24 So he sent his brethren away, and they departed: and he said unto them, See that ye fall not out by the way.

I think Joseph’s final parting words to his brothers could have all manner of different meanings. What is his intention by saying “see that ye fall not out by the way?”

At first glance, this seems like Joseph might be telling them not to fall out of line. They’ve been historically untrustworthy, but now he could be warning them to not cross him again. However, the original Hebrew phrase behind “fall out” is “ragaz,” which means “to tremble,” or “be agitated,” or “to argue.” So perhaps he is actually reiterating that they should not persecute themselves for their past treatment of him, nor blame each other for what happened.

Or maybe he realizes that they are about to have a very difficult conversation with their father. There’s no way for them to tell him that Joseph is still alive in Egypt, without also confessing their involvement in his being there. They will have to admit that they lied to his face about Joseph all these years. So, Joseph might be trying to calm them down before that painful confession.

And maybe what Joseph means by his counsel is a little of all these things. Perhaps he is saying “a lot has happened here, and a lot is still to happen, and a lot of it is going to be painful. But please, hold fast, and do not lose yourselves along the way.” Good advice for all of us, who finally bring to light our secret shame, and begin the long and difficult journey back to our Father.

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