Thursday, July 09, 2009

Reading for Friday, 14th Week in Ordinary Time

From: Genesis 46:1-7, 28-30

Jacob Journeys to Egypt

[1] So Israel took his journey with all that he had, and came to Beer-sheba, and offered sacrifices to the God of his lather Isaac. [2] And God spoke to Israel in visions of the night, and said, "Jacob, Jacob." And he said, "Here am I." [3] Then he said, "I am God, the God of your father; do not be afraid to go down to Egypt; for I will there make of you a great nation. [4] I will go down with you to Egypt, and I will also bring you up again; and Joseph's hand shall close your eyes." [5] Then Jacob set out from Beer-sheba; and the sons of Israel carried Jacob their father, their little ones, and their wives, in the wagons which Pharaoh had sent to carry him. [6] They also took their cattle and their goods, which they had gained in the land of Canaan, and came into Egypt, Jacob and all his offspring with him, [7] his sons, and his sons' sons with him, his daughters, and his sons' daughters; all his offspring he brought with him into Egypt.

[28] He sent Judah before him to Joseph, to appear before him. in Goshen; and they came into the land of Goshen. [29] Then Joseph made ready his chariot and went up to meet Israel his father in Goshen; and he presented himself to him, and fell on his neck, and wept on his neck a good while. [30] Israel said to Joseph, "Now let me die, since I have seen your face and know that you are still alive."
46:1-47:12. The narrative now focuses again on the family of Jacob in Canaan. The figure and position of Joseph act as the backdrop against which to explain the establishment of Israel in Egypt; it is the result of a divine command.

Jacob goes down to Egypt forced by the famine which is ravaging the land of Canaan (cf. 47:4). The Lord has prepared the way for him by means of a series of painful events and a series of tests whose meaning is now plain to see. This is a common human experience: "The test, I don't deny it, proves to be very hard: you have to go uphill, 'against the grain'. What is my advice? That you must say "omnia in bonum", everything that happens, 'everything that happens to me I for my own good...' Therefore the right conclusion is to accept, as a pleasant reality, what seems so hard to you" (St. J Escrivá, "Furrow", 127).

46:1-5. This movement to Egypt could have put a question-mark against God's promise to give the descendants of Abraham and Isaac the land of Canaan. God's intervention convinces Jacob that this is all part of God's providential plans. In fact, Jacob's move to Egypt is the outcome of an express command from God. In Genesis 26:2 God forbade Isaac to go to Egypt: this was a sign that his land was Canaan. Now a similar command is needed to make Israel leave the country. Like everything in the patriarchal period this command is given in a night-time vision, the last such vision the patriarchs are to receive The command does not however cancel God's promise about Canaan: God himself will go with Jacob to Egypt, and he will take him out of there. The reference to this is not just to the fact that Jacob will be buried in Canaan (cf. 50:1-14) but to the ultimate liberation, the Exodus.

Jacob's status is not reduced by his going into Egypt; on the contrary, it is enhanced and underlined: "For, what does he need if God goes with him? [...] Who is as powerful in his homeland as Jacob was in a strange country? Who had such abundance of wealth, as he had in a time of famine? Who was as strong in his youth, as this man was in his old age? [...] Who was as rich in his kingdom, as this man on his pilgrimage? He even blessed kings [...], and who will call him poor whom the world was not worthy to know? for his company was in heaven" (St. Ambrose, "De Iacob Et Vita Beata", 2, 9. 38).

46:28-34. Joseph does not wait for Jacob to visit him as would be his due, given his high social position and the fact that the patriarch has immigrant status. His filial feelings and the honor owed to his father lead him to go to meet him without delay and throw himself into his arms.

Jacob sees all his sons gathered around him. Now he knows that his mission as Israel, the father of the people, is accomplished; he can die in peace. Because the Israelites are shepherds, they keep a certain distance from the Egyptians; this also ensures they do not lose their identity as a people. As regards Goshen, see the note on 45:10.
Source: "The Navarre Bible: Text and Commentaries". Biblical text taken from the Revised Standard Version and New Vulgate. Commentaries made by members of the Faculty of Theology of the University of Navarre, Spain. Published by Four Courts Press, Kill Lane, Blackrock, Co. Dublin, Ireland. Reprinted with permission from Four Courts Press and Scepter Publishers, the U.S. publisher.

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