both Abraham and Isaac had offered offerings. In return, Yahweh blesses Jacob with specific promises. I believe the Lord will bless everyone with this kind of encouragement as we earnestly seek it in face of life’s unexpected twists and turns. In my life these divine assurances have made all the difference when facing overwhelming situations over which I had no control.

Emboldened by the Lord, Jacob advances to Egypt with confidence.  As he approaches he sends Judah ahead to let Joseph know he is near. What happens next brings me to tears every time I read it. Joseph, second only to Pharaoh in Egypt, “made ready his chariot, and went up to meet his father Israel …and fell upon his neck, and wept on his neck a good while.  And Israel said unto Joseph, now let me die since I have seen thy face, because thou art yet alive.”

But…as it says in the Muppet Christmas Carol…Jacob did NOT die! He lived another 17 years with his family, including Joseph and his sons. He lives to bless Pharaoh, and his own posterity. When he does die, his wish to be buried in Canaan is honored by Joseph. Israel left to his children, and to us all, a legacy of faithfulness to covenants, forgiveness and gratitude which will reliably fortify us through life’s unpredictable trials and traumas.  Having experienced many, I can testify, this formula works.

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