Archive for June, 2009


June 6, 2009


Joseph is portrayed as a servant of Pharaoh. God blessed him in Egypt.  God made Joseph “a father of Pharaoh and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt” (Gen. 45.8). The behavior of Joseph during the time of famine was exploitative and oppressive. In exchange for food grains Joseph collected from people money, livestock and land, and finally made them slaves of Pharaoh. Any predator waits for a vulnerable prey to pounce on (47.20-21). Joseph capitalized on the vulnerable situation of the people, and thus strengthened the power of the emperor over Egyptians. In this way Joseph had paved a way for the oppression of the Egyptians, which later came back haunting Israelites (Ex.1-3). Violence begets violence. It draws violent reprisal, the repetition of mimetic violence. The violent reprisal is seen in the Book of Exodus.

God was not hostile to the exploitative and oppressive empire, when God’s chosen person was the perpetrator. God’s chosen man Jacob blessed Pharaoh (47.10). Although the Exodus story expresses that God was against the oppressive Egyptian empire and was committed to liberate the oppressed through liberating violence, the accounts of Joseph portray a different image of God, who was friendly with the oppressive empire through his chosen man Joseph. Ironically God’s chosen man was the oppressor of the Egyptians. God was not indignant if his chosen people were the oppressors, but if the oppressors were Egyptians: “I have…seen how the Egyptians oppress them” (Ex. 3.9). With God’s blessing Joseph enriched Pharaoh and expanded the power of the emperor by using food as a weapon.

In contrast to the oppressed, exploited and enslaved Egyptians, Pharaoh gave Jacob and his children “the best part of the land” in Egypt (47.5-6, 11). Joseph provided them with food (47.12). It is said that “Israel settled in the land of Egypt, in the region of Goshen, and they gained possessions in it, and were very fruitful and multiplied exceedingly” (Gen. 47.27 cf. Ex. 1.7).

In contrast to the native citizens (Egyptians), who were oppressed, exploited and enslaved by Joseph on behalf of Pharaoh by using food as a weapon, the aliens were privileged, prolific and powerful. Egyptians’ resentment against Israelites can be seen in the Book of Exodus. The oppressed and exploited native citizens under the rule of Joseph took revenge against the privileged, prolific and powerful Israelites, the beneficiaries of Joseph’s oppressive rule, by supporting a policy of repression of Israelites. Violence begets violence. Joseph’s violence against Egyptians in favor of Israelites led to a violent reprisal.


Thus, we find two contrasting images of God: one is cozy with the oppressive and exploitative empire, and the other opposes the oppressive and exploitative empire.

So the question is: WHO IS YOUR GOD?