Posts tagged " Joseph "

Three Wise Men

September 2nd, 2019 Posted by Thought Tools 23 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 out for size.  I think you’ll be surprised at how precisely it accounts for your experiences in the real world. 

We read of three men whose wisdom was admired and whose guidance and leadership was sought: Joseph, Daniel, and Mordechai.  Each withstood alluring attempts to get him 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 Nebuchadnezar.  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.

ולא תִטַּמְּאוּ בָּהֶם וְנִטְמֵתֶם בָּם

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

The underlined Hebrew root for impure is  (טמ(א, pronounced TaM(eh)

Ancient Jewish wisdom asks what the repetition of the root word TaM adds to the verse. The response is that in addition to impure, the word also means unintelligent, dull  or– dumb. In fact, T’ and ‘D’ are both dental consonants, produced by placing the tongue behind the upper teeth causing considerable etymological ambiguity between these two letters.  Many scholars believe that the English word ‘dumb’ derived from the Hebrew source TaM. 

IMPURE      =         טמ             =             DUMB

The message is that yielding to pressure, including bodily appetites, reduces the chances of a happy and fulfilled life.  What is more, submitting to hedonistic urges gradually makes one stupid.  If practiced multi-generationally, it eventually produces very dumb people.  The process of exercising restraint and saying ‘no’ makes people smarter and better 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.  This is an inconvenient truth because so many who have cast their lot in with the camp of the secular fundamentalists, America’s current government-sponsored religion, are dismayed to discover the very real and practical benefits of the twin Biblical faiths, Judaism and Christianity.

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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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Who Are You Calling a Hebrew?

October 8th, 2018 Posted by Thought Tools 21 comments

The Mayflower’s historic 66 day voyage in 1620 from Plymouth, England to the New World was characterized by what was then typical hardship for both passengers and crew.  Arduous handling of the heavy canvas sails, coping with almost non-existent bathroom facilities, and barely surviving on non-refrigerated food were only a few of the challenges faced by those who made that voyage.

While much has improved for mariners, one activity that plagued those on the Mayflower still requires attention today.  Whether a cruise ship like the Symphony of the Seas at over 1,100 feet long (more than a thousand times larger than the Mayflower) or the small motorboat on which the Lapin family explores coastal British Columbia, all boats have bilge pumps.  Their purpose is to return the water that inevitably finds its way into the bottoms of boats back to where it belongs—outside the boat.

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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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How Much Is Too Much?

July 25th, 2017 Posted by Thought Tools 24 comments

Policies that contradict timeless truths expressed in the Bible simply don’t work.  Confiscatory rates of taxation and punitive inheritance taxes fly in the face of wisdom contained in ancient texts revered by tens of millions of Jews and Christians.

These texts are relevant today because ideologies which the Bible frowns upon inevitably turn out to be poor public policy.  For example, when the Good Book labels promiscuity as a sin, believers understand that God is not only indicating His displeasure at this behavior, He is assuring us that no societal good will come of it.  The Bible offers insights into destructive taxation policies that prove equally true.

The first Biblical mention of taxation comes in Genesis 41.  Bewildered by disturbing dreams, Pharaoh unsuccessfully seeks explanations from his courtiers.  Finally his butler, newly released from jail, remembers his cell-mate, the Hebrew  lad, Joseph.  Joseph interprets the king’s dreams to be God’s forewarning of seven years of plenty to be followed by seven years of famine.  In verse 34, Joseph recommends applying a tax upon the Egyptian economy.

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We Interrupt This Life

May 11th, 2010 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

When you
were a child, the unwanted food on your plate probably didn’t become more
appealing when your mother reminded you that children in Africa
were starving. Similarly, knowing that the current downturn does not compare
with The Depression doesn’t necessarily make our own lives less stressful. And
when we live with constant tension we are more likely to make serious mistakes.
Even great Biblical leaders faltered.

 

The first
ten chapters of the second book of Samuel are almost entirely packed with accounts
of King David’s wars.  Challenges and
attacks follow upon trials and tribulations. 
If he wasn’t fighting the house of Saul he was fighting the Philistines.

 

All of a
sudden, chapter 11 reveals an entirely new scene.  King David appears to be smitten by Batsheva,
the wife of one of his officers.  What
follows leads the prophet Nathan to severely castigate the king, and while God
accepts David’s repentance, the baby born to David and Batsheva dies.  However, in chapter 12 they have another
baby, Solomon, who later becomes the most successful king of Israel and the
builder of the temple. After this excursion into David’s personal life the
narrative returns to his frightful struggles to build a kingdom. 

 

One other
well-known instance of a lengthy narrative being interrupted by what appears to
be a totally extraneous story involves Joseph. Genesis 37 relates the jealousy
his brothers felt for Joseph, leading to their selling him.

 

Genesis 39
picks up the story of Joseph being purchased as a slave by Potiphar in Egypt.  But what happens in the intervening chapter
38? 

 

Chapter 38
details what appears to be a somewhat unseemly relationship between Joseph’s
brother, Judah and someone he thought was prostitute but who is actually his
former daughter-in-law, Tamar.  Genesis
38 concludes with the birth of Judah and Tamar’s twin boys, Peretz and Zerach.

 

These two
strange interruptions of a narrative are linked because Peretz, the result of
the story in Genesis 38, is the tenth generation forebear of King David (See
the end of chapter 4 in Ruth).

 

These two
stories, David with Batsheva and Judah with Tamar seem shockingly
improper.  While ancient Jewish wisdom
emphasizes that they are not as bad as they seem to be on the surface, there
was certainly misconduct. In the midst of difficult times, Judah and David
behave badly. However, both men acknowledge their weakness and are sincerely
repentant. Through working on rebuilding themselves they become even greater
human beings.

 

Ancient
Jewish wisdom explains that rising above their flawed moments propels these men
to greatness. Having overcome dark moments, Scripture gives us a glimpse into
the purpose of their lives. Both these events directly led to the construction
of the Temple in Jerusalem at the hand of Solomon. We can stay
on God’s roadmap even if we can’t see it while running out of gasoline in the
middle of a traffic jam.

 

Indeed,
we all find ourselves in the midst of turbulent events that swirl around the
foundations of our lives.  That is not an
excuse for sinning, but neither is sinning an excuse for giving up. Precisely
at times like these we need reminders that there is a roadmap. If we detour we can
get back on the path and even the wrong road can trampoline us to a higher
level.

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