Morning Belz, March 15
Here comes that dreamer.
A loyal, annoying and very forceful friend of mine started a group earlier this year for people trying to read through the Orthodox Study Bible in one year. It has a Slack channel and now almost 50 members. Having never read the Bible through, I joined last month, and finished Genesis (behind schedule) last week on vacation.
This isn’t an ancient literature newsletter and won’t become that, but, even if you’re turned off by all things religious, as I know some of you are, you have to admit the Old Testament is in the bedrock of culture for about 4 billion human beings (Jews, Christians and Muslims).
I’m struck by the story of Joseph. By a circuitous route, he preserves the nation of Israel in a disastrous famine and oversees its flourishing in Egypt, really a foundational moment in Judeo-Christian tradition, the bridge between the nomadic existence of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and the Exodus led by Charlton Heston. But also in terms of narrative, and quotable moments, and dramatic resolution, Joseph’s story is straight fire.
He was Jacob’s favorite son (his mother was Rachel, Jacob’s true love). And he was a tattle-tale, and he had dreams that he related and interpreted for his family — free of charge! In one, he and his brothers were sheafs of grain and they bowed to him. In another, he dreamed that the sun, moon, and eleven stars bowed to him. He had eleven brothers, so that interpretation wasn’t tricky. Neither dream endeared him to his siblings. The second even bugged his dad, who had a talent for the cutting remark. “What is this dream you have dreamed? Shall your mother and I and your brothers indeed come and bow down on the ground before you?”
Joseph’s brothers had seen enough. They plotted to kill him the next time they saw him in the fields. “Here comes that dreamer!” they said. “Let’s kill him...and say that a ferocious animal devoured him. Then we’ll see what comes of his dreams.”
Only Reuben’s intervention spared Joseph’s life. He persuaded his vengeful brothers to sell their younger brother into slavery rather than kill him. So it was off to Egypt for Joseph, sold for silver to traders from the southeast.
Ultimately, there was a happy ending. The kid who couldn’t keep his mouth shut about people bowing down to him rose from slavery to become Pharaoh’s right hand in Egypt. Everyone bowed to him. He saved Egypt, and his family, and then consolidated Pharaoh’s power over the land in the kingdom. Hubris and favoritism, betrayal, slavery, seduction, treachery, imprisonment, dreams and interpretations, palace intrigue, a rise, a fall, and a meteoric rise, and then the reunion with his brothers, Joseph’s weeping and tricks and subterfuge, and Jacob’s joy at learning his favorite son was alive and thriving fill out one of the most detailed, lengthy stories in the Bible.
I don’t know why Hollywood hasn’t gotten this one right yet but highly recommend Genesis 37-50. Reading it made me more interested in the power of stories. Haven’t seen the musical so I can’t comment on that.
Painting pictured above is “Joseph recognized by his brothers,” by Léon Pierre Urbain Bourgeois, 1863.
Back to more mundane concerns tomorrow.
Long-term “techno-optimism,” with short-term limits — Adair Turner
Florida’s pandemic response getting a double-take — Axios
The election of 1876 was a highly damaging fraud — American Heritage
China making noises about invading Taiwan — Radio Free Asia
Teen hacker exposes vulnerabilities of education software — WIRED
Beth Moore exits the Southern Baptist church — Religion News Service
“Why do you just keep looking at each other? I have heard that there is grain in Egypt. Go down there and buy some for us, so that we may live and not die.” — Jacob to his sons amid the famine
About: I was a newspaper reporter for 14 years, most recently at the Minneapolis Star Tribune. I explained why my family left Minneapolis here. Now we live just outside Chattanooga and I work on Scuffed News, a project that either succeeds by July or will have to be abandoned. This is my newsletter. Please share it with anyone you think might enjoy it. I also periodically add people to the distribution list myself. You can support all of this work with your money on Patreon.