There is an awful lot of fighting between brothers in Genesis, isn’t there. I suppose it’s understandable when inheritance tended to be unequal and rife with favoritism, but still.

Then again, I’m an only child, so I’m probably not fully grasping the whole concept of sibling rivalry all that well.

At least Joseph’s brothers manage to talk themselves into selling him into slavery rather than killing him. Reuben tries — well, sort of tries — to set things up so he can rescue him but it doesn’t work out. He was trying to be subtle, but then if all his siblings were willing to abandon Joseph, I can see why he wouldn’t be in a rush to stand up to them.

Then we break, inexplicably, and come to Tamar and Judah. This is another story that reads problematically to the modern mind. I understand the idea that if a man died, it was his brother’s obligation to marry his wife and raise the children as the heirs of the (dead) man. Women wouldn’t have been able to hold that inheritance, presumably, and this would ensure not just legal but genetic continuation of the family.

It’s still kind of squicky though. Onan apparently wasn’t wild about it either, and refused to get Tamar pregnant. So when Judah doesn’t offer up his other son, Tamar dresses herself up as a prostitute and seduces her father-in-law. Again…ew. But I also understand how she would be so desperate to do such a thing. Without a heir, she would have had no function, and that could not have been a pretty prospect for a woman in a harsh and dangerous time. Better the difficulty you choose than the one you are forced into unwillingly…

Then we return to Joseph. Who is now enslaved but still looked upon favorably by God. Which must be a special kind of maddening — great, I’m so blessed to be a highly regarded slave. BUT STILL A SLAVE. I think I’d be a little ticked off. More than a little, probably. Then he gets blamed and thrown in prison after trying to resist the advances of the Pharaoh’s wife. Yet, still favored by God…but also still a prisoner.

I suppose there’s something to all of that, really. Of finding a way to do your best in whatever situation you may find yourself, to conduct yourself in a certain way no matter your circumstance. These aren’t unvaluable lessons. So maybe this says more about me than anything, but I can’t help thinking that valuable though they may be, they must also really suck.

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