Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 46:4

4 I will go down with thee into Egypt; and I will also surely bring thee up again: and Joseph shall put his hand upon thine eyes.

After God’s declaration that Israel will finally become a great nation in Egypt, it might be easy to overlook the two additional promises given next, but they are both significant and touching in their own ways.

For the first one, Jacob may not realize how important it is that God commits not only to “go down with thee into Egypt,” but also to “surely bring thee up again.” Jacob may not know, but God does, that while in Egypt the Israelites will become enslaved. They will become a great nation, but one that is subservient to another.

The Israelites will be great distressed in that time, and they will plead for deliverance. Then how meaningful will this seemingly innocuous pledge to “bring thee up again” become? As the Israelites in bondage review their records, they will realize that God was promising to deliver them since even before the need for deliverance existed. The promise was for them far more than for Jacob.

The following promise is most definitely for Jacob, though, which is that “Joseph shall put his hand upon thine eyes.” This expression means “to close the eyes of one who has died.” God is promising to Jacob that what the other sons have reported is true. Joseph really is alive, and Jacob is going to spend the rest of his life with him, for Joseph will outlive him.

Many parents that have had to bury a child express what a strange twist of the natural order it is to outlive the next generation. We may want to live a long life, but not at the cost of burying our own children. Jacob had to mourn the death of his child once before, but now he is being reassured that the natural order is being restored, and the returned child will continue past himself. This is a very tender promise from God, one that shows His keen understanding of the human heart.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 46:1-3

1 And Israel took his journey with all that he had, and came to Beer-sheba, and offered sacrifices unto the God of his father Isaac.

2 And God spake unto Israel in the visions of the night, and said, Jacob, Jacob. And he said, Here am I.

3 And he said, I am God, the God of thy father: fear not to go down into Egypt; for I will there make of thee a great nation:

Jacob has determined to go down to Egypt, but this is a big decision, and before actually following through he goes to Beer-sheba to commune with the Lord. Beer-sheba has shown up a few times in the biblical record before. It was where Abraham made a solemn oath of peace with the king of the Philistines, and the same place where Isaac made a similar pledge. More relevant to Jacob, though, Beer-sheba was the land that he left when escaping the wrath of Esau, suggesting that this was where he was raised.

While in this historical and spiritual place, Jacob has yet another special connection with God, instruction given through a “vision of the night.” God reassures Jacob that he should go down to Egypt, and dwell among the people there. God even promises that in Egypt He will finally fulfill his promise of growing a great nation out of the Israelites. This has been promised since back with Abraham, and now the family is finally coming to the place and situation in which it will occur.

And now we see that there was a special wisdom in how long it has taken for God to deliver this promise. It might have seemed strange that after such a grand commitment Abraham had only one covenant child, and that child also only had one covenant child. In essence, Abraham’s same situation was extended down two generations to Jacob, with no growth whatsoever.

But what if the family had seen explosive growth during those two generations? If that had happened, it seems less likely to me that Pharaoh would have been so willing to receive such a large party into his domain. By keeping the family small, they could be easily integrated into Egypt’s bounty, and once there they could grow unhindered.

When God made his promise to Abraham, He was always going to follow through on it, but He needed to orchestrate things so that the nation would come forth in the exact way that it needed to. With great care and control He led this fledgling household, preserving them as they were until this moment of great fulfillment.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 45:25-28

25 And they went up out of Egypt, and came into the land of Canaan unto Jacob their father,

26 And told him, saying, Joseph is yet alive, and he is governor over all the land of Egypt. And Jacob’s heart fainted, for he believed them not.

27 And they told him all the words of Joseph, which he had said unto them: and when he saw the wagons which Joseph had sent to carry him, the spirit of Jacob their father revived:

28 And Israel said, It is enough; Joseph my son is yet alive: I will go and see him before I die.

The news that Joseph is still alive is too incredible for Jacob to believe. Only as he hears all the words that Joseph spoke and sees the gift that his long-lost son sent to him does the truth settle into his heart.

We hear nothing of Jacob’s response to his sons selling Joseph into Egypt. A thought occurs to me that possibly they didn’t tell him. Could they have maintained that they really thought Joseph was consumed by a beast and they’re just as surprised as their father to find out that he’s really alive?

I very much like to think that this wasn’t the case. Jacob would want to know how his son survived, and that would mean that Joseph himself would have to be willing to fabricate a story and lie to his father’s face. And Benjamin would also have to be complicit in the deceit. Doing that would make Joseph and Benjamin become a part of the other brothers’ sin, and I find myself unwilling to accept that they would do that.

And so, though we have no record of what happened, I assume that the truth was made known to Jacob, and that somehow he made his peace with it. Perhaps he was able to surrender his anger towards his other sons by the joy of knowing that “Joseph my son is yet alive,” and “I will go and see him before I die.”

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 45:24

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.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 45:21-23

21 And the children of Israel did so: and Joseph gave them wagons, according to the commandment of Pharaoh, and gave them provision for the way.

22 To all of them he gave each man changes of raiment; but to Benjamin he gave three hundred pieces of silver, and five changes of raiment.

23 And to his father he sent after this manner; ten asses laden with the good things of Egypt, and ten she asses laden with corn and bread and meat for his father by the way.

Joseph had shown favoritism to Benjamin when he hosted all the brothers for a meal, and at the time I had wondered whether this was only to test whether the other sons of Jacob would feel jealous. But now, with every guise and pretense discarded, he continues to show Benjamin a special preference, giving him a wealth of silver and five times the clothing that he gave to the other brothers. Obviously Joseph’s own life was incredibly deprived for a very long time, and perhaps his indulgence of Benjamin was a form of giving to his past self all the things he never had.

He also sends a great gift to his father, twenty donkeys weighed with the spoil of Egypt, including the life-sustaining grain that is in such short supply. Finally the entourage is ready to return to Canaan and come back with all the brothers’ households and their father.

Or rather, it is ready except for one thing. Joseph has some final parting words to his brothers that I find very intriguing. We will examine them tomorrow.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 45:16-20

16 And the fame thereof was heard in Pharaoh’s house, saying, Joseph’s brethren are come: and it pleased Pharaoh well, and his servants.

17 And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, Say unto thy brethren, This do ye; lade your beasts, and go, get you unto the land of Canaan;

18 And take your father and your households, and come unto me: and I will give you the good of the land of Egypt, and ye shall eat the fat of the land.

19 Now thou art commanded, this do ye; take you wagons out of the land of Egypt for your little ones, and for your wives, and bring your father, and come.

20 Also regard not your stuff; for the good of all the land of Egypt is yours.

Joseph had promised great things for his family, including a new home in the land of Egypt. As it turns out, Pharaoh totally supported him in this promise. In fact, Pharaoh improved on the promise, telling the Israelites to use his own wagons to carry their household to the new land. He also declares that they might leave behind whatever things they wish, and they will all be replaced freely in the land of Egypt!

The Israelites had a heritage of patriarchs who worked hard to obtain the things that they had. Abraham was a digger of wells and Jacob was a great shepherd, but now an equal increase and more was being offered freely by a stranger. They had grown to current stature by a combination of hard work and the blessing of God, but now the blessing was being repeated, and God alone was responsible for it.

The Lord can give and take entirely according to His own will. Here was the greatest want the land had ever known, and the Israelites were receiving a ridiculous abundance! Of course, on the other hand, they will still be living off the fat of the land when another Pharaoh will suddenly turn them all into slaves! Thus, the risings and fallings of the world are impossible to predict, and the only assurance is to rest in the flock of the Lord. For through high times and low, He ultimately led the Israelites to the promised land.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 45:12-15

12 And, behold, your eyes see, and the eyes of my brother Benjamin, that it is my mouth that speaketh unto you. 

13 And ye shall tell my father of all my glory in Egypt, and of all that ye have seen; and ye shall haste and bring down my father hither.

14 And he fell upon his brother Benjamin’s neck, and wept; and Benjamin wept upon his neck.

15 Moreover he kissed all his brethren, and wept upon them: and after that his brethren talked with him.

Joseph’s command to “tell my father of all my glory in Egypt” may not seem the most humble, but we must remember that he has already declared that it was God who sent him to Egypt and raised him to this station. There is a great difference between recognizing the blessings that God has given us and simply being proud of our own accomplishments. If we are able to keep it in our heads that we have prospered and grown only by the grace of God, then it is in fact a good thing to recognize our wonderful bounty and feel pleased for it.

When you consider all the good that you have in your own life, does it cause you to feel thanks, or to feel boastful. That emotional reaction alone can tell you which side of this delicate balance you have fallen on.

Next, Joseph weeps upon and kisses his brothers. The image of weeping upon another’s neck is repeated several times throughout the scriptures. If one thinks about it, this is a very vulnerable position, where one fully lets loose all of their inner emotion, unashamed to be completely seen by the other.

And then, after this moment of cathartic release, all the information that we get is that “his brethren talked with him.” Perhaps the nature of that conversation wasn’t considered important to the scriptural record, but I would have loved to know what that discussion was like!

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 45:9-11

9 Haste ye, and go up to my father, and say unto him, Thus saith thy son Joseph, God hath made me lord of all Egypt: come down unto me, tarry not:

10 And thou shalt dwell in the land of Goshen, and thou shalt be near unto me, thou, and thy children, and thy children’s children, and thy flocks, and thy herds, and all that thou hast:

11 And there will I nourish thee; for yet there are five years of famine; lest thou, and thy household, and all that thou hast, come to poverty.

What greater evidence is there of Joseph’s forgiveness than his pure desire to take care of his brethren? I know the words I am reading are translated, but I am still struck by the tender compassion in phrases like “thou shalt be near unto me,” and “there will I nourish thee.” There is a sort of maternal concern conveyed in words like these.

But not only maternal concern, Joseph also says that he will be providing them with food and shelter, the chief responsibilities of a father. The once outcast brother will now be the foundation of life for the whole family!

And the family absolutely need Joseph to care for them like this. As Joseph reveals, there are another five years of famine remaining, enough to destroy his father’s household several times over. Yes, the brothers have repented of their prior hatred towards Joseph, but even if they hadn’t, they really wouldn’t have any choice but to put themselves under his protection! The must submit to his care or die!

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 45:5, 7-8

5 Now therefore be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves, that ye sold me hither: for God did send me before you to preserve life.

7 And God sent me before you to preserve you a posterity in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance.

8 So now it was not you that sent me hither, but God: and he hath made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house, and a ruler throughout all the land of Egypt.

I have to admit, I feel perplexed by how much mercy and forgiveness Joseph is showing. How can he say that his brothers should not be grieved for what they did?!

But perhaps that is what makes his mercy so exceptional, the fact that it defies the natural, human reaction. Undeserved grace is hard for our fallen hearts to accept, but it is an essential piece of God’s plan for us.

What Jacob’s sons did to Joseph was wrong. Totally wrong. Yes, being sold by them into Egypt ended up working out for the greater good, but that still doesn’t justify them for doing something evil. At the same time, though, it really was a good thing that Joseph was sold into Egypt, as it got him where he needed to be to save his life, his family’s life, and the lives of countless others.

So how does one resolve these two things: an evil action but a good outcome? How does one demand justice for the evil, but also remain grateful of the good? Well, perhaps you don’t resolve them together. Holding gratitude and vengeance in one’s heart at the same time is impossible, so you just have to let go of one in order to hold to the other. And between the two, clearly the better choice for Joseph is to let go of worrying about the injustice so he can fully praise God for the arc of redemption.

Yes, the brothers did something wrong, but that’s between them and God now. As far as Joseph is concerned, all he can see is the beauty.