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Did Joseph Use A Cup For Divination?

“Is not this [silver cup] it in which my lord drinketh, and whereby indeed he divineth? ye have done evil in so doing.” (Genesis 44:5)

“There shall not be found among you any one that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or THAT USETH DIVINATION, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch.” (Deuteronomy 18:10, emphasis added)

Bible skeptics have criticized this passage of Genesis because Joseph states that he has been using this silver cup for “divination”; that is, that he employed it as a tool for consulting spirits for the purpose of knowing the future and to learn of hidden knowledge. How is this possible, they ask, since God would condemn such practices later under the Law of Moses?

First, let us consider how Joseph has been getting his “Divine” information up to this point. It is interesting to note that Joseph is the first of the Patriarchs that God does not appear to or speak with personally. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob all received first-hand communication directly from the Lord. God spoke to them just as one man would speak to another. We have no record of God doing so with Joseph. But we do have the record of God speaking to Joseph through dreams. Every crucial piece of information that the Lord communicates to Joseph throughout his life comes to him through the use of symbolism and in the form of a dream. In light of the fact that we never see Joseph “out-of-touch” with God, floundering or wondering about what will happen, it seems very unlikely that he would have ever felt the need to consult anything about matters of the future. God was his Source of spiritual information, the Lord was indeed his Source for everything. Would a man who proclaimed to king’s officers that the interpretations of dreams belong to the Lord (Gen. 40:8) and who comforted the Pharaoh of Egypt with the reassurance that it is God Who holds the “answer of peace” (Gen. 41:16) pursue his own solace or seek the solutions to his own quandaries anywhere else?

The context wherein Joseph makes this statement about his silver cup of divination is one of pretense and theatrics. This chalice is merely a prop used to set the trap implicating Benjamin of wrong-doing, having no or very little actual intrinsic value for Joseph (much less for occult purposes), and being no more the source of Joseph’s insights than any other article of furniture within his house. But it was presented as such, that the brothers of Joseph might believe it to be of particular worth to its owner, lending plausability to the occasion of the steward’s hot pursuit. Joseph was in no more need of this specific silver cup than he was the money paid to him by the brothers for their grain. It was necessary, however, that the brothers be under the impression that the cup was a prized possession of its owner not only for its monetary value but its utilitarian.

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5 responses

  1. Thank you for explaining that! I can see where it might cause some to wonder. For some reason it didn’t me. I guess He must have helped me with it, because I too was focusing more on it being a means of getting Benjamin back to him. And I didn’t realize that about Joseph, him being the first to not receive direct communication from God, but through dreams.
    God bless you! :)

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  2. In all honesty, I didn’t even really think of someone finding such an “error” in this passage until I saw it addressed in a few other commentaries. This was one of those posts I really would have preferred to not take the time addressing, but I really am trying to cover each portion of Scripture thoroughly. I remember reading years ago about how “Calvary Chapel” began their verse-by-verse, through the Bible preaching so that every section of the Bible would be addressed regardless of how controversial or “difficult.” I am attempting a similar approach (although I might be moving a little too slowly…I’m trying to pick up the pace or I won’t reach Revelation until the year 2050 :) )

    Anyway, I am trying to address all of the challenges and alleged discrepancies against the Bible that I am aware of as I reach them. Prayerfully, posts such as this one might prove beneficial to someone for whom this might be a stumbling block to faith. Thanks, Deb, for the great comments!

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  3. Oh my Loren! That is an extraordinary goal, to go through every section of the Bible! I’m laughing at your predicted completion date! Seriously, this is such a blessing, a sacrifice, a precious offering. wow.
    Years ago, I “thought” God told me to write a poem for every chapter of the bible. But, I let it go. Thought maybe it was just me, not Him. Then, He started giving me these little simple poems every morning. Then He started matching them with what I was reading. Then I started a blog with them. ha! Okay, I guess He really did want me to do this! Only, I think I have skipped chapters at times, if I just didn’t find anything speaking to me. And some chapters have given me more than one post and poem.
    God bless you and yours! And thank you so much for serving Jesus and us this way!

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  4. It seems the Lord often prefers to “unfold” our callings a little at a time rather than all at once…He knows how easily we get intimidated :) The prospect of writing a poem for each chapter of the Bible was probably exhilirating for you when God first told you about it, but a little overwhelming and scary, too. My initiall calling to minister on the Internet looked quite a bit different from what I am doing now. Whether or not covering the entire Bible is exactly what God wants me to do or the desire to do so is my own over-ambition remains to be seen, I suppose. Lord willing, that’s what I’ll do :) Nevertheless, the prospect of it still overwhelms me from time to time. But God is faithful and always provides plenty of inspiration from which to write (as I am certain is your experience, as well).

    I think your approach is outstanding in what you are writing. Your posts are always a blessing to read and you have a wonderful gift for elegantly saying so much with so few words. I think that there will be chapters in other books of the Bible where I will skip through a little quicker, but I guess I will see when I get there. Originally, I estimated that I would make it through the Book of Genesis in about 3 months. I began in July of 2009. So much for staying on my schedule! Anyway, I am really excited to be coming to the end of this wonderful book of the Bible — sad in some ways, but eager to move on to what comes next. Thank you, Deb, as always for your encouragement and feedback. Thank you for serving the Lord both in your own excellent blog and by encouraging the rest of us in ours.

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  5. What a blessing your post was! Had questions about the “the cup of divination” and your explanation totally makes sense. I have an intimidating calling on my life as well, to be a house wife. That may not sound too bad but if you are a die hard career woman who spent years obtaining multiple degrees and relished her independence then it is very scary depending on and being submissive to someone else. May Jehovah bless you in your continued desire to do his will which is the highest of all honors.

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