Something doesn’t add up in Joseph’s visions

The writer no longer holds the following position (having been disabused of it by Luther). The post remains in place due to pack-rat compulsions.

What’s wrong with this prophecy?: “The sun and the moon and the eleven stars made obeisance to me.”

You might recognize this as one of the two visions that Joseph had prior to being sold to a party of Ishmeelites. To help you piece together what’s awry, here’s a redaction of the story:

At age 17 [1], Joseph had a pair of visions, which he described to his family: in the dreams,  inanimate objects make obeisance to him, sheaves of grain in the earlier and heavenly bodies in the latter. He was sold into Egypt, presumably before his next birthday. [2] His mother, Rachel, was still alive at that time, for her death was occasioned by the birth of Benjamin [3], whom Joseph never knew until his family reunion in Egypt. (The assertion that Rachel was still alive at the time supposes that Gen 35 and 37 are not given in chronological order. For a discussion of that see “Genesis 35 and 37 are out of order.”)

Evidence of Rachel’s earthly presence when Joseph was 17 comes in Jacob’s response to the latter of Joseph’s two visions. Joseph said:

Behold, I have dreamed a dream more; and, behold, the sun and the moon and the eleven stars made obeisance to me.

Jacob rebuked:

What is this dream that thou has dreamed? Shall I and thy mother and thy brethren indeed come to bow down ourselves to thee to the earth?

It’s remarkable that Joseph’s family had the same interpretation of his dreams that we have: that the elements of his dreams represented his family members, who should make obeisance to him. After all, if a son of yours shared such a dream with you, would you personalize it in this way? What if the number of items in his dream didn’t coincide with the number of members in your family?

You’ve already caught the first inconsistency: the dream alludes to Joseph’s mother (even Jacob reded it so). And we have no obeisance by Joseph’s family to him (even in any figurative sense) until their reunion with him in Egypt [4], and by that time, Rachel had been dead several years (Joseph was between 37 and 39 years old).

You might suggest that Rachel’s inclusion in the vision was not literal but was only intended for the sake of a holistic view of the family. But why, then, are there eleven stars? Benjamin was not born yet. Not counting Joseph, there were only ten sons of Jacob at the time of the dream. (Count ‘em: Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Zebulun, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, & Asher.)

It makes better sense for the vision to have {a sun, a moon, and ten stars} or {a sun and eleven stars}, but {a sun and a moon and twelve stars} is like trying to pick up a single end of two different sticks. Anyone have an explanation?


[1] Gen 37:2. Okay, so it’s not absolutely evident that the first three episodes in this chapter (evil report & coat of colours, Joesph’s visions, and sold into slavery) all took place at age 17, but it seems the intended message.

[2] Gen 37:25–28, 36. Okay, he was actually sold to Ishmeelites, who sold him to Midianites, who sold him to Potiphar of Egypt. Who knows how long all this arbitrage took?

[3] Gen 35:17–19

[4] Gen 42:6, 43:26,28. Okay, so we never have record of Jacob bowing to Joseph.

Image credit Lawrence OP

Day 4: Leaving London

King’s Cross station and Platform 9 3/4

Our depature from London took us through King’s Cross station.  Some one or other of us had heard that the city had installed a false “Platform 9 3/4” in tribute to the Harry Potter books, so we sought out the photo opportunity, but be warned, it was a disappointment.

Platform 9 3/4 at King's Cross Station

It’s only a print of a brick wall with the latter end of a bifurcated luggage cart bolted against it.  To enhance the indignity, there’s a sign overhead reading “Platform 9 3/4″… I guess that’s for the benefit of people who have read lots of books in which characters push luggage carts through red brick walls.

Unfortunately, the print is not very broad or tall, so there is no angle from which you can take a snapshot for a legitimate-looking photograph. What’s more, the lustre of the glossy print, coupled with the light from different angles, means that you’ll see glare on your snap, no matter where you stand to take the photo.

The nicest thing about the photo experience for me was that it’s outside of the station, so people who go out of their way to get the photo don’t have to pay for a train ticket to reach the site.

Leaving London

It turned out that King’s Cross station was not the station closest to the Hertz car rental, so we were obliged to do some walking, but on our way, we passed a house which had served as residence to Charles Dickens, so we stopped for a photo.

The car

We knew the car would be smaller than our habit; we’ve driven in other countries before. Still, our expectations were surpassed.

The car was to hold 6 of us and our (minimal) luggage, but to our unhappy surprise, the car would only accommodate 6 of us by folding a seat up in the very trunk (boot) of the car. Gah! So Mum had her knees tucked up to her chest, and our luggage space was but half of the minimal capacity we had expected.

After London

…we didn’t spend very long in any one place. From here on, we explored mostly family history sites and LDS church history sites in England.  Look forward to reading about our experiences in the following (and others):

  • Leighton-Buzzard
  • Chatsworth
  • Preston, Lancashire (start of LDS work outside of US)
  • Liverpool
  • castles in North Wales
  • Hulton Park, Lancashire
  • Housesteads (Roman Fort)
  • Hadrian’s Wall
  • Vindolanda (Roman Fort currently under excavation)
  • Hylton Castle
  • Alnwick Castle (of Harry Potter fame)
  • Lindisfarne
  • Bamburgh Castle
And then on to Scotland.

Day 3: The Orangery

At Kensington Palace stands a well-reputed tea house called the Orangery. My mother and I share afternoon tea once a week, so it seemed natural that we must visit such a place while we had the opportunity.

Confections at The Orangery

The fare

Although we six enjoyed taking tea together and though the atmosphere was good, the fare was really not up to our norm. Admittedly, our standards for afternoon tea are delightfully lofty:

Mum makes excellent scones[1]. And we’re so fond of our favourite tea[2] that we send away for it because we can’t find it here. And we typically have green salads to outshine the rank and file. And dishes run a broad gummut from sweet to savoury: pastries, seed cakes, salmon and cucumber sandwiches, croissants, Glamorgen sausages, cookies, quiche, and so forth.

Well, even laying aside high standards, the food wasn’t something you’d go out of your way for. Go for the beauty and the atmosphere and the excuse to impose refined behaviour on your friends and family for an hour.

Tea at the Orangery, Kensington Palace

The Orangery at Kensington Palace

statue at the Orangery, Kensington Gardens

The Orangery was a stately, white building, whose décor suggested a pointed but not predominating neo-classical influence. (I speak of the columns and Romanesque busts.) The interior felt very open to the air, with many windows served for the only source of lighting I discerned. Each table bore a tiny orange tree, in honour of the eponym.

The grounds hold a long, beautiful lawn with manicured trees along the lane. At the lawn’s opposite termination lies a busy garden.

(—Oh, yes—all of the service people at the Orangery were expatriots. Recall that we’re still in London at this point.)

The Garden at the Orangery
The Garden at the Orangery

What’s ‘high tea’?

During all my growing-up, I held a vague notion that ‘high tea’ might be a very fancy afternoon meal, a white-gloves affair, with the daintiest tea service and petits fours. When I became an adult, my mother educated me otherwise:

High tea originated in the days of the industrial revolution and is so named because the participants would not sit to take it, but eat standing at a high table. Why stand? High tea was rather a working-class meal, and the participants who came in from work were hardly clean enough to sit down and, what’s more, would likely have to resume labours after partaking, not retiring until supper (which would be a lighter meal). So rather than being a more dainty affair, high tea was coarser than afternoon teas.

As you might imagine, then, high tea offers more substantial fare than afternoon tea’s light refreshment. Think meat, fish, and baked goods instead of pastries.  Whereas afternoon tea is generally taken at 4 PM, high tea (also termed ‘evening tea’ or ‘meat tea’) falls later, generally around 5–7 PM.

My advice for a visit to the Orangery

Make a reservation, and you won’t have to wait in line. For our party, having just come from a long tour of the Tower of London, being spared the line was a blessing.

As I suggested before, the confections and scones were no great attraction, though they were pretty to behold and the menu made them seem appealing.


[1] You might call them crumpets—I don’t mean the fried bread which we sometimes call ‘scones’ here in the US.

[2] Saveur du Soir: Réglisse et Menthe. It’s actually an infusion, not containing tea leaves—in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we don’t drink tea or coffee.

Day 3: Tower of London

Tower of London entrance

A published guide counselled us to plan on 2–3 hours at the Tower of London.  We spent 5 hours there and could have easily spent more, had only my body not given up under me.

What’s The Tower of London?

I always imagined that the Tower of London was a tower, but in fact it’s a sprawling castle which includes numerous towers, each with its own name. (It would seem that you can’t trust everything that you see in video games. Thank you very much, VTM: Redemption.)

If there is any one tower that represents the Tower of London, however, it would be the White Tower.

The White Tower

The Tower of London started with William the Conquerer’s White Tower, which stands today as the hub of the Tower of London, rising singularly in centre of an expansive courtyard encircled by two concentric curtain walls of stone.

The White Tower, Tower of London
The White Tower (seen from southeast)

What are curtain walls? You might have seen them termed a ‘bailey’. They’re the exterior walls which form the courtyard about the keep. Get an impression of their scale in the picture below.

Between the curtain walls, Tower of London
Between the outer and inner curtain wall

Traitor's Gate & St Thomas' Tower above

As a foreign conqueror, William the Bastard[1] stood in need of substantiating his power in the minds of native subjects, and construction of the White Tower (built 1078–1087) was one measure to that end.  (Recall that the Battle of Hastings (1066), which decided his victory over the English, took place 12 years prior to the start of the construction.)

The White Tower was begun just inside the south-east point of the city wall.  People approaching the town in the latter part of the 11th century were to see the imposing White Tower rising above the city that they might fear their new king.

The outer of the two curtain walls admits boat access to the river through Traitor’s Gate on the south. Traitor’s Gate is so named because prisoners would be brought through it (not the main entrance) prior to their imprisonment or execution.

Traitor's Gate, Tower of London
Traitor's Gate, access to river

White Tower, Tower of London, from south

The White Tower is the oldest of the English (or French, if you will) edifices on the site, but the oldest construction of all is the remains of the Romain wall running along the east side of the White Tower. At the south end of these ruins, you can see the remains of an ancient Roman tower. (For reference, the Roman Age in England spanned AD 40–400.) London was, after all, a Roman establishment, known as ‘Londinium’ in olden times.

As you can see in the photo, the entrance to the tower is some 20 feet above ground level, so the wooden stairs could be burnt in order to render the place nearly impregnable.

Portcullis in inner curtain wall, Tower of London

The Royal Mint

From 1279 to 1809, the Tower of London housed the Royal Mint, of which Sir Isaac Newton held position of warden for the last 28 years of his life. The book Newton and the Counterfeiter details his efforts as Warden to thwart counterfeiting and coin clipping.

The White Tower today

The White Tower is a museum now, stuffed full of ancient armour and arms, placards, coins from the Royal Mint, etc. It will take you at least the better part of an hour to get through, even if a glance is all you afford anything.

The crown jewels

The Waterloo Barracks, on the north side of the courtyard, house the crown jewels. Whether going to a Alexandria Archaeology Museum or the Hard Rock Café, we’re skeptical: are we seeing the real thing or a replica with a placard claiming to be the real thing?[2]  The audio tour addresses the question and asserts that the jewels on display are in fact bona fide. It directs the listener’s attention to the foot-thick steel doors for their corroboration.

Clock on Waterloo Barracks, Tower of London
Clock on Waterloo Barracks

The ‘crown jewels’ exhibit holds a great deal more than those accoutrements associated with coronations; it begins with an exhibit of the evolution of the English coat of arms across the modern dynasties.  Beyond that are jewels, plate, and garments which are truly worth beholding, marvellous works for craftsmanship as well as opulence.

The coronation crowns of several hundred years of monarchs are preserved in a long display case with a moving sidewalk on either side.

Other works in the Tower of London

scale model Tower of London

As you can see in the model, there are many edifices besides those I mentioned.  The map (not shown here) enumerates about 30. I suppose we observed more than half of them, but always had to move along more quickly than one would like, owing to my own inability to spend as long as I pleased going afoot.

Constructions date across the last thousand years and include histories which I enjoyed but haven’t the capacity to relate (get the electronic audio tour).

Audio tour is good
Audio tour = good

A few of the interior buildings and also some repairs on one of the curtain walls (see photo), made use of red bricks, not stone.

My review

The Tower of London was fabulous. I am amazed at how well preserved it is. It felt much like stepping into a story book—even in terms of scale. I scarcely imagined that the castle would be so enormous, much less that the 11th century White Tower could be so large and tall as it was.

Do visit the Tower of London. And if you care to read the placards and listen to the audio tour (or follow a docent about for live tour), then plan on spending much more than 2–3 hours. Bring a water bottle and hope for clear skies.

lion wire sculptures, Tower of London
Wire sculptures of lions

Admission & tickets

Anticipating a crowd, Luther and I arrived a quarter of an hour before the ticket booth opened, and the line for tickets was substantial already.  (Oddly, the entire multitude was queued up at only one of the eight-or-so booths. Luther inquired and learned that all eight booths were to open at the same time, so we took a spot at a booth of our own and completed our purchase before anyone else.)

Even though we were through the ticket booths first, there was already a substantial queue for the entrance to the castle. There’s a separate kiosk for prepaid tickets, and that kiosk was open before the ordinary ticket booths.

My advice: Save money and time by buying tickets online (yes, it’s cheaper; and at almost £20 per adult, we would have saved almost the price of one ticket among the six of us by buying in advance).

More advice: You paid a bundle to get to London and then a bundle to get into the castle. Go ahead and spring for the electronic audio tour. I generally find handheld audio tours worthwhile, and this one was very helpful. (Even with a map, it’s hard to decide where to give one’s attention in such a large castle.


[1] William the Bastard is another sobriquet for the conquerer, for he was of illegitimate birth (not just illegitimiate succession).

[2] I’ve never been to the Alexandria Archaeology Museum, but I have been to the Hard Rock Café in Yokohama, and I remember one of our company, Sienna Wooley, insisting that we ask the manager in Japanese whether the relics we saw were really honmono.