- Locate the passage
As Joseph witnessed his brothers begin to take responsibility for their previous mistreatment of him and demonstrate maturity in their concern for Benjamin, he could no longer constrain himself. He could not endure the ruse one more minute. So, to their astonishment, Joseph revealed himself.
The passage is narrative and records the instance of Joseph revealing himself to his brothers. While the text suggests a conversation between them, the narrator only records Joseph speaking in this pericope.
- Determine the structure of the passage
45:1-4 – I am Joseph
45:5-8 – God sent me before you
45:9-13 – I will provide for you
45:14-15 – Reconciliation and conversation
- Exegete the passage
Joseph put his brother in a position to abandon another brother as they had done to him. But, this time, the brothers refused to allow another brother to be lost. Joseph could see that they had changed. They had passed the test.
This passage revealed that Joseph harbored no hatred towards his brothers for how they treated him and was not interested in revenge. He had heard their grief over their treatment of him and He witnessed their concern over Benjamin. Yet, reconciliation had to begin with Joseph. He was the hurt party and he had the power to retaliate. But, the tension that began in Genesis 37 is finally resolved as Joseph forgives his brothers and recognizes God’s providence in “sending” him to Egypt. The tension between the phrases, “you sold me” (45:5) and “God sent me” (45:5, 7) reveal a mature understanding of God’s hand of providence even through his brother’s sin.
45:1-2 – Joseph had restrained himself for as long as he could.
- Joseph had previously controlled his emotions
- 43:31 – where the same word is used
- See also 1 Sam. 13:12 – Saul used this word of himself when he “forced himself” to offer a sacrifice.
- He instructed all of his attendants to leave. The impact of this moment demanded an exclusive audience.
- The narrator stated that both the Egyptians and Pharaoh’s house heard the emotional self-disclosure of Joseph to his brothers.
45:3 – Is my father alive?
- Joseph had previously inquired about the welfare of his father (43:7; 27)
- His brothers were unable to answer because of shock (Hb. “bahal” means “troubled;” or “afraid”) and fear
45:4 – Please come near
- Joseph’s command is plural and directed at all the brothers
- The proximity may serve several purposes:
- No Egyptian would get that close to a Hebrew unprotected
- The nearness would allow them to see him up close and recognize him
- Moreover, Joseph disclosed information that only he would have known
- There could be no question – this was their brother!
- The transition between 45:4 and 45:5 suggests that Joseph is confident that they recognized this Egyptian lord as their brother
45:5 – You sold me … God sent me
- The years of prison and the pain of betrayal have not been forgotten, but Joseph has put them in theological perspective. He told them, “What you did was wrong.” But, he explained that God worked His will despite their sin. Joseph is not excusing their sin, he is acknowledging that God was able to accomplish His purpose in spite of their sin.
- Joseph now understood that God’s purpose for his life was to preserve the lives of others (including his family).
45:6 – These two years
- The famine has only just begun. There will still be 5 more years of famine. Thus, Joseph knew that his family would be unable to survive without his assistance.
45:7 – “To preserve a posterity for you”
- The only way their family would survive is through his assistance.
45:8 – He has made me a father … lord … ruler
- Joseph recognized the significance of his role. He described three roles that he served; two in Pharaoh’s life, and one for the nation
- Joseph was a father-figure for Pharaoh – this suggests the trust that Pharaoh placed in Joseph and Joseph’s role as his advisor
- Joseph was the lord over Pharaoh’s house – in only the two years that Pharaoh had known Joseph, he had so much trust for Joseph that he put his entire house under Joseph’s care.
- Joseph was the ruler over the nation – his authority extended to the entire nation of Egypt.
45:9-11 – Joseph’s instructions to his brother were to:
- Hurry (this is reinforced at the end of this verse by the companion phrase “do not delay”) – the needs of the famine and his desire to see his father again demand it
- Explain the situation to Jacob
- Convince Jacob to move to Egypt and the rationale why it was necessary.
- This is a tall order for boys that Jacob had reason not to trust
- It also suggests that part of this explanation by the brothers would require and admission of their previous sin against Joseph.
45:12-13 – Joseph further explained how the brothers would convince Jacob to come
- Their eyes saw him
- Benjamin will testify to it (as the only other son of Rachel)
- Tell Jacob of my glory and all that you have seen
- Explain to him that he must hurry
45:14-15 – Joseph is reconciled with his brothers
- Joseph first embraced Benjamin, his closest brother
- But, Joseph also kissed all of his brothers as a sign to them that he had forgiven them
- Only after that moment, were the brothers able to speak
- These brothers who previously could not speak a kind word to him (37:4), now converse with him as an adult for the very first time.
- The Bible doesn’t record their conversation. Like the Egyptians, we are excluded from that conversation. But, one can imagine, repentance was made by the brothers, as well as an explanation by Joseph of all that had happened.
- Let the structure of the text drive the sermon
This passage reveals 5 responses from Joseph that define genuine reconciliation
- Reconciliation is possible only through forgiveness
- Joseph forgave his brothers
- Reconciliation is demonstrated by the refusal to retaliate
- Though it was in Joseph’s power to retaliate, he refused
- Ill. James Dobson said, “Forgiveness is giving up my right to revenge.”
- Reconciliation is informed by the recognition of God’s Providence
- Joseph came to understand the purpose God had for his life
- Reconciliation is authenticated by sacrificial concern for each other
- Joseph was willing to do everything he could to care for his family; that included those who had mistreated him
- Reconciliation is complete when there is genuine restoration as a family
- The scene in vss. 14-15 reveals the touching embrace of a family who had been estranged from Joseph’s childhood.
- The sin of mankind caused a barrier between us and God for which only the perfect sacrifice of Christ could atone.
- Instead of God’s wrath, God demonstrated to us His love and did for us on the Cross what we could not do for ourselves.
- John 1:12 explains that in Christ we become part of God’s family.