April 1, 2015
We are completing our study of Jacob’s sons with Judah (although we might return to learn about some of Jacob’s other sons at another time).
Last week the readings ended with Simeon remaining a prisoner until Benjamin is brought to Egypt to be presented to Joseph. Reuben offered to kill his own sons if he did not return to Canaan with Benjamin, Jacob’s youngest son. This “eye for an eye” mentality did not persuade Jacob, and Reuben had already broken promises before, such as his infidelity with his father’s wife and his failure in shepherding (or watching over) his brother Joseph. Simeon and Levi had shown that they were controlled by wrath and revenge, so the next son in chronological order was Judah.
Judah learned (and I think in a very embarrassing way) the value of keeping pledges and promises, and he offered to be a “surety” for Benjamin in returning him to his father Jacob. A surety means to be sure, and it also means a person who takes responsibility for another’s performance of an undertaking, such as the payment of a debt. Instead of the word “surety,” the Revised Standard Version occasionally uses the phrase “guarantee your servant’s well-being” (Psalms 119:122). The Book of Isaiah uses the word “Redeemer,” and Paul speaks of Jesus as being the “surety of a better testament.” (Heb. 7:22) Perhaps you were wondering what Judah had to do with the Easter story, but I love how this concept of the Messiah’s role was brought forth in Judah’s offering of himself for his brother. I had never made this connection until I read all the verses of Joseph’s story in preparing this lesson. In reading Judah’s speech before Jacob and Joseph, you can certainly feel the tone of Jesus’ statement: “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13)
Jacob’s sons were all “wrestling with error,” (SH 308) much like their earthly father, so I’ve included a copy of Rembrandt’s “Jacob and the Angel” on the readings page. I also have a link to a short podcast on ”MBE Mentioned Louis Agassiz” who is in our readings (and who is mentioned more than any other contemporary individual by Mrs. Eddy).
Comment from a reader – Thank you for including me in your practice for the materials. I see it also as the lesson about “being our brother’s keeper.” (pun not intended)