During the 2017 Pentecost Season, alternative readings from the Hebrew Bible are offered. Scripture in Context will discuss both readings and the reading from the Christian Scriptures.
Today’s reading continues the story of Joseph. After being sold into slavery, he was sold to Potiphar, an officer of the Pharaoh who put him in charge of his house. Potiphar’s wife tried to seduce Joseph, then falsely accused him and had him imprisoned. When in prison, Joseph (with YHWH’s help) interpreted dreams for the Pharaoh’s cupbearer and baker. Later, Joseph interpreted Pharaoh’s dreams and Pharaoh placed Joseph in charge of the nation. Joseph’s interpretation of the dreams was accurate and Egypt prepared for (and survived) a famine.
The famine also hit Israel, and Jacob sent his 10 oldest sons to Egypt where they bought grain. Joseph did not identify himself to them. When the grain ran out, and they went to Egypt again. After Joseph accused the brothers of stealing his silver cup, Judah agreed to be Joseph’s slave if Joseph would spare Jacob’s youngest and favorite son, Benjamin. Judah’s selflessness showed he was a true brother to Benjamin and his other brothers.
Hearing this affirmation of brotherhood, Joseph identified himself to his brothers in today’s emotional reading.
Isaiah 56:1, 6-8
The Book of Isaiah is a composite of writings from three distinct periods in Israel’s history. Chapters 1-39 are called “First Isaiah” and were written by “Isaiah of Jerusalem” in the 20 years before Jerusalem was under direct siege by the Assyrians in 701 BCE. “Second Isaiah” is Chapters 40 to 55 and brings hope to the Judeans during the time of the Exile in Babylon (587 to 539 BCE) by telling them they have suffered enough and will return to Jerusalem. “Third Isaiah” is Chapters 56 to 66 and gives encouragement to the Judeans who returned to Jerusalem after the Exile.
Today’s reading is part of Third Isaiah and is inclusive in tone. Speaking for YHWH, Isaiah affirms that foreigners who join themselves to YHWH and keep the sabbath will be joyful in YHWH’s house (v.7). The tension between the “exclusivists” (Ezra and Nehemiah) and the “inclusivist” books (Isaiah, Jonah and Ruth) continued into the First Century of the Common Era. Jesus of Nazareth is presented in the Gospels as an inclusivist.
Romans 11:1-2a, 29-32
Paul’s letter to the Romans is his longest, last, and theologically most complex letter, written in the late 50s or early 60s (CE) – about ten years before the first Gospel (Mark) was written.
One of Paul’s goals in this letter was to reduce tensions and eliminate distinctions between the Jewish Jesus Followers in Rome and Gentile Jesus Followers there.
In today’s reading, Paul reaffirms that he is an “Israelite” (v.1) and warns against arrogance by Gentile Jesus Followers (v.32). Paul was a Jew all his life and the Temple was active all during Paul’s life. Paul died in 63 CE and the Temple was destroyed in 70 CE.