Sunday, May 11, 2008

A blessing of greeting

At Bible study yesterday, the passage we discussed included Joseph introducing his father to Pharoah:

Genesis 47:7 Then Joseph brought his father Jacob in and presented him before Pharaoh. After Jacob gave Pharaoh a blessing of greeting...

Genesis 47:10 Then Jacob gave Pharaoh a blessing of farewell and went out from his presence.*

My partner and I have been studying Genesis with this group for the past two years (the group started at the beginning, but when we came in they were just beginning the story of Abraham). I am unaware of anywhere else in Genesis where it describes people giving "blessings of greeting" or "blessings of farewell", and that really struck me.

One of the footnotes mentioned the English phrase "Godspeed", and one of the group members pointed out the "May God be with you" is also a common blessing of farewell. This started a discussion how language can help incorporate a relationship to God into everyday life, and avoid confining religion to a certain building. Even in times of hardship, God may be incorporated into our language patterns ("accepting God's will", for example).

To me, these phrases carry a lot of meaning. In some ways, I believe they express sentiments secular language just can't. But as an agnostic, I don't use them. It's one of those things that's been niggling around my brain for a while, in a way that sometimes results in meaningful changes happening in my thinking. Nothing's really "happened" yet, though, so for now I'm just keeping an eye on the niggling.


*Translation by Everett Fox, as best I can remember. All the other translations I've seen rendered either "blessing" or "greeting/farewell" but not both, although some had footnotes discussing both meanings of the Hebrew.

1 comment:

Keith Bertelsen said...

Interestingly, my church right now is in the middle of a sermon series about Joseph, although you're a little ahead of us (Joseph just recognized his brothers in our last sermon).

Funny, coincidences... :)