The Story of Joseph and the Family of Jacob
- Publisher Ronald S. Wallace is retired from teaching at Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, Georgia.
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About "The Story of Joseph and the Family of Jacob"
In the long history of biblical interpretation, Joseph has been viewed alternately as a tale-bearing, self-centered prig who deserves his brothers' resentment and as an exceptionally righteous man who in various ways prefigures the Christ.In The Story of Joseph, author Ronald Wallace shows us a Joseph who, whatever his faults, is clearly a prophet of God -- as evidenced not only in his predictive dreams but also in his wise provisions for his father's family (i.e., the people of God) and, with an eye for the future, his continual readiness to be an instrument of God's purpose.According to Wallace, Joseph's prophetic stature is initially affirmed, not in the dreams that provoke his brothers' wrath, but in his acceptance of Jacob's request to seek them out in the fields. His "Here I am" response to Jacob is the response of a prophet who knows the seriousness of his calling and makes himself vulnerable to God's will. The brotherly hatred he incurs is in fact a hatred of the Word of God.As the story unfolds, Wallace shows us the familiar details in a new light. The digressive account of Judah and Tamar is seen as pivotal. Judah's cheating, hypocritical character is revealed in the act of engendering the messianic lineage. The outsider Tamar is seen in her matriarchal position along with Rahab and Ruth. But by the same events we're shown the importance of Judah's future repentance and his crucial role -- years later in Egypt -- in the reconciling of Joseph and his brothers. These are not random anecdotes, Wallace implies; they are as focused as laser beams, and pregnant with meaning.There are various hints of the old typologies, and rightly so: Joseph's suffering and his eventualexaltation are compared to Christ's. When "all the world" comes to Joseph for bread, we see a glimpse of the larger world coming to Christ for the bread of life. In general, the author views Joseph favorably. The tests he subjects his brothers to are not, says Wallace, the expression of a bitter heart, but rather the means of verifying his brother's repentance. His one great failing was in serving the Pharaoh too zealously at the expense of a hard-pressed Egyptian people and helping to establish a thoroughly despotic state. Here, Wallace suggests, Joseph succumbed to an all-too-human hunger for power and callousness toward the suffering of others. But his plan to settle Jacob's people in Goshen, a zone of relative isolation, was a stroke of wisdom and foresight. For a while, the story shifts back to Jacob -- his blessing of the Pharaoh, the oracles and deathbed blessings of his sons. But the final Word is Joseph's: "God has done it for good", a statement that will echo all the way to Golgotha. Even after his death, the presence of Joseph's body among his own people would remind them of God's promises to their forefathers and of the land their descendants would one day inhabit.The value of this retelling is not just in its dusting off the old narratives but also in showing how they relate to the rest of scripture and, indeed, to the life of today's church.
Ronald S. Wallace is retired from teaching at Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, Georgia.
Meet the Author
Ronald S Wallace
Wallace is the Felix Professor of Poetry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and serves as general editor for the University of Wisconsin Press's poetry series. He divides his time between Madison and a forty-acre farm in Bear Valley, Wisconsin.