We are in the last phase of the story of Joseph in Egypt and his eventual reunion with his family that he has not seen for over twenty years. So far we have seen that a great famine predicted by Joseph has brought even his own family to Egypt in search for food. Joseph, as second in command, was screening all foreigners and discovered his long lost brothers coming before him to buy grain. He does not reveal himself right away but instead sets in motion a plan to force his brothers to bring back his younger brother. He does this by accusing them of being spies and keeping one of them as hostage until they return with their younger brother as proof that they are innocent.
In our last scene Genesis describes the second visit to Egypt by the brothers who, along with their father's reluctant permission, bring Joseph's younger brother, Benjamin. Once they reach Joseph he treats them to a fine meal and honors them in his home. This sets the scene for the reunion of these estranged brothers as Joseph reveals his true identity.
Joseph Reveals Himself – Chapter 45
Joseph had been testing these men to see if there had been any changes in them.
- If they were the same selfish, godless, violent men, he could have them executed and save his younger brother.
- If they had changed, he could reveal himself and hope not only for a reunion but also for a reconciliation.
What he finds out is that they have changed:
- They were united among themselves.
- They were ready to sacrifice for one another (Judah ready to die).
- They were ready to admit their sin and accept God's punishment.
- They no longer bore any jealousy towards their half-brother but rejoiced at his favor at the hand of this Egyptian officer.
Because of these things Joseph could no longer contain his emotion and need to reveal himself.
1Then Joseph could not control himself before all those who stood by him, and he cried, "Have everyone go out from me." So there was no man with him when Joseph made himself known to his brothers. 2He wept so loudly that the Egyptians heard it, and the household of Pharaoh heard of it. 3Then 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.
4Then Joseph said to his brothers, "Please come closer to me." And they came closer. And he said, "I am your brother Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt.
- Genesis 45:1-4
Even though he sends them out of the room, the servants hear (and later report to Pharaoh) the loud weeping of Joseph as he declares his true identity. The brothers were amazed (Hebrew word could be translated troubled or terrified). If they felt guilty before, they really felt bad now, but Joseph tries to calm them by asking about his father.
It is interesting to note that if this reunion had not taken place, the family would have eventually been separated and assimilated among other nations. It was this turn of events that kept them together.
5Now do not be grieved or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life. 6For the famine has been in the land these two years, and there are still five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvesting. 7God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant in the earth, and to keep you alive by a great deliverance. 8Now, therefore, it was not you who sent me here, but God; and He has made me a father to Pharaoh and lord of all his household and ruler over all the land of Egypt.
Joseph wants to do four things:
- Ease their minds that he is no longer angry or wanting revenge on them for what they did.
- He wants to tell them what has happened to him over the last twenty years. Not only is he in charge of this food project but he has become an advisor to the Pharaoh and an important official in Egypt.
- He wants to give God the glory by showing them that all of this was permitted by God to happen in order to show how great God is and to show how much He cares for His chosen people in preserving them.
- Joseph needs to help them prepare for the five remaining years of famine.
Joseph Sends his Brothers Home
9Hurry 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 delay. 10You shall live in the land of Goshen, and you shall be near me, you and your children and your children's children and your flocks and your herds and all that you have. 11There I will also provide for you, for there are still five years of famine to come, and you and your household and all that you have would be impoverished."' 12Behold, your eyes see, and the eyes of my brother Benjamin see, that it is my mouth which is speaking to you. 13Now you must tell my father of all my splendor in Egypt, and all that you have seen; and you must hurry and bring my father down here." 14Then he fell on his brother Benjamin's neck and wept, and Benjamin wept on his neck. 15He kissed all his brothers and wept on them, and afterward his brothers talked with him.
Now Joseph shares with them the true urgency of the situation and tells them to bring his father and their families down with them. God had not permitted the people to leave Canaan before but Joseph is convincing them by God's great work that this was indeed God's will for them.
He eventually will settle them in the land of Goshen in Northeastern Egypt, a fertile region about 900 sq. miles in size. After the initial burst and then serious discussion about plans, there is a second wave of emotion as Joseph, beginning with his brother Benjamin, hugs and weeps with each of his brothers. Each (except Benjamin) is forgiven and each is reconciled in the arms of the other.
16Now when the news was heard in Pharaoh's house that Joseph's brothers had come, it pleased Pharaoh and his servants. 17Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, "Say to your brothers, 'Do this: load your beasts and go to the land of Canaan, 18and take your father and your households and come to me, and I will give you the best of the land of Egypt and you will eat the fat of the land.' 19Now you are ordered, 'Do this: take wagons from the land of Egypt for your little ones and for your wives, and bring your father and come. 20Do not concern yourselves with your goods, for the best of all the land of Egypt is yours.'"
The king now learns of Joseph's family and offers his own approval on their immigration to Egypt. Joseph was the deliverer of Egypt and so the people along with the king and officials are eager to help relocate Joseph's family.
21Then the sons of Israel did so; and Joseph gave them wagons according to the command of Pharaoh, and gave them provisions for the journey. 22To each of them he gave changes of garments, but to Benjamin he gave three hundred pieces of silver and five changes of garments. 23To his father he sent as follows: ten donkeys loaded with the best things of Egypt, and ten female donkeys loaded with grain and bread and sustenance for his father on the journey.
24So he sent his brothers away, and as they departed, he said to them, "Do not quarrel on the journey."
Joseph provides them with goods and gifts to bring to Jacob. He gives even more to Benjamin and the brothers are not jealous. He tells them not to "fall out of the way" meaning not to be distracted, not to be troubled after they leave.
25Then they went up from Egypt, and came to the land of Canaan to their father Jacob. 26They told him, saying, "Joseph is still alive, and indeed he is ruler over all the land of Egypt." But he was stunned, for he did not believe them. 27When they told him all the words of Joseph that he had spoken to them, and when he saw the wagons that Joseph had sent to carry him, the spirit of their father Jacob revived. 28Then Israel said, "It is enough; my son Joseph is still alive. I will go and see him before I die."
The brothers must have heeded Joseph's admonition because there is no comment made about their trip back home. Upon hearing the news, Jacob is overcome by emotion but eventually he believes what he thought was impossible, that his son was still alive.
The Bible does not say but in their attitude of repentance it may be that the brothers finally unburdened their story. Israel says "Enough!", he does not care about the details, he will see his son again and this is enough.
Israel in Egypt – Chapter 46
All of his life Jacob has sought the Lord for the important decisions in his life. Even though Joseph has invited him and there is a great famine, God could end the famine and he could just go visit Joseph. Canaan is his home, the land that God has promised him and his future generations - and now he has to uproot and move everyone to an unknown land. He is overjoyed at finding Joseph but perplexed about leaving Canaan.
God's will is difficult to determine at times.
1So Israel set out with all that he had, and came to Beersheba, and offered sacrifices to the God of his father Isaac. 2God spoke to Israel in visions of the night and said, "Jacob, Jacob." And he said, "Here I am." 3He said, "I am God, the God of your father; do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for I will make you a great nation there. 4I will go down with you to Egypt, and I will also surely bring you up again; and Joseph will close your eyes."
- Genesis 46:1-4
It seemed that all the circumstances and "open doors" kept pointing him to Egypt and so Jacob packed up along with all the families and headed for Egypt. He stopped along the way at Beersheba where he had lived with his father Isaac. It was the last stop along the way, the point of no return, before Egypt.
He again offers sacrifice and prayers and God once again speaks to him and blesses and encourages him by telling him it's ok to go down and He will bless him there. In hindsight we can see some of the advantages for the Israelites to live in Egypt:
- They would survive the famine.
- They would be living in an advanced society and would learn many useful things for later on.
- There was less danger of intermingling in Egypt than in Canaan. The Egyptians would not intermarry with shepherds and so the Israelites would be free to increase their people without pagan intermarrying.
- Living in a foreign land would strengthen their bonds and force them to develop a particular culture to themselves.
- They would be less likely to worship Egyptian gods and so the teachings of their patriarchs would remain intact.
5Then Jacob arose from Beersheba; and the sons of Israel carried their father Jacob and their little ones and their wives in the wagons which Pharaoh had sent to carry him. 6They took their livestock and their property, which they had acquired in the land of Canaan, and came to Egypt, Jacob and all his descendants with him: 7his sons and his grandsons with him, his daughters and his granddaughters, and all his descendants he brought with him to Egypt.
So in a very general way the writer describes the migration of Israel, his family and their possessions from Canaan to Egypt.
The next section (verses 8-25) begins the important task of listing the genealogies of each son as they left the land of Canaan. Later on these records are used to determine who will serve at the tabernacle and where they will live in the land of promise. The lists go in order of wives with Leah's children listed first then her servant followed by Rachel and her servant. The sons, daughters and children are listed, even Joseph's sons (showing that the lists were compiled after this event took place).
26All the persons belonging to Jacob, who came to Egypt, his direct descendants, not including the wives of Jacob's sons, were sixty-six persons in all, 27and the sons of Joseph, who were born to him in Egypt were two; all the persons of the house of Jacob, who came to Egypt, were seventy.
The final tally that the writer gives here is that there were seventy people that came to Egypt. This does not represent the exact number counting all grandchildren etc., but is a representative number that includes the immediate family.
- 70 is a special number in Jewish history and theology (represents wholeness: 4+3x10 (world + God x perfection).
- 70 elders - Numbers 11:16
- 70 years of captivity - II Chronicles 36:21
- 70 translators of Hebrew OT into Greek - Septuagint
- 70 members of the Sanhedrin
- 70 witnesses sent out by Christ - Luke 10:1
These seventy represent the founders of the Jewish society and culture who went into Egypt as a family and came out 400 years later as a nation.
1. You never know
You never know what or why God is testing you.
- Joseph did not know for thirteen years why what was happening, was happening.
- His brothers did not know why their lives were being put upside down - they thought they knew, but they were so surprised when they found out.
- Jacob did not know why he was losing his family, even his life at a time when God was supposed to bless him.
You never know why or for what reason God is testing you, but you are always happy when you pass the test. Be careful not to complain too loudly, not to lose faith too quickly, not to get mad at God too easily because you never know what He is going to do with you.
2. God will be there when you need Him
God planned and prepared twenty years ahead of time to supply what Jacob needed even before Jacob was aware that he would be needing something.
God knows the future, He knows the results of our decisions. He even tries to influence us to make good ones through His word and Spirit. He does not force us to make good choices, He allows us to experience the results of our bad choices, He also permits bad things to happen to us that we have no control over. But in all of this He plans and works in such a way to be there when we need Him and provide what we need when we reach the point of need.
Jesus says that our Father knows what we need before we ask Him, this is because He has been planning for our need long before we arrived at it - our asking is a sign of faith acknowledging this fact.
3. Always search for God's will before you decide
Jacob had many definite "signs" that God wanted him to go to Egypt. His problem was that this seemed to contradict God's earlier promise to give him the land of Canaan and instruction to stay there.
Jacob responded to the leading of the Lord with caution and prayer seeking the Lord's word and will to actually confirm this change in his life. Of course he finally received it at Beersheba when God actually spoke to him.
We do not have God "audibly" speaking or appearing to us today but He still directs and speaks to us in particular ways so we can know His will.
- His Word contains all we need for instruction, holy living and service - II Timothy 3:16; II Peter 1:3 - we need to consult it.
- The church provides direction, encouragement through its leadership example, teaching; ask elders, teachers, ministers or experienced brethren.
- The Holy Spirit leads us through the Word, through His influence in our conscience and the opportunities we encounter in our daily lives.
- God does work all things for good and the Holy Spirit is God who works these things out in our daily lives. Spend time in prayer and meditation.
- Our judgment and experience used under God's influence helps us make wise and proper decisions. Use your best judgment and experience (parents, etc.).
When we accept the Lordship of Jesus Christ in or lives through repentance and baptism, He directs us through His word, His Spirit, His church, our own conscience and judgment, in order to make decisions that will be in concert with His will and His plan for our lives.
If we search for it, God will reveal His will for our lives in every area. He is pleased when we seek Him, and those who seek will find.
- What indicators did Joseph see in his brothers that led him to feel he could reveal himself to them and how does this relate to our repentance?
- What was Joseph's attitude and spirit towards his brothers and what can we learn from it?
- How does Joseph's brother's reaction to Joseph mirror our reaction to God's judgment and how can we accept God's forgiveness to lessen our fears of judgment?
- Outline the four things Joseph wanted from revealing his identity to his brothers. Which stands out to you as the most difficult and why?
- Read Genesis 45:16-20. How does Pharaoh recognize Joseph's family and offering them everything they need from his own belongings compare to God recognizing us through Jesus and accepting us into His kingdom with all our needs met?
- What benefits would Jacob and his family realize from moving to Egypt?
- List some observations about Joseph that show God working in his life to bring about God's will and what can we learn from this?
- How can you use this lesson to grow spiritually and help others come into a relationship with Jesus?