Genesis 45-47, The Reconciliation of Israel’s Family
In Genesis 44:33-34, Judah, the leader of Jacob’s sons who have come from Canaan to Egypt, begs the Governor of Egypt not to keep his brother Benjamin. Judah’s character and his love for his brother have progressed so far that he is even willing to sacrifice himself for Benjamin. We can’t help but compare this to the Judah that over 20 years before sold his brother into slavery just to make a profit. In Genesis 44:16, Judah had stepped forward and confessed to the brothers’ long-standing guilt over selling Joseph into slavery. I’m sure that Joseph who was now in disguise as the Governor, and hiding his identity from his brothers, recognized that greater love has no man than to sacrifice himself for his brother (John 15:13). In Genesis 42-44, Joseph had engineered a series of tests to awaken the consciences of his alienated brothers who had hated him 23 years before. Were they still hateful, jealous, and selfish? Joseph created situations that tested their character to see if they had changed. We as students know that Joseph, by the providence of God will forgive them, and there will be a reconciliation. Without it, the family of Israel would either have perished in the famine or assimilated into the Canaanites.
Joseph Reveals Himself and the Brothers are Blown Away, Genesis 45
After Judah’s speech in ch.44, Joseph could no longer hold back his emotions and love for his brothers. Seeing their conviction of sin and obvious repentance, it was time for Joseph to reveal his true identity. Joseph got so emotional that he wept so loudly that everyone in the house heard him. In Genesis 45:3, after Joseph blurted out “I am your brother Joseph”, the brothers were speechless. Joseph then gave an explanatory speech to the speechless explaining how this had happened. Amazingly, Joseph did not blame them for selling him into slavery. Joseph had a God centered perspective, which helped him forgive the evil that his brothers had done to him. Joseph had a God given insight that God had providentially engineered the circumstances that led to Joseph becoming Lord over Egypt in order to save many lives and to preserve the family of Jacob. God was not the author of the evil the brothers did, but God used the circumstances to accomplish His good purposes and not their evil purposes. Joseph can also see that by the providence of God the character of the brothers had improved, and they confessed their guilt with sincere remorse. There were four good things that Joseph could see God had accomplished: 1. God prospered Joseph making him head of Egypt. 2. God saved the lives of Joseph’s family, which had been threatened by famine. 3. God saved many other lives in the process, which made it possible for the brothers to move there and become a nation, and 4. God had convicted the brothers of their sin and they had repented. Their lives were transformed from the inside out.
Joseph had already fully forgiven them as he saw God’s higher purpose in what happened. Joseph had been thinking and praying for over 20 years about why this had happened, and he had stripped away the superficial surface of human activity to reveal a higher plan of God. For we students who have been reading for five chapters about the raw deal Joseph was getting, now we also can see how God brought about naturally His will to be done. It all began with Joseph’s dreams in ch.37 when he dreamed his brothers would bow down to him and he would be lord over them. When they beat him and sold him into slavery, I confess I could not see how that was going to be a good thing, which would result in saving their lives. Joseph even gave them a gracious speech ending with “So it was not you who sent me here, but God”. It was an attempt to dissipate their sense of guilt by stressing God’s role in sending him to Egypt.
The Memorable Departure, Genesis 45:16-24
Joseph commanded the brothers to go back to Canaan where their father Jacob was and convince him to come to Egypt and bring the whole family to live there. We see Pharaoh’s great appreciation and generosity when he heard that Joseph’s family was there. He sent them back to Canaan to get Jacob, but loaded them up with pack donkeys and wagons full of food. Joseph also gave them presents and clothes and provisions, but to his full brother Benjamin he gave a large amount of silver and 5 changes of clothes. Even though he showed preferential treatment to Ben, the other brothers did not care and were not jealous—what a transformation. They just appreciated the mercy and grace they had been shown. In verse 24 Joseph gave a simple but profound command as they left, “Do not quarrel along the way.” I can’t help but wonder what Joseph anticipated they might quarrel over. Since they had to “fess up” to their father Jacob, who never knew what actually happened to Joseph, it could have been about who was to blame. Since the eleven brothers had four different mothers we can assume that quarreling was a normal thing; but now they needed to work together, not compete. Jesus would have told them what He told His disciples, “As I have loved you, so you must love one another”. If I can forgive your massive debt, you can forgive each other’s small debts.
I believe the dramatic scene here in Genesis 45 where Joseph revealed himself to the children of Israel is a type of the dramatic confrontation that will happen when Jesus returns and reveals Himself to Israel. The children of Israel as a nation had rejected Jesus and urged His crucifixion, but as the prophet Zechariah quoted the Messiah, “I will pour out on the house of David and the people of Jerusalem the spirit of grace and they shall look upon me whom they pierced and they shall mourn”. (Romans 11:26-27)
What to Believe, Jacob’s Quandary, Genesis 45:25-28
When the brothers returned to Canaan to give their father Jacob the news, he was shocked and could not believe it. It was too good to be true. Maybe his initial unbelief was because of all the lies these sons of his had told Jacob over the years. I can just imagine the scene of Joseph’s brothers having to come clean and tell the truth about what actually happened—the guilt on them for selling Joseph into slavery! Let’s go back to Genesis 37 and remember how enraged they all were when Joseph told them of his dream whereby they would all bow down to him. Now they rejoiced that Joseph was the ruler of Egypt and they had to bow to him because he was the only one who had food and could save them. It was a giant different reaction to the same event. We also may remember that in Genesis 37:35 Jacob’s reaction to Joseph’s fake death was to say, “I shall go to the grave mourning” meaning that he would never get over it. Nevertheless, when Jacob saw all the wagons and donkeys and clothes and food they had, there had to be an explanation, so Jacob finally said, “Joseph my son is alive. I will go see him before I die”.
By Faith Into the Unknown, Genesis 46
Jacob packed up all his stuff and headed for Egypt, but I think he still had some reluctance because he stopped in Beersheba and we are told that he was afraid. Beersheba was basically his southern most boundary, because beyond it was desert so there was no turning back after they left Beersheba. Jacob stopped there where he worshipped God and made a sacrifice for sin. Maybe he wanted to purge his family of their sin, and seek guidance before they stepped into the great unknown. We know from Hebrews 11:21 that Jacob was a man of faith. God rewarded him with a vision to reassure him and encourage him to go to Egypt. God promised Jacob that He would: grow them into a great nation there in Egypt, God would bless them, He would bring Jacob’s many descendants back to Canaan and give them the land, and that Joseph would be at his side when he died. Encouraged, Jacob set out for Egypt with his family—seventy people in all.
Reunion in Egypt, Genesis 46:28-34
Judah guided the family to Goshen, a fertile area of Egypt in which Joseph proposed Pharaoh would give them their own land. Joseph arrived there in style making a grand impression of his power and authority. Then they all had a great reunion with crying and hugging showing great emotion with Jacob saying “Now I am ready to die having seen your face and know you are alive”. Joseph then briefed his father and brothers that they needed to meet with Pharaoh in order to receive from him ownership of the land. They needed to be politically correct in how they explained their occupation since Egyptians despised shepherds. Therefore Jacob and his family were “keepers of livestock”. Since they owned great herds and flocks, Goshen was the perfect land for Israel. Now according to God’s awesome providential plan, they survived the famine, enjoyed the protection of Egypt, and owned their own land without surrendering their autonomy as a distinct race of people. In Egypt God would grow them from 70 people into millions.
Conclusion in Genesis 47, Prospering in Egypt
During a worldwide famine and economic disaster, Jacob and his sons were granted prime land and a whole new business. While the world starved, God’s people prospered. Pharaoh continued to prosper as Joseph led the nationalization of all the land and livestock, which turned the Egyptians into tenant farmers. Yet, by God’s providence, Israel was set apart as a people prospering and growing into a nation.