Our Old Testament Heroes

4 02 2010

As I have been reading through my 1-Year Chronological Bible, I’ve sorta wondered why some of our Old Testament “heroes” are our heroes.  If they were our contemporaries and acted as they did in their own times, would we still look up to them or would we condemn them?

Two examples immediately come to mind: Jacob and Joseph.

Jacob (who would later become Israel), acted greedily – more than once.  On the one hand, he took Esau’s birthright in exchange for some bread and lentil stew when Esau returned from the open country famished (Gen 25:29-34). …loving one’s neighbor? – perhaps not.  Later in life Jacob deceived his father by pretending to be his brother, Esau, in order to steal the blessing meant for Esau – and then ran away (Gen 27).  Years later when Jacob returned to Esau, it was Esau who “ran to meet Jacob and embraced him; he threw his arms around his neck and kissed him” (Gen 33:4).  Jacob tells Esau that, “to see your face is like seeing the face of God” (Gen 33:10).  And yet it is Jacob that we hold high; not Esau.

Joseph, Jacob’s favored son, is another questionable example.  We all know the story about how he was sold into slavery by his brothers, and how he prepared Egypt (and the whole region) for the coming seven year famine by gathering and collecting for seven years during the abundance.  Indeed he acted wisely and heroically.  But it seems to me that we often overlook the way he acted during the famine.

What I mean is this: first, he “collected all the money that was to be found in Egypt and Canaan in payment for the grain they were buying” (Ex 47:14).  Later, “he gave them food in exchange for their horses, their sheep and goats, their cattle and donkeys” (Ex 47:17).  Finally, once the people no longer have money or flocks, Joseph provides them with food at the expense of their land, and “Joseph reduced the people to servitude, from one end of Egypt to the other” (Ex 47:21).  So yes, Joseph provides the people with the food they need, but he requires their lives from them.  (The powerful picking on the weak and needy? …sounds familiar).

So, why are Jacob and Joseph a couple of our Old Testament “heroes”?  (Seriously – I’m not saying that they shouldn’t be… just asking why they are so).  Is it because of their faithfulness? Is it because of the identity and value God gave to and found in them?  Is it because the strong and the ‘winners’ write the history books?

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One response

12 04 2010
cj

I think if the whole big picture comes into play with both. I don’t know why Jacob was chosen possibly because he was a survivor, something God’s people needed to know in the future as they endured many hardships. Joseph is thought of to save His people but with the slavery in the end wasn’t God’s might and power that was displayed to be studied and passed down generation to generation.
When I think about this big picture I keep coming back to Psalm 29:11 (which has been frequent for me this year). God gives his people strength and blesses them with peace. Strength to endure and thrive through the circumstances and peace to accept that God is in control over the big picture.
– Those are all my thoughts anyway.

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