May 25, 2016

We are concluding our study of the sons of Jacob with his favorite son Joseph. We’ve read parts of this story on previous Wednesdays, such as exploring Joseph’s connection to the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:5). (Those readings are under ”Choose Ye” which you can find using the search bar.)

Mary Baker Eddy gives glossary definitions for 9 of Jacob’s 12 sons, with 7 of them identified as sons of Jacob. Mrs. Eddy doesn’t identify Judah or Joseph as “(Jacob’s son),” so was she seeing them as symbols of the Christ and the Comforter? These readings are focusing on Joseph’s motherly, thoughtful, and caring qualities which he used to shepherd and nourish his brothers, Jacob, and the Egyptians.

The readings include the glossary definitions for Jacob, Children of Israel, Judah, and Joseph, and I was really inspired to see the growth of the Christ-idea in these symbolic Bible characters from Jacob who had the “inspiration” and the “revelation” to Joseph who truly knew how to demonstrate his dominion with “a higher sense of Truth” (SH 589).  Where the Pharaoh saw a human problem, Joseph saw a solution.  These readings also show the beginnings of the two separate kingdoms: Judah in the South where Jacob and the earlier patriarchs were buried; and Israel in the North where Joseph’s bones are buried.  (We also had some earlier readings about the tragic site where Joseph’s bones were buried; those readings are part of his brother Levi’s story.)

Years ago, I attended a Cobbey Crisler talk on the Gospel of John where I first learned about the four Greek words for love and their use by this beloved disciple.  (There is also a short book on these Greek words by C. S. Lewis, “The Four Loves,” based on his radio speeches and which is available in various formats online.) I think the four loves are beautifully illustrated in Joseph’s story of his coats as follows:

  1. storge – affectionate love, parental love – Joseph’s coat from his dad which was stripped away
  2. eros – romantic love, erotic love – Joseph’s garment which was snatched away by Potiphar’s wife
  3. phileo – friendship love, brotherly love – vestures of fine linen given to Joseph by Pharaoh
  4. agape – spiritual love, divine Love – Joseph’s panoply of Love which he always wore.

If you look on the readings page, there is a link to a youtube video from one of our modern dreamers.  It appeared on my FaceBook feed yesterday, and it reminded me of something I learned from my study of Joseph this time around.  When Joseph was a boy and first dreamed about the wheat and stars bowing down, perhaps he thought his brothers were to bow down to him. Then, from his life experiences, Joseph learned that this dream held a deeper meaning for him  — that he (like the wheat and the stars) also had to be humble enough to listen, to yield, and to obey the plan God had for him.

When I was in Sunday School, I used to wonder what happened to Joseph since his story is a lengthy 14 chapters in the Book of Genesis, and then he seems to disappear. For example, I wondered why Jesus’ genealogy was from Judah’s side of the family instead of from the more colorful Joseph.  But, when you look at Joseph as a symbol of knowing how to interpret our material dreams, then the Bible is full of Josephs, full of pilgrims in strange lands.  Thus, these readings are an attempt to show that the symbol of Joseph in Egypt, the land of affliction, remains a powerful sign throughout the Bible and Mrs. Eddy’s writings which you can find when you search the scriptures!