Read the Bible in 2011 ◊ Week 12: Monday
“Now, therefore, please let your servant remain instead of the lad a slave to my lord, and let the lad go up with his brothers. For how shall I go up to my father if the lad is not with me—for fear that I see the evil that would overtake my father?”
In Monday’s Bible reading of Genesis 44–47, Joseph finally reveals himself to his brothers, bringing to a close the tests he had devised for them when they came to Egypt to buy grain, and Joseph realized they did not recognize him. Meredith Kline writes:
“In the common emergency the whole family acted under Jacob’s authority. Benjamin now occupied the favourite’s position, a circumstance on which Joseph’s imminent testing of the ten would pivot.”1
The interactions between Joseph and his brothers from chapter 42–45 are tense with emotion from the relationships and consequences of the past. Joseph’s testing of his brothers begins in chapter 42, when Joseph demands that one of them remain as hostage, and that they return with their youngest brother, Benjamin, to prove they are not spies. Simeon is left behind, but they are next dismayed to find the money of one brother in his grain, and at home they find that all have their money in their sacks. Unbeknown to them, this had been done by Joseph’s orders.
At first Jacob refuses to let them return to Egypt with Benjamin, even though Reuben offers the lives of his own two sons if he doesn’t bring Benjamin back. Finally, as the famine continues, Jacob yields to Judah’s pleading to put him in charge of Benjamin as he pledges that Jacob can blame Judah forever if he doesn’t return with Benjamin.
The brothers return to Egypt with Benjamin, gifts and double their money—their original funds with an additional amount for a second purchase of grain. When they arrive Joseph serves them a banquet, and the brothers are astounded to find themselves seated in order of their birth.
Their final test comes when they prepare to return to Canaan. Joseph again has his house steward return their money to their sacks, and Joseph also instructs that his own silver cup be placed in the sack of Benjamin. After the brothers leave, Joseph sends his steward after them to accuse them of theft. The brothers protest their innocence and say that if this has happened let the guilty one die and the rest be slaves. Upon seeing the cup found in Benjamin’s sack the brothers are so distraught they tear their clothes, and when they return they fall on the ground before Joseph. Judah, the brother who had suggested years ago that Joseph be sold as a slave (cf. Genesis 37:26–27), passionately pleads for Benjamin for their father’s sake, and offers himself as a slave if Joseph will only let Benjamin return to their father.
The brothers have passed their tests. The reality of their repentance over the evil they did Joseph is demonstrated by their conduct on behalf of Benjamin.
Then 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. He wept so loudly that the Egyptians heard it, and the household of Pharaoh heard of it.
Then 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.”
Then 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. Now do not be grieved or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life.”
The brothers return to Canaan and bring their families and their father, Jacob, to Egypt where they settle in Goshen. Jacob is finally reunited with his beloved son, Joseph, back to him from the dead as it were.
Joseph’s depth of emotion throughout these chapters tell us how deeply he had been harmed by his brothers and the anguish he had felt over his separation from his brother, Benjamin, and from his father, Jacob. He tested his brothers to find out if they had changed and to discover what kind of men they had become. Joseph’s forbearance and blessing of his brothers, when he had the power to have them all executed in revenge, affirms his genuine forgiveness of the ten men.
I find the account of Joseph and his brothers to be one of the most moving in all of the Bible. The next chapters will bring their chronicle to a close.
Isaiah 42 Photograph: ChristianPhotos.net – Free High Resolution Photos for Christian Publications
Joseph recognized by his brothers, Léon Pierre Urbain Bourgeois: Public Domain
1Meredith G. Kline, “Genesis,” The New Bible Commentary: Revised, D. Guthrie,
J. A. Motyer, eds., A. M. Stibbs, D. J. Wiseman, contributing eds., p. 109.
Original content: Copyright ©2011 Iwana Carpenter