23 Nov 2008

"Why Does God Allow Bad Things to Happen?" Joseph’s Answer

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I have always loved the Genesis story of Joseph (Gen. 37-50). The runt in the family, he was a bit of a braggart and so his older brothers decided to kill him. But for various reasons the plan changes at the last second, and they “only” sell him into slavery. (What’s funny is that when I was younger and read this story, I was horrified. Now that I am older and rereading it, I was more understanding. “Well, he was being kind of a punk what with those dreams and all.” I don’t know if I should be pleased or disturbed by my change in reaction.)

So to make a long (and great) story short, Joseph ends up being promoted from a dungeon in Egypt to being Pharaoh’s second in command, because (with God’s guidance) he can interpret dreams. He correctly predicts that all the land will be hit with seven years of plenty and seven years of famine, and so the Pharaoh makes out like a bandit selling stockpiled food to everyone during the famine years. (No mention on what futures markets were saying during the boom years, or what rating Moodys gave to wheat-backed securities.)

When his brothers come to Egypt hoping to buy food, Joseph has a bit of fun with them at first. But then he reveals his identity–they of course assumed he was long dead–and they are wracked with guilt. Joseph tells them (chapter 45):

4 Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Come close to me.” When they had done so, he said, “I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt! 5 And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you. 6 For two years now there has been famine in the land, and for the next five years there will not be plowing and reaping. 7 But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance.

8 “So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God. He made me father to Pharaoh, lord of his entire household and ruler of all Egypt…”

Obviously this type of thing–by itself–would not refute an atheist; after all, God caused the famine! Yet I do think the answer is here.

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