Hey All -- sorry I missed you last week, but here's the straight dope from the Good Book:
Just as Jacob and Esau reconciled, so did Joseph and his brothers. He had him right where he could make their lives absolutely miserable, given the power he'd earned, but somehow he saw fit to reveal his true identity and to forgive them for leaving him for dead in that ditch.
Many times in this blog, I have decried the evil of bullies, targeted the alpholes of this world, and sought to eliminate those who enabled them. But forgiving them? Letting it go? Maybe giving them a friendly reminder that you have the means and the desire to flatten them, but you choose not to because it's better to be nice?!?!?!?!
Let's explore this in further detail . . . .
There's a friend of mine who casts a large and imposing figure. The chance of anyone pushing him around or starting a bar fight with him is slim and none. Still, when he was younger and smaller, he was bullied. There was a classic high school loud mouth, undisciplined, spoiled moron who pelted him with spitballs and called him a lot of names bordering on racism. Years later, after he'd grown to his full size of 6'5, he ran into this jabroni and invited him to throw a spitball "now." After giving him the scare of his life, he revealed his true identity, and the two ended up becoming friends.
The way he tells this story, there is too much alphaganda and "might makes right" narrative for my taste. That's not what this blog is all about, because those rules don't apply to us. So I will extract the central idea and use it to highlight the theme of this biblical scene: Just because you can, doesn't mean you should.
His reasoning is not made clear, but he knew he was right to reveal himself to the 11 brothers who tried to kill him as a younger man. He understood that, right or wrong, they all had the same father, and they would all have the same responsibility for making sure the nation of Israel would grow fruitful and multiply. Even though he had achieved a status close to that of the Pharaohs, he never forgot his roots, or his duty to his heritage. And it appears to me that those higher purposes required him to forgive his brothers, regardless of how hateful they previously were to him. And, oh yeah, he did instigate some portion of it himself, as he was not just an innocent little lamb.
Israel/Jacob seemed to acknowledge the wrongs of the past by investing in the future. He blessed Joseph's two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, echoing the blessing that Isaac administered to him and to Esau. He placed his right hand on the younger son's head, when tradition would have stated otherwise. Joseph tried to set him straight, believing him to be mistaken, but Israel explains that no, he's actually doing this on purpose, because he knows that the younger son's lineage will be stronger. This appears to be his penance for tricking Isaac two generations ago. Or maybe he's trying to set things straight from the beginning. After all, G-D told Israel's mother that the younger son will be stronger, so she tried to finagle things to make it happen. But now that Israel has received revelation directly from G-D, he already knows what lies ahead, so there's no need for trickery to prevent a mistake.
Whatever the reason, he's obviously learned from the mistakes of the past, and wants to make things right before he leaves this earth. That's to be commended. It looks like Jacob may have been the most self-aware of the three patriarchs, and his most-favored son apparently followed suit.
So it goes with us. We are just as flawed as this ancient family, if not more, and it's just as easy for us to make mistakes. But correcting those mistakes, rectifying the consequences, and taking preventive measures to avoid their recurrence is a sign of maturity. In my opinion, that is one of the most respect-worthy things that someone can do. Let's make it happen a little more often, huh?