4. A. "I hope for your salvation, O Lord" (Gen. 49:18):

B. Said R. Isaac, "All things depend on hope, suffering depends on hope, the sanctification of God's name depends on hope, the merit attained by the fathers depends on hope, the lust for the age to come depends on hope.

C. "That is in line with this verse: 'Yes, in the way of your judgments, O Lord, we have hoped for you, to your name, and to your memorial, is the desire of our soul' (Is. 26:8). 'The way of your judgments refers to suffering.

D. "'. . . to your name:' this refers to the sanctification of the divine name.

E. ". . and to your memorial:' this refers to the merit of the fathers.

F. "'... is the desire of our soul:' this refers to the lust for the age to come.

G. "Grace depends on hope: 'O Lord, be gracious to us, we have hoped for you' (Is. 33:2).

H. "Forgiveness depends on hope: 'For with you is forgiveness' (Ps. 133:4), then: 'I hope for the Lord' (Ps. 130:5)."

The passage makes explicit the critical importance of hope in the salvific process, and further links the exclamation to the setting in which it occurs. Keeping the faith, sustaining hope—these were all Israel could do. The Jews could control little more than their own attitudes. The world now had passed into the hands of their rivals, their siblings, sharing Scripture, sharing a claim to be "Israel," sharing the same view of history, sharing the same expectation of the Messiah's coming. The typological discourse yields this final lesson: Israel's task is to hope. Under the conditions of the age of Constantine, to be sure, the task proved formidable.

This seems to me to typify the strength of the exegesis at hand, with its twin powers to link all details to a tight narrative and to link the narrative to the history of Israel. What sense, then, did sages in Genesis Rabbah make of the history of Israel? Israel is the extended family of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Whatever happens now works out events in the life of the family long ago. The redemption in the past prefigures what is to come. The merit that protects Israel in the present derives from the heritage of the past. So history is one and seamless, as the life of a family goes on through time. Do people wonder, with the triumph of Christianity in politics, what is to become of Israel? In rereading the story of Israel's beginnings, sifting and resifting the events in the life of the patriarchs and matriarchs, sages found the answer to the question. What will happen is what has happened. History recapitulates the life of the family. And to a family, the politics of empire makes slight difference. Israel therefore will endure in hope.

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