25 November 2017

Genesis 50:15-25

“‘Say to Joseph: I beg you, forgive the crime of your brothers and the wrong they did in harming you.’ Now therefore please forgive the crime of the servants of the God of your father…” (v. 17)

Psalm: Psalm 125


In Wednesday's Word in Time, we noticed that when Joseph finally revealed his true identity to his brothers, he stopped short of explicitly telling them that he forgave them for throwing him into a pit and selling him into slavery (see Genesis 37:12-28). Instead, he repeatedly reassured his brothers that it was God (and not the brothers) who sent Joseph to Egypt so that he might put in place measures to save many lives during the famine. But it seems this was not enough for the brothers to feel at ease. Following their father's death, they were afraid that Joseph would finally exact his revenge.

The brothers' initial plan appeared to be to convince Joseph that their father's dying wish was for Joseph to forgive them (verses 16-17). Of course, this could be true - or it may well be yet another example of trickery and deception, one of the recurring motifs of the stories of Jacob/Israel and Joseph (eg Jacob pretending to be his brother, Esau, in Genesis 27:1-41; the brothers' pretence that Joseph had been killed by a wild animal in Genesis 37:31-33; Joseph's concealment of his true identity from his brothers in chapters 42-44). But brought face-to-face with Joseph, the brothers appear to be overwhelmed by their guilt and fear, weeping and kneeling and offering themselves as slaves (verse 18).

Joseph reassured his brothers by repeating that it was God's will he came to Egypt and by promising the brothers that he would provide for them and their families. However, Joseph still stopped short of the words 'I forgive you'. Perhaps Joseph was now in a place where he could rationalise and even justify the brothers' actions - but still not forgive them. Perhaps in saying "Am I in the place of God?" Joseph was suggesting that only God can rightfully forgive such an act against a brother (verse 19). Perhaps Joseph felt that his actions - protecting and providing for the brothers - indicated and embodied forgiveness far more effectively than mere words ever could.

To Ponder

  • Do you think Joseph had forgiven his brothers? Why?
  • "Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us." What do these words mean to you?
  • How important is it to say and to hear the words "I forgive you"? Why?

Bible notes author

Naomi Oates

Naomi Oates has worked for the Connexional Team in a variety of guises since 2012, currently as the Executive Officer to the Secretary of the Conference. She is also training part-time for presbyteral ministry.