Thank you for once again joining me as we continue in our study of the book of Genesis, I’m Randy Duncan and in this episode we will be covering Genesis chapter 45, which is the chapter many of you have been waiting on, where Joseph finally revelas his true identity to his brothers
But first, as a very brief summary of what we covered in the last chapter, Remember, Joseph tested his brothers, to see if their character had changed. And he did so by placing a silver goblet, or cup, in Benjamin’s bag, and then had his steward accuse Benjamin of stealing.
Facing the possibility of Benjamin being imprisoned, the brothers, particularly Judah, step up and display their changed character, with Judah offering to take Benjamin’s place, putting both Benjamin and his father Jacob’s interests in front of his own. This is what Joseph has wanted to test them with from the beginning, and now he has seen firsthand how they have changed, from the brothers who had him sold into slavery, into brothers who would now themselves voluntarily become slaves for others.
And with that we dive into chapter 45, and we begin with the three first verses, which read..” Then Joseph could not control himself before all those who stood by him. He cried, “Make everyone go out from me.” So no one stayed with him when Joseph made himself known to his brothers. 2 And he wept aloud, so that the Egyptians heard it, and the household of Pharaoh heard it. 3 And Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph! Is my father still alive?” But his brothers could not answer him, for they were dismayed at his presence.
It is hard to even imagine being in this situation. The emotions Joseph must have felt at this moment. How confused his brothers must have been. Trying to process what Joseph was saying, remembering their past evil deed, trying to simply digest what was happening. It is truly incredible.
But at this point in Joseph’s plan to search out his brother’s character, they have now repeatedly proven their integrity and loyalty to their family. There is really nothing more that Joseph can accomplish, and he is now just overwhelmed with emotion.
Twice before, Joseph had broken down, had to leave the room and weep. The last time, he was able to control himself. But this time, he cannot. He can no longer control all of his pent-up emotions. Emotions that have no doubt been building for over 20 years now, and so the second most powerful person in the world at this time…breaks down.
And he even breaks down in front of all of his attendants who were standing by, all of those who were present in his court.
Joseph then cries out to his attendants, ‘Make everyone go out from me”. IOW, “Have everyone leave my presence”. He will not allow any outsider to share in this private and intensely intimate moment with his family.
And it says that Joseph “ … wept aloud, so that the Egyptians heard it, and the household of Pharaoh heard it”. Again, can you imagine. All of those years of emotion finally being able to come out. Finally released and expressed. I have mentioned before, but there is sometimes a stigma associated with grown men crying. And certainly, there is a time and place for grown men in leadership positions to appropriately express themselves.
But has there ever been a better example than Jesus himself? In John chapter 11, the family of Lazarus comes to Jesus, weeping over their brother who had died. And even knowing he would bring Lazarus back to life, Jesus wept. He wept, not because of Lazarus death, he already knew he would resurrect Lazarus. He wept because he had compassion for the family. He hurt with them, and knew what they were dealing with.
There is a saying that “The beauty of tears is that they remind us we are capable of feeling deeply. Embrace them as a testament to your humanity”.
And Joseph here does just that. He may be the leader of Egypt, but he retains his humanity. He keeps a proper perspective, understanding what is truly important in life.
At this point, the masquerade is officially over. But he manages to say to his brothers” I am Joseph”. I cannot even imagine the look on his brothers faces when they heard those words. Remember, thye had never even mentioned the name of their “other brother” to this Egyptian ruler. So how could he possibly know?
One other observation here as well. Joseph now speaks directy to his brothers, in Hebrew. He no longer is speaking to them through an interpreter! This alone would have shocked the brothers, that any Egyptian, especially the ruler, would speak in their language. And on top of that, he is telling them, in their own language, that he is their brother Joseph.
Joseph also immediately asks about his father Jacob. He wants to know if his father is well. Remember, up until this point, he had only asked about the well-being of “their” father. But now he asks “how is my father? Is he still alive?
And what was the brothers’ response?…his brothers could not answer him because they were in shock. They were dismayed. They are completely dumbfounded, and confused. Actually, the Hebrew word used here for how they were feeling is the word bāhal (buh-holl), which actually means, to tremble inwardly, to be terrified.
As the reality of the situation begins to sink in, and they realize that this Egyptian ruler standing before them is the brother they sold into slavery, they become terrified. What must have been going through their minds is the same things that would go through our minds if we were in that situation! Is he going to make us all slaves? Cast us into prison? Is he going to take his revenge and have us all executed?
I mean, think about it! They would have assumed Joseph was long since dead. The life expectancy for slaves in ancient societies was fairly short. And how was it even possible that a 17 year old boy, who was sold into slavery, would rise to become the second most powerful man in all of Egyt outside of Pharoah himself? Well, one thought comes to mind. As Matt 19:26 tells us, “ “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
Again, scripture here is describing a sort of paralyzing fear that they are experiencing, because they realize their lives are now in the hands of the one they sold into slavery over 20 years ago. The one they thought they had killed. And so they’re unable to respond to him or answer him.
But verses 4-8 continue…4 So Joseph said to his brothers, “Come near to me, please.” And they came near. And he said, “I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. 5 And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life. 6 For the famine has been in the land these two years, and there are yet five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest. 7 And God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. 8 So it was not you who sent me here, but God. He has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt.
So with his brothers still trembling in fear, Joseph tells them, Come near me, please. He is trying to disarm them, put them at ease, let them know he doesn’t intend to harm them or seek revenge.
And he continues, “I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt”. So once again, Joseph needs to make sure they understand that he is really their brother Joseph. And he does so by adding on, you know, the one you sold into slavery! You see, he said this because Joseph was the only other person who knew about their secret. And so there can now be no doubt it is really him.
But Joseph continues talking to them, saying “…do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life”. How many of us would have taken that approach? How many of us would have taken at least a little revenge, or at the very least berated them, scared them a bit. But that’s not what Joseph does here. Joseph is directing their attention away from his potential anger, and their sin, and redirecting it towards the grace of God, telling them that it was God’s doing.
Even though the brothers acted with evil intent, God was able to orchestrate His plan and divine purpose. Joseph reassures them, he alleviates their shame and guilt, that it was not them who sent him into Egypt…it was God. I am reminded of Romans 8:28, which tells us “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”
And what would the “good” be in this situation? Well, Joseph is now running Egypt, and as he tells them, “to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors”. IOW, to save many lives. To be the instrument of your survival. And not only that, but God has raised him from the prison to be the ruler over all the land of Egypt. Remember, when he was younger, after sharing his dreams with his brothers, they spitefully asked him ‘Do you mean to rule over us?”
Joseph also tells them that “the famine has been in the land these two years, and there are yet five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest”. BTW, with the famine being in the land for two years now, that would make Joseph 39 years old at this time.
But he tells them there are five more years left with no plowing or harvesting, which is simply a merism for crops, meaning there will be no agricultural activities that will yield any crops.
Joseph then shifts gears, as he now gives them instructions. Beginning in verse 9 he tells them…9 Hurry and go up to my father and say to him, ‘Thus says your son Joseph, God has made me lord of all Egypt. Come down to me; do not tarry. 10 You shall dwell in the land of Goshen, and you shall be near me, you and your children and your children’s children, and your flocks, your herds, and all that you have. 11 There I will provide for you, for there are yet five years of famine to come, so that you and your household, and all that you have, do not come to poverty.’ 12 And now your eyes see, and the eyes of my brother Benjamin see, that it is my mouth that speaks to you. 13 You must tell my father of all my honor in Egypt, and of all that you have seen. Hurry and bring my father down here.” 14 Then he fell upon his brother Benjamin’s neck and wept, and Benjamin wept upon his neck. 15 And he kissed all his brothers and wept upon them. After that his brothers talked with him.
So Joseph’s direction for them to hurry and return home and bring word to Jacob, serves as a transition in scenes here. And it also serves as the transition for Israel to migrate to Egypt. Joseph has his brothers get word to his father Jacob, that God has made him ruler over all of Egypt. And he tells them, “Come down to Egypt and live with me, and do not delay. Bring your children and grandchildren. I will provide for you.” In saying all of this, Joseph is clearly thinking this will be more of a long-term migration. This isn’t just coming down to visit for the holidays or something. The book of Exodus begins by telling us “Then Joseph died, and all his brothers and all that generation. But the people of Israel were fruitful and increased greatly; they multiplied and grew exceedingly strong, so that the land was filled with them.”
So we know from this that for the rest of Joseph’s life, and the lives of his brothers and grandchildren, that the Israelites thrived in Egypt.
But right after that, we read “Now there arose a new king over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. 9 And he said to his people, “Behold, the people of Israel are too many and too mighty for us. 10 Come, let us deal shrewdly with them, lest they multiply, and, if war breaks out, they join our enemies and fight against us and escape from the land.” 11 Therefore they set taskmasters over them to afflict them with heavy burdens.
All of which sets the stage for, after 400 years, Moses eventually will lead them out of Egypt.
But back to the text here, Joseph also tells his brothers to let Jacob know there are still five yeras of famine remaining. Surely he communicated this to Jacob, knowing that Jacob would be resistant to a full family migration to Egypt.
It is an interesting statement that Joseph wants them to relay to Jacob, when he says “ And now your eyes see, and the eyes of my brother Benjamin see, that it is my mouth that speaks to you”. He says this because what Jacob is hearing is so unbelievable, that he might need a credible witness to confirm what the brothers are reporting. And of all the brothers, Benjamin might be the only one Jacob has enough confidence in at this point to believe such a story. And so Joseph says, Benjamin’s eyes have seen”. IOW, ask Benjamin, he has seen for himself. That it is me, Joseph, speaking directly to you, and not through an interpreter. This isn’t based on a rumor, but firsthand knowledge.
And then finally, we see that “Joseph fell upon his brother Benjamin’s neck and wept, and Benjamin wept upon his neck. 15 And he kissed all his brothers and wept upon them. After that his brothers talked with him.
So the reconciliation is complete. Joseph, hugging his brothers and crying on them, convinces them of his good will, that he truly means them no harm, and so they finally break free from their stunned silence and actually begin to speak.
Because notice, so far, the brothers have not uttered a single word. It is only after this emotional embrace that their fear and hesitancy is overcome.
If you remember, back in chapter 37, we read that “When his brothers saw that their father loved him more than any of them, they hated him and could not speak a kind word to him.” But they are now able to speak with him, something they were not able to do with him when he was still a boy.
One interesting observation here… is that God initiates reconciliation of the brothers through a famine. IOW, it was through the process of Joseph’s suffering that reconciliation was brought about. Sort of reminds you of the process of the cross doesn’t it? It was through Christ’s suffering that God brought about the possibility of reconciliation. It is only through Jesus suffering on the cross that our reconciliation with God is possible
I also think there is a lesson here for all of us. You see, Joseph not only hugged and wept with his innocent brother Benjamin, but he did so with all of his brothers, even after what they did to him. I’m sure there arre many who have strained family relatiosnhips, or feel as though you were wronged by a family member in the past, and things have never been the same, or maybe the relationship was ruined. Well, let me ask you a question, was what that family member did to you worse than what Joseph’s brothers did to him? Were you sold into slavery? Were you thrown into prison and forrgotten about for years even though you were innocent? If you are in a scenario like that, I pray you would reconsider. Life is way too short. Maybe the only thing worse than actually having that conversation, is someday having to live with the regret of not having it.
But we continue with verses 16-20, which read, 16 When the report was heard in Pharaoh’s house, “Joseph’s brothers have come,” it pleased Pharaoh and his servants. 17 And Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Say to your brothers, ‘Do this: load your beasts and go back to the land of Canaan, 18 and take your father and your households, and come to me, and I will give you the best of the land of Egypt, and you shall eat the fat of the land.’ 19 And you, Joseph, are commanded to say, ‘Do this: take wagons from the land of Egypt for your little ones and for your wives, and bring your father, and come. 20 Have no concern for your goods, for the best of all the land of Egypt is yours.’
So what we see herre is simply Pharaoh’s blessing on Joseph’s family. He is so indebted to Joseph for saving Egypt from starvation, and so appreciative, he welcomes Joseph’s family, and even tells them to have no concern for their possessions, for the best of all the land of Egypt is yours.
It sounds like Pharaoh wanted to do for Joseph’s family what Joseph had already done for Pharaoh and all of Egypt. And it is a good and fitting gesture on the part of Pharaoh for the man who had saved Egypt
You know, it’s really interesting to compare Abraham and Jacob and their migrations. And what I mean is, Abraham obeyed the divine command from God to go to the land of Canaan to become a great nation. Jacob now will obey a divine command of leaving Cannan to go down into Egypt to become a great nation of people.
If you remember, famine drove Abraham into Egypt, and now famine will drive Jacob into Egypt. The difference though, is that Abraham went to Egypt without God’s direction.
Verses 21-24 continue…21 The sons of Israel did so: and Joseph gave them wagons, according to the command of Pharaoh, and gave them provisions for the journey. 22 To each and all of them he gave a change of clothes, but to Benjamin he gave three hundred shekels of silver and five changes of clothes. 23 To his father he sent as follows: ten donkeys loaded with the good things of Egypt, and ten female donkeys loaded with grain, bread, and provision for his father on the journey. 24 Then he sent his brothers away, and as they departed, he said to them, “Do not quarrel on the way.”
So the brothers do as Joseph has instructed. And not only did Joseph give them provisions for the journey, he gave each of them new clothes. And the Hebrew word used here is halifot,(hal-ee-fah’) which is specifically used for a gift of clothing that is given as a valuable prize, or as a token of affection or honor.
And I mention this because, how ironic! That is exactly opposite of what his brothers did to him years earlier when they stripped him of his clothes before tossing him into the pit. Not only that, remember, it was Joseph’s special tunic, his coat of many colors, that was such a point of contention between the brothers. And so how fitting that their reconciliation should be marked somewhat by gifts of clothing.
It’s also interesting that in addition to the change of clothes he gave to all his brothers, he also gave Benjamin 300 shekels of silver. I say this is interesting, because in this case, the silver is given to bless a brother, not to sell him
And finally, he sends his brothers away, telling them not to quarrel on the way home. Why would he say that? What makes Joseph think they would argue? I mean, what is it they have to argue about? I think what Joseph is getting at here is that he did not want them arguing with one another regarding their past crime. Or possibly in explaining everything to their father Jacob. After all, if Joseph has forgiven them, they should forgive one another.
But we continue with the last four verses which read…25 So they went up out of Egypt and came to the land of Canaan to their father Jacob. 26 And they told him, “Joseph is still alive, and he is ruler over all the land of Egypt.” And his heart became numb, for he did not believe them. 27 But when they told him all the words of Joseph, which he had said to them, and when he saw the wagons that Joseph had sent to carry him, the spirit of their father Jacob revived. 28 And Israel said, “It is enough; Joseph my son is still alive. I will go and see him before I die.”
Wow! Can you imagine how Jacob must have felt? What must have been going through his mind? I mean, for all you parents out there, can you even imagine? Believing your child to be dead for over 20 years, only to be told, No, your child is alive. And not only that, they are the ruler of Egypt? It is truly difficult to even imagine the emotions that Jacob must have been experiencing.
But it tells us that the brothers told Jacob Joseph was still alive, and was the ruler over all the land of Egypt. And Jacob is in shock, disbelief. It says his heart became numb, and he did not believe them. But can you blame him? I mean, the thought that Joseph was even still alive, let alone the ruler over Egypt, was truly unbelievable.
And don’t miss this point, imagine the brothers state of mind here. Being able to say out loud, “Joseph is still alive”. I mean, how liberating for them, that they can now finally be free from their guilt. They are free to talk about Joseph. It is probably hard to imagine just how significant this was for them. They have been freed from this heavy burden they have been carrying for over 20 years now. Can you imagine thensense of relief and peace they must have felt?
But after initially not believing his sons’ story, after seeing all of the gifts, the clothing, food, wagons, and silver, Jacob finally says, “Enough, I am convinced”. And can you imagine what Jacob must have been feeling when he says to his sons, “Joseph my son is still alive. I will go and see him before I die.”
It is truly remarkable. And Jacob doesn’t even mention the famine, any dangers along the trip, he is not concerned wth Joseph’s power or position, or what it may do for their family. His only desire is to simply go and see his beloved son before he dies.
Now before I end this episode, I want to quickly shift gears and mention something I have mentioned in a couple of earlier episodes, about the parallels between Joseph and Jesus, this typology, or the ways in which Joseph foreshadows Jesus. I won’t go through all of those again since we have already covered them, but I wanted to mention a couple others I just find interesting.
For example, when all of this began with Joseph, he was his father’s favorite son, and he was sent to his brothers. Jesus, the only begotten son of the Father, sent to his brothers, the Jews, But the Bible tells us in John 1:11 that his own did not receive him. In fact, not only did they not receive him, they betrayed him, with silver, just as Joseph’s brothers betrayed him with silver.
Jesus Christ is typified by Joseph, the beloved of his father, sent by his father to see his brothers, etc., innocent, sold by his brethren for twenty pieces of silver, but ends up becoming their lord, their saviour if you will. But not only a savior for his brothers, but a saviour of strangers, just as Jesus was sent first for the Jews, and then the gentiles.
All of this accomplished despite plots to destroy them, their sale and their rejection of them.
In prison Joseph is innocent and sort of finds himself between two criminals, you remember, the baker and the cupbearer; Jesus is on the cross between two thieves.
Joseph foretells of freedom to the one, and death to the other,
Jesus saves the one thief on the cross, while the other is not
But here is the difference…Joseph only predicts…Jesus Christ acts.
Joseph asked the one who was saved, the cupbearer, to remember him once he had been restored. But with Jesus, it was the one thief who said “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
And aren’t we all like one or the other of the two thieves on the cross? My prayer is that you would
be like the one to whom Jesus responds, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.”