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Exposition of Genesis: Volumes 1 and 2
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CHAPTER XLV

9. Joseph Revealed to His Brethren; Summons the Family to Egypt (45:1-28)

The test planned and carried through by Joseph had now gone far enough and had proved entirely successful. The deepest feelings of the heart of these men had been laid bare. They were heartily sorry for what they had done to Joseph. In a similar situation they had not thought of dealing heartlessly with their father again. They had refused to take advantage of Benjamin when a very easy way of escape from evil had offered itself for them by abandoning him. They felt that divine justice was slowly but surely catching up with them for their betrayal of Joseph. One of them in particular, Judah, had given proof of heroic self-sacrifice to spare the father. There was no need of probing further. God had so effectually blessed Joseph’s course with these brethren of his that manifestly the crowning touch could now be given to it all by Joseph’s revelation of his own identity.

1-4. But Joseph could no longer control himself before all those who stood round about him; so he called out: Have everyone go out from my presence. And so there was no one standing about when Joseph made himself known to his brethren. Joseph raised his voice so loudly in weeping, that the Egyptians heard it, and even the house of Pharaoh heard it. And Joseph said to his brethren: I am Joseph. Is my father still alive? But his brethren were not able to answer him, for they were terrified at the sight of him. But Joseph said to his brethren: Come nearer to me, and they came nearer. And he said: I am Joseph, your brother, whom ye sold into Egypt.

The whole scene as it now follows is a family matter. Our deeper emotions are not to be displayed before the general public. What is sacred to a family group may only be an object of curiosity or of amusement to those outside the group. Very wisely and properly Joseph bids all others leave the room. Then with only the twelve sons of the one father present in the one room comes the revelation. Joseph’s overwrought emotions find relief in giving vent to loud weeping, the weeping of joy. It is specifically remarked that they who just had been dismissed, "the Egyptians," (Hebrew: "Egypt") heard him weep. They naturally carried the report to Pharaoh’s house. So he heard of it. The simple statement, "I am Joseph," must have come like a thunderclap out of a clear sky on these unsuspecting men. It was spoken, besides, without the assistance of an interpreter and in their own native tongue. The question immediately following could be construed as incongruous and unnecessary. For their previous words had just referred to the father repeatedly as still living. However, upon second thought we discern that everything follows in natural sequence. Before he had asked as a stranger; now he asks as a brother, expecting such an account as one brother might give to another. Besides, as has been repeatedly pointed out, Joseph softens the harshness of the startling announcement, "I am Joseph," by an eager, friendly inquiry about the father. He wants to draw their thoughts away from the alarming disclosure he has just made. We can well understand the reaction of the brothers. Here they were completely in their brother’s power, whom they knew for the most part as a harsh and rather cruel man. If the sense of guilt was strong before, now it was overwhelming and entirely alarming. "They were terrified" (nibhhalû —"trembling" "dismayed") at the sight of him. Perhaps, too, they now recognized a resemblance to their brother’s facial traits, mannerisms, bearing and expressions characteristic of him. In horror, wonder anal dismay they naturally started back.

4. But Joseph’s entire attitude was one of sincere friendliness. He invited them to "come nearer." Perhaps more or less automatically they came nearer, feeling that the man must be obeyed. Apprehension still marked every countenance. Fear would not relax its hold on them. Joseph had to win their confidence. His next step serves to establish his identity fully, if that were still necessary, when he mentions that he is the one whom they sold. Lange very correctly sees in this statement on Joseph’s part a delicate attempt to make their difficult confession for them, so that for the present this very painful experience does not need to come to the forefront any more.

5-8. And now be not grieved, neither be angry with yourselves that ye have sold me here; for it was for the saving of life that God sent me on before you. For it is now two years that the famine has been in the land, and there are yet five years that there will be neither plowing nor reaping. But God sent me on before you in order to set up for you a remnant on earth and in order to keep alive for you a great number of such who escape. And now it was not ye that sent me here but God, and He has appointed me a father to Pharaoh and lord over all his household and ruler over all the land of Egypt.

A double reaction was liable to appear on the part of Joseph’s brethren. They that had contrived the sale of their brother were liable to "grieve" unduly over the wrong they had done, and so might embitter their own lives as well as those of the rest. But they who were relatively innocent might be "angry" (’al yich (ch) ar ="let it not burn" in your eyes, i. e., do not let anger rise within you as you view this case). The summary statement of the deeper purpose involved is, "it was for the saving of life that God sent me on before you." Michyah ="life," or "saving of life" —Leben, Lebensunterhalt (K. W.). It should be noted that Joseph very appropriately ascribes these higher divine plans to ’Elohim, for He it is who as the mighty Ruler of the world providentially controls the affairs of His children. Here another reason becomes apparent. why these matters were not divulged before the ears of the Egyptians. Egyptians would hardly have appreciated the peculiar destiny of Israel. Joseph reminds his brethren that five more years like the last two must be reckoned with. When he says, "there will be neither plowing nor reaping," the statement is meant relatively and not absolutely. Here and there in the land a few may have attempted the one or the other, but with little success.

7. The difficulties of this verse are largely removed if it be remembered that the "remnant" (she’erîth) is Joseph himself. He was "set up" (sîm, "put" or "place") as something left over, a remnant, in order that the others might cluster around him. In the second place, the le before pelêtah indicates the direct object (K. S. 289 b). And lastly, pelêtah, literally, "escape," here signifies "the number of such who escape." The verse, therefore, means that Joseph is the nucleus appointed by God, that the men of Israel might rally around him, and so there will be kept alive a great number of such who escape.

8. Now Joseph’s explanation grows more pointed. It was not really they who sent him here but God. This is a strong way of asserting the fact of God’s overruling providence, stated so strongly for the comfort of his brothers. Here Joseph shows himself particularly wise in ministering to the souls of his brethren. If their sorrow does not learn to reckon with God, His mercy and His mighty providence, it will remain a mere earthly sorrow, which serves no particular purpose. To see God’s purpose and judge from His point of view, that throws clear light on everything. Joseph has no overwrought notions about himself, but He clearly sees that his exalted position is arranged for Israel’s advantage. His relation to Pharaoh is that of paternal advisor or "father" (’abh). His relation to the royal household is that of supreme controller or "lord," ’adhôn. His relation to Egypt is that of "ruler over all the land." There is no boastful ring in what Joseph here asserts. Strangely, the monuments have titles for men as exalted as Joseph, titles which sound almost the same as ’abh and ’adhôn but have a meaning which is quite different. Joseph may intentionally have used these titles as a play on terms. In this verse we have Ha-e’lohîm, "the personal God," designated as the one who placed Joseph in the position he occupied. It hardly seems permissible to translate beqérebh ha’arets, v. 6, "in the midst of the world," as Strack suggests; such a thought is not motivated in this connection, even though in 46:16 and in Exod. 8:18 such a translation might prove admissible.

9-13. Go up quickly to my father and say to him: Thus saith thy son Joseph: God hath appointed me lord of all Egypt; come down to me; delay not. And thou shalt dwell in the land of Goshen and thou shalt be near to me, thou, thy sons and thy grandchildren, and thy flocks and thy herds and all that belongs to thee. And I shall provide for thee there, for there are yet five years of famine, lest thou come to poverty, thou and thy sons and all that belongs to thee. For, look, your eyes as well as the eyes of my full brother Benjamin see that it is my own mouth that is speaking to you. And ye shall tell my father of all my renown in Egypt and of all that ye have seen, and bring my father down here quickly.

A further means of setting his brothers’ minds at rest is for Joseph to disclose in detail his plans for the future. He has just said that he has been brought to Egypt providentially. What, then, does he purpose to do? The resourceful Joseph, quick at formulating effective plans, has everything arranged for and tells his brothers exactly what is to be done. They are to lose no time: "Go up quickly" (Hebrew: "make haste and go up"). They are to inform their father of Joseph’s position of authority and that his message is: "Come down to me; delay not." Joseph’s adequate plans have even selected the very place where all are to settle—"the land of Goshen." This land lies in northeastern Egypt. Here Jacob shall be near Joseph, an added inducement for coming down. It is believed that in these days the Egyptian court was held in Zoan or Tanis, perhaps twenty or twenty-five miles directly north of Goshen. Joseph’s plan further stipulates that a complete transmigration take place, involving the head of the family, his children and grandchildren, flocks and herds and all that belongs to him. He himself, Joseph, agrees to provide for all these while they are there during the five years of famine that still remain. Otherwise the family would "come to poverty" (tiwwaresh —"be dispossessed," i. e., because of debt). That this entire plan has been unfolded with the purpose of also setting the brothers’ minds at ease, appears from the next statement (v. 12): "Your eyes . . . see that it is my own mouth that is speaking to you." Joseph means: there can no longer be any doubt as to my identity and my purpose; the clearest proof that I am really your brother is the fact that without an interpreter I with my own mouth am talking with you in your native tongue; Benjamin, whom the father will most readily believe, sees these same tokens and will corroborate what you say. ‘Achî, "my brother," must here mean "my full brother."

Lastly Joseph enjoins upon his brethren to tell their father of all his "renown" (kabhôdh, "glory," "honor," etc.) in Egypt. The purpose of this information is not to be self-glorification on Joseph’s part, for this is mentioned last and briefly, and certainly not in a vainglorious fashion. The purpose of telling of Joseph’s renown must then simply be to convince the father that Joseph possesses sufficient power to carry through all that he has agreed to do for his family. Conclusion: "Bring my father down here quickly," (mahar —Piel—again translated as an adverb, though it is the chief verb in Hebrew; cf. v. 9). In v. 12 the participle hammedabber is not subject, as G. K. claims (126k), but predicate (K. S. 409 a). Strack, as others, concludes without warrant that, since v. 13 is practically the same in substance as v. 9, the former must be from J. Critical intent on detecting parallel sources lets these critics overlook such plain facts as that our own words often offer repetitions. Here, however, both statements are necessary to a well-rounded out statement for the father: first he must be informed of Joseph’s position and plan (v. 9). Then, after the details of Joseph’s plan of providing for the family have been stated, it is proper again to remind the father that Joseph’s position will enable him to achieve this plan.

14, 15. And he fell upon his brother Benjamin’s neck and wept, and Benjamin wept on his neck. And he kissed all the brethren and wept over them. Afterwards his brethren talked with him.

The identification is complete; the first restraint has worn away; the revelation of Joseph’s plans has quieted misgivings; now a more brotherly greeting is in place. But it still behooves Joseph to take the initiative. This he does, greeting Benjamin, his full brother, first and giving free vent to his emotions, though not so loudly as at first. The expression in reference to Benjamin seems to imply a measure of greater affection displayed in his case—they "wept on one another’s neck" implies clinging to one another. The rest were "kissed" and "wept over" —all a truly oriental display of emotion. Then, finally, the barriers are down, and the brethren feel free to talk with him.

16-20. The report was heard at Pharaoh’s court, Joseph’s brethren have come, and it pleased Pharaoh well and his servants. And Pharaoh spoke with Joseph: Tell thy brethren: This is the thing to do: load your beasts; up, and go to the land of Canaan, and take your father and your households and come to me, and I will give you the good things of the land of Egypt and ye shall eat the fat of the land. And as for thee, thou art under orders—this do: Take wagons for yourself from the land of Egypt for your little ones and for your wives and bring your father and come. Do not bother about your utensils, for the good things of all the land of Egypt are to be yours.

So stirring an experience cannot remain hid. Its effect upon Pharaoh’s court is particularly noteworthy. First of all, "the report" (qôl —not "sound" for v, 2 spoke of that) came through to "Pharaoh’s court" (here bêth par’oh, i. e., "house of Pharaoh"), accusative of place. Since Joseph was so universally esteemed, all things connected with his fortunes were a matter of interest to all. In this instance Pharaoh might well be pleased, for a kind of stigma had been attached to Joseph’s origin; for he had been accounted a slave. Now proof is offered that Joseph comes of an honorable family of free nomads, who were generally held in high regard in those days. Joseph’s universal popularity is attested to by the fact that Pharaoh’s command coincides with Joseph’s plan, which he had just made known to his brethren—a providential coincidence: They are now to load their beasts, return to Canaan, get their father and their households (Hebrew: "houses"), and come to Egypt. He promises to give "the good things of the land of Egypt." The word tûbh means "the good." Here it hardly means "the best," for why should foreigners get the best? Nor does it mean the "best part of the land," as many since Rashi have contended. For in v. 20 and in v. 23 where the expression recurs it cannot refer to Goshen. So it means the good things of the land, generally speaking, as Keil claims, and so is a far broader expression than "the fat of the land," which follows and expressly emphasizes the food for the present time of famine.

19. It has been correctly observed (Lange) that whereas the king allows Joseph much liberty in the matter of disposing of the affairs of the realm, he lays strict orders upon him in the matters concerning his own welfare and says: "as for thee, thou art under orders" (tsuwwethah, Pual). In fact, he shows himself to be a man also accustomed to issuing orders; for his commands are curt: "this do" —"take wagons," etc. A strictly Egyptian touch is introduced at this point, for "wagons" were found only in Egypt in those days, though it is said that the ’aghalôth were originally introduced from Canaan and the Semitic name was retained. They were two or fourwheeled carts without seats; they were not the "chariots" heard of elsewhere (e. g., Exod. 14:6) called rékhebh, or merkabhah. They merely served to transport those who could neither walk nor ride. Pharaoh’s orders further bid the family: "Do not bother about your utensils" —a peculiar Hebrew idiom: "As for your eyes, do not pity your utensils" — kelî, vessels or tools of any sort. The matter was urgent. Utensils would have encumbered or delayed them, and so Joseph would have been caused added anxiety. Pharaoh purposes to deal very liberally with Joseph’s family out of gratitude for the great deliverance Joseph wrought for Egypt. "The good things of all the land of Egypt" will be at their disposal to recompense them for what must be left behind.

21-25. And the sons of Israel acted accordingly. Joseph gave them wagons, as Pharaoh had ordered, He also gave them food for the journey. To each separately he gave extra garments and to Benjamin he gave three hundred shekels of silver and five extra garments. And to his father he accordingly sent ten asses laden with the good things of Egypt, and ten she-asses laden with grain and bread and provisions for his father for the journey. And he sent his brethren and they went; and he said to them: Do not grow angry on the way. And they went up from Egypt and they came to the land of Canaan to Jacob, their father.

The writer begins with one of those summary statements so common in Hebrew narrative, "and the sons of Israel acted accordingly." The details of what they did follows. Joseph gives them wagons and food for the journey. Incidentally Joseph gives further tokens of his goodwill: each man of them separately receives "extra garments" — perhaps two of them. The Hebrew calls them "changes of garments" — chaliphoth semaloth —the second noun being assimilated to the plural of the first. The thing meant, of course, is a garment for special occasions. Meek translates "festal garments," patterning after Luther’s Feierkleider. Benjamin, who stands nearest to him, is given "three hundred shekels of silver" —"shekels" being understood according to a common Hebrew construction (G. K. 134 n; K. S. 314h) —and five "extra garments." As a gift of courtesy and a token of esteem he sends his father "ten asses laden with the good things of Egypt" —the good things corresponding perhaps to the gift Jacob had sent. Besides, Joseph sends what is of greater value under the circumstances, "ten she-asses laden with grain and bread and provisions for the journey."

24. But Joseph knows human nature. The brethren scarcely dare to do a thing; they are so overawed by his authority and capacity for management. Joseph sends them on their way. But he sees what must necessarily develop on the way: "they are liable to grow angry (not ‘grow excited’ —that is too trivial) on the way." They will attempt to allocate the share of guilt of each participant in the nefarious sale. Each one will try to exculpate himself and make the guilty ones appear more guilty. So fruitless anger and ill-will could result. Apparently they gave heed to his admonition, for the journey, is reported as uneventful: "they went up and came to the land of Canaan to Jacob, their father."

26-28. And they told him: Joseph is still living, and that he was ruler over all the land of Egypt. But his heart grew numb, for he did not believe them. But they spoke to him all the words of Joseph which he had spoken to them, and he saw the wagons which Joseph had sent to bring him. Then the spirit of Jacob, their father, revived. And Israel said: Enough! Joseph my son is still alive; I will go down and see him before I die.

The substance of all their message is, of course, "Joseph is still living." This they tell first as they encounter their father. Next the very remarkable circumstance clamours for utterance that he is "ruler over all the land of Egypt." With the the report passes from direct to indirect discourse. But the two reports together seem so far beyond the pale of the possible that they serve to stupefy the father: "his heart grew numb," (pûgh, "to grow cold"). The brothers can well understand the father’s difficulty. They keep right on, as men who know first hand what they are reporting, and their reports all agree. They keep telling what Joseph had told them to arrange. Stupefaction gave way to understanding, and when Jacob finally saw the wagons, that distinctively Egyptian thing, sent besides by Joseph to transport the aged father to Egypt, then conviction grew on him and "his spirit revived." The old energy began to assert itself. The customary gloom of resignation vanished. Old "Jacob" again became "Israel," as the significant change of name indicates, an aggressive combatant in the battle of life, ready to overcome obstacles in the power of his God. He needs no more argument or proof—"enough!" he says, "Joseph my son is still alive." We should not venture to measure the deep joy reflected in this word. Jacob has now just this one ambition before he dies: to go down to Egypt and to see Joseph. The soberness of old age is not deeply impressed with the glories of Joseph’s position in Egypt.

Here criticism has an objection to raise which may at least be noted. Gunkel (see K. C.) finds that the author ought at this point to have made mention of the brothers’ repentance, supposing that they would naturally have made a full confession at this point. Procksch seconds him in this, claiming that our ethical feeling would demand that the brothers admit their wrong. Such subjective criticism has little value. In fact, do not these men see that the record as it stands is the more true to life? Joseph forgave them. The father learned from the account of his sons how Joseph had come to Egypt. The wound in the conscience of the brothers is too deep to call for much probing. This sore point is touched no more. Joseph knows of the sincerity of their repentance; so does their father. Least said, soonest mended, applies to such sorry cases when there is true repentance.

All of which reminds us that the whole narrative from the literary point of view displays the finest skill. It is a narrative pearl. The skilful portrayal of the psychological reaction of the different characters reveals the touch of a master hand.

But a few more things must be mentioned. As the fulfilment shows, there is a deeper typical import behind the things narrated. As the nation, which is designated as God’s son (Exod. 4:22), here goes down to Egypt during the time of suffering as to a haven of refuge and is recalled thereafter, so God did for His only-begotten Son and called Him again after the danger had passed (cf. Matt. 2:15 and Hos. 11:1). So, as Vilmar points out, shall it be in the time of the last persecution, when a place of refuge shall be provided for the church according to Rev. 12:6.

Criticism, in its source analysis, is pretty much at sea despite its display of ingenuity. Skinner definitely asserts "the preponderance of E." Procksch assigns the major part to J and gives a rather generous portion to P besides. All this work is speculation that draws the thoughts of men from the truth revealed to uncertain externals.

HOMILETICAL SUGGESTIONS

The chapter is a unit as far as serving as a text is concerned. It centers on the theme of God’s marvelous provisions for the maintenance of His Church. For, strictly speaking, the children of Israel, few as they are in number, constitute the Old Testament Church in its then state of development. Certainly one should guard against losing the broader viewpoints of a chapter such as this. Merely to think in terms of domestic scenes or along the line of personal ethics loses sight of the bigger issues.

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