LESSON 18: Genesis 43:15 - 45:28
Joseph and His Brothers

Beloved Lord,
Because You are merciful in forgiving us, You ask us to be merciful in forgiving our brothers and sisters in the human family. It seems such a small request when one measures Your unfailing willingness to forgive us our many transgressions when we come to You in humble contrition. Joseph's willingness to forgive his brothers, who not only withheld their love from him but then cruelly sinned against him, is an example for us all. Like Christ, Joseph offered up his sufferings as the means to achieve the path to salvation for his kinsmen. Guide us now, Lord, in our study of Joseph and the redemption of his brothers. We pray in the name of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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Baba, governor of El-Kab: 'I collected grain, as a friend of the harvest god. And when a famine arose, lasting many years, I distributed grain to the city, each year of the famine.' Inscription from the tomb of Baba, governor of El-Kab, a city located south of Thebes from the era of the 17th Dynasty in Upper Egypt, which was contemporary with the 16th Dynasty in the north. The 16th Dynasty of the Hyksos pharaohs was probably the dynasty which Joseph served in Lower Egypt (northern). Baba's tomb inscription included the information that the famine lasted seven years.(1)

...we must believe that he wearied them with so many tribulations, in order to arouse them to a confession of their sin and the healing of repentance. Finally, with great grief they said they suffered those ills deservedly, because they had sinned against their brother, "whose anguish of heart they witnessed." Since blessed Joseph knew that his brothers could not be forgiven their sin of murder without much penance, one, twice and a third time he worried them with salutary trials as with a spiritual fire. His purpose was not to vindicate himself but to correct them and free them from so grave a sin.
Caesarius Bishop of Arles (470-543 AD), Book of Promises and Predictions of God 1.30.42 (Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture: Old Testament, vol. II, page 277).

Realizing that everything that had happened to him was the will of God for his life and that his dreams as a young man in Canaan foretold a promised future, Joseph was committed to cooperating with God's plan to bring those dreams to fulfillment. Joseph set about to bring his brothers to the confession and repentance of their sin in his planned murder/enslavement and to restore his family to reconciliation and unity. He wanted to not only see his brothers repentant their sins, but he also desired to see that change of heart that demonstrated a fear of God and a love for each other. To that end, Joseph put his brothers through a series of three trials:

  1. The first test was the brothers' three day imprisonment which was intended to cause them to come to terms with their sin against him.
  2. The second was a test of their willingness to rescue their brother Simeon by bringing their brother Benjamin to Egypt and retuning the money Joseph put in the sacks of their pack animals.
  3. The third was a test of their willingness to sacrifice their freedom for the life of their youngest brother, Benjamin.

The second part of the plan was in jeopardy when Jacob refused to allow his sons to return to Egypt with Benjamin. But the second year brought a continuation of the famine and at last, after Judah's promise to protect Benjamin with his own life, Jacob relented and allowed his sons to journey to Egypt with a gift for the Vizier (Joseph), the return of the money found in their sacks after the first journey and including additional money to purchase supplies, and with their youngest brother, Benjamin.

Please read Genesis 43:15-23: Jacob's Third Audience with His Brothers
43:15The men took this gift; they took double the amount of money with them, and Benjamin. They set off, went down to Egypt and presented themselves before Joseph. 16When Joseph saw Benjamin with them he said to his chamberlain, 'Take these men into the house. Slaughter a beast and prepare it, for these men are to eat with me at midday.' 17The man did as Joseph had ordered, and took the men to Joseph's house. 18The men were afraid at being taken to Joseph's house and said, 'We are being taken there because of the money replaced in our sacks the first time. They will set on us; they will fall on us and make slaves of us, and take our donkeys too.' 19So they went up to Joseph's chamberlain and spoke to him at the entrance to the house. 20'By your leave, sir,' they said, 'we came down once before to get supplies, 21and when we reached camp and opened our sacks, there was each man's money in the mouth of his sack, to the full. But we have brought it back with us, 22and we have brought more money with us for the supplies. We do not know who put our money in our sacks.' 23'Set your minds at ease,' (salom = peace*) he replied, 'do not be afraid. Your God and the God of your father put treasure in your sacks for you. I received your money.' And he brought Simeon out to them.
* = literal translation (Interlineal Bible vol. I, page 119).

Notice the continued repetition of the word "brother" (50 times total), and the word "father" (40 times total and it will be used a significant 14 times in Judah's plea for mercy). "Money/silver" (kepsep) continues to be a key word in the narrative; it is found 23 times from Genesis 42:25 to 47:18. It is interesting that kepsep is found twenty times from when Joseph first put the silver in the brothers' sacks in Genesis 42:25 to 45:22 when Joseph gave a gift to silver to Benjamin, reminding the reader of the 20 pieces of silver for which the ten brothers sold Joseph to the caravan when they valued money more than a brother (37:28). By the time of their repentance and reconciliation, the ten brothers will have learned to value a brother more than money.

The new key words in this section of the narrative are "to live and not die" and the words "fear" and "peace" (shalom). In the Hebrew text the word "fear/afraid," referring to the fear of Jacob's family, will be repeated six times in Genesis 42:35; 43:18, 23; 46:3; 50:19 and 21, while "peace" will be repeated three times in 43:23, 27 and 28. The word shalom (peace) spoken by Joseph's steward in 43:23 marks a turning point in the story of Joseph's relationship with his brothers. Joseph's presence goes from being a "fearful" experience to an experience of family love and "peace."

In this final section of Joseph's story he is 39 years old. He is no longer the frightened 17 year old boy sold into slavery; instead he is the confidant and powerful Vizier of the regional super power, the great nation of Egypt. The brothers have arrived in Egypt with Benjamin to purchase grain and once again they, along with other groups of foreigners, have been taken into an audience with Zaphenath-Paneah (Joseph), Egypt's Vizier. When Joseph's steward pulled them aside they became frightened because they had been singled out and separated from the other groups of foreigners who came to purchase food. They suspect an evil intention on Joseph's part rather than the good that he had planned. Thinking that the money they found in their sacks was the problem, they attempt to return the money to Joseph's steward.

Question: What was the steward's response?
Answer: He said "peace," and he told them not to be afraid. He said the grain had been paid for and the money in their sacks was a gift from God.

This good steward, like Abraham's faithful steward (Gen 24) was cooperating with God's plan. He trusted in the God of his master and acknowledged that God's providence directed human acts, such as in the return of the money. When the steward said that the money "has come to me" (literal translation), he probably meant that Joseph had paid for their supplies. The steward understood that God was working through his master. Finally, he calmed their fears by reuniting them with Simeon before Joseph arrived, a detail important to his master's plan for the banquet.

Please read Genesis 43:24-34: Joseph Tests His Brothers during the Banquet at Joseph's Estate:
43:24The man then took the men into Joseph's house. He offered them water to wash their feet, and gave their donkeys fodder. 25They arranged their gift while they waited for Joseph to come at midday, for they had heard they were to dine there. 26When Joseph arrived at the house they offered him the gift they had with them, bowing down before him. 27He greeted them pleasantly, asking, 'Is your father well (is there peace with your father*), the old man you told me of? Is he still alive?' 28'Your servant our father is well (there is peace to your servant, our father*),' they replied, 'he is still alive.' And they bowed respectfully. 29Looking about, he saw his brother Benjamin, his mother's son. 'Is this your youngest brother', he asked, 'of whom you told me?' And he added, 'God be good to you, my son.' 30Joseph hurried out; so strong was the affection he felt for his brother that he wanted to cry. He went into his room and there he wept. 31After washing his face he returned and, controlling himself, gave the order: 'Serve the meal.' 32He was served separately; so were they, and so were the Egyptians who ate in his household, for the Egyptians could not take food with Hebrews; Egyptians have a horror of doing so. 33They were placed facing him in order of seniority, from the eldest to the youngest, and the men looked at one another in amazement. 34He had portions carried to them from his own dish, the portion for Benjamin being five times larger than any of the others. And they feasted with him and drank freely.
* = literal translation (Interlineal Bible vol. I, page 120).

The steward showed Joseph's kinsmen the normal signs of hospitality in bringing the brothers water to wash their feet and in seeing that their animals were attended to (Gen 18:3; 19:2; 24:32). Joseph was careful not arrive until all of the brothers were assembled, including Simon. Midday was the normal time of day to eat the main meal.

Question: The narrative mentions the gift the brothers unpacked and arranged in the banquet room before Joseph entered. What three things, including the gift, had the sons of Jacob brought with them on their return trip to Egypt?
Answer: The gift for the Vizier, double the amount of money, and Benjamin - exactly what Jacob told them to take in 43:11-13.

Question: What significant event occurred the moment Joseph walked into the room?
Answer: The moment he entered the room his ten brothers offered their gift and then prostrated themselves before Joseph, acknowledging his sovereignty over them.

Question: What did Joseph realize when he saw Benjamin?
Answer: That his first prophetic dream of the ten sheaves bowing down to him was fulfilled.

Joseph greeted his brothers and asked about their father: Is there peace with your father [literal translation], the old man you told me of? Also see 43:23; in this question Joseph was inquiring about Jacob's total well-being. The brothers then bowed down and made obeisance (literal translation) a second time (another doublet). They were probably greatly relieved - the interview was going much better than they expected.

Question: What was Joseph's reaction when he saw Benjamin?
Answer: He greeted Benjamin with affection and was so deeply moved that he had to leave the room. He went to his own room and wept.

This is one of three times that Joseph will be moved to tears in front of his brothers (42:24; 43:30; 45:1-2, 14-15). Despite what has happened, he still has a deep love for his family and a special affection for his own mother's youngest son, the only brother who did not reject him. The other part of his emotional reaction was the realization that the dream of the sheaves had been fulfilled.

In greeting Benjamin, Joseph called him "son:" And he added, 'God be good to you, my son.' It was not that unusual for Joseph as the superior authority and the host to have called young Benjamin "son" in front of the banquet members. The others would have been surprised by the kindness of his greeting, but authority figures took the role of a "father" to those who were beneath them and were dependant upon them. Even a young Pharaoh, still in his minority, would be considered the "father" of his people. Those present would have seen Joseph's greeting as kind but also as defining the unequal social status between Joseph and the young foreigner. However, the reader knows that the greeting was an expression of true family affection (for other examples see Gen 45:8 where Joseph says his role is that of a "father" and Is 22:21 where the Davidic Prime Minister is called a "father" of the people).

Genesis 43:31-32: 31After washing his face he returned and, controlling himself, gave the order: 'Serve the meal.' 32He was served separately; so were they, and so were the Egyptians who ate in his household, for the Egyptians could not take food with Hebrews; Egyptians have a horror of doing so.
Joseph had to wash his face before he returned to the banquet room because his tears caused his cosmetics to run.

Question: How many tables were in the banquet room?
Answer: Three: a table for Joseph, one for his brothers, and a third for the Egyptians who were also in attendance.

Joseph was served separately at his own table because of his exalted position as the Vizier. The Egyptians did not eat with the foreigners because of ethnic prejudice; they considered the Canaanite foreigners "unclean" by Egyptian standards (i.e., the Israelites sacrificed rams which were the representation of the God Amun to the Egyptians; see Gen 46:33-34 and Ex 8:22/6). Joseph was by this time thoroughly Egyptian in their eyes. He was the acknowledged savior of their people.

Question: How did Joseph instruct his steward to place his brothers at their table? Why were his brothers "amazed"? See Genesis 44:5, 15.
Answer: They were placed at their table in the order of their birth. They were amazed because they believed Joseph had divined their birth order. They had certainly heard about his special abilities from the Egyptians.

The cup that will be mentioned in 44:5 and 15 was a special cup used for divination that was present at the banquet. Scripture does not suggest that Joseph used this cup for that purpose, but it could have provided the explanation to the brothers as to the Egyptians as to why Joseph, to them a stranger, was able to have them arranged to be seated by birth order at the banquet - a fact that amazed the brothers and undoubtedly impressed the Egyptians (43:33).

Question: Why did Joseph give Benjamin five times more food than his brothers?
Answer: Joseph was testing the other brothers' response to Benjamin receiving preferential treatment to see if jealousy was still a problem in the brothers' relationships.

Question: When was the last time Joseph's brothers ate a meal in his presence? See Genesis 37:23-25; 42:21.
Answer: When ten of them threw him down an empty well, intending to leave him to starve to death, and then sat down and ate a meal together as Joseph begged for mercy.

Everything Joseph has done since he first saw his brothers again and realized the significance of his dreams has been to test them, to bring them to the point of repentance, and to fulfill God's plan for his family's salvation by reuniting his family in Egypt. The final test will be a test of their loyalty and brotherly love, a test they failed twenty-two years ago (this is the second year of the famine; see Gen 45:6).

Please read Genesis 44:1-13: Joseph's Plan to Bring His Family to Reconciliation
44:1Then Joseph instructed his chamberlain as follows: 'Fill these men's sacks with as much food as they can carry, and put each man's money in the mouth of his sack. 2And put my cup, the silver one, in the mouth of the youngest one's sack as well as the money for his rations.' He did as Joseph had instructed. 3At daybreak, the men were sent off with their donkeys. 4They had gone only a little way from the city, when Joseph said to his chamberlain, 'Away now and follow those men. When you catch up with them, say to them, "Why have you repaid good with evil? 5Is this not what my lord uses for drinking and also for reading omens? What you have done is wrong."' 6So when he caught up with them he repeated these words. 7They asked him, 'What does my lord mean? Your servants would never think of doing such a thing. 8Look, we brought you back the money we found in the mouths of our sacks, all the way from Canaan. Are we likely to have stolen silver or gold from your master's house? 9Whichever of your servants is found to have it shall die, and the rest of us shall be slaves of my lord.' 10'Very well, then, it shall be as you say,' he replied, 'the one on whom it is found shall become my slave, but the rest of you can go free.' 11Each of them quickly lowered his sack to the ground, and each opened his own. 12He searched, beginning with the eldest and ending with the youngest, and found the cup in Benjamin's sack. 13Then they tore their clothes, and when each man had reloaded his donkey their returned to the city.

It was Joseph's plan that the crisis over Benjamin would test the brothers' loyalty. Would they unite in the face of adversity or would they abandon their younger brother and accept the offer to return to their homeland? Joseph's steward was a key player in this part of Joseph's plan. This part of the narrative can be divided into three parts:

  1. The steward's test of the brothers' loyalty and integrity (44:1-13).
  2. Joseph's test of Judah's loyalty and willingness to sacrifice his life for the sake of his brother and father (44:14-34).
  3. Joseph's revelation of his true identity and the offer of reconciliation (45:1-15)

Genesis 43:2: And put my cup, the silver one, in the mouth of the youngest one's sack as well as the money for his rations. The Hebrew word used for Joseph's cup (gebia) is not the common Hebrew word for cup (kos). It was probably a larger container used for mixing wine and water (it was common to cut the wine with water) and from which they all drank communally at the banquet. Joseph instructed his steward to put his special silver cup into Benjamin's sack. This was also a cup the Egyptian's believed Joseph used for divining the future (Gen 44:5, 15). The members of the dinner party probably assumed Joseph placed the Israelites in the correct birth order because he had discerned their birth order through divination. This is not to suggest that Joseph used divination, only that he allowed to others to believe he had.

In the ancient Near East divining the future though observation of the action of liquids (lecanomancy) was a common practice. It was especially used by private individuals because it was less costly than divination by animal entrails (extispicy). There were three types of lecanomancy using liquids: (2)

  1. Hydromancy: Pouring water into oil and observing the surface patterns of the oil and water.
  2. Oelomancy: Pouring oil into water and observing the surface patters of the liquids.
  3. Oenomancy: Pouring wine into another liquid and observing the surface patterns of the liquids.

Question: What was the purpose of putting the cup that was used at the dinner into Benjamin's sack?
Answer: First, they would all recognize the cup has belonging to Joseph. Then, as far as the test was concerned the original sin of the brothers was against their younger brother, Joseph, in putting the cup into Benjamin's sack Joseph was attempting to recreate the crime using the same grouping of ten against one younger brother.

The question Joseph was determined to find out was whether they would remain loyal to a brother who appears guilty or would they abandon him as they abandoned Joseph who was innocent but who they condemned as guilty because he was preferred by his father.

The test of the brothers kinship love and loyalty began at daybreak, just as the test of the kinship love and loyalty began at daybreak at Jesus' trial before Pilate (Jn 18:28).

Question: How is what the brothers' offered to do if found guilty of the theft different from what the steward determined as the just punishment for the crime? Why didn't the steward accept the brothers' offer?
Answer: The brothers are so sure of their innocence that they declare that if one of them is found with the cup he will die and the others will become slaves. But Joseph's steward amends what they said. The one in whose sack the cup is found will be his slave (meaning he will take that man into custody) and the others will go free. He needs to test their loyalty to Benjamin by giving them the choice to abandon Benjamin and remain free to return to their families or to accompany Benjamin back to Joseph's residence and face possible enslavement.

Question: Did the brothers pass the steward's test?
Answer: Yes, they did not abandon Benjamin but returned with him to the city.

Genesis 43:13: Then they tore their clothes, and when each man had reloaded his donkey their returned to the city. The tearing of their clothes was a sign of severe emotional distress over the fate of their brother - it is what Jacob did when he identified the bloody coat as Joseph's in Genesis 37:34. The city was probably Avaris, the Hyksos summer capital, located on the east side of the Delta. Joseph will later settle his family in the Delta region of Goshen because they will be close to him (45:10).

Please read Genesis 44:14-17: Joseph Continues to Test His Frightened Brothers
44:14When Judah and his brothers arrived at Joseph's house he was still there, so they fell on the ground in front of him. 15'What do you mean by doing this?' Joseph asked them. 'Did you not know that a man such as I am is a reader of omens?' 16'What can we answer my lord?' Judah replied. 'What can we say? How can we clear ourselves? God himself has uncovered your servants' guilt. Here we are then, my lord's slaves, we no less than the one in whose possession the cup was found.' 17'I could not think of doing such a thing,' he replied. 'The man in whose possession the cup was found shall be my slave, but you can go back unhindered to your father.'

When the brothers returned with Benjamin they fell on the ground before Joseph. This is not the position of formal subservience (histahawa ) they demonstrated in Joseph's dreams and at the banquet (see Gen 37:7, 9, 10; 43:26). The Hebrew word in this verse is npl (Waltke, page 561); in their desperation they literally threw themselves down in front of Joseph. Joseph saw that they had passed the steward's test, but he decided to test them one more time, and again he gave them permission to abandon their brother and return to their home in Canaan (another doublet).

Genesis 44:15'What do you mean by doing this?' Joseph asked them. 'Did you not know that a man such as I am is a reader of omens?' Joseph was pretending to have used divination to determine the cup had been taken just as he was pretending to be angry. Judah, however, attributes the discovery of the cup to God's providence, another allusion to their guilt in Joseph's disappearance twenty-one years earlier and to his belief that Benjamin is guilty of the theft.

The evidence against Benjamin is overwhelming. Judah admits that they have no real defense, but he attempts to reason with Joseph/the Vizier.

Question: Judah begins by making what three points?

  1. He confesses guilt they all bear ("your servants' guilt").
  2. He acknowledges that their dilemma is due to God's judgment for this previous guilt.
  3. He offers himself and all of the brothers as slaves in an attempt to undo the rash oath to kill the guilty that he made when the servant first confronted them on the road.

Judah's offer of their enslavement as reparation for the theft is the same offer he made to Joseph's steward, which the steward rejected. Joseph also refused the offer.

Question: Why did Joseph refuse?
Answer: Joseph was testing their loyalty and brotherly love in the same way that the steward tested them in rejecting the offer. They can abandon their brother if they want to obtain their freedom.

This is the final test. How will Judah keep his promise to their father? Will his compassion for his father and his love for his brother give him the courage to sacrifice his own life as he promised (Gen 43:9)?

Please read Genesis 44:18-34: Judah's Offer of Sacrifice
44:18At this, Judah went up to him and said, 'May it please my lord, let your servant have a word privately with my lord. Do not be angry with your servant, for you are like Pharaoh himself. 19My lord questioned his servants, "Have you father or brother? 20And we said to my lord, "We have an old father, and a younger brother born of his old age. His brother is dead, so he is the only one by that mother now left, and his father loves him." 21Then you said to your servants, "Bring him down to me, so that I can set eyes on him." 22We replied to my lord, "The boy cannot leave his father. If he leaves him, his father will die." 23But you said to your servants, "If your youngest brother does not come down with you, you will not be admitted to my presence again." 24When we went back to your servant my father, we repeated to him what my lord had said. 25So when our father said, "Go back and get us a little food," 26we said, "We cannot go down. We shall go only if our youngest brother is with us for, unless our youngest brother is with us, we shall not be admitted to the man's presence." 27So your servant our father said to us, "You know that my wife bore me two children. 28When one of them left me, I supposed that he must have been torn to pieces, and I have never seen him since. 29If you take this one from me too and any harm comes to him, you will send my white head down to Sheol with grief." 30If I go to your servant my father now, and we do not have the boy with us, he will die as soon as he sees that the boy is not with us, for his heart is bound up with him; 31and your servants will have sent your servant our father's white head down to Sheol with grief. 32Now your servant went surety to my father for the boy. I said: "If I do not bring him back to you, let me bear the blame (be a sinner against*) before my father all my life." 33Let your servant stay, then, as my lord's slave in place of the boy, I implore you, and let the boy go back with his brothers. 34How indeed could I go back to my father and not have the boy with me? I could not bear to see the misery that would overwhelm my father.'
* = literal translation (Interlineal Bible, vol. I, page 122).

Judah asks to speak to Joseph privately. Judah's address to Joseph is the longest speech in Genesis. He begins his speech by showing proper respect for the Vizier's authority and is acutely aware that this man has the power of life and death over them. It is significant that Judah uses the word "father" fourteen times in his speech between Genesis 41:19-34. He also finally states his belief that his brother Joseph is dead.

Question: What is the theme of Judah's appeal?
Answer: That the Vizier/Joseph will show mercy to their aged father and that it is impossible to return to their father in peace without the beloved youngest brother.

Genesis 44:27:So your servant our father said to us, "You know that my wife bore me two children."
This is an amazing statement, without ranker, without any jealousy, Judah simply states that Jacob considered the sons by Rachel as his only true sons, delegitimizing himself as a son even though his mother was legally the chief wife. His plea for compassion for his father is completely without self interest. Judah's submission to his father's preference of Benjamin and the missing Joseph stands in contrast to Cain's jealousy over God's preference of Abel. Judah has yielded to his father's choice and instead of diminishing his role in the family, his compassion and submission elevates him in God's plan for his family and for the salvation of mankind.

Genesis 44:27:32-33: 32Now your servant went surety to my father for the boy. I said: "If I do not bring him back to you, let me bear the blame (let me be a sinner against*) before my father all my life." 33Let your servant stay, then, as my lord's slave in place of the boy, I implore you, and let the boy go back with his brothers.
This is the first example of substitution sacrifice in Sacred Scripture. Judah's offer of his own life for the sake of his brother demonstrates that Judah is a changed man. Having experienced the pain of the death of two sons, he can identify with his father's grief in losing Joseph and his fear of losing Benjamin. He is willing to sacrifice his entire future for a father who loves another brother more than he loves him. Judah's self-sacrificial love for the sake of his family prefigures his descendant Jesus of Nazareth's self-sacrificial love for the sake of a covenant family and the human family. It is Judah's ability to love that will make him God's choice as the bearer of the "promised seed." Judah's demonstration of filial devotion was the sign Joseph was waiting for. For Joseph it was the sign that family restoration could begin.

Please read Genesis 45:1-8: Joseph Reveals His True Identity
45:1Then Joseph could not control his feelings in front of all his retainers, and he exclaimed, 'Let everyone leave me.' No one therefore was present with him while Joseph made himself known to his brothers, 2but he wept so loudly that all the Egyptians heard, and the news reached Pharaoh's palace. 3Joseph said to his brothers, 'I am Joseph. Is my father really still alive?' His brothers could not answer him, they were so dumbfounded at seeing him. 4Then Joseph said to his brothers, 'Come closer to me.' When they had come closer to him he said, 'I am your brother Joseph whom you sold into Egypt. 5But now, do not grieve, do not reproach yourselves for having sold me here, since God sent me before you to preserve your lives. 6For this is the second year there has been famine in the country, and there are still five years to come without ploughing or harvest. 7God sent me before you to assure the survival of your race (a remnant*) on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance. 8So it was not you who sent me here but God, and he has set me up as a father to Pharaoh, as lord of all his household and governor of the whole of Egypt.

Judah's impassioned speech offered Joseph the proof he needed that his brothers are no longer the jealous and self-interest driven individuals he left behind in Canaan, and they are ready to receive the revelation that will reunite the family. Unable to control his emotions any longer, Joseph dismisses his Egyptian servants. An emotional outburst in front of them would damage his persona as the cool and confidant Vizier of the Pharaoh. However, even though the Egyptians have been dismissed, they were understandably fearful of leaving their master alone with the foreigners and from the next room they can hear Joseph's weeping. This is the third time Joseph has openly wept (42:24; 43:30-31; 45:2). Beneath his Egyptian appearance and despite his high social status, Joseph was still the same Canaanite son who had been ripped from the arms of his father twenty-two years earlier.

Question: After revealing his true identity, what was Joseph's first question?
Answer: He asked for assurance that his father was still alive.

Notice that for the first time Joseph did not say "your father," as he had previously referred to Jacob. Perhaps in seeing Judah's heartfelt concern for the grief of their father in the loss of one son and the risk of the loss of Benjamin, Joseph has realized that his deception in testing his brothers has also contributed to his father's grief.

Joseph's lengthy speech was meant to calm his brother's fears and promote reconciliation.

Question: What two assurances did Joseph give his brothers?
Answer: He has forgiven them and everything that happened to him was God's plan.

Question: What plan did Joseph present to his stunned brothers to preserve their lives?
Answer: They must immigrate to Egypt and settle in land he will provide during the continuing famine.

Genesis 45:7-8: 7God sent me before you to assure the survival of your race (a remnant*) on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance. 8So it was not you who sent me here but God, and he has set me up as a father to Pharaoh, as lord of all his household and governor of the whole of Egypt.
Joseph concludes his shocking speech with this last impassioned plea. That he describes the family of Jacob as a "remnant" is significant. Jacob's family was the remnant of Abraham's descendants who have remained loyal to Yahweh and the Abrahamic covenant. The preservation of the faithful remnant will continue to be a major theme throughout the Bible, in the Old (especially in the books of the prophets) and New Testaments. The first preservation of the "faithful remnant" was the salvation of the family of Noah in the Great Flood when God preserved the remnant of Noah's family who received the continued blessing of fertility and who "fathered" the nations of the earth. Now God has preserved the faithful remnant of Abraham's family who will receive the same blessing and will "father" God's holy covenant nation of Israel. In the New Testament St. Paul speaks of the preservation of Christ's faithful remnant, "sons" from family of the Old Covenant Church who "fathered" the New Covenant people of God - the Kingdom of Heaven on earth: In the same way, then, in our own time, there is a remnant, set aside by grace (Rom 11:5).

Genesis 45:8: So it was not you who sent me here but God, and he has set me up as a father to Pharaoh, as lord of all his household and governor of the whole of Egypt. Joseph was not exonerating them of their sin in dividing the family, fueled by their jealousy, in selling him into slavery and in bringing grief to their father. It was their confession of their sin, their repentance and penance in Joseph's testing that has taken them beyond the guilt and delivered them. Joseph's statement was meant to alleviate them of the shame of their actions and to set their sin in the context of God's sovereign grace and His plan for the future of the covenant family of Abraham.

Please read Genesis 45:9-15: Joseph's Plan for His Family's Salvation
45:9'Return quickly to your father and tell him, "Your son Joseph says this: 'God has made me lord of all Egypt. Come down to me without delay. 10You will live in the region of Goshen where you will be near me, you, your children and your grandchildren, your flocks, your cattle and all your possessions. 11There I shall provide for you - for there are five years of famine still to come - so that you, your household and all yours are not reduced to penury.'" 12You can see with your own eyes, and my brother Benjamin can see too, that I am who I say I am. 13Give my father a full report of all the honor I enjoy in Egypt, and of all you have seen; and quickly bring my father down here.' 14Then throwing his arms round the neck of his brother Benjamin he wept; and Benjamin wept on his shoulder. 15He kissed all his brothers, weeping on each one. Only then were his brothers able to talk to him.

Question: What was Joseph's plan to save his family from the famine?
Answer: That they should go to their father and tell him of Joseph's good fortune and to urge their father to immigrate to Egypt with all their possessions and to accept Joseph's offer to settle them in the region of Goshen.

Goshen was a region in the Delta of northern Egypt that covered an area of approximately 900 square miles. It was excellent land for grazing livestock and for certain kinds of agriculture. Joseph must have been living in Avaris, the Hyksos' summer capital (45:10). The Hyksos capital of Avaris was located near modern Tell el-Dab'a in the NE region of the Delta on one of the branches of the Nile. At the time Joseph lived, Avaris was a well developed commercial center with a busy harbor that was capable of providing a port for over 300 ships. It was the major administrative capital of the Hyksos Pharaohs from c. 1783-1550BC, from the Hyksos 13th Dynasty until the 17the Dynasty when Avaris was conquered by Kamose, the Theban prince who successfully ended Hyksos domination of Lower Egypt. After expelling the Hyksos, the new Theban pharaoh razed Avaris to the ground and reestablished Thebes as the capital of Egypt under the Pharaoh Ahmose, who established the 18th Dynasty of a united Upper and Lower Egypt.(3)

During Joseph's entire speech the brothers have remained silent. At first they were shocked by the revelation of the Vizier's true identity, but they also continued to be deeply fearful even through Joseph professed his forgiveness. This depth of mercy and forgiveness was still foreign to these brothers. They continued to be fearful of Joseph's possible revenge. Seventeen years later after the family had migrated to Egypt and were safely settled in Goshen Jacob died and the brothers again expressed their fears that Joseph had been waiting to take his revenge (50:15-17).

Genesis 45:12: You can see with your own eyes, and my brother Benjamin can see too, that I am who I say I am.
That Joseph expected Benjamin to remember him shows that Benjamin, who was born after the family's return to Canaan from Haran, was old enough to know him when Joseph was taken from the family at age seventeen.

Finally, Joseph embraces each brother in turn, weeping. This is the third time Joseph has wept over his brothers.

Please read Genesis 45:16-20: The Pharaoh's Generosity to Joseph's Family
45:16News reached Pharaoh's palace that Joseph's brothers had come, and Pharaoh was pleased to hear it, as were his servants. 17Pharaoh told Joseph, 'Say to your brothers, "do this: load your beasts and hurry away to Canaan. 18Fetch your father and your families, and come back to me. I will give you the best territory (the good of the land of*) in Egypt, where you will live off the fat of the land." 19And you, for your part, give them this order: "Do this: take wagons from Egypt, for your little ones and your wives. Get your father and come. 20Never mind about your property, for the best of all (the good of the land of*)Egypt will be yours."'
* = literal translation (Interlineal Bible, vol. I, page 125).

The key words repeated in this part of the narrative are:

Question: What was Pharaoh's response when he heard that Joseph had been reunited with his family? What does this say about the character of this man?
Answer: In his close association with Joseph over the years, the Pharaoh probably knew Joseph's story of betrayal. The Pharaoh was a true and loyal friend to Joseph. He was happy for Joseph's reunification with his family and he made every effort to foster the reconciliation and to show his gratitude for Joseph's service to him and to his people.

Question: Was Pharaoh's generosity also a wise move politically?
Answer: He was also wise to invite Joseph's family to live in Egypt, giving them some of the best land in the country. He will keep his chief counselor and he has gained allies who will help to defend his throne.

Please read Genesis 45:21-28: Joseph's Brothers Return to Canaan
45:21Israel's sons did as they were told. Joseph gave them wagons as Pharaoh had ordered (according to the mouth of Pharaoh*), and he gave them provisions for the journey. 22To each and every one he gave new clothes, and to Benjamin three hundred shekels of silver and five changes of clothes. 23And to his father he sent ten donkeys laden with the best that Egypt offered, and ten she-donkeys laden with grain, bread and food for his father's journey. 24And so he sent his brothers on their way. His final words to them were, 'And let there be no upsets on the way!' 25And so they left Egypt. When they reached their father Jacob in Canaan, 26they gave him this report, 'Joseph is still alive. He is at this moment governor of all Egypt!' But he was as one stunned, for he did not believe them. 27However, when they told him all Joseph had said to them, and when he saw the wagons that Joseph had sent to fetch him, the spirit of their father Jacob revived, 28and Israel said, 'That is enough! My son Joseph is still alive. I must go and see him before I die.'

This is the second time the title "sons of Israel" is used in Scripture, prefiguring the tribes that will form the people of Israel living in exile in Egypt; the first time was in Genesis 42:5 when Israel's sons first came to Egypt to purchase grain. The "sons of Israel" act as a unified family to bring about the Pharaoh's commands for the well-being of their family.

Genesis 45:22-23: To each and every one he gave new clothes, and to Benjamin three hundred shekels of silver and five changes of clothes. And to his father he sent ten donkeys laden with the best that Egypt offered, and ten she-donkeys laden with grain, bread and food for his father's journey. Clothing has played an interesting part in the unfolding story of Joseph and his brothers, functioning as a symbol of authority, jealousy, affection, deception, tearing clothing as a sign of grief, and as a sign of a change in status. Jacob gave Joseph a beautiful coat as a sign of his elevated status over his brothers and Pharaoh gave him new clothes as a sign of his elevated status over the Egyptians. Joseph's brother's used Joseph's bloody coat to deceive Jacob, convincing him that Joseph had been killed by wild animals. Potiphar's wife ripped off Joseph's slave's tunic as he escaped her attempt to lure him into sin and then used it to convince her husband that Joseph had assaulted her. Joseph's brothers, in their hatred of their brother, stripped him of his coat in the beginning of the story and now in his forgiveness of their sin against him he has clothed them as a sign of his affection (also see Gen 37:3, 31-33; 38:14, 19; 39:12-18; 41:14, 42; 44:13).

The ten brothers were given the gift of the money they brought on their first visit to Egypt, and then Joseph returned the money to all eleven after the second visit. Now he has given Benjamin what the brothers received in the first visit (and perhaps more) and a gift of additional clothing. He does not have to justify his preference for his mother's son over the other brothers, but he could also be making an additional gift to the innocent Benjamin for the suffering he had to endure in the test of his brothers. That Joseph does this also shows that he believes the ten have risen above their petty jealousies and can accept his preference for Benjamin. The additional donkeys are a very valuable gift.

His final words to them were, 'And let there be no upsets on the way!' And so they left Egypt.

Question: What do Joseph's parting words to his brothers suggest?
Answer: Joseph believes the brothers have been transformed by their experience, but he also knows that there are years of bickering behind them and old habits die hard. His warning is meant to remind them of their individual commitments to family loyalty and unity, something each of them will still have to work to achieve.

Question: Contrast the Jacob who struggled with his brother Esau for the material wealth of his family with the Jacob who exults in the news that his lost son is still alive. Why is Jacob's consent to immigrate to Egypt necessary; give two reasons?
Answer: The old Jacob cared more about material wealth than the loyalty and love of his family. Jacob has finally realized that love of family is the greatest wealth a father can desire. He must agree to migrate to Egypt to fulfill Joseph's second dream and the prophecy God made to Abraham in Genesis 15:13-21.

The migration of the tribe of Israel into Egypt marks the end of the era of the Patriarchs in Canaan.

Questions for group discussion:

Question: Joseph's ability, by the grace of God, to forgive his brothers is a lesson in mercy and love that we should all follow. What did Jesus teach about forgiveness? See Matthew 5:7, 20-26, 38-48; 6:12, 14-15; 18:23-35; Mark 11:25-26; Luke 6:36-38; 11:2-4; 17:3-4; 23:33-34. In summarizing the Ten Commandments, which is called the New Covenant Law of Love, what did Jesus teach in Matthew 22:37-40?

Question: What did St. Paul teach about forgiveness in Ephesians 4:32 and in Colossians 3:12-15? What did St. James the Just teach about forgiveness in James 2:12-13?

Question How can you apply Jesus' teaching on forgiveness, His new Law of Covenant Love in summation of the Ten Commandments, and the teachings of Saints Paul and James to your life? What is it necessary to your salvation to live the Law of Love? Also see CCC 2608; 2840-45.

Remember, forgiving a wrong is not just an act of mercy God asks you to extend for the good of the person who wronged you. It is also for your sake that God asks you to forgive so that you can be healed of the impact of the sin against you and, like Joseph, in forgiving to also forget the pain (Gen 41:51). If you cannot forgive for yourself, then forgive that person of the sake of Jesus Christ, remembering that He did not just die for you but He died so that the person who wronged you might also come to salvation. If Jesus loved that person enough to die for him, than how can you withhold your forgiveness? Can you not also extend the love of Christ together with your forgiveness to that person for the sake of your beloved Savior, who suffered and died out of His love for both of you?


1. Halley's Bible Handbook, page 107.

2. Waltke, Genesis, page 560

3. The ruins of Avaris were abandoned until Pharaoh Seti I (19th Dynasty) built a summer palace on the site. His son Ramesses II built a new Northern capital on the site of the ruins of Avaris and called his city Pi-Ramesses Aa-nakhtu, meaning "House of Ramesses II Great in Victory." Years later when the Pelusiae branch of the Nile silted up (c. 1060 BC) the entire city was moved to the west where the Nile River created a new channel. The new city was called Tanis. Excavations of the site of the Hyksos palace and temple complex in the ruins of Avaris have revealed beautiful Minoan style frescos. Only Crete, Thera, two sites in Syria, and Avaris have produced artifacts of the great Minoan civilization that flourished in the Mediterranean until the mid 16th century BC.

Michal Hunt, Copyright © 2009 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.

Catechism references for Genesis 43:15 - 45:21-28