March 23, 2015.
Daily Reading: Genesis 44-47.
Background: Genesis 40-43.
Concepts and Connections.
Joseph tests his brothers: Just as in chapter 42, it is hard to speculate why Joseph chose to not tell his brothers who he was right away, but rather set up a trap for them as they went home so that they would have to come right back before they got too far away. The previous chapter details that feast and merrymaking that Joseph and his brothers had when they returned with Benjamin, and everything seemed to be going just fine. However, the tides quickly changed again for Joseph’s bothers when they find out that Joseph’s cup is in Benjamin’s sack. When Joseph springs the trap, so to speak, his brothers are dismayed that the cup has been found in Benjamin’s sack and each brother loaded their donkey and returned to the land of Egypt, where Joseph was waiting. Instead of killing the youngest brother (though Joseph never actually seemed to have any intention of killing any of his brothers, especially not Benjamin), he suggests that he stay behind as a servant, likely knowing that this would not go over well with his father when his brothers retuned to him. Judah pleads that he be the one to stay instead, for he has taken responsibility for the safe return of Benjamin (ref. Genesis 43:8-10). Judah tells Joseph the whole story of what had happened with their father and Benjamin when they returned to their land. It would seem that the brothers of Joseph actually thought Joseph was dead. Benjamin was all that Jacob their father had left of the sons of Rachel, and if they did not return with Benjamin, it would kill Jacob. We will see in the next chapter that when Judah talks about his father is when Joseph can’t hold back his emotion any longer to keep up the facade.
God’s plan and Joseph’s forgiveness: This is the ultimate revealing of the fulfillment of the plan of God for Joseph in this story. At the mention of his father, Joseph can’t hold himself back any longer and he burst into tears and tells his bothers who he is. They are dumbfounded because they simply can’t believe it is him at first. But Joseph continues on to tell them what God had purposed for him, setting him up in a position to save many people, including his own, and how it was God’s will that he get to this place. They meant harm to him, but God had taken what they had meant for evil and used it to save His people. There are two aspects of this story that are absolutely remarkable: the working of the plan of God and the kind of forgiveness that Joseph has for his brothers. The plan and providence of God can be seen throughout the story of Joseph, though it should be noted that Joseph’s life was filled with trials and tribulations even though God was with him. It would follow that we must go through the trials and tribulations to strengthen our character, patience and endurance for the Lord. Whereas the plan of God is truly remarkable in this story, the level of Joseph’s forgiveness that he shows to his brothers is too phenomenal. Remember that it was because of his brothers that Joseph had gone through all the hardships in his life. It was them who sold him into slavery (which was the lesser option of what they were originally going to do, which was kill him). That action lead to him being sold into Potiphar’s house. This lead to a false accusation that landed Joseph in jail for multiple years. Joseph would have a lot to be angry about with his brothers. But he almost just drops it like it was nothing. Throughout the whole chapter, Joseph attributes everything to God, saying that it was Him who got him there, in order that HIs people might be saved. It would be very difficult to develop the forgiving spirit that Joseph portrays here, but it is precisely this spirit of forgiveness for which we should strive! As servants of the Lord Christ, we are called to a spirit of forgiveness, just as He has forgiven us of all our sins, no matter how grotesque. What a Savior we have! Let us strive to be more like Him though the example of Joseph.
Relocation of Jacob and his sons to Egypt: It may seem that this is just an incidental chapter in the book of Genesis that has to do with a relocation and some genealogies; however, when we look at the bigger picture of Genesis and Exodus, this chapter becomes very important. In the book of Exodus, a major theme is the bondage of the children of Israel in the land of Egypt and their exodus from that situation via the power of God. But do you ever wonder why they were slaves in the land of Egypt? It all starts with Joseph and then this story about Joseph’s family’s relocation to the city of Goshen in the land of Egypt. The brothers of Joseph return home just to tell Jacob that his son Joseph is alive. Though at first he doesn’t believe them, after seeing all the provisions and carts that they had brought back with them, Jacob finally realizes that they are telling the truth. He decides to go with them to see Joseph. 70 people in all come with Jacob out of the land he was dwelling in and into the land of Goshen that had been provided for Joseph’s family. What a reunion it must have been for Jacob and Joseph! Partial lineages are given for the sons of Jacob, as they can also be found in the first chapter of Exodus. As Joseph prepares to bring some of his brethren before Pharaoh, he tells them to tell Pharaoh that they were shepherds, so that they might be given the land of Goshen to dwell in, which is indeed what they ended up doing. Things finally seemed to be looking up for Joseph and his family.
Joseph’s relationship with Pharaoh: Joseph’s relationship with Pharaoh, king of Egypt, as shown here is truly remarkable. If you think about the power that Pharaoh must have had, it is phenomenal that he would care at all about a hebrew prisoner, even if he did help him out with the famine. But Pharaoh not only spares Joseph, but it seems like he has a pretty close relationship with him. If you had asked Joseph when he was young if he thought he would on day be standing as number two in common in all of Egypt, he might have just laugh. But here he was, standing tall, making decisions and saving lives- all in the name of the Lord, or so it would see. And Pharaoh very much liked Joseph. When Pharaoh learned that his brother’s had come, it pleased him and he sent to bring back their families and given them the best of the land of Egypt to live in. Then Joseph brings some of his brothers in before Pharaoh, and when they tell him that they are shepherds, Pharaoh says that they should settle in the land of Goshen and if there are able men to even put them over his very own livestock. It is clear that Pharaoh thought very highly of Joseph. This relationship would prove profitable and successful, as Joseph would eventually buy all the land and livestock for Pharaoh, so that whenever the people of the land would harvest, they would give one fifth of their produce to Pharaoh. The famine would soon be over, but Pharaoh still had a lot he owed to Joseph, and really to God more so than Joseph. We can look at this story and see that with the plan of God, truly incredible things can happen during our lifetime.
Tomorrow’s Reading: I Samuel 7-10.
The wisdom of the Lord be upon you.