10 October 2015

Genesis 50:15-26

“’Do not be afraid! Am I in the place of God? Even though you intended to do harm to me, God intended it for good, in order to preserve a numerous people, as he is doing today.’” (vv. 19-20)

Psalm: Psalm 106:43-48


The story of Joseph began with his brothers hating him ever more intensely (Genesis 37:4, 5, 8); it ends with their fear that the tables now being turned he will hate them, even though nothing he has said and done since they rediscovered each other has suggested he has any wish to pay them back. If you have read the whole story you will notice that verse 15 is the first time they admit guilt for what they did to him.

Despite the NRSV's translation "they approached Joseph" (v. 16) the Hebrew original and the sentence construction suggests they sent a message rather than speaking to him directly. What they say is probably a complete fabrication taking their father's name in vain to save themselves since it is hard to believe that Jacob would have used them to convey such a message rather than talk to Joseph himself. But if Joseph sees through their dishonesty he does not challenge it, but for a final time reassures them that he bears them no ill will. However he does not say "I forgive you" which is what they are asking, for the simple reason that he had done so long ago, and probably long before they first met him in Egypt.

The story of Joseph and his brothers is one of family jealousy, intrigue and reconciliation. The brothers display no sense anywhere of respect for God, but as Joseph sees it the whole of his life has been directed by God for greater purposes (verse 20). Everything in Scripture, even everyday stories of family life, are included because the compilers believed God spoke through events and not just in words.

Joseph lived to see his great great grandchildren, and "born on Joseph's knees" (v. 23) indicates that in some sense he adopted Machir's children. Joseph knows that God will eventually lead his people out of Egypt, and like his father (Genesis 49:29-32) wants his bones buried in Canaan. He makes his surviving brothers swear that this will happen which maybe suggests he retains some doubt as to their integrity.

To Ponder

  • Have you or someone you know well (perhaps someone you forgave) found it hard to believe you/they are forgiven? Why do you think this is?
  • Were Joseph's brothers right or wrong to pretend their father on his deathbed had asked them to pass on a message to Joseph? What is your view of the morality of making up a story to smooth relationships?
  • When is sending a message better than saying something important face to face?
  • Does it matter to you where your body or ashes finally rest? Why, or why not?

Bible notes author

The Revd Dr Stephen Mosedale

Stephen Mosedale is a recently retired Methodist minister now living in Devon. He is enjoying the freedom that gives, whenever mood and weather dictsate, to walk on Dartmoor, photograph varied and ever-changing seascapes, or grow vegetables in the garden.