Posts tagged " Genesis 41 "

Three Wise Men

June 2nd, 2020 Posted by Thought Tools 18 comments

What if I told you that you could change how intelligent you are – or your children will be? Perhaps you’re saying, “That’s ridiculous. IQ is immutable and unlikely to be altered by one’s behavior. Or maybe you’re saying, “I don’t know, but if it’s true sign me up!”

However you may have reacted, I hope you’re intrigued enough by this proposition of ancient Jewish wisdom to try it on for size.  I think you’ll be surprised at how precisely it accounts for your experiences in the real world. 

We read of three Bible characters whose wisdom was admired and whose guidance and leadership was sought: Joseph, Daniel, and Mordechai.  Each withstood alluring attempts to get them to abandon restraint.

Watch Joseph as his employer’s wife, by all accounts a most attractive woman, tries to seduce him.

…after these things, his master’s wife cast her eyes upon Joseph; and she said, lie with me.  But he refused… ‘[saying] because you are his wife, how can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?’  And she spoke to Joseph day by day but he did not listen to her to lie with her or be with her.
(Genesis 39:7-10)

Soon after, we find that Joseph’s wisdom and leadership qualities become evident to all.

And Pharaoh said to his servants, ‘Can we find anyone like this man in whom the spirit of God is’?  Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘In as much as God has shown you all this, there is none so smart and wise as you are you shall be over my house, and according to your word shall all my people be ruled.’
(Genesis 41:38-40)

We encounter Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah in the court of King Nebuchadnezzar.  The Babylonian King, intending to entice them into the Babylonian aristocracy, arranged for them to be fed his royal, but unkosher, food. 

And the king appointed them a daily portion of the king’s food, and of the wine which he drank; and to bring them up during three years, that at its end they might stand before the king.  Among these were of the children of Judah, Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah.
(Daniel 1:5-6)

Refusing to surrender their Hebrew identity, the four heroes requested a purely vegetarian diet (which is by definition kosher).  The king’s steward, nervous about disobeying the king and being held responsible for the four Jews’ not looking well-fed, hesitated.  Daniel made this suggestion:

‘…test your servants, I beg you, ten days; and let them give us only vegetables to eat, and water to drink then let our faces be looked upon before you, against the faces of the other young people that eat of the portion of the king’s food; and according to what you see, deal with your servants’.  So he consented to them in this matter, and tested them ten days and at the end of ten days their faces appeared better in appearance…
(Daniel 1:11-15)

After resisting the appeal of the king’s food, Daniel and his colleagues became recognized for wisdom:

And the king talked with them; and among them all was found none like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah…in all matters of wisdom and understanding that the king inquired of them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and astrologers that were in all his realm.
(Daniel 1:19-20)

Finally, we meet Mordechai who refused to bow to the wicked Haman. Each day, courtiers tried to persuade Mordechai to submit.

It came to pass as they spoke daily to him and he did not listen to them, that they told Haman…And when Haman saw that Mordecai did not bow, nor did him obeisance, then was Haman full of wrath.
(Esther 3:4-5)

Though it would have been so much easier to submit to Haman, Mordechai stood firm, loyal to his spiritual identity.  Not surprisingly, as the book ends, we read:

And all the acts of his power and of his might, and the declaration of the greatness of Mordechai, to which the king advanced him, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the kings of Media and Persia?..Mordechai the Jew was next to King Ahasuerus…
(Esther 10:1-2)

What phenomenon is playing out in all these cases? Leviticus 11:43 sheds light.

וְלֹא תִטַּמְּאוּ בָּהֶם וְנִטְמֵתֶם בָּם

…nor shall you make yourselves impure with them [forbidden non-kosher foods] that you should become impure by them.

The underlined Hebrew root (in blue) for impure is  טמ, pronounced TaM

Ancient Jewish wisdom asks what the repetition of the root word TaM adds to the verse. The word has a second meaning—foolish. The response explains a cause and an effect.  If you take the action that makes you impure, then you will inevitably become a lessened person.  The effect is not temporary. 

The message is that yielding to bodily appetites reduces the chances of a happy and fulfilled life.  Submitting to our hedonistic urges gradually reduces our life effectiveness.  If practiced multi-generationally, it eventually produces less self-disciplined and less wise people.  The process of exercising self-restraint and saying ‘no’ to ourselves makes us more suited to leadership.

In other words, adhering to Biblical faith, its rituals of restraint and its principles is a key to wisdom, leadership and success. Tragically, we see examples of too many people in the streets today who have been raised without God and utterly devoid of Biblical principles. They are destroying civilization as they reject any idea of “Thou Shall Not” let alone loving one’s neighbor.

Listening to God’s word not only makes you a better person, but also a wiser one. It forces us to confront ultimate issues and to face ideas that really matter.  To make the exercise as easy and enjoyable as possible we have produced a set of over 150 Thought Tools collected into three volumes and they are now on sale. This is literally a marathon run for your mind and a super stretch session for your soul.

Put wisdom on the menu for family meals.
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Ace the Interview

June 3rd, 2019 Posted by Thought Tools 9 comments

Finding a terrific job is not easy.  One way to ruin your chances is by projecting over-confidence. While employers certainly want to know what you can do for them, being too full of yourself will turn off most interviewers. Strangely enough, in one of the few job interviews in Scripture, the prospective employee seems to display exactly this wrong attitude—yet he gets the job! I am talking, of course, about Joseph. Understanding his behavior will provide us with some specific strategies for interviews and meetings.

After failing to find satisfying interpretations to his two disturbing dreams, Pharaoh recounted them to Joseph. (Genesis 41:8 & 15) Joseph then explained how the dreams foretold seven years of economic abundance followed by seven years of famine.  Astonishingly, he then offers unsolicited advice.  Joseph suggests that Pharaoh hire a wise administrator (implying that he himself is the ideal candidate) to supervise the economy.

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Don’t Tell the Boss

August 14th, 2018 Posted by Thought Tools 10 comments

A common dilemma in business is when your immediate boss responds to growth by appointing a supervisor above you.  In addition to a layer of management now insulating you from your boss, it becomes especially unpleasant if the new manager is an outsider.  Whatever the difficulties, one thing any experienced business professional knows is that going over your new supervisor’s head directly to your old boss can be a career-killer.

This makes a sequence of events late in Genesis especially surprising.  Like many of our Thought Tools, this one will definitely repay you if you read it with an open Bible .  Pharaoh appoints Joseph viceroy over Egypt saying, “Only the throne shall be higher than you.”  He repeatedly admonishes Egypt that Joseph’s word will rule in all matters.  (Genesis 41:40-45) 

It must have been a tad awkward for those senior administrators who formerly enjoyed direct access to Pharaoh himself.  Nonetheless, Joseph gets to work diligently making the most of the seven years of agricultural and economic abundance.  (Genesis 41:48-49)

So it is astonishing when the Egyptians approach Pharaoh directly.

The entire land of Egypt was starving and the people cried out to Pharaoh for bread.
(Genesis 41:55)

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Only the Few

April 30th, 2018 Posted by Thought Tools 32 comments

Most teachers follow the rule that if one student asks a question, more than one student is thinking the same question. So when I repeatedly get asked one question, I know that it is time to rephrase the answer I have been giving and try to explain it more fully.

The question I get concerns our teaching that only about 20% of the Israelites left Egypt. I understand that this isn’t part of general Sunday School lessons, but that is because it is a message for adults with enormous implications.

In fact, the Italian economist, Vilfredo Pareto, is credited with popularizing this eighty-twenty principle although I have no idea if he knew that it is found in  the Bible. There are plenty of examples of this rule that will set your head nodding.

If you enjoy cooking or baking, you probably use about 20% of your recipes 80% of the time.  You probably wear about 20% of your clothing 80% of the time.  Perhaps about 80% of your social connectivity comes from interactions with only 20% of your friends. Those in sales know that about 80% of their sales revenue comes from 20% of your customers. 

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