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Greg Brothers is an Adventist pastor in Oregon.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Another view of Joseph

One of the biggest problems you'll face this week is the fact that most of your class-members are familiar with the story of Joseph -- so familiar that they will "tune out" anything you have to say!

One way around that is to take a look at the way other people tell this story. Joseph's story is a favorite of Moslems, for instance; in fact, the Koran includes a long section (or "sura") about it. As you read, you will notice how Moslem theology (viz. the problem of evil and the suffering of the innocent) is reflected in this version of the story . . . and in the process, you may gain a new understanding of the story in Genesis.


Those are the signs of the perspicuous Book. 2 Verily, we have revealed it, an Arabic Koran; haply ye may understand. 3 We tell thee the best of stories, in inspiring thee with this Koran, though thou wert before it among the heedless.

4 When Joseph said to his father, ‘O my sire, verily, I saw eleven stars, and the sun, and the moon,- I saw them adoring me!’ 5 He said, ‘O my boy, toll not thy vision to thy brethren, for they will plot a plot against thee; verily, the devil is to man an open foe.’

6 Thus does thy Lord choose thee, and teach thee the interpretation of sayings, and fulfil His favour upon thee, and upon Jacob’s people, as He fulfilled it upon thy two forefathers before thee, Abraham and Isaac,- verily, thy Lord is knowing, wise!

7 In Joseph and his brethren were signs to those who enquire! 8 When they said, ‘Surely, Joseph and his brother are dearer to our father than we, a band although we be; verily, our father is in obvious error.9 ‘Slay Joseph, or cast him in some land; that your father’s face may be free for you, and ye may be, after he is gone, a people who do right.’

10 A speaker from amongst them spake, ‘Slay not Joseph, but throw him into the bottom of the pit; some of the travellers may pick him up, if so ye do.’

11 Said they, ‘O our father, what ails thee that thou wilt not trust us with Joseph while we are unto him sincere? 12 Send him with us to-morrow to revel and to play, and, verily, we over him will keep good guard.’

13 Said he, ‘Verily, it grieves me that ye should go off with him, for I fear lest the wolf devour him while ye of him do take no heed.’ 14 Said they, ‘Why, if the wolf should devour him while we are (such) a band, verily, we then should deserve to lose!’

15 And when they had gone off with him and agreed to put him in the depths of the pit, and we inspired him, ‘Thou shalt surely inform them of this affair of theirs and they shall not perceive.’ 16 And they came to their father at eve and weeping said, 17 ‘O our father, verily, we went forth to race and left Joseph by our goods, and the wolf devoured him,- but thou wilt not believe us, truth tellers though we be.’

18 And they brought his shirt with lying blood upon it. Said he, ‘Nay, but your souls have induced you to do this; but patience is fair, and God is He whom I ask for aid against that which ye describe.’

19 And travellers came and sent their water-drawer; and he let down his bucket. Said he, ‘O glad tidings, this is a youth.’ And they kept him secret, as a chattel; but God knew what they were doing. 20 And they sold him for a mean price,- drachmae counted out,- and they parted with him cheaply.

21 And the man from Egypt who had bought him said to his wife, ‘Honour his abiding here; it may be he will be of use to us, or we may adopt him as a son.'

Thus did we stablish Joseph in the land; and we did surely teach him the interpretation of sayings; for God can overcome His affairs, though most men do not know. And when he had reached his strength we brought him judgment and knowledge, for thus do we reward those who do good.

23 And she in whose house he was desired him for his person; and she locked the doors and said, ‘Come along with thee!’ Said he, ‘Refuge in God, verily, my Lord has made good my abiding here; verily, the wrong-doers shall not prosper.’

24 And she was anxious for him, and he would have been anxious for her, had it not been that he saw the demonstration of his Lord; thus did we turn evil and fornication from him; verily, he was of our sincere servants.

25 And they raced to the door and she rent his shirt from behind; and they met her master at the door. Said she, ‘What is the recompense of him who wishes evil for thy family, but that imprisonment or a grievous torment?’

26 Said he, ‘She desired me for my person.’

And a witness from among her family bore witness: ‘If his shirt be rent from in front, then she speaks the truth and he is of the liars; 27 but if his shirt be rent from behind, then she lies and he is of the truth tellers.’

28 And when he saw his shirt rent from behind he said, ‘This is one of your tricks; verily, your tricks are mighty! 29 Joseph, turn aside from this. And do thou, woman, ask pardon for thy fault; verily, thou wert of the sinners.’

30 And women in the city said, ‘The wife of the prince desires her young man for his person; he has infatuated her with love: verily, we see her in obvious error.’31 And when she heard of their craftiness, she sent to them, and prepared for them a banquet, and gave each of them a knife; and she said, ‘Come forth to them!’ And when they saw him they said, ‘Great God!’ and cut their hands and said, ‘God forbid! This is no mortal, this is nothing but an honourable angel.’ 32 Said she, ‘This is he concerning whom ye blamed me. I did desire him for his person, but he was too continent. But if he do not what I bid him he shall surely be imprisoned and shall surely be among the small!’

33 Said he, ‘My Lord! Prison is dearer to me than what they call on me to do; and unless Thou turn from me their craftiness I shall feel a passion for them and shall be among the ignorant!’ 34 And his Lord answered him and turned from him their craftiness; verily, He both hears and knows!

35 Then it appeared good to them, even after they had seen the signs, to imprison him until a time. 36 And there entered the prison with him two young men. Said one of them, ‘Verily, I see myself pressing wine.’ And the other said, ‘Verily, I see myself bearing on my head loaves from which the birds do eat; inform us of the interpretation thereof; verily, we see that thou art of those who do good.’

37 He said, ‘There shall not come to you any food with which ye are provided, but I will inform you both of its interpretation before it comes to you. That is (some) of what my Lord has taught me; verily, I have left the faith of a people who do not believe in God, while in the future too they disbelieve. 38 And I have followed the faith of my fathers, Abraham and Isaac and Jacob; we could not associate aught with God; that is from God’s grace upon us and upon men: but most men give not thanks.39 O ye twain fellow-prisoners! Are manifold lords better, or God, the one, the dominant? 40 What ye worship beside Him are naught but names which ye have named, ye and your fathers, for which God has sent down no authority. Judgment is only God’s; He bids you worship only Him. That is the standard of religion,- but most men do not know.41 O ye twain fellow-prisoners, as for one of you, he shall pour out wine for his lord: and as for the other, he shall be crucified, and the birds shall eat of his head. The matter is decreed whereon ye asked me for a decision!’

42 And he said to him whom he thought would escape of those two, Remember me with thy lord!’ But Satan made him forget the remembrance of his lord, so he tarried in prison a few years. 43 Then said the king, ‘Verily, I see seven fat kine which seven lean kine devoured; and seven green ears of corn and others dry. O ye chiefs! Explain to me my vision, if a vision ye can expound!’ 44 Said they, ‘Confused dreams, and naught of the exposition of such dreams know we!’

45 Then he who had escaped of those twain said,- remembering after a while,- ‘Verily, I will inform you of the interpretation thereof, so send me.’

46 ‘Joseph! O thou truth teller, explain to us the seven fat kine which seven lean devoured; and the seven green ears of corn and others dry. Haply I may go back to the men, haply they then may know!’ 47 He said, ‘Ye shall sow for seven years, as is your wont; but what ye reap, let it remain in the ear, except a little whereof ye shall eat. 48 Then there shall come after that seven severe (years) which shall devour what ye have put by before for them, save a little of what ye shall preserve. 49 Then there will come after that a year in which men shall have rain and in which they shall press.’

50 Then said the king, ‘Bring him to me.’

And when the messenger came to him, he said, Go back to thy lord, and ask him, "What meant the women who cut their hands? Verily, my lord knows their craftiness!"’

51 He said, ‘What was your design when ye desired Joseph for his person? They said, ‘God forbid, we know no bad of him.’ Said the wife of the prince, Now does the truth appear! I desired him for his person and, verily, he is of those who tell the truth.’ 52 ‘That’ (said Joseph) ‘was that he might know that I did not betray him in his absence, and that God guides not the craft of those who do betray! 53 Yet I do not clear myself, for the soul is very urgent to evil, save what my Lord has had mercy on; verily, my Lord is forgiving and merciful!’

54 And the king said, ‘Bring him to me. I will take him specially for myself.’ And when he had spoken with him he said, ‘Verily, to-day thou art with us in a permanent place of trust.’

55 He said, ‘Place me over the treasures of the land; verily, I will be a knowing keeper.’

56 Thus did we establish Joseph in the land that he might settle in what part thereof he pleased- we overtake with our mercy whom we will, nor do we waste the hire of those who do good; 57 and surely the hire of the future life is better for those who believe and who have feared.

[The sura continues with the story of Joseph's brothers. If you would like to read it in full, click on the title of this post.]


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