Tag Archives: Elephant in the Room

Addressing the Elephant in the Room…

When his brothers got ready to leave Egypt, Joseph called the manager of his palace once again, and ordered, “Fill the men’s packs with as much food as they can carry, and put each man’s money just inside his pack.  Then, put my silver goblet just inside the youngest one’s pack, along with his grain money.”  The manager of the palace did as he was commanded.

The brothers left with their donkeys at daybreak, but before they were far from the city, Joseph gave this order to his palace manager, “Chase after those men and when you catch them, say to them, ‘Why have you repaid good with evil?  Why did you take my master’s silver cup that he uses to predict the future?  What you have done is evil!'”

So, the palace manager took off and chased them, and when he caught up with the brothers, he exclaimed, “Why have you repaid good with evil?  Why did you take my master’s silver cup that he uses to predict the future?  What you have done is evil!”

Joseph’s brothers were shocked at the man’s accusation, and replied, “Why do you speak this way, my lord?  We would never do such a thing, may heaven forbid it!  Don’t you remember?  When we found the money inside our packs, we brought it back to you from the land of Canaan!  So how could you think that we would steal silver or gold from your lord’s palace?”  Confident that they were guilty of no crime, they finished with, “If you find the goblet on any one of us, put him to death — and the rest of us will serve as your slaves!”

“No,” the palace manager replied.  “The one who has my lord’s silver goblet will be my slave, but the rest of you will be blameless.”  Then, each one of the brothers hurriedly placed his pack on the ground and opened them.  The manager searched each bag, starting with the eldest brother, and ending with the youngest, and he found the governor’s silver goblet where he had planted it, in Benjamin’s pack.

When the brothers saw this, they moaned and ripped their clothes in grief.  Each of them remembered their father’s fearful countenance, when he had finally allowed Benjamin to travel to Egypt with them.  Losing Benjamin, on top of his continued grief for Joseph, would kill him, and then, his death would be on their shoulders, too.  Each of them, except for Benjamin, who didn’t know of their sin against Joseph, realized their sins had finally caught up with them.  They believed that God’s retribution was finally upon them.  Therefore, each one quickly reloaded his donkey and returned to the city to face the governor.

Joseph was still in his palace, when Judah and his brothers arrived, and all of them fell down before him on the ground, trembling with fear.  Joseph was startled to see that all of them had returned, and he said, “How could you do this to me?  Don’t you know that I’m able to see into the future?”

Judah fearfully replied, “O my lord, what can we say?  There’s no way for us to prove our innocence.  God is repaying us for our sins, so here we are.  We have all returned to be your slaves, not just the one with whom my lord’s silver cup was found!”

Again, his brothers surprised him, and Joseph replied, “Heaven forbid!  I would never do such a thing.  Only the man who stole my goblet will be my slave, and the rest of you may go in peace to your father.”

Judah’s heart broke as he remembered both his father’s fear of losing Benjamin just as he’d lost Joseph, and the promise that he had made to protect Benjamin from harm.  So, he arose and beseeched Joseph, “Please, my lord!  May I speak freely with you, without arousing your anger?  For you are as powerful as Pharaoh himself.” 

At Joseph’s nod, Judah proceeded, “Do you remember when you asked us, ‘Do you have a father?  Or a brother?’  We truthfully answered your questions, my lord, telling you about our father, who is an old man, and about our youngest brother, who is a child of his old age.  We told you that this youngest brother also had a full brother, who is dead, and that he alone is all that remains of his mother’s children, and our father loves him greatly.

“Then, when you ordered us to bring our brother down to you, so that you could see him, we told you, ‘The boy can’t leave his father, for if he were to leave him, our father would surely die.’  When we told you this, my lord, you said that we would not see your face again, unless we brought our brother back with us, so we went back home to your servant, my father, and told him what you had said, and when our father told us to return to Egypt to buy some grain, we told him that we couldn’t.

“We said, ‘We can’t go down to Egypt again, unless our youngest brother is with us, because the governor won’t let us see his face without him.'”

Wiping tears from his eyes, Judah drew a deep breath, and continued, “Then your servant, my father, said, ‘You know that my wife bore me two sons.  The one left and never returned, for he was surely torn to pieces by some wild animal.  Now, if you take this son away from me too, and something happens to him, you will send this white-haired old man down to his grave with grief.’

“So, how can I go to your servant, my father, without his youngest son?  For his heart is bound up with the boy’s heart, and when he sees the boy isn’t with us, it will kill him.  If his heart is broken yet again, the grief will send our white-haired father to his grave, and it will be my fault.  For I, your servant, guaranteed my brother’s safety.  I told my father, ‘If I fail to bring him to you, then I will bear the blame forever.’

“Therefore, my lord, I beg you to let me stay as your slave instead of the boy, and let him return home to my father with our brothers.”  Judah sobbed, remembering Jacob’s pain when he lost Joseph, because of his and his brothers’ sin.  Now, more than twenty years later, his father still grieved for Joseph, and losing Benjamin would no doubt kill him.  “Please, my lord,” Judah pleaded, “allow me to stay as your slave, and let Benjamin return to our father, for I couldn’t bear to see his anguish, if I return without him.”

When he saw their compassion and discerned their repentance, Joseph could contain himself no longer.  He ordered his servants and attendants to leave the room immediately.  Then, when no one but his brothers remained, Joseph wept loudly, and revealed himself to them.  More than twenty years of torment were loosed with Joseph’s tears.  Indeed, he wailed so loudly, his entire household and even Pharaoh’s household heard his keening.

“I am Joseph!” he gasped in the midst of his wailing.  “Is it true that my father, Jacob, still lives?”  His brothers were so dumbfounded at the governor’s actions, that they couldn’t speak at first.  So, Joseph beckoned his brothers, “Please!  Come closer.”

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They approached him hesitantly, as fear and hope warred within each of them.  “I’m Joseph, your brother, whom you sold as a slave to Egypt,” he told them.  Their eyes widened in alarm, as the truth of their sin was finally exposed, and the elephant in the room was addressed for the first time in more than twenty years.  “Don’t be sad and angry with yourselves for selling me into slavery here,”  Joseph said, as the tears continued to flow down his cheeks.  He looked into the eyes of each of his brothers, who had betrayed him, starting with Reuben, the oldest, all the way down to Zebulun.  As he looked into each of their eyes, they at first tried to avert his gaze, but then they each looked back at him, and tears soon flowed from their eyes too.

Meanwhile, Benjamin stared at Joseph, completely enthralled by his brother, and filled with joy.  He couldn’t wait to share the good news with his father that Joseph, who had been lost to them for more than twenty years was found.  He couldn’t wait to see his father’s joy when he discovered that his son, whom he thought was dead, still lived!

Joseph grinned at him, then turned back to his other brothers.  “Don’t be sad and angry with yourselves for selling me into slavery here,”  Joseph said again, as he fully addressed the elephant in the room.  “For it was really God who sent me ahead of you to preserve your lives.  Indeed, the famine that has been over the land for the last two years will continue for yet another five years, and there will be neither plowing nor harvest.

“Don’t you see?”  Joseph asked.  “God sent me ahead of you to ensure that you will have descendants on earth and to save your lives in a great deliverance.  So, it was not you who sent me here, but God, and He has made me a father to Pharaoh, lord of all his household and ruler over the whole land of Egypt.”

Joseph drew closer to them and said, “Brothers, hurry up and go to my father.  Tell him that Joseph says, ‘Elohim has made me lord of all Egypt!  Come down to me and don’t delay!  You will live in the land of Goshen and be near me with your children, your grandchildren, flocks, herds and everything you own.  I will provide for you there, so you won’t be impoverished because five more years of famine are yet to come.’

Artistic close up of an African elephant in black and white

“Brothers, you can see with your own eyes see that it truly is me, Joseph, speaking to you.  Benjamin, you see with your own eyes that I am truly Joseph, your long-lost brother!  Now go,”  Joseph said, as yet more tears began to flow from his eyes.  “Tell my father how honored I am in Egypt and everything you have seen, and hurry up and bring him down here to me!”  Finally, Joseph gathered Benjamin into his arms, and wept as he embraced him.  Benjamin, too, wept into Joseph’s neck.  Joseph then kissed all of his brothers, washing them with his tears.  Then, Joseph’s brothers finally began to speak to him, and each one finally gazed at the elephant in the room, the horrible sin they had tried to bury, and addressed it…

If we acknowledge our sins, then, since he is trustworthy and just, he will forgive them and purify us from all wrongdoing.  (1 John 1:9 Complete Jewish Bible)

© 2019
Cheryl A. Showers

 

The Elephant in the Room

Can you imagine Jacob’s torment?  Can you imagine the pain he must have felt, when his sons returned to his tent, the day they sold their brother Joseph into slavery?  He thought his son was dead, and the pain nearly killed him.  It aged him overnight.

I wonder how much greater his pain would have been, had he known what really happened to Joseph?  Do you think he ever suspected foul play at the hands of his older sons?  Do you ponder whether Jacob ever doubted the validity of what his ten oldest sons claimed had happened to Joseph?  The bible doesn’t say for sure, but I reckon Jacob suspected more than he let on.  Yet, as in most dysfunctional families, too often, there are just some things that are too painful to be spoken out loud.

Jacob must have known how much his other sons hated Joseph, for they had made no attempt to hide it from anyone.  They openly mocked him at every turn, and their jealousy of Joseph was evident to all.  It must have seemed dubious to Jacob, when Joseph turned up dead, after he sent him to check up on his brothers.  After all, he knew full well, when he sent Joseph to them, how angry they already were with Joseph.  After all, hadn’t Joseph given their father a bad report about them, just days earlier?  And what about the beautiful robe Jacob had given to Joseph?  It was the same robe his ten older brothers later returned to Jacob, covered with blood.  Their rancor towards their brother had known no bounds, when Jacob rewarded Joseph with that beautiful robe.  Indeed, Jacob had made it abundantly clear, over and over again, that Joseph was his favorite son, which caused their loathing for Joseph to burn even deeper.

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Yet, as in most dysfunctional families, they ignored the proverbial “elephant in the room,” and no one ever addressed the issue.  The ten eldest sons never spoke directly to their father about the pain he had caused them, in showing favoritism towards Joseph.  Instead, they allowed their bitterness to fester, turning into a poison that blackened their souls, until their hearts turned violent.

Indeed, this wasn’t the first time that these ten sons of Jacob had turned violent.  They had slaughtered and plundered an entire town, after a man named Shechem, the prince of that town, raped their sister, Dinah.  True, what Shechem had done was evil, but what these ten sons of Jacob had done, was no less evil.  For they had tricked the men into believing that they had forgiven Shechem, and they would allow him to marry their sister, Dinah, if he, and his entire town would be circumcised.

Eager to make amends and marry Dinah, Shechem, and his father, King Hamor, agreed to the deal, and when they met with their council, they agreed too.  Therefore, all of the men in that community were circumcised.  Then, three days later, while all of the men were still in great pain from their circumcisions, the ten eldest sons of Jacob attacked and killed every single male, and afterwards, they took all of the town’s livestock, and enslaved the women and children who remained.

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Yes, Jacob surely knew the violence his oldest sons were capable of, but, again, like the proverbial elephant in the room, he didn’t discuss his suspicions with them, because to actually hear the truth spoken aloud was too much for him to contemplate.  And now, as famine swept across the land, Jacob worried about his family’s fate.  There was no grain to be obtained in all of Canaan, but he had heard that there was grain available in the land of Egypt, so he assembled all of his remaining sons, and had a family meeting.

“We’re going to starve if we don’t get some grain,” Jacob spoke bluntly to his sons, who exchanged glances with one another, but said nothing.  “Why are you standing around looking at one another?” he asked impatiently.  “You know what I say is true.  However, I have heard that there is grain in Egypt.  Therefore, I want you to go down there and buy enough grain to keep us alive.  Otherwise, we’ll all die.”

“You’re right Abba,” Benjamin, Jacob’s youngest son, replied.  “We must go to Egypt right away.  Come brothers, let’s pack up and leave for Egypt at first light tomorrow.”

“NO!”  Jacob shouted.  “Benjamin, you will stay with me, and your brothers will go to Egypt.

“But Abba,” Benjamin protested.

“NO!”  Jacob shouted once again, as he fought the panic that boiled up within him.  His heart pounded loudly in his ears as he drew a shuddering breath, trying to slow his heart rate, and speak calmly.  “No, my son,” Jacob repeated.  “This is a job for your older brothers to handle.  You must stay with  me.”

Benjamin looked closely at his father, and noted the terror in his eyes.  Then he knelt down beside Jacob, and gently hugged him.  “Alright Abba,” he whispered softly.  “I will obey and stay here with you.”

Jacob’s oldest sons exchanged guilty glances with one another, for they, too, had seen the fear and pain in their father’s eyes, and they knew that they were the cause of his agony.  Though no one said a word, once again ignoring the elephant in the room, the brothers knew that Jacob wouldn’t allow Benjamin to travel alone with them, for fear they might harm him, just as they had harmed Joseph.  

Both Jacob and his ten eldest sons felt guilty.  Yet, still, they didn’t speak of what they had done.  Each was trapped in his own torment, and it seemed there was no hope for redemption.  Each one was a captive of a moment that had long since passed. Jacob was trapped in the moment when he had chosen to love Joseph more than all of his other sons.  In doing so, he had rejected their love as insignificant.  His rejected sons were trapped in the moment, when they had taken their anger out on the wrong person, their brother, Joseph, rather than confronting their father for neglecting to love them as a father should.  They were all, utterly without hope.

Yet, in the midst of all this turmoil and anguish, El Shaddai had a plan.  It was time for each one, Jacob and every one of his sons, to face the elephant in the room, and address it once and for all.

© 2019
Cheryl A. Showers