Joseph of Egypt, the Diviner
In reading the Scriptures today (I was reading about Joseph, Genesis chapter 44) I came across an interesting claim (by a servant and himself) that Joseph practiced divination.
The story is the one where Joseph has the cup placed in Benjaminís bag of grain so that he can claim that his brothers have stolen it, and make of Benjamin a slave. The cup is described (in verse 5) as ďthe cup my master drinks from and also uses for divinationĒ and then again in verse 14 Joseph says ďdonít you know that a man like me can find things out by divination.Ē
This is an NIV translation, so Iím not sure the word itself is translated correctly. However, although I know that Joseph didnít practice divination, but received revelation from God directly, I wonder why he continued the ruse for his servants? If the servant thought that this was the cup used for divination practices, either it was a rumor he was repeating, or he had seen Joseph go through the motions of using it.
If the former, we can dismiss it as nonsense, but if the latter, then the question becomes, why? Why would Joseph go through such motions and not reveal honestly that his knowledge came from God? After all, Pharaoh had called him the one true God, and I suspect that the proof of Godís power probably converted a goodly number of peoples.
So why the ruse? Why even the ruse of not declaring himself openly and honestly to his brothers when first they met again? What was Godís purpose here? Were Josephís and Godís purposes even one here, or was this a departure from what God wanted? When I see prophets of God concealing and hiding, even lying, yet having things work out in the end, I always wonder at who was making the decisions at that point in time. God or man?
Did Joseph pretend to divination in order to fit better into the culture that surrounded him? Was he trying to fit a cultural mold and then preach the Gospel? Of course, he didnít have the Great Commission and conversions were not his goal, but faking divinations? Isnít that falsifying what Hebrews actually believed, obscuring it in occult mystery?
Posted by John on September 22, 2006 11:54 AM | Posted to Religion
Hello John. Its been a long time, but I read this recent entry and thought I would make comment.
First, I think your translation is sufficient. It is written that way in the ESV and NKJV.
I am not sure that it is necessary to immediately assume that as a righteous man (for Genesis portrays Joseph as such) Joseph did not practice divination. First take note that it was Joseph who brought up divination in the scene when he instructed the servant to tell Benjamin, "Why have you repaid evil for good? Is this not the one from which my lord drinks, and with which he indeed practices divination?" Also, much later, when God gives instructions for the construction of Aaron's breastplate He has the Urim and Thummin mounted to it so that "they shall be on Aaron's heart when he goes in before YHWH." That passage in Exodus 28 is expounding the symbolic garb of Aaron, the governing priest who was to know and enforce the will of God before the people. Though these Urim and Thummin are mysterious, their purpose seemes to be for divination. Later, when God prescribes the method by which Moses is to transfer authority to Joshua, He says that Joshua is to stand before Eleazer and recieve the judgement of the Urim before YHWH (Num 27:21). This later passage has God actually instructing His leaders to use the Urim in a manner which suggests divination. At the end of Deuteronomy, Moses instructs Israel to hand over the Urim and Thummin to the most faithful tribe, Levi, who would use them it seems to preserve right Israelite religion. Even as late in Israel's story as Ezra\Nehemiah, you have preists using the Urim and Thummim to determine who is a rightful Levite priest when the genealogical records failed (Ez 2:63). Now it cannot be ignored that in Deut 18 God particularly forbids the practice of divination, because it is a false religious practice which relies upon false gods. However, consulting an inanimate object to recieve a right decision, or to glean the truth of a cloudy matter, is what we call divination. A way I can mesh these two seemingly opposed ideas is to understand the divination in Deut 18 as that which seeks to tell the future. That would certainly fit the context, and it would also allow Joseph to be a diviner without doing anything wrong. It would also explain why Israel had sacred divining artifacts for its entire existence as a nation. Anyhow, there is something to think about and bounce off of if you wish.