Genesis 43:1-10, “Now the famine was severe in the land. And it came to pass, when they had eaten up the grain which they had brought from Egypt, that their father said to them, ‘Go back, buy us a little food.’ But Judah spoke to him, saying, ‘The man solemnly warned us, saying, ‘You shall not see my face unless your brother is with you.’ If you send our brother with us, we will go down and buy you food. But if you will not send him, we will not go down; for the man said to us, ‘You shall not see my face unless your brother is with you.’
And Israel said, ‘Why did you deal so wrongfully with me as to tell the man whether you had still another brother?’ But they said, ‘The man asked us pointedly about ourselves and our family, saying, ‘Is your father still alive? Have you another brother?’ And we told him according to these words. Could we possibly have known that he would say, ‘Bring your brother down’?
Then Judah said to Israel his father, ‘Send Benjamin with me, and we will arise and go, that we may live and not die, both we and you and also our little ones. I myself will be surety for him; from my hand you shall require him. If I do not bring him back to you and set him before you, then let me bear the blame forever. For if we had not lingered, surely by now we would have returned this second time.’”
Now that the provisions have expired, Jacob wants his sons to return to Egypt to purchase more grain. And yet, without Benjamin the boys rightly see this as a suicide mission. Though Jacob was concerned for the life of his youngest son, in the end it really didn’t matter… If he refused to allow Benjamin to go with his brothers down to Egypt they were all going to die of starvation in Canaan anyway. At this point Jacob really didn’t have a choice.
Genesis 43:11-17, “And their father Israel said to them, ‘If it must be so, then do this: Take some of the best fruits of the land in your vessels and carry down a present for the man - a little balm and a little honey, spices and myrrh, pistachio nuts and almonds. Take double money in your hand, and take back in your hand the money that was returned in the mouth of your sacks; perhaps it was an oversight.
Take your brother also, and arise, go back to the man. And may God Almighty give you mercy before the man, that he may release your other brother and Benjamin. If I am bereaved, I am bereaved!’
So the men took that present and Benjamin, and they took double money in their hand, and arose and went down to Egypt; and they stood before Joseph. When Joseph saw Benjamin with them, he said to the steward of his house, ‘Take these men to my home, and slaughter an animal and make ready; for these men will dine with me at noon.’ Then the man did as Joseph ordered, and the man brought the men into Joseph’s house.”
I imagine there was great relief in Joseph’s soul when he saw that his brothers had finally returned (we don’t know how long they delayed). Not only have they come back for Simeon (not leaving him to rot in prison), but it became clear Benjamin was doing just as well as they claimed. Don’t forget Benjamin was a toddler the last time Joseph had seen him.
What follows would have been weird for these men. They approach Joseph and he turns to his servant and mutters something in Egyptian. Then as Joseph goes back about his business this servant tells them in Hebrew that his master was requesting a private audience with them in his home. To these men this whole development is highly suspect.
Genesis 43:18-22, “Now the men were afraid because they were brought into Joseph’s house; and they said (to the servant who spoke Hebrew), ‘It is because of the money, which was returned in our sacks the first time, that we are brought in, so that he may make a case against us and seize us, to take us as slaves with our donkeys.’
When they drew near to the steward of Joseph’s house, they talked with him at the door of the house, and said, ‘O sir, we indeed came down the first time to buy food; but it happened, when we came to the encampment, that we opened our sacks, and there, each man’s money was in the mouth of his sack, our money in full weight; so we have brought it back in our hand. And we have brought down other money in our hands to buy food. We do not know who put our money in our sacks.’”
Willy Shakespeare famously said, “Suspicion haunts the guilty mind.” There is no questioning the fact their guilty conscious for what they had done to Joseph was still eating at them. We know this because they’re expecting the worse. Note: The “steward of Jospeh’s house” was likely the same translator they had been dealing with from the very beginning.
These men are convinced the Egyptian has invited them into his home because he’s about to accuse them of stealing grain. They believe at this point their property was about to be seized and they were going to be enslaved. As such they attempt to get ahead of whatever was coming by proactively confessing about the money and pleading their innocence.
Genesis 43:23, “But he said, ‘Peace be with you, do not be afraid. Your God and the God of your father has given you treasure in your sacks; I had your money.’”
What!? Notice the first word out of this Egyptian servants mouth, “Peace” or “Shalom” in Hebrew. Here they are freaking out, refusing to trust God, uncertain about their fate and this Egyptian man witnesses to them! “Fella’s, I had your money. I know you didn’t steal anything. Instead of assuming the worst, why didn’t you believe God might be blessing you?”
This un-named servant then exhorts them not “to be afraid” by reminding them of the true nature of “the God of their fathers.” What makes this incredible is that the only way he would have known about the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob was for Joseph to have shared it with him. It’s seems while in Egypt Joseph didn’t keep his faith in God a secret.
Genesis 43:23-29, “Then he brought Simeon out to them. So the man brought the men into Joseph’s house and gave them water, and they washed their feet; and he gave their donkeys feed. Then they made the present ready for Joseph’s coming at noon, for they heard that they would eat bread there. And when Joseph came home, they brought him the present which was in their hand into the house, and bowed down before him to the earth. Then he asked them about their well-being, and said, ‘Is your father well, the old man of whom you spoke? Is he still alive?’
And they answered, ‘Your servant our father is in good health; he is still alive.’ And they bowed their heads down and prostrated themselves. Then he lifted his eyes and saw Benjamin, his mother’s son, and said, ‘Is this your younger brother of whom you spoke to me?’ And he said, ‘God be gracious to you, my son.’”
Don’t forget all of this exchange is taking place through a translator. These eleven men still have no idea as to the true identity of this powerful Egyptian lord sitting right in front of them. Personally, I’m deeply struck by Joseph’s first words to his brother Benjamin (who’s his only full-blooded kin). Joseph says to him, “God be gracious to you!” It is a book of grace!
Genesis 43:30, “Now Joseph’s heart yearned for his brother; so he made haste and sought somewhere to weep. And Joseph went into his chamber and wept there.”
Please don’t detach yourself from the raw, human emotions Joseph is experiencing in this moment. It’s been 20 years since he’s seen his baby brother and we’re told “his heart yearned for him.” Joseph wants nothing more than to tell Benjamin who he really is - to reveal his true identity. To embrace. Catch up. Overwhelmed, Joseph excuses himself, retreats “into his chamber,” and there we’re simply told he “wept.” What is Joseph thinking?
If you’re like me you have to ask why is Joseph still concealing his identity from his brothers? The answer… Joseph still wants to know if his brothers are really repentant for what they did to him. He knows they feel guilty, but has conviction led to any tangible change in their behavior? Now that Benjamin is in Egypt the final test can commence.
Genesis 43:31-33, “Then Joseph washed his face and came out; and he restrained himself, and said, ‘Serve the bread.’ So they set him a place by himself, and them by themselves, and the Egyptians who ate with him by themselves; because the they could not eat food with the Hebrews, for that is an abomination to the Egyptians. And they sat before him, the firstborn according to his birthright and the youngest according to his youth; and the men looked in astonishment at one another.”
If being invited to Joseph’s home wasn’t odd enough, when his brothers enter the dining room and find that their seating order has been perfectly set from oldest to youngest red flairs should have been going up all over the place! Seating these men in this order by chance (who are all close in age with the exception of Ben) had an odds of 40 million to 1!
Genesis 43:34, “He took servings to them from before him, but Benjamin’s serving was five times as much as any of theirs. So they drank and were merry with him.”
Once again the fact “Benjamin’s serving was five times” more than the others should have also given rise to some serious suspicions. In Egyptian culture a greater portion specifically five times the amount signified the status of royalty. Note: The reason Joseph is doing this is that he wants to see how his brothers react to Benjamin receiving obvious favoritism.
What a scene! Completely oblivious to who’s company they were keeping and in whose house they were staying, we’re told Joseph “drank and was merry” with his brothers. In the Hebrew the word “drank” can be translated as “drank well!” Not being from Egypt this was likely these Hebrew wine-snobs first experience with beer! What a scene indeed!
Genesis 44:1-5, “Joseph commanded the steward of his house, saying, ‘Fill the men’s sacks with food, as much as they can carry, and put each man’s money in the mouth of his sack. Also put my cup, the silver cup, in the mouth of the sack of the youngest, and his grain money.’ So he did according to the word that Joseph had spoken. As soon as the morning dawned, the men were sent away, they and their donkeys.
When they had gone out of the city, and were not yet far off, Joseph said to his steward, ‘Get up, follow the men; and when you overtake them, say to them, ‘Why have you repaid evil for good? Is not this the one from which my lord drinks, and with which he indeed practices divination? You have done evil in so doing.’”
Once again the entire purpose of Joseph’s game was not to jerk his brothers around, but to see if they’ve really changed. He wants to see how they’re going to the treat Benjamin.
Genesis 44:6-16, “So he overtook them, and he spoke to them these same words. And they said to him, ‘Why does my lord say these words? Far be it from us that your servants should do such a thing. Look, we brought back to you from the land of Canaan the money which we found in the mouth of our sacks. How then could we steal silver or gold from your lord’s house? With whomever of your servants it is found, let him die, and we also will be my lord’s slaves.’
And he said, ‘Now also let it be according to your words; he with whom it is found shall be my slave, and you shall be blameless.’ Then each man speedily let down his sack to the ground, and each opened his sack. So he searched. He began with the oldest and left off with the youngest; and the cup was found in Benjamin’s sack. Then they tore their clothes, and each man loaded his donkey and returned to the city.
So Judah and his brothers came to Joseph’s house, and he was still there; and they fell before him on the ground. And Joseph said to them, ‘What deed is this you have done? Did you not know that such a man as I can certainly practice divination?’ Then Judah said, ‘What shall we say to my lord? What shall we speak? Or how shall we clear ourselves? God has found out the iniquity of your servants; here we are, my lord’s slaves, both we and he also with whom the cup was found.’”
After being confronted by Joseph, Judah once again steps to the forefront to speak for the others. Not only does he make no excuses and mounts zero defense, but we see a humility and contrition to Judah. He says, “God has found out the iniquity of your servants.” While they may have been innocent in this situation, Judah acknowledges their guilt before God.
Genesis 44:17, “But Joseph said, ‘Far be it from me that I should do so; the man in whose hand the cup was found, he shall be my slave. And as for you, go up in peace to your father.’”
Here’s the final test everything the last several chapters has been leading up too… Joseph is giving these ten brothers a perfect out. They can return home with enough grain to survive the famine. They can escape being made slaves in Egypt. All they had to do was make one simple concession - They’d have to leave behind Benjamin to be a “slave” in Egypt!
Genesis 44:18-34, “Then Judah came near to him and said: ‘O my lord, please let your servant speak a word in my lord’s hearing, and do not let your anger burn against your servant; for you are even like Pharaoh. My lord asked his servants, saying, ‘Have you a father or a brother?’ And we said to my lord, ‘We have a father, an old man, and a child of his old age, who is young; his brother is dead, and he alone is left of his mother’s children, and his father loves him.’
Then you said to your servants, ‘Bring him down to me, that I may set my eyes on him.’ And we said to my lord, ‘The lad cannot leave his father, for if he should leave his father, his father would die.’ But you said to your servants, ‘Unless your youngest brother comes down with you, you shall see my face no more.’
So it was, when we went up to your servant my father, that we told him the words of my lord. And our father said, ‘Go back and buy us a little food.’ But we said, ‘We cannot go down; if our youngest brother is with us, then we will go down; for we may not see the man’s face unless our youngest brother is with us.’
Then your servant my father said to us, ‘You know that my wife bore me two sons; and the one went out from me, and I said, ‘Surely he is torn to pieces’; and I have not seen him since. But if you take this one also from me, and calamity befalls him, you shall bring down my gray hair with sorrow to the grave.’
Now therefore, when I come to your servant my father, and the lad is not with us, since his life is bound up in the lad’s life, it will happen, when he sees that the lad is not with us, that he will die. So your servants will bring down the gray hair of your servant our father with sorrow to the grave.
For your servant became surety for the lad to my father, saying, ‘If I do not bring him back to you, then I shall bear the blame before my father forever.’ Now therefore, please let your servant remain instead of the lad as 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, lest perhaps I see the evil that would come upon my father?’”
Keep in mind this is the first time Joseph is hearing the complete story… Judah references Jacob’s belief that “surely Joseph had been torn to pieces” by some wild animal. Joseph now knows his brothers never told his father the truth of what happened the day he went missing. Instead, they’d spun a tale convincing their dad that Joseph had been killed. Joseph now knows that for the last 20 years Jacob his father falsely believes he’s been dead.
And while that stinks, it’s evident these brother had come to believe their own lie. In explaining why Jacob had such a love for Benjamin, Judah says “his brother is dead.” Sure, they knew he hadn’t been attacked by a wild animal, but they didn’t believe he could have survived slavery. In spite of all of the evidence that this Egyptian man was in actuality the brother whom they had rejected, they still couldn’t see it because they believed he was dead!
If there was ever evidence things had changed with these brothers, this speech by Judah is exhibit-A. Not only does Judah reveal a true and genuine love for Benjamin’s well-being, but his concern for Jacob is also undeniable. Judah even goes so far as to make the appeal that he be kept as a slave “instead of Benjamin.” Amazingly, Judah is willing to become a slave so that his brother may go free! What a change in perspective.
Genesis 45:1-8, “Then Joseph could not restrain himself before all those who stood by him, and he cried out (in Egyptian), ‘Make everyone go out from me!’ So no one stood with him while Joseph made himself known to his brothers. And he wept aloud, and the Egyptians and the house of Pharaoh heard it. Then Joseph said to his brothers (in Hebrew), ‘I am Joseph; does my father still live?’ But his brothers could not answer him, for they were dismayed in his presence.
And Joseph said to his brothers, ‘Please come near to me.’ So they came near. Then he said: ‘I am Joseph your brother, whom you sold into Egypt. But now, do not therefore be grieved or angry with yourselves because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life.
For these two years the famine has been in the land, and there are still five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvesting. And God sent me before you to preserve a posterity for you in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance. So now it was not you who sent me here, but God; and He has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house, and a ruler throughout all the land of Egypt.”
One thing has been evident to Joseph since his very first interaction with his brothers… For 20 years these men had lived under the weight of a crime for which they knew they were guilty. Though they’d never been formally convicted, it was clear conviction had placed them into a prison of their own making. No doubt they were remorseful and sorry.
And yet, Joseph rightly understood being guilty or even feeling sorry for one’s actions is pointless if it fails to change ones behavior! Because these men were now demonstrating a willingness to lay down their own lives in order to save Benjamin, Joseph now knew they were more than remorseful - they were repentant! As one author wrote, “Their penitence had been proved to be sincere by their conduct.”
In this larger picture of Joseph being a type of Jesus we discover through this exchange a profound truth. Though Joseph’s mercy had spared them a swift judgment and his grace had brought them near to himself, his forgiveness necessitated their genuine repentance. How interesting that the very moment Joseph saw evidence of a repentant heart he not only revealed himself to them, but forgave them of their trespasses!
Friend, the same dynamic exists with Jesus… His mercy has prolonged God’s judgment concerning your sin and it’s His grace that has brought you near, but for the work of salvation to occur whereby you’re pardoned of sin, offered His forgiveness, and are set free from the prison your own guilt a repentant heart must exist!
It’s not enough to feel sorry for your sin. In order for Jesus to reveal Himself and for you to truly experience His forgiveness you must we willing to demonstrate a desire to be changed.
In 2 Corinthians 7:10 Paul wrote, “Godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation.” Peter would preached in Act 3:19, “Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord.”
Notice what happens the very instance these men demonstrated repentance - for the same occurs with Jesus… Three things: First, Joseph revealed himself. Secondly, he called them near. And finally, he forgave them setting them free from their guilt and shame.
In response to Judah’s demonstration of love for his father and willingness to sacrifice himself for Benjamin’s freedom, Joseph completely looses it. We’re told he “could not retrain himself” any longer. Joseph has not only heard his brothers express genuine remorse over how they treated him, but now he’s seen evidence of true repentance.
Unable to contain his emotions any longer Joseph clears the room and begins to weep in front of them. His weeping becomes so boisterous everyone in the “house of Pharaoh” could hear it! At some point Joseph composes himself enough to utter the following words to his brothers in their native tongue. He turns to them and says in Hebrew, “I am Joseph!”
Oh the shock! The very brother they had sold into slavery some 20 years ago… The brother they were convinced was dead - was in actuality not only alive and well, but was a boss!
Imagine their obvious disbelief, dismay… Three words (“I am Joseph”) changed everything! Their minds are spinning… How? Could it really be? Was this some kind of sick joke? As these men stair at this man they slowly begin to see beyond the Egyptian attire, through the man’s weathered face and hardened stature, and into the eyes of their little brother.
Oh those eyes! The last time they’d seen those eyes they’d been filled with terror, hurt - filled with tears as he was slowly being led away in chains by a group of Ishmaelite traders. It’s in this moment their hearts skip a beat and their blood turns cold. It was Joseph! They not only rejected their savior, but they’d been oblivious to his presence.
Beyond this… Imagine how those three words (“I am Joseph”) instantly brought clarity to everything that’d happened over the last few exchanges. It explained why this Egyptian had been so interested in their father… Why he seemed obsessive over their youngest brother.
It now made sense why they had money in their sacks, why they’d been invited into his home, how they’d been able to seat them in such a particular order, why it was that Benjamin received a great portion, etc. Joseph had been pulling the strings to bring them to this moment. And don’t miss this… The evidence Joseph was alive was right before them. And yet, the couldn’t see it because of a misconception… They believed Jospeh was dead!
Not only are these men speechless, but this phrase “they were dismayed” literally implies a sense of complete and total horror. Their first reaction to this reveal is not one of excitement, but one of pure fear. I can imagine the dread of what might soon follow was paralyzing.
And yet… What does Joseph immediately do following his reveal? While no one would have blamed Joseph for calling them to account for their crime… And while a stern rebuke would have been totally understandable… Joseph takes a completely different approach - the same approach Jesus takes when we finally come to see Him for who He really is!
Joseph begins with a simple invitation. He asks, “Please come near to me.” Like many a sinner coming face to face with Jesus I’m sure these men were expecting anger, wrath, or some form of vindication. It would have been justifiable. Instead, Joseph tenderly calls them to himself. Though they’d rejected him, he’s willing to accept them. How incredible!
Look at what Joseph then says to his brothers. Though he doesn’t excuse what they did refusing to sweep their sinful deeds under the rug… (He says, “You sold me into Egypt!”) Joseph quickly pivots. He says to them, “Be not grieved or angry with yourselves.”
Though you could rightfully take time to examine how it was that Joseph was able to forgive a group of men who’d so wronged him, I want to take a different angle consistent with the larger picture. In the presence of repentant men, like Jesus, Joseph wants to do more than forgive - he wants to free them from the weight of guilt they’d been carrying for so long.
Notice how Joseph does this… He says to them, “You sold me into Egypt,” but it was “God who sent me before you.” Sure, their intentions had been evil, but God used their ill-will to accomplish His larger plan! He says, “God sent me before you to preserve life… God sent me before you to preserve a posterity for you in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance. So now it was not you who sent me here, but God…”
In God’s divine plan and complete providence their sin led to the rise of an adequate savior. I know it’s a difficult idea to consider… But the only way to be freed from your past mistakes (without excusing them) is to see how they set the stage for a much larger work God desired to accomplish in your life through Jesus. You see the magnitude and severity of your sin sets the stage for the enormity and power of His amazing grace. As Paul would write in Romans 5:20, “But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more!”
William M. Taylor writes, “When a man is truly penitent, and seems almost paralyzed by the perception of his guilt, to show him that God has brought good out of his evil will exalt God’s grace and wisdom in his eyes, and lead him more implicitly to cling to him.”
Friend, there is no way around the reality that you’ve sinned against God. You’re guilty as charged and the conviction you feel deep within your soul is warranted. It’s true… You’ve done some terrible things. And yet, it’s because of your sin that God has sent Jesus to save! While your life may be presently filled with guilt and shame over your actions shackling you in a prison of your own making, Jesus came “to proclaim liberty to the captives!”
Like Joseph’s handling of his brothers - Jesus’ mercy has afforded you another day and His grace has brought you near to Himself even though you’ve been ignorant of this very reality.
But please don’t be ignorant any longer! Jesus has been behind the scenes leading you to this very moment. Today, if you’ll repent - if you genuinely desire to be changed, Jesus will instantly reveal Himself. He’s not to be feared. Instead, your great sin has created the need for an even greater Savior! Though you rejected Him, He will accept you as you are! Jesus loves you and is calling you to Himself not for judgment, but forgiveness and freedom.
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