Joseph reveals himself to his brothers. 45:1-15


Chapters 37-50, of the book of Genesis, cover the migration of the descendents of Abraham to the land of Egypt, particularly focusing on the life of Joseph. Our passage for study deals with the reconciliation of Joseph with his family. His brothers had cast him off, but God turned their evil around for Joseph's good, and inevitably for the good of Jacob and his family. In his meetings with his brothers, Joseph had toyed with them, but now he reveals himself to them. The passage focusses on the sovereignty of God; God's will controls reality, not the human will.

The passage

v1-2. Joseph first clears the room of his Egyptian attendants so he can reveal himself to his brothers. He cannot contain himself any longer and so weeps for joy.

v3. The first thing Joseph wants to know from his brothers is whether Jacob is still alive. The only problem is that the brothers are overcome by fear. By now they know it is Joseph and so fear payback.

v4. Joseph confirms who he is by revealing information that only his brothers can know. He may also be softening them up, reminding them of their guilt - "you sold into Egypt". There can be no reconciliation without forgiveness, and no forgiveness without repentance.

v5. Joseph now makes a classic statement about the sovereignty of God. His brothers acted with evil intent, but God used their evil for the good of both Joseph and the family of promise. In the end, what God intends is what is important, and his intention is fulfilled in any and every circumstance, whether good or evil.

v6-7. The sovereign intention of God is the preservation of a Godly line (family) through which the world will be blessed (through the messiah, Jesus, for the salvation of the world). The famine throughout the near east is into its second year and there are another five years to go, but God's intention to save for himself a "remnant" (the holy line) will achieve their "deliverance." They don't deserve to be saved, but then their salvation is of grace.

v8. Joseph again proclaims God's sovereign act in their deliverance. He is the adviser to Pharaoh ("father to Pharaoh") and this position is God's doing.

v9. Joseph then tells his brothers to get word to Jacob his father and get him down to Egypt where he will be safe. Again, Joseph affirms God's hand in all that is happening to his family.

v10. Joseph even has some land picked out for the family. Goshen was most probably the Eastern part of the Nile delta and good for grazing.

v11. In Goshen, Joseph can care for the family and they can retain their special religious life-style.

v12-13. Joseph reassures his brothers and underlines the need to gather the family in Egypt.

v14-15. The moment of reconciliation is sealed with a hug and tears.

Loving in the face of hate

We all know of families destroyed by some indiscretion. Our own family may be in a terrible mess because of something we did, or something one of the other members did. The anger and hate generated by the hurt just keeps bubbling along and we can't break through the pain-barrier. Churches are divided by the same human frailty and so the work of the kingdom is marred by human sinfulness. How to achieve reconciliation in the face of such devastation, that's the issue.

The first step - a clear view of the big picture. My father's big picture was "life is too short and death is too permanent." Personal feuds will end in the grave so why not end them now? Not a bad big-picture view. God's intention over it all is an even better big-picture view. As far as Joseph was concerned, the pain his brothers caused him only served God's ultimate will. It was still a rotten stunt, but God's purpose for the salvation of his remnant people far outshone their evil. God's ultimate intentions for our salvation can reduce the power of the hurt.

The second step - repentance. A friend of mine once commented that "a person who has done you wrong will never forgive you." This type of attitude is called guilt transference and we have all had a dose of it at some time or other. Joseph does seem to rub it in a bit with his "you sold me into Egypt", but this does serve to make them face their past actions. There can be no reconciliation unless we face the wrong we have done, admit it and turn from it. In fact, there can be no forgiveness without repentance. In Christian circles we often demand unconditional forgiveness, but there is no such thing. Even God does not forgive without repentance.

The third step - forgiveness, the putting away of past hurts. Not an easy thing to do. Actually, Joseph seems to have reached out in forgiveness long before his brothers embraced him. The pathway to forgiveness lies in recognizing God's forgiveness of our sins, a forgiveness that covers past, present and future sins. It is when we see the mercy that has flowed to us from the cross that we are able to apply a bit of mercy ourselves. Perfect forgiveness is probably beyond us, but we can make a reasonable fist of it.

Here then are the elements for reconciliation. Looking to God's big plan rather than our own pain, recognizing our failures in repentance and willingly striving to forgive the failures of others.


Consider how Joseph's understanding of providence influenced his attitude toward his brothers.

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