Judah said to his brothers:
“What is to be gained by killing our brother and concealing his blood?
Rather, let us sell him to these Ishmaelites,
instead of doing away with him ourselves.
After all, he is our brother, our own flesh.”
His brothers agreed.
They sold Joseph to the Ishmaelites for twenty pieces of silver. – Genesis 37.26 – 28
The account of Joseph’s close-call with fratricide and the narrative’s transformation into a small profit making scheme, is one of the premier all-too-human stories in the Hebrew scriptures.
It’s so unflattering to those involved how could it not be true? Who would make up such a story; much less record it for posterity? From a family systems perspective, there must have been a lot of unspoken frictions going on in the family-line of Jacob and his sons. The patriarchs were no different from all families: there are often secrets, scapegoats and survivors in our most primary relationship.
Beyond the need for truth and healing in our family dynamics, the insight to highlight from this text today is the parallels between Joseph’s twenty “pieces of silver” to Jesus betrayal by Judas for “thirty pieces of silver” (Matthew 26.15).
Silver is the coinage of secrets. It represents the reflective nighttime shinyness of the moon. Symbolically interpreted from the context of Joseph and Jesus, silver was used for these dark transactions shaming to the seller and that which was sold. By way of contrast, gold is the coinage of power and glory – and represents the radiance of the sun, and the glory of the apparent “rulers” of the earth.
As we approach the middle of Lent, and Holy Week approaches it is good for us to look ahead on our journeys and feel into the upper room dialog between Jesus and Judas. Do what needs to be done. The momentary paltry profit to Judas quickly became an overwhelming grief and shame, literally hanging around his neck and at his feet.
It is an invitation to not let our hidden shames and unspoken resentments grow out of control in the darkness. But to ask for inner healing in our hearts and minds for the sake of our family’s flourishing – yours, mine and every family of faith.
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