Wednesday, December 14, 2011

In the end, forgiveness

“In the final chapter of the book [of Genesis], readers encounter the opposite extreme, forgiveness. There, Joseph and his brothers forgive one another after a long history of jealousy, anger, deception, and abuse. Jacob is at death’s door, and Joseph’s brothers fear that Joseph is harboring anger against them and plotting to kill them after their father’s death, much as Esau planned to do with Jacob (50:15; see 27:41). So Joseph’s brothers claim that their father has ordered Joseph to forgive them (50:16–17). When Joseph hears their words, he weeps. The brothers offer themselves as Joseph’s servants (50:18; see also 32:19[18], 21[20]), but Joseph instead speaks graciously to them and reassures them that he will provide for both them and their children. It is a moment of reconciliation offered just before the book closes, allowing readers to see Joseph as an anti-Cain—a brother who has all the power and all the reasons to harm his brothers but instead turns away from anger and, despite the inherent difficulties, offers forgiveness. Whereas Cain suggested that he never was and never should have been his brother’s keeper, Joseph shows himself to be in precisely this role, providing protection and provisions for his brothers in a foreign land.”— From Fratricide to Forgiveness: The Language and Ethics of Anger in Genesis , page 4

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