Genesis 42 – 45
When the famine was in full swing Joseph’s father heard that there was grain for sale in Egypt. Apparently his sons were a little mystified as to how they should deal with this famine. He says, “Why do you look at one another?” This is another way of saying, “Why are standing around doing nothing when there is a lot of work that needs to be done?” He sends his sons to Egypt, but leaves his youngest Benjamin behind. We see Jacob still did not trust his sons with Benjamin after all that happened with his brother Joseph. He was afraid they might allow something bad happen to Benjamin like they did Joseph. The pain of losing his son is still real to Jacob. It has been 17 plus years and Jacob has not forgotten what happened to his beloved son Joseph. There is a lack of trust on his part and rightfully so.
The brothers make the trek to Egypt and unbeknownst to them their brother Joseph is still alive and thriving; in fact he is now the governor of the land and the one person people would see when they came to buy grain from the storehouses. When his brothers approached Joseph they did not recognize him but Joseph knew them. They bowed before him and Joseph remembered his dream of many many years ago.
Joseph decides to play a little game of cat and mouse with them. He doesn’t want to reveal his identity to them just yet. He treats them like strangers and speaks harshly to them. He accuses them of being spies. After speaking with them for some time the brothers mention they have another brother that is alive… Unfortunately one is dead and the other is back home with his father. Joseph demands they bring Benjamin to back to him and one should stay back until they return. The brothers talked among themselves and Joseph went to a private place and wept.
Joseph filled their bags with grain and put their money back and sent them home; Simeon stays back. When they returned home they were afraid because their money was still in the bags and they were more so when they saw their father. They told him the governor wants Benjamin to come back with them and Jacob refuses. Interestingly he would rather lose his son Simeon than entrust Benjamin with his sons.
Some time passes and the famine gets worse (just as the dream stated) the grain runs out in Jacob’s household and he tells them to go back to Egypt to buy more. They convince Jacob to send Benjamin along with them. Judah swears that he will protect him and if anything bad happens to Benjamin then his father could hold him responsible.
As they return to Egypt they are afraid because they think they will be accused of stealing since the money was still in their bags from before. This ends up not being an issue. Joseph tells them he received their wages so God must have blessed them.
As they stand before Joseph, this time with Benjamin, he is overcome with emotion. He goes into his chamber and weeps. After he regains his composure he invites the brothers to dinner and portions from Joseph’s table were given to them but Benjamin received five times the portion.
Joseph plays cat and mouse with the brothers again by planting his cup in Benjamin’s sack. He accuses Benjamin of stealing and the brothers pleaded for mercy for their brother. Judah insists on taking the blame instead of Benjamin.
It is at this point Joseph can no longer contain himself. He begins crying and then commands everyone to leave him except his brothers. He reveals his identity to his brothers. They were troubled at this revelation. They were literally speechless. They were afraid because they knew what they had done. Never in a million years would they have ever thought this would have happened but it did. They didn’t know how Joseph would respond. He was now second in command in all of Egypt and he could have easily sought revenge. But he doesn’t. This is where we see the true heart of Joseph. He had compassion, he shows them grace, and he shows them forgiveness. He responds in 45:5, “Do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God has sent me before you to preserve life.” Did you hear that? Do not blame yourselves for anything because I am here by divine appointment. In verse 7 he declares his purpose for going through all he went through and then caps it off in verse 8 by saying, “It was not you who sent me here, but God.” In so many words he is saying, “All is forgiven.”
Not only does he show compassion and forgiveness but he invites his brothers, their families and his father to come move to Egypt so he can take care of them. What an amazing spectacle of grace. They are so undeserving of this treatment yet Joseph shows them kindness regardless.
As he sends his brothers back home he says, “Do not quarrel on the way.” He knows his brothers well. They could very easily play the blame game on the way home… “Hey, it wasn’t my idea to put him in a pit!” “I never wanted to sell him, I was going to rescue him, and so you are to blame!” and so on…. Joseph says “don’t quarrel. All is forgiven so let’s put this behind us now and continue as a family.”
When the brothers returned home they told their father what happened and he is ecstatic! He is willing to go to Egypt so he can go see his son Joseph before he dies.
This is a beautiful story of compassion, grace and forgiveness. I think what Joseph does could only happen through the power of God and the Holy Spirit. Joseph chose to forgive because he knew it was the right thing to do and by the power of the Spirit is he able to forgive. He could have easily justified revenge or gave his brothers a taste of their own medicine. But he doesn’t. He forgives. I/we can certainly learn a lot from Joseph when it comes to forgiveness. There is great difficulty in showing forgiveness. I have never experienced something so painful or great that I ever refused anyone forgiveness (That is not to say that I have never experienced something painful). I have held grudges but I have never withheld forgiveness. I don’t say this to brag but to declare God’s work in my life. I am sure some of you have had painful experiences and have difficulty showing forgiveness; so I am not going you how easy it is to forgive… but I will tell you by the power of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit you can forgive… even if you think you can’t.
Walvoord, J. F., Zuck, R. B., & Dallas Theological Seminary. (1983-c1985). The Bible knowledge commentary : An exposition of the scriptures (2:32). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
 Groeschel, Craig (2010). The Christian Atheist: Believing in God But Living As Though He Doesn’t Exist. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan. P. 118, 119
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I currently live on the Gulf Coast of Florida with my beautiful family. The Lord has blessed me with over 25 years of full time ministry. He is and has been faithful.