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Friday, January 24, 2014


Joseph is now 30 yrs. old and has been in Egypt for 13 years, Gen. 41:42-46. Joseph begins to travel throughout Egypt, gathering and storing enormous amounts of grain from each city.  During this time before the famine, Joseph has two sons: Manasseh (meaning God has made me forget) and Ephraim (meaning God has made me fertile). Gen. 41:46-57.

Joseph's two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim, provide yet another example of a younger son winning out over an older, Gen. 48. Later in the story, when Jacob arrives in Egypt, he adopts Joseph's two sons into his own family, giving them a share of the inheritance as if they were Jacob's own sons. As Jacob (now Israel) prepares to bless the two boys, he places his right hand on Ephraim, the younger son, and his left hand on Manasseh, the older son. This is backwards, the right hand signifies the firstborn. We see that Jacob has to cross his arms to do this. Joseph then tells his father that his hands are backwards, and that Manasseh is the oldest. This is what Joseph tells his father, "Not so, my father, for this one is the firstborn.  Place your right hand on his head." Jacob refuses and responds, "I know, my son, I know; he also shall become a people and he also shall be great. However, his younger brother shall be greater than he, and his descendants shall become a multitude of nations. And he blessed them that day, saying, by you Israel shall pronounce blessing, saying, may God make you like Ephraim and Manasseh!  Thus he put Ephraim before Manasseh." Genesis 48:18-20. As a fulfillment of Jacob's blessing, Ephraim became the most dominant of the tribes in the kingdom of Israel.  The name Ephraim became metaphorical for the entire kingdom.

When the famine arrives in Egypt as Joseph had predicted, Egypt is prepared. Joseph begins to ration the grain, first to Egyptians and then to foreigners who begin to travel to Egypt to buy grain.

Back in Canaan, Jacob's family is feeling the famine's effects.  Jacob sends Joseph's brothers to buy some grain when he hears that Egypt has it for sale. Next, are two parallels in some ways of the brothers’ two journeys to Egypt:

  • The 11 brothers travel to Egypt to buy grain. Benjamin, the youngest brother, stays home with Jacob.
  • The 11 brothers travel to Egypt to buy grain. This time they bring Benjamin along as well as a double payment since their first payment was returned to them.
  • The 11 brothers bowed before Joseph when they approached him, being Pharaoh's second in command.
  • The 11 brothers arrive in Egypt, tell Joseph their story to Joseph's steward and then bow before Joseph when they meet him.
  • Joseph recognizes his brothers, but they did not.
  • Joseph recognizes Benjamin, but brothers still cannot recognize him.
  • Joseph accuses them of being spies throwing them in prison.

  • Joseph weeps.
  • Joseph weeps.
  • Joseph keep Simeon sending the rest away and demanding that they come back with Benjamin.

  • Joseph orders their sacks be filled and their silver returned
  • Joseph order their sacks be filled and their silver returned. He adds his personal silver cup to Benjamin's sack.
  • The 10 brothers leave Egypt, but realize that their silver has been returned to their sacks
  • The 11 brothers leave Egypt, but realize that their silver has been returned. Benjamin has Joseph's cup.
  • Jacob grieves the loss of Joseph, Simeon and now Benjamin.

  • When the 11 brothers fear over the cup thinking they're in trouble they return to Egypt. Joseph demands Benjamin as his slave in payment for the supposed theft. Judah begs for mercy and offers himself in place of Benjamin.

  • Joseph weeps intensely.

  • Joseph reveals himself to his brothers

For 20 years Joseph has been estranged from his family.  Jacob has thought him dead and his brothers have sold him into slavery.   When Joseph sees his brothers he does not reveal his identity to them.   He wants and needs to know for sure what kind of men his brothers have become. When Joseph accuses them of being spies three times, he puts them in prison for three days so that he can watch them.  The brothers think this is God's punishment for the horrible treatment toward Joseph.  Joseph weeps after hearing of their remorse. Wanting to make sure that the other brothers are coming back, Joseph holds Simeon. Back in Canaan, they beg Jacob to allow Benjamin return with them so that they can rescue Simeon.  Isn't it something that Reuben even offers his two sons as a sacrifice to his father so that Benjamin could come with them? Gen. 42:37.  But Jacob was not going to bargain for Benjamin, his only survivor of his favorite wife Rachael.   It is only when the family begins to starve that Jacob agrees. 

In another test, Joseph returns the brothers' silver to see what they will do with it.  Remember, that years ago, they had sold him for 20 pieces of silver.  Joseph wants to test them to see how they handle the situation having their treasures returned. Joseph is testing them to see whether they keep quiet or return the silver. With this test he will find out if they still love money more than their brothers. When they returned with Benjamin, Jacob welcomes them and sets Simeon free.  Still he does not reveal himself to them.  He eats with them and asks them questions about his father. 

In preparation for the final test, he plants his personal silver cup in Benjamin's sack for the return journey. Joseph send his steward after their brothers while they are going on their journey.  He finds the cup in Benjamin's sack. The brothers returned and Joseph sets them a final test.  He told his brothers that since Benjamin stole the silver cup, he was going to become his slave and the rest were to go free. In a humble speech Judah offers himself in place of Benjamin. What a different Judah this is!   Judah tells Joseph of the special love that Jacob has for Benjamin and of his lost son Joseph as sons of his favorite wife, Rachel.  The remarkable thing is that Judah is no longer bitter over this.  His love for his father and his desire to do what is right this time overrides his hatred and bitterness.   He begs for his father to be able to keep his son whom he loves more than any of the rest.  This is so touching!  When finally Joseph believes in his brothers’ repentance and sees that his brothers have passed the test, he breaks down and weeps without consolation. Then finally he reveals himself to them.   He forgives them and offers them forgiveness for their sin.  This is what he tells them, "Then Joseph said to his brothers, I am Joseph! … I am your brother whom you sold into Egypt. And do not be grieved or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life....Now, therefore, it was not you who sent me here, but God; and He has made me a father to Pharaoh and lord of all his household, and ruler over all the land of Egypt." Genesis 45:3-8. Joseph sends them back to Canaan with wagons so they can bring Jacob and the rest of the family back to Egypt to escape from the famine.

FASCINATING FACT: Judah was the 4th son of Leah, but at the end of Joseph's story, he had the leadership of the whole family.  Reuben lost his place as firstborn when he slept with his father's slave, Bilhah, Genesis 35.  Simeon and Levi lost favor for their revenge against the Shechemites in Genesis 34.  Jacob passes over the first three sons in his blessings of his sons, Gen. 49:3-12 and gives Judah the firstborn, blessing, saying, "your father's sons will bow down to you." Judah's tribe became the strongest and eventually became the southern kingdom when Solomon died, the Kingdom of Judah, in fulfillment of this blessing.  Our Lord Jesus was born of Judah's line.  Jesus' genealogy to this point: Abraham - Isaac - Jacob - Judah and Tamar.

All through Joseph's long story, God speaks directly only once, and it is not to Joseph. God speaks to Jacob when Joseph's brothers return a second time from Egypt, reassuring him that his promises to him will remain with him in Egypt, Gen. 46:2-4. The promise of a great nation to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob will still be fulfilled. God also promises that Jacob will not be left in Egypt, but that his body will be brought back to the promised land: "And God spoke to Israel in vision of the night and said, "Jacob, Jacob." And he said, "Here I am." And He said, "I am God, the God of your father; do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for I will make you a great nation there. I will go down with you to Egypt, and I will also surely bring you up again; and I will also surely bring you up again; and Joseph will close your eyes." Genesis 46:2-4.  When Jacob arrives in Egypt, he and his family, receive the best land. Jacob's family prospers and grows in their new land, thanks to Joseph even when the other Egyptians are forced to sell their land to Pharaoh in exchange for food.

Jacob's wish was to be buried in the Promised Land, and not in Egypt.  Remember, God has promised him he would bring him back to Canaan.  After he had blessed his sons, he instructed them about what to do with his remains, Gen. 49:29-31. When he died, Joseph took Jacob's body back to Canaan burying him there in a cave along with Abraham and Isaac, just as Jacob asked.   After his death Joseph reassures his forgiveness to his brothers saying. "Do not be afraid, for am I in God's place?  As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result to preserve many people alive.  So therefore, do not be afraid, I will provide for you and your little ones.  So he comforted them and spoke kindly to them." Genesis 50:19-21.  This is such remarkable forgiveness!  Joseph stayed in Egypt, he and his household, and lived 110 years.  Before Joseph was about to die, he  makes them swear to return his body back to the Promised Land. Unfortunately, this promise is not fulfilled until Moses' time, around 300 years later. This is fulfilled when Moses took the children of Israel out of Egypt, "Now they buried the bones of Joseph, which the sons of Israel brought up from Egypt, at Shechem in the piece of ground which Jacob had bought from the sons of Hamor the father of Shechem for one hundred pieces of money; and they became the inheritance of Joseph's sons." Joshua 24:32.

Joseph appears in Hebrews 11, the "faith hall of fame" as a giant of the faith because he trusted God ordering the return of his bones from Egypt to the Promised Land. "By faith Joseph, when he was dying, made mention of the exodus of the sons of Israel, and gave orders concerning his bones." Hebrews 11:22

The stories of Joseph foresee the grace, mercy, faith and hope of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We see self-sacrifice, forgiveness, and the regeneration of bitterly sinful men. We see an example of a youth tempted in a strange place far away from home, with nothing to lose and no one to disappoint except God, and yet he stands true to his God. We see a father grieving over the death of his son for twenty years because he believed a lie. When he is presented with the truth, he at first refuses to believe it!  Finally there is the joyful reunion. God in His providence will not disappoint us.  If only we would believe that He knows what He is doing!

May we learn from this beautiful story of forgiveness and learn to have the heart of Joseph who died to himself  in order that he might bless those who had wronged him.  In doing this, Joseph fulfilled God's will and provided a privileged refuge from the famine.  May we always remember that, GOD MEANS IT FOR OUR GOOD even when others have wronged us. May we free ourselves of all bitterness as Joseph did.


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