Abraham and Joseph in Genesis

Jan Provost: Abraham, Sarah and the Angel
Jan Provost: Abraham, Sarah and the Angel

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The involvement of Abraham in the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, and of Joseph in the Egyptian famine.

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Abraham and Lot
Joseph and his brothers
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Short summary of the previous pages
The life cycle of the angels and man is composed of four phases: peace, sin, judgment and return to peace. The same phases were discovered in The account of the Flood. On the following pages, it is shown that the whole salvation history is composed of eras with four cycles, which in turn are composed of four phases (see Summary of Salvation History). On this page, the third and fourth cycle of the patriarchs' era are presented.

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The ancestors of Israel

Abraham and Lot

Abraham’s history begins with chapter 12 of Genesis, which no longer contains multiple references. Hence, the account relates events chronologically. This is why the cycles can be more easily extracted because one only has to recapitulate the text.

The historical context of Abraham is the gradual Semitic ascension in Mesopotamia, the beginning phase of the third cycle of the patriarchs’ era (see here and Summary of Salvation History). Abraham was born around 2160 BC (see appendix C: Classical biblical dates) and lived in the city of Ur (Gen 11:31), which was once the Sumerian capital. God promised Abraham a great posterity in a foreign country and invited him to emigrate there (Gen 12:1-3). So at the age of seventy-five years, Abraham left Ur with his nephew Lot and settled in the country of Canaan (Gen 12:4-5). Abraham’s wife Sarah, however, proved barren. One day, three mysterious men visited him.[40] Abraham invited them in his house and offered them a meal. They announced to him that Sarah, despite her advanced age, would bear a son, Isaac, in order to make true God’s promise (Gen 18:1-15).

The three visitors not only announced the birth of Isaac but also said: “The outcry of Sodom and Gomorrah is loud and their sin is very grievous” (Gen 18:16-20). The wrongdoing of the inhabitants of these cities therefore became intolerable. This of course indicates the phase of sin, which caused the destruction of the region, the phase of judgment. Abraham begged the three men to save Lot from it (Gen 18:23-33), which is a precursory sign of the revival phase. So they took Lot and his two daughters outside the city (Gen 19:12-22). Then, all the plain with its cities and its residents was destroyed by the fire (Gen 19:23-25).

It is likely that the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah is linked to an earthquake accompanied by volcanic eruptions in the region of the Dead Sea, which forms part of a long crevice in the terrestrial crust. There is further archaeological evidence of five cities in the Valley of Siddim at the southern extremity of the Dead Sea where this has taken place. These cities are also mentioned by the Scriptures, with an overwhelming correspondence of historical and archaeological details.[41]

The survival of Lot and his two daughters, who united with their father to give him a posterity, namely that of the Moabites and Ammonites (Gen 19:31-38), is part of the phase of revival since it is essentially characterized by the formation of new nations from a single man during the patriarchs’ era. Yet the revival applies more to Abraham, who, by insistently praying to God to save Lot, played a more important role and who, as father of Isaac, the son promised by the three visitors, and grandfather of Jacob, became the ancestor of the Israelite people, the holder of a new era.

Joseph and his brothers

Before the birth of this people, there is still a fourth and last cycle in the era of the patriarchs, which begins with the more or less peaceful period in which lived Isaac and his son Jacob (Gen 20-35), the father of the twelve patriarchs of Israel. Jacob is also the father of Joseph, who holds a special role among the patriarchs. Joseph was Jacob’s most beloved son because he was born after a long period of infertility to Rachel, whom Jacob preferred to his other wives (Gen 29:16-30:22; 37:3).

This is why his brothers hated Joseph so deeply (Gen 37:4). When he once told them of his dream, according to which he would become an important man to them, they detested him even more (Gen 37:5-11) and decided to get rid of him as soon as an opportunity arose. They finally sold him to passing Ishmaelites, who took him away to Egypt (Gen 37:18-28).

In Egypt, God made Joseph succeed in all he undertook (Gen 39:1-6). One day, Joseph correctly interpreted a dream of Pharaoh, according to which seven years of great abundance and seven years of famine would occur. This is why Pharaoh gave him a large authority over the Egyptian kingdom (Gen 41:1-49).[42]

During the seven years of abundance, Joseph stored up grain “like the sand on the seashore” (Gen 41:47-49). When the seven years of famine arrived, he opened the stores and all the population of the country came to him to buy grain (Gen 41:53-57). The famine raged not only in Egypt but in the entire region and consequently also in the country where lived his father and brothers, who also came to Egypt to buy grain from him (Gen 42-44). Thus Joseph’s dream, according to which his brothers would one day prostrate themselves before him, was fulfilled.

Hence the phases are manifest: the first phase is the peaceful initial life of Jacob’s family in Canaan. Then, the rejection of Joseph by his brothers, the phase of sin, causes the famine, the judgment. However, only his brothers are concerned by the famine and not the entire population, since Joseph has gathered enough food for the survival of everyone. His brothers are humiliated because they are obliged to go to Egypt and beg for food.[43]

Their journey also leads to the phase of revival, that is to say, to the reunion of Joseph with his father and the reconciliation with his brothers (Gen 45:1-15; 46:28-34; 50:15-21), who stay with him in Egypt (Gen 45:16-47:12), where their descendants become very numerous (Gen 47:27; Ex 1:7).

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