Our challenge comes to an end, and the story of Joseph comes to end, but his name is mentioned again in Exodus 1 as a new king takes over who did not know Joseph. But before that Pharaoh comes into place we find Joseph more Egyptian than Israelite. He dies in Egypt and is buried in Egypt, probably in one of those big pyramid thingys, but he makes his brothers promise that when they leave Egypt that they will take his bones and bury them with the rest of his ancestors. I don’t think we ever find out if that actually happens.
The most interesting part of this chapter for me is how his brothers now seem to have a renewed sense of fear now that their father has passed away. Maybe, just maybe, Joseph is going to think that because dad is gone I can finally get my vengeance against my brothers. It is probably a similar thought that Jacob had when he was faced with the prospect of meeting his brother Esau. Maybe Esau will look to harm me because of the wrong that I did to him. But instead we see Esau cry on Jacob’s neck when they meet.
Joseph does something similar. When his brothers approach him and make up a story about Jacob telling them to ensure that their brother Joseph would not harm them he breaks down. They tell Joseph that their father commanded them to ask Joseph to forgive them. Once again Joseph repeats to them what he told them in chapter 45 that “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.” He is reminding them that God paved the way for Joseph to get to Egypt so that the entire people of Israel could be saved. In fact, Joseph tells his brothers, that is exactly what has happened. Because of their evil action God has been able to work a miracle. No, don’t take that thought to its unfortunate conclusion, but in this case it works for Joseph as he tries to console his frightened brothers.
Well, we are done. This challenge is over.
On Ash Wednesday another challenge begins. You will find it below.
Then Jacob blessed his sons with a suitable blessing. Did you read some of these blessings? Here is an excerpt from some of them: “You shall no longer excel…”, “May I never come into their council…”. It seems like he begins his blessings for three of his children with curses, and then loosens up and blesses his other nine children with what we would call real blessings. Joseph absolutely gets bombarded with a blessing that not many would be able to uphold. But he has big shoulders, he is able to carry that blessing as he seems to have carried it already up to now. It really does seem that upon the shoulders of Joseph does the nation of Israel, does the person of Jacob, place its trust.
Jacob makes it clear where he is to be buried, because I am sure that there is a part of him that is afraid that he is going to be put in one of those gigantic pyramids instead of being buried with his whole family in a simple way near Bethlehem. Okay, so I’m making some of that up, but I could see him being concerned for that, especially since he gives directives over and over again where he needs to be buried. It was important for them that they be buried along with the rest of their ancestors.
For us it is not important where or how we are buried. We believe that once we die then we are with Jesus and what remains has no eternal impact on us. If we are cremated or buried across the sea, or even in the sea, if we are far away from our family, none of that matters. We will all be with Jesus once we die.
Here we find the blessing of the sons of Joseph by Jacob. We read that Joseph hears that his father is ill so he goes too see him and brings his boys along too. It seems like this is the first time that Jacob is in the presence of his grandsons through Joseph. He tells Joseph that he didn’t expect to see him again, and now he not only sees him but his children as well. When he blesses Ephraim and Manasseh we find that he puts his right hand on the younger boy which signals a special favor and a special blessing.
Joseph tries to correct his father thinking that since he can’t see well he has mistaken the two, while in fact his father knew exactly what he was doing. He says no Joseph, it is Ephraim, the younger, who will receive the same blessing as I received, the same blessing as my ancestors Isaac and Abraham received. Joseph should have expected that since Isaac was the younger, Jacob was the younger, and he himself, Joseph, was the younger next to Benjamin. And so we see that the progeny and the promise continues through more generations. It seems to skip a generation from that of Jacob to that of the children of Joseph while none of the children of Jacob receive that same blessing. Those blessings are coming up in the next chapter.
Pharaoh himself gets to meet the family of Joseph. He meets 5 of the brothers and they answer exactly as he commended them to do. They tell Pharaoh that they are shepherds and as a result the king of the land gives them Goshen and specifically the area known as Rameses. Then Jacob/Israel comes and is presented before Pharaoh. Twice this Scripture tells us that he blessed Pharaoh. The king asks Jacob how old he is, a bit rude, but something that a king is able to ask.
We then get a historical account of how Egypt became so powerful. Not only did they get all of the money from all of their neighbors because of their stockpile of food, but they also got all of their livestock, their land, and even the people themselves as slaves. The people were grateful for their lives, even though they had nothing but their lives to show.
It is interesting that the taxes that Egypt charged were 20% as opposed to that which we are supposed to give to the Lord which is 10%. It was Joseph who set the tax rate and came up with that. But you also find that the priests were protected and received a stipend from the state. It was not long ago, and it may still happen, that the Lutheran Church in Germany received a stipend from the government, and maybe even today many of the salaries are supplemented by this amount. This may have changed over the last 20 years, but I know it used to be that way. Can you imagine if the US government had pastors on their payroll, or at least pastors just from a single denomination? That would cause quite an outcry.
We end with the harbinger of Jacob’s death as he has Joseph promise that he will not bury him in Egypt, but rather back in Canaan in the promised land with all of his other ancestors, you know, all of those ancestors which we now know. We don’t see him die yet but the promise is made not with handshake, but with a hand under the thigh…, now that is interesting.
Jacob makes the trip to Egypt and brings along with him all of his family and his livestock. He is carried to Egypt in the chariots and wagons that were provided by the Egyptians. The Egyptians knew how to make chariots and wagons. It would be as if someone sent you a car to go to an event and it was the top of the line Mercedes, or Lamborghini, or whatever car that is a luxury car and known for its quality. So Jacob and his family rode into Egypt in style.
I did find it interesting that Judah was sent ahead to Joseph to lead the way in vs.28. If you go back to the story you will see in chapter 37:26 that it was the idea of Judah to sell Joseph into slavery so that they could get some money out of it. It seems like he is consistently the one who is not doing his father’s will. Maybe Jacob sent him ahead because he didn’t want him around much more. I am sure that Joseph would have seen him first and remembered that he was the one who had sold him into slavery and it would have tested his resolve to have his family with him again. We don’t read about that reunion, but we do read about the reunion of Joseph and his father.
The last tidbit in this chapter is the insistence by Joseph that the brothers tell Pharaoh the truth that they were shepherds because shepherds were abhorrent to Egyptians. This allowed the Israelites to have their own land, Goshen, and to be set apart from the rest of the population. This would allow them to worship the God of Abraham in peace without people wondering what they were doing or demanding that they worship the gods of Egypt. It was smart to live apart in that way.
The great reveal happens in this chapter. Joseph has had enough of the intrigue and must let his brothers know that he is still alive. He sends everyone out of the room and reveals himself to them. They are dismayed. They don’t believe it, and they hesitate to approach him. He has to tell them a second time that he is Joseph, the one that they sold into slavery, and it is only then that they are able to approach him. Just imagine how traumatic this event is. Can you think of what that experience must have been like? I can’t. To think that the brother that you have been filled with guilt about is actually alive.
What happens next is also pretty incredible. They weep on each other, at least Benjamin and Joseph do, and the brothers greet him. I love vs.24 when Joseph sends them on their way and he tells them: Don’t quarrel along the way. It was as if he knew that they would be arguing as to whose fault it was that they sold him into slavery in the first place. Don’t argue, for it was God who set all of this up. When they got home and told their father that Joseph was still alive he couldn’t believe it at first. Then he says, I have to go to Egypt and see him before I die.
It is also interesting that Pharaoh tells Joseph to bring his family to Egypt and he will provide them with the best land and all the material possessions that they could ever want. He tells them not to think about the possessions that they have, because they will have plenty as time goes on. It is a great reunion, but one where we can easily see the hand of God at work to not only get the people of Israel fed, but also to move them to Egypt. It is from Egypt where they will become slaves and where the story of Moses will begin. But we have to wait until Exodus for that.
Judah here becomes a type of Christ with an unsolicited request that Joseph take his life as a slave instead of his youngest brother, Benjamin. The twists of this story continue, with Joseph pulling all of the strings. He loads up all his brothers with as much grain as they can carry and arranges a plot so that Benjamin would be found guilty of stealing. This would force him then to become the slave of Joseph. Joseph doesn’t want Benjamin as his slave. Maybe, actually, unlike what I said before, maybe he just wanted to be reunited with his brother Benjamin and keeping him in Egypt was his end goal. But now we have to wonder how is he going to react when he hears the pleading of Jacob. I don’t think he expected this from him. I’m guessing he expected Jacob and all the other brothers to allow Benjamin to stay behind, much like Simeon was forced to stay behind. But now Judah intervenes on his behalf. I’m not sure that Joseph expected this.
This is a bit of a strange feast, but one that will have significance in the chapters to come. Jacob agrees to send Benjamin down, but only with the assurances of Judah. Remember, it was Judah who was trying to get Joseph out of the pit to begin with. So here Judah assures his father that he will serve as a guarantor for Benjamin. If he does not bring him back then he would be willing to sacrifice himself and his entire family for the sake of Benjamin. As a result Jacob allows it to happen with the phrase: If I am bereaved of my children, I am bereaved. Basically in 21st century speak he said: It is what it is. I’m not a huge fan of that statement because it smacks of fatalism.
When they arrive Joseph arranges with his chief steward to have them over for dinner. Before the dinner he sees Benjamin and is overcome with emotion and almost gives the whole plot away. But he doesn’t, and he eats in a separate room and the Egyptians eat in a separate room, and the sons of Jacob eat in a separate room, because Egyptians would not be caught dead eating in the same room as the Hebrews. Isn’t that backwards? We always think that the Hebrews had all of these purity codes and rules and regulations, which they did, but here we see that it was the Egyptians who were not allowed to eat with Hebrews. Maybe the rules that they pick up later are somehow parallel to those that they followed in Egypt? But we end with the youngest, Benjamin, getting five times the amount of food that the other brothers received, and no one complained, in fact they celebrated.
Now we see a side of Joseph that we really haven’t seen before. We see a Joseph who is totally in charge and in control and is able to do whatever he wants to his brothers. Notice that in vs. 9 it states that Joseph remembered his dream about his brothers, especially as they came and bowed down to him. He realizes at that point that the dream that he had, had come to fruition. Well, almost all of it at least. He still hasn’t seen his dad come down, and that was part of his dream. I love his father telling his brothers: Why are you guys just standing around staring at each other? Go down to Egypt and get some grain.
Once Joseph greets his brothers he realizes that the safest place for them to be would be in Egypt with him, but he is not quite ready to confront his brothers and tell them who he was. So he sets up a trap in order to ensure that they would all come to Egypt. He accuses them of being spies. They aren’t, of course, but it is the only way to get his whole family down. When they see that they are going to be thrown into prison and will only be able to escape by keeping one of them in prison, they think they are being punished for what they did to Joseph. They feel as if God is punishing them for that. I wonder how many times they use that as a reason for why something has gone bad in their lives. Maybe each time that something has gone wrong they say: This is God again punishing us for what we did to Moses.
Do you find yourself beating yourself up time and time again for a mistake that you have made in your life. Here is an encouragement to ask forgiveness, make amends, and move on. They have done none of that and so are prisoners to their guilt and their past. Simeon is bound before them and placed into prison. Remember, Simeon is the one that had the idea of slaughtering the circumcised Hivites to get vengeance on the rape of their sister. Jacob was not very happy with Simeon, so maybe it wasn’t much of a loss to him. In fact, we read later on that Simeon stays in Egypt quite some time before they come to reclaim him, and it actually isn’t until they get really hungry again. We end the chapter with Jacob refusing to send Benjamin down to Egypt.
The wisdom of Joseph and his ability to understand God’s presence in his life and take advantage of that is outstanding. Pharaoh has a dream and the cupbearer finally remembers Joseph. As a result he is called in to see Pharaoh and he interprets the dream in such a way that Pharaoh makes him second in command, even to the point where people are bowing down to him and calling him king. Joseph has completely assimilated. He marries an Egyptian and has kids. We see that Joseph just wants to simply forget that Hebrew chapter in his life. It was time to move on. So he does move on, and his plan plays itself out perfectly. The years of plenty come and Egypt stores up more grain than they can count. The famine comes and it doesn’t just affect Egypt, but it spread across the world.
Let’s be clear what this means. We do not have a concept of a what a world famine could look like. But in this situation every known human was affected by the famine, and we read that the entire world came to Joseph to buy grain, because the famine was spread throughout the world. This should be a harbinger of what is to come. If everyone is without food, that means that Jacob’s family is also without food. That means that eventually the brothers will need to make their way to Egypt and there just might be a reunion between Joseph and his brothers. Now, keep in mind that the brothers have no idea where Joseph ended up. They never would have imagined that his teenage dreams actually came true.