7 October 2015

Genesis 45:1-5

“And now do not be distressed, or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life.” (v. 5)

Psalm: Psalm 104:24-35


Throughout the three previous chapters Joseph has recognised his brothers but his identity as the one they had long ago treated shamefully had been hidden from them. But he could keep it secret no longer. Twice previously Joseph had been moved to tears, once when they were confessing to each other the evil they had done to Joseph, not realising that he understood what they were saying (Genesis 42:24), and again when he first met Benjamin (Genesis 43:30). This time he knows he is about to break down uncontrollably and sends all but his brothers out of the room, even though everyone, including the household of Pharaoh the king, subsequently hear his crying through the walls.

Many years had passed since the brothers sold Joseph to slave traders, and his circumstances had changed beyond imagination from rags to riches, from slavery to prime minister. Joseph had effectively set up this opportunity for reconciliation through the tricks he had played on them and which have led at the end of the previous chapter to Judah offering to pay the penalty for a crime that Benjamin has been accused of. It was in response to that that Joseph could hide no longer. Having identified himself in the simplest possible way his immediate question before they can speak concerned the well-being of the one he had been consistently referring to as "your father" (eg Genesis 43:27) but could now ask, "Is my father still alive?" (v. 3). He already knew the answer (Genesis 43:27-28) but understandably wanted to hear it again.

His brothers were immobilised by shock and do not answer, so Joseph, encouraging them to approach him, proved his identity with the detail that only they and he know, "whom you sold into Egypt" (v. 4). He then proceeded to calm them in their fear as to what the truth might mean, and you might want to read on to verse 15 where their reconciliation to each other becomes complete.

To Ponder

  • Have you ever cried uncontrollably? What was it that moved you that deeply?
  • What other first words might the brothers have expected to follow "I am Joseph"?
  • Joseph has clearly forgiven his brothers not least because he can see how God has used their wrongdoing to everyone's benefit (verse 5). What experience do you have of how God is able to bring good out of evil that we humans do or say

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.