A BROTHER BETRAYED
One quarter of Genesis is devoted to the extended story of Joseph’s life. The record has considerable significance:
Even when disaster followed disaster, his life was proof of Divine providence, as righteousness and truth finally triumphed over evil. All along “God intended
it for good” (50:20).
The story is a personal challenge to all whose deepest desire is to live for God. Neither his hostile background nor the corrupt Egyptian environment could deflect
his single-eyed determination to please God.
Almost every event of his life pictures something of the person or work of Christ. The Holy Spirit’s goal is to make any person like Christ. This goal was achieved
in Joseph’s life.
1. JOSEPH’S CHARACTER – HIS PERSON (37:1-ll)
The Holy Spirit focuses on three boyhood incidents:
a) The Evil Report (37:2)
Joseph “brought unto their father a bad report about them. “ Joseph
stumbled on some evil involving his brothers, and was faced with a major character challenge. He was tempted to:
(i) Conform. “Joseph, a young man of seventeen, was tending the flocks with his brothers” (37:1). Only seventeen years old and away from home, the pressure to
partake in their evil was enormous.
(ii) Conceal. Silence meant consent, and Joseph knew he had to tell the truth, even if it hurt.
b) The Coloured Coat (37:3)
“Now Israel loved Joseph more than any of his other sons… and he made a richly ornamented robe for him” (37:3).
(i) Its Make. The coat may have been a special garment with long sleeves.
If so, the sleeves suggests that the wearer was not expected to work, and the garment was a symbol of his favoured position.
(ii) Its Meaning. Joseph’s coat indicated that Jacob intended him to have the birthright. This involved rulership of the clan and a double part of the inheritance. The coat thus proclaimed:
* the special place Joseph held in his father’s heart.
* the special purpose -Jacob was determined to exalt his son.
The coat foreshadows the special place the Lord Jesus had in His Father’s heart, and the Father’s ultimate purpose of His universal exaltation.
c) The Double Dream (37:5-11)
Nothing could have been more calculated to stir his brothers’ hatred than Joseph’s dreams.
(i) Their Subjects. The first dream was of an earthly scene about sheaves, and related to the field. The second was of a heavenly scene about the sun, moon, and stars, and related to the heavens.
(ii) Their Significance. Both dreams foretold Joseph’s exaltation.
* The sheaves pictured the world’s resources which Joseph would later control as ruler of Egypt.
* The stars foretold his eventual absolute authority over the world’s
The dreams went beyond Joseph to Christ. All the world’s resources and rulers will one day be subject to His absolute authority.
d) The Antagonistic Attitute
“His brethren hated him and could not speak a kind word to him” (37:4). Their hatred foreshadowed man’s later attitude to Christ. It was caused by:
(i) His Exclusive Relationship. Jacob’s love for Joseph was shown in the special coat, and they hated him for it. So Christ was hated because He claimed to be God’s beloved Son (Jn 5:18).
(ii) His Exposure of Evil. Joseph’s exposure of evil earned his brothers’ hatred. The Lord was also hated because He exposed the hypocrisy and evil in the lives of His listeners.
(iii) His Exalted Position. The brothers were furious about the clear meaning of Joseph’s dreams, and “hated him all the more” (37:5). Likewise, the more the Lord spoke of His future exaltation, the more He was hated (Mat 26:34).
2. JOSEPH’S COMMISSION – HIS WORK (37:12-36)
The story of Jacob sending Joseph supremely foreshadows God the Father sending His beloved Son to seek the welfare of His brethren. Both Joseph and Christ can be seen as:
a) The Sent Son
Jacob, concerned about his sons’ welfare, sent Joseph to see how they were.
(i) The Father’s Request. “Go and see if all is well with your brothers and with the flocks, and bring word back to me” (37:14). Although far from home, they were still the object of Jacob’s concern. How often we read that “God sent His Son.”
(ii) The Son’s Response. Joseph’s immediate response, “Here am I” (37:14), pre-figures the Lord Himself, “Lo, I come to do Thy will, 0 God.”
b) The Seeking Stranger
“So he sent him off from the valley of Hebron. When Joseph came to Shechem… and found them near Dothan “ (37:14,17). Hebron! Shechem! Dothan! The place names tell the fuller story.
(i) Hebron (“fellowship”) reflects the eternal fellowship between Father and Son. The father’s fellowship meant little to the brothers, and they had long left that place.
(ii) Shechem. From Hebron Joseph was sent to Shechem, the place of sin, shame, and sordid passions. Little wonder Jacob was anxious about his sons and their welfare in such a place. So Christ came into such a place for us.
(iii) Dothan. “So Joseph went after his brothers and found them near Dothan” (37:17). He would not rest till he found them. So the Lord went after us until He found us!
c) The Helpless Sufferer
“When Joseph came to his brothers” (37:23). Joseph’s arrival was met with undisguised hatred. What followed is a startling portrayal of what later happened to the Lord.
(i) They Plotted Together. “They saw him in the distance, and plotted to kill him” (37:18). The brothers plotted what they would do with him. So Christ was no sooner born than Herod plotted against His life. Later the Pharisees “held a council …how they might destroy Him” (Mat 12:14).
(ii) They Stripped Him. “They stripped Joseph of his robe” (37:23) and tore away the token of his father’s love. The Lord was treated in the same way. At the cross in fullfilment of ancient prophecy they divided His garments amongst them, and cast lots for His seamless vesture (Ps 22:18).
(iii) They Cast Him Into A Pit. “They took him, and threw him into a cistern” (37:24). They later confessed, “we saw how distressed he was when he pleaded with us for his life, but we would not listen” (42:21).
(iv) They Ignored Him. “And they sat down to eat their meal” (37:25). They callously sat down to a meal within earshot of the pit. How accurate is the N.T. reflection, “and sitting down they watched Him there” (Mat 27:36).
(v) They Sold Him. Instead of slaying Joseph, they decided to sell him for profit. Twenty pieces of silver. A personal profit of 2 pieces each. What a bad bargain! So Judas made history’s worst-ever bargain, and sold his Lord for an equally paltry sum.
(vi) They Lied About What They Had Done. The brothers agreed on a convenient lie (37:20), and presented the blood-stained coat to their father. So false witnesses and charges were brought against the lord to condemn Him. More lies were required to explain away His resurrection.
Thirty pieces of silver, for the Lord of Life they gave Thirty pieces of silver; only the price of a slave.
It may not be for silver, it may not be for gold,
But still by tens of thousands is the precious Saviour sold. Sold in the mart of science, sold in the seat of power,
Sold at the shrine of fortune, sold in pleasure’s bower;
Sold where the awful bargain, none but God’s eye can see, Ponder, my soul, the question, Shall He be sold by thee?
– William Blane
BE SURE YOUR SIN … !
This sad chapter interrupts the story of Joseph to record Judah’s marriage to a pagan Canaanite and the sordid chain of events which followed.
a) God’s Control
A lesser god would have dispensed with Judah as a failure. But God subjected the events of this chapter to His control, and worked them out by including both Judah and Tamar in Christ’s ancestral line.
b) God’s Care
The stories of chapters 38 and 39 vividly contrast the conduct of Judah and Joseph in similar circumstances.
(i) Judah (chap 38) moved away from home and his God, and his chapter is marked by death, deceit, and declension.
(ii) Joseph (chap 39), although also far from home, maintained close fellowship with God, and his chapter is marked by personal blessing and spiritual prosperity.
The lesson is that God continues to care for His children, and those who want to live for Him will find that He is able to keep them from falling.
1. THE UNHAPPY FAMILY (38:1-11)
a) Judah’s Move (38:1)
“At that time.” Judah decided to leave home and live elsewhere. Perhaps his burning conscience over Joseph and his father’s constant grief made him restless.
(i) His Old Home. Judah moved to Adullam, to settle amongst the Canaanites. It was the beginning of a downward slide. He left a godly father and a God-given faith behind.
(ii) His New Home. The vacuum left by the godly influences of home had to be filled. The new influences included:
* A New Place. Judah settled at Adullam. It was not far from home, but it was in Canaanite territory and subject to Canaanite influences.
* A New People. He soon met an Adullamite named Hirah. This
unsaved friend is mentioned three times in the chapter and exercised real influence over Judah, first as his acquaintance (38: 1), then as his associate (38:12), and eventually as his accomplice (38:20). Judah was fast becoming like those he lived with.
b) Judah’s Marriage
(i) His Bride (38:2). Judah soon married a pagan Canaanite wife. He consulted neither his God nor his father, Jacob. Three deaths are recorded in his family as Judah paid the price of getting away from God.
(ii) His Boys (38:3-11). Three boys, Er, Onan, and Shelah, were born to Judah and brought up under the influence of a pagan mother.
* Er “was wicked in the sight of the Lord; and the Lord slew him.” His wife, Tamar, was left a widow.
* Onan. Following custom, Judah told Onan to marry Tamar and raise up seed for his brother. Onan showed his contempt for his wife and his father by a calculated act of insult. God simply slew him on the spot.
* Shelah. Judah, worried that Shelah would die also, would not allow him to marry Tamar, telling her to wait until he was older. Perhaps he hoped she would forget.
As for Tamar, despite her pagan background, she seems to have learned of the Messianic hope. The story revolves around her determination to find a place in Judah’s family.
2. THE UNCOVERED FAILURE (38:12-26)
Tragedy soon struck again as Judah’s own wife died. Instead of turning to God in his sorrow, he listened to his pagan friend, Hirah, who suggested that the fun and festivity of sheep-shearing time in Timnath would drown his sorrows and lift his spirits.
In it all, Tamar and his commitment to her were forgotten.
a) Tamar’s Plan (38:13-14)
Tamar, however, had not forgotten. She knew the spiritual significance of being a mother in Judah’s family, and developed a daring plan to target Judah deliberately. Knowing his sensual nature, Tamar disguised herself as a harlot along the road to Timnath and waited.
b) Tamar’s Price (38:17-18)
The festive atmosphere at Timnath had stirred Judah’s passions and lowered his guard. When the attractive woman at the roadside beckoned invitingly, he could not resist. Not having the price of a kid with him, Judah agreed to leave a pledge.
(i) The Seal was a cylinder worn on a cord around the neck, a personal signature. It stood for his person.
(ii) His Staff marked him out as a shepherd, and represented his position.
Inflamed with passion, Judah was ready to forfeit all these for a moment of pleasure! The trap was ready!
c) Tamar’s Payment (38:20-23)
Ashamed of what he had done, Judah asked his friend Hirah to take the kid to the woman and redeem the pledge. When she could not be found, Judah managed to forget the whole matter. But a fuse had been lit and was slowly burning down.
d) Tamar’s Proof (38:24-26)
Three months later Judah was told that Tamar was pregnant. Judah angrily judged that she had been “guilty of prostitution” (38:24). He quickly reached a verdict and pronounced sentence, “Bring her out and have her burned to death” (38:24).
Tamar dramatically offered proof of the identity of her child’s father. “See if you recognise whose seal and cord and staff these are” (38:25). The trap was sprung!
Judah was caught. He immediately realised what Tamar had been getting at. The blame for her actions lay at his door, and she had been more righteous than he. Henceforth he would care for Tamar and her child as his own, and the son would be his heir.
3. THE UNEXPECTED FIRSTBORN (38:27-30) Twins were born to Tamar.
a) Zerah – The Redeemed Child
Thinking that he would be born first, the midwife tied a scarlet thread on Zerah’s hand – a beautifully symbolic act. Then, surprisingly, he withdrew his hand, and the other twin came out first.
Later the scarlet thread became a symbol of salvation. Rahab bound a scarlet thread to her window so that she and her house might escape the vengeance of God on Jericho. Also, under the Mosaic law, the firstborn had to be redeemed by sacrifice. Thus Zerah was the redeemed child.
b) Perez – The Royal Child
It was from Perez that the King would come who was to fulfill the divine promises. His name Perez means “breaking-through,” in token of the manner of his birth. From that child the line to Christ was carried forward for another generation.
4. UNFAILING FAITHFULNESS
Only God’s grace could take up the threads of this tangled story and weave them into His own pattern and purposes. God not only chose Judah to be the ancestor of the Lord, but used the very events of this chapter to work out His purpose. “Judah the father of Perez and Zereh, whose mother was Tamar” (Mat 1:3).
In fact, Matthew in his genealogy unashamedly records the names of four women, each of whom was under some cloud. Tamar, Rahab the harlot, Ruth the Moabitess, and Bathsheba, “her that had been the wife of Urias.” All four women were non-Jews. Tamar was a Canaanite, Rahab was from Jericho and thus also a Canaanite, Ruth was a Moabitess, and Bathsheba probably a Hittite.
What a testimony to God’s grace and sovereignty!
TESTING AND TEMPTATION
Joseph’s life in Egypt was difficult and dangerous, but the foundations of his spiritual life were well laid and he never wavered. Those immovable foundation stones included:
a) Certainty In All Circumstances
God’s promises and God’s presence were so real that all kinds of evil events failed to shake Joseph. A mere slave in a foreign land, he could not understand his hostile circumstances, but he knew God was behind every one of them.
b) Sensitivity To Sin
Had Joseph lost his sensitivity to sin, he would never have been exalted to high rank, and never been a Saviour of the nations. Everything hung on his attitude to sin, and it is this which makes chapter 39 so vitally important.
c) Prosperity Through Suffering
We are repeatedly told that Joseph “prospered” (39:2,3,23). The world defines prosperity in terms of outward success – possessions, power, popularity. God defines it in terms of inward obedience to His will and Word.
d) Similarity To The Saviour
Perhaps the most beautiful features of Joseph’s life are the ways in which he reflects Christ. Some of these are:
(i) He Became A Servant (39:1). From being the beloved son of the father Joseph became a slave in Egypt. So Christ “took upon Him the form of a servant” (Phil 2:7).
(ii) He Was Prosperous. “The Lord gave him success in everything he did” (39:2,3). It was also said of the Lord, “the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand” (Is 53:10).
(iii) He Overcame Temptation (39:7-12). Joseph’s temptation prefigures that
(iv) He Was Falsely Accused (39:14). The Lord was also condemned on the basis, of false charges.
(vi) He Refused To Defend Himself. Joseph made no attempts at self-vindication. This reflects the later spirit of Christ who “did not open his mouth” (Isaiah 53:7).
(vii) He Won The Respect Of The Jailer (39:21). This reminds us of the centurion at the crucifixion who declared “Surely this was a righteous man” (Lk 23:47).
1. JOSEPH IN POTIPHAR’S HOUSE (39:1-4)
Joseph must have trembled as he commenced duties in Potiphar’s household. However, God, not his circumstances, was his basic environment, and it was this that enabled him to cope.
a) Joseph’s Reaction
(i) His Acceptance. Not for Joseph were long wasted hours of self-pity. He decided his circumstances were part of the all things that work together for good to them that love God.
(ii) His Faithfulness. Knowing he was serving God rather than just Potiphar, Joseph buckled down to his work. So faithfully did he serve that Potiphar gave him the control of all his affairs.
b) God’s Response:
(i) Blessing in his own life. “The Lord was with Joseph and he prospered” (39:2). Joseph prospered materially, but his primary prosperity was spiritual. Behind this prosperity was a two-way relationship with God. Joseph kept himself in God’s love. Joseph’s God, on the other hand, was the covenant-keeping Jehovah, who never leaves nor forsakes.
(ii) Blessing in the lives of others. “The Lord blessed the household of the Egyptian because of Joseph” (39:5). He was a non-complainer, faithful in his work, bringing blessing to others around him. What a challenge!
2. JOSEPH IN PERIL (39:7-20)
Having failed to ruin Joseph through his brothers’ brutal bargain that had sent him into slavery, the devil tried again through the seductive schemes of a wicked woman.
a) The Reality
“His master’s wife took notice of Joseph” (39:7). Friendless, a stranger and a slave in a foreign land, Joseph had everything to gain by yielding to temptation. It was:
(i) Attractive. She was likely an attractive woman and eagerly available, while Joseph was a young man with a young man’s desires.
(ii) Secret. No one would know.
(iii) Common. If everyone was doing it, it must be right!
(iv) Repeated. “She spoke to Joseph day after day” (39:10). Temptation once and temptation repeated daily are very different experiences. The more he refused, the more persistent she became.
b) The Refusal
“But he refused… and ran away “ (39:8,10,12). What opportunities for fun and freedom were dangled before Joseph. But the offer was utterly repulsive and he refused on two counts;
(i) His Will. The refusal was an act of Joseph’s will that involved his intellect and conscience. Joseph knew:
* It Was Wrong Against His God. He did not say “I will not,” but
“I could not .” It was contrary to God’s will and Word, and nothing else mattered.
* It Was Wrong Against His Master. Potiphar’s perfect faith in
Joseph called for perfect faithfulness on the part of the servant.
(ii) His Walk. We cannot depend on God’s help if we deliberately walk into temptation. Joseph was careful to keep Potiphar’s wife at a distance. His walk with God gave the devil no opportunity. “Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfil the desires of the flesh” (Gal 5:16).
(iii) His Work. With his mind filled with other things, Joseph had little time for sensuous dreaming.
c) The Retreat!
Eventually the stroke fell. The woman caught Joseph alone and forced herself upon him. No one was around. He would not be found out. Opportunity knocked! For a brief moment his whole future hung in the balance.
Joseph “ran out of the house” (39:12). He ran for it. Paul did not tell Timothy to fight youthful lusts, but to flee them! God has promised He will always provide a way of escape when tempted, even if it is only running away.
Joseph left his garment in her hand. He lost his coat but kept his character. The victory was won because “the Lord was with him” (39:3). This was the secret of his life.
d) The Result
The woman’s disappointed passion turned from love to hate. She accused Joseph of molesting her. Potiphar was angry, although perhaps he knew both his wife and Joseph too well to really believe he had heard the whole story.
(iii) Common. If everyone was doing it, it must be right!
(iv) Repeated. “She spoke to Joseph day after day” (39:10). Temptation once and temptation repeated daily are very different experiences. The more he refused, the more persistent she became.
Amazingly Joseph did not either blame the woman or defend himself. The most outstanding thing in the last part of the chapter is Joseph’s silence.
3. JOSEPH IN PRISON (39:20-23)
Joseph had exchanged his “coat of many colours” for a “servant’s coat.” Now this is exchanged for a “criminal’s coat.” Ten or eleven long years of prison would pass before his release. Those years were characterized by:
Prison was no picnic. Psalm 105:18 says that “they bruised his feet with shackles, his neck was put in irons.” Another version says “The iron entered into his soul.”
“The Lord was with him; he showed him kindness” (39:21). God did not send Joseph to prison – He went with him! Confident that God was with him, Joseph refused to just sit down moan. Instead he made himself so active and helpful that “the warden put Joseph in charge of all those held in prison, and he was made responsible for all that was down there” (39:22).
In spite of cruel circumstances Joseph’s faith soared. No doubt his brothers’ words echoed in his ears, “We will see what will become of his dreams!” Satan would also whisper, “What kind of God have you that rewards integrity, and purity with a prison sentence.” But Joseph still had his dreams. His God was still on the throne.
THE BUTLER AND THE BAKER
Joseph entered Egypt as a teenager, and spent most of the next 13 years being punished for a crime he did not commit. Satan used Potiphar’s wife to put him in the dungeon, and then the forgetful butler to keep him there.
So much for the best years of his life! Surely God either did not know what was going on, or He did not care, or He was not able to deal with the situation. Not one bit of it! The dark threads of God’s plans and purposes, not only for Joseph but also for the whole world, were being woven together on the loom of this young man’s life. His response to his circumstances would be crucial, for on response would depend his later usefulness for God.
1. JOSEPH’S PRIORITIES
Joseph’s prison years were characterised by:
Psalm 105:18 says that Joseph’s “feet they hurt with fetters: he was laid in iron.” Another version says, “The iron entered into his soul.”
“The Lord was with Joseph and gave him success in whatever he did” (39:23). This was the covenant-keeping Jehovah (“LORD”) who was with Joseph, and made him to prosper. He would never leave nor forsake him.
For his part, Joseph never lost his confidence in God. He refused to just sit down and moan. His faith soared. He might not have been able to understand his circumstances, but he could at least trust his God who allowed them. It was this that made him free and proved that “prison walls do not a prison make.”
Alexander Solzenitsyn said that he discovered, when in Soviet prisons, that the only people in the prison who were truly free were the believers. Joseph proved that to be true, even in his day.
c) Similarity to Christ
Chapter 39 has already showed parallels between Joseph’s life and that of Christ. Here in chapter 40 we see further features of Joseph as a type of Christ:
(i) He was numbered with the transgressors. Joseph was in prison with two other malefactors. So the Lord was crucified between two malefactors.
(ii) One was blessed, the other condemned. The butler was released, but the baker executed. So at the cross, one went to Paradise, the other to Perdition.
(iii) He evidenced his knowledge of the future. He was careful to ascribe
his interpretations to God (40:8). The Lord repeatedly said, “I have not spoken of myself; but the Father which sent me, he gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak” (Jn 12:49).
(iv) His predictions came true. “He restored the chief cupbearer to his position….but he hanged the chief baker, just as Joseph had said to them in his interpretation” (40:20-22). So it shall be with every word of God.
2. JOSEPH’S PREDICTIONS
Only one event is recorded in Joseph’s stay in Potiphar’s prison. Two important prisoners joined him, and he was appointed to look after them. One, the chief butler, was the overseer of Pharaoh’ s vineyards and wine cellar, as well as his personal cupbearer. The other, the chief baker, was responsible for Pharaoh’s food.
Joseph’s association with these two prisoners was to be another link in God’s chain of circumstances planned for him.
a) His Attitude
“The captain of the guard assigned them to Joseph, and he attended them “ (40:4). Joseph’s interaction with his two charges is full of lessons.
(i) His Sympathy. Prison warders are hardly known for noting whether or not their charges are sad or glad. But Joseph “saw that they were dejected” (40:6). He noticed even the expression on their faces. He served their physical needs, but was genuinely concerned for their psychological and spiritual problems as well – the whole man.
(ii) His Enquiry. “Why are your faces so sad today?” (40:7). Joseph took time off to talk to them.
(iii) His Loyalty. Joseph faithfully brought God’s Word to bear upon their lives. For one it was good news, for the other it was bad. But Joseph never wavered. His “gospel” was fully preached.
a) His Attitude
“The captain of the guard assigned them to Joseph, and he attended them “ (40:4). Joseph’s interaction with his two charges is full of lessons.
Working with Correctional Services was not the best job, especially when falsely accused and convicted. He had nothing to gain by being nice, helpful, and friendly. But see his interaction with his two VIP prisoners committed to his care. The incident gives a window into sort of person he was.
(i) He Saw – His Concern. “Joseph came into them…and looked upon them, and, behold they were sad” (40:6). Joseph cared enough to stop and do something about it. He even noticed even the expression on their faces. He looked after their physical needs, but was genuinely concerned for their psychological and spiritual problems as well – the whole man. We also see lots of “sad” people every day. Don’t see the sadness because we are not concerned. Have own busy agendas.
(ii) He Asked – His Sympathy. “Why are your faces so sad today?” They had two reasons to be sad, Firstly they were in prison, constricted by forces beyond control. The secondly they were fearful of the future. The question led to their “opening up,” simply because he was concerned and sympathetic.
(iii) He Listened – His Patience. They told their dreams. Joseph was a very busy man. It wasn’t his business. Joseph was charged with their care – bring food and make sure didn’t run away. Not counseling! But Joseph took time to listen. We don’t have time to listen to stories, fears, concerns. “Ministry of listening.”
(iv) He Explained – His Faithfulness. He delivered both good and bad news. Doctors cover up bad news. Joseph could have softened the truth, but he told it like it was. Joseph never wavered. His “gospel” was fully preached.
(v) He Witnessed – His Testimony. “Interpretations belong to God.” He said, “What I am telling you is the Word of God.”
b) His Accuracy
Once again Joseph was to be associated with dreams, for his two VIP prisoners “dreamed a dream both of them, each man his dream in one night” (40:5). Dreams were regarded as having great significance in Egypt, and both men believed that the gods had sent them some kind of message. They were anxious to understand the meaning of their dreams.
Modem-day psychologists such as Freud have devoted much study to dreams and have tended to regard them as reflective of the subconscious desires and frustrations of the individual’s own experience.
Joseph invited them to tell him their dreams. A cynic would have said, “Dreams! Don’t talk to me about dreams!” But Joseph had never lost his confidence in God. He at once invited them to tell him their dreams, saying that interpretations belonged to God.
(i) The Butler’s Dream. The butler, perhaps because he was confident of his innocence, presented his dream first. Joseph had no difficulty with the interpretation. The three branches represented three days, and within that period the butler would be restored to his former position. So he was.
(ii) The Baker’s Dream. Even though he was much less comfortable about his dream, the baker was encouraged by the butler’s good news and asked Joseph to interpret his as well. In his dream the birds stole and befouled what was in the baskets. He thus failed to protect against this and present his food to Pharaoh.
The sad interpretation was clear to Joseph. The three baskets represented three days. At the end of that time his head would be removed from his body, and his body hanged on a tree.
c) His Asking
Joseph’s plea to the butler indicates how he really felt about his circumstances and how deeply the iron had entered into his soul. It was not easy to bear those trials. Joseph was only human, and his hopes must have been high when he said goodbye to the butler.
Was Joseph trying to nudge Providence? Perhaps. If so, we can sympathise with him. But God will not be hurried. Joseph’s door was not to be opened for another two years as “the chief cupbearer did not remember Joseph; he forgot him “ (40:23). Those two forgotten years matured Joseph’s character and taught him not to trust in man.
LESSONS TO BE LEARNED
1. God’s Way Is Wisest
Callously sold in to slavery , and cast into prison for crimes he did not commit, everything seemed to be against Joseph. The world would have described it as “hard luck.”
But Joseph knew better. God was working His purpose out, first of all in Joseph himself, and then with a wider eye to the needs of a starving world.
2. God’s Time Is Perfect
The lonely years of waiting must have tested Joseph to the limit, but he would later look back and see just how perfect God’ s timing had been. Not too fast, not too slow.
3. God’ s Grace Is Sufficient
In spite of all that was against him, Joseph was victorious by the grace of God. His prison experience was built upon God’s presence, God’s mercy, God’s favour, and God’s promises (39:21-23).
My life is but a weaving
Between my Lord and me;
I cannot choose the colours
He worketh steadily.
Oftentimes He weaveth sorrow,
And I in foolish pride,
Forget that He sees the upper,
And I the underside.
Not till the loom is silent
And the shuttles cease to fly
Shall God unroll the canvas
And explain the reason why.
The dark threads are as needful
In the weaver’ s skilful hand
As the threads gold and silver
In the pattern He has planned.
FROM PRISON TO PALACE
This chapter is a vivid portrayal of the truth that all things work together for good to them that love God.
How different are the divine and human perspectives! Man would have sent Joseph to University for a degree in Political Science and Business Administration to train him for his future position of power. God sent him to prison for 13 years.
From the human viewpoint, Joseph’s sufferings were due to Potiphar’s wife who put him there and the butler whose leaky memory kept him there. But, from the divine viewpoint, those dark years were essential to prepare him for a life of usefulness ahead. Joseph would later look back over all those “wasted” years and testify that “God intended it for good” (50:20).
Who, then, put Joseph in prison? Was it God? Or the devil acting through Potiphar’s wife? Making this kind of diagnosis only frustrates. As in the case of Job, the bigger picture of what goes on behind the spiritual scenes is beyond the boundaries of our ability to understand. Only two things are important:
a) Our Reaction to the problem. It is not where the problem comes from, but how we handle it that matters.
b) Our Realisation that if God permits an evil action, He remains entirely in control of it and can use the most devilish designs to accomplish His purpose.
1. THE KING’S DREAMS
a) Ancient Dreams
Pharaoh had two dreams. Both started well, but turned into nightmares.
(i) About Cattle. Pharaoh must have been delighted to see the first seven fat cows. The cow was a symbol of Isis, the Egyptian goddess of fertility, and the omen seemed good. The thin cattle were a different story. Pharaoh had never seen anything like them. And when they had eaten the fat cattle, they seemed no fatter than before. Strange!
(ii) About Corn. He saw a beautiful stalk of grain growing up with seven ears of ripe and full corn. Then seven ears of hard, inedible grain, blasted with the bitter east wind, sprang up. Pharaoh watched in awe and terror as the thin ears swallowed up the full ears. What did it mean?
b) Modern Dilemmas
Pharaoh was not the last monarch to have troubled dreams. Powerful parallels exist between the chapter and today’s world as rulers across the globe wrestle with their dreams. Weak things everywhere devour the strong.
Parliaments put together programmes to see us through successive crises, but anxiety, frustration, and sleeplessness are with us just as much as they were with Pharaoh. The reason? Jesus, like Joseph, is hidden from view.
On a personal level, our own lives may experience famine conditions, with a neglected Saviour imprisoned in some obscure dungeon of our minds. We need to follow
Pharaoh. Lift Him up and let Him rule.
2. THE MAGICIANS’ FAILURE
Pharaoh awoke in horror, convinced that the dreams carried an important meaning. Tossing and turning on his bed, “his mind was troubled, “ and he summoned all the magicians and wise men of Egypt. However, “there was no one who could interpret them for him” (41 :8).
Egypt may have been the centre of the world as far as learning and culture were concerned, but the people were idol worshippers and did not know God. Egypt in
Scripture stands as a figure of the world. Pharaoh had to learn that the wisdom of the world is foolishness with God. “The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him “ (Ps 25: 14).
If only world leaders today would seek God’s face and turn to His Word, they would learn all they need to know about the future.
3. THE BUTLER’S MEMORY
Standing near Pharaoh’s throne was Joseph’s old friend the butler. Suddenly he remembered! Confessing his faults, he told Pharaoh of what had happened to him in prison.
With exquisitely perfect timing, not a moment too soon, not a moment too late, God acted by. stirring the sluggish memory of the butler. He had not forgotten Joseph, He was
Merely working to a timetable.
Joseph learned the lessons of:
a) Man’s Failures
Man at his best will only fail us, just as the butler forgot Joseph. No wonder the Psalmist said, “ It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man “ (Ps 118:8).
b) God’s Faithfulness
By contrast God is always faithful – yesterday, today, forever…! “Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? Yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee. Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands” (Is 49:15,16).
God still promises to bless those that wait upon Him. “They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength …” (Is 40: 31) .
4. IHE PRISONER’S RELEASE
Standing in the presence of Pharaoh, the world’ s most powerful man, everything suddenly came together for Joseph. After 13 years of being wrongly accused and abused, he could see where it had all been leading.
What a mighty God we serve! He is not some opportunist who waits until the circumstances are right before taking action. Instead, He sovereignty creates those circumstances which produce the right time for Him to act.
a) Opportunity Knocks
This was Joseph’s moment! Here was the obvious opportunity to obtain all ,
he could. have ever wanted. Fame, fortune, and freedom were all suddenly within his grasp.
Yet Joseph threw it all away, by admitting he had no power in himself! In fact he said nothing about himself. For 13 years he had seen God at work and had died to self. Now he had only one thought – God’s glory.
Fearlessly, he faced the great monarch and testified to his God, “I cannot do it, but God will give Pharaoh the answer he desires” (41 : 16). If there would be any
answer, it would come from Him (41:16,25,28,32). Only after this word of testimony did Joseph start to unfold the dreams.
b) “The Gospel According to Joseph”
Joseph told Pharaoh:
(i) What dreams meant. Joseph warned of a coming famine that would
be both soon and severe. Urgent provision must be made for it. The people should be ready and prepared.
(ii) How he should prepare for it. He first gave Pharaoh a lesson on economics, and told him how to prepare by storing up corn against the coming crisis. Pharaoh would need an able administrator, and his major recommendation was to find the right man for the job.
This is still the message of the gospel. It tells of a coming judgment but uplifts the Lord Jesus as the One who tells men how to prepare for the future and make sure their eternal interests. But before He can do that, He must be given His rightful place.
c) “Wonderful Counsellor”
‘ It was clear to all that there was only one man with the ability and wisdom to pull the whole programme together. The united verdict was, “Can we find anyone like this man, one in whom is the spirit of God ?” (41 : 38).
In advising Pharaoh, Joseph was a type of Christ. He is the “Wonderful Counsellor” who tells men how to prepare for the future and make sure their eternal
interests. He is the One “in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Co12:8).
Joseph was given pre-eminence and a national crisis averted.
FAR ABOVE ALL
From prisoner to Prime Minister! Never was a transition more radical or dramatic. One moment Joseph was languishing in the dungeon, bound with chains and clothed in prison garments. The next moment his chains were struck off, his garments changed, and Pharaoh exalted him far above all else in the land.
There were two reasons for this exaltation:
a) His Worth
As Pharaoh listened to Joseph he exclaimed, “Can we find anyone like this man, one in whom is the spirit of God?” (41:38).
Pharaoh didn’t know it, but he was looking far beyond Joseph to the worth of Christ Himself. All the characteristics of Joseph’s life are summed up in this verse: his obedience to his father, his purity in the face of temptation, his self-control, when he was reviled and he reviled not again, his sympathy to his fellow prisoners, etc.
Once again, Joseph shines as a beautiful type of Christ. It is because of His matchless worth that we love and exalt Him.
We love Thee for the glorious worth
Which in thyself we see.
b) His Work
Joseph had seen the danger of the situation and formulated a plan of action. So the Lord saw our danger and formulated a plan of salvation to save us. On account of this God “raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places far above all” (Eph 1:20,21). “Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him…” (Phil 2:9).
1. JOSEPH’S PRE-EMINENCE (41:38-45)
Pharaoh immediately set in motion Joseph’s formal investiture as his Prime Minister. What a change for the one who had been rejected by his brothers and incarcerated for 13 years in an Egyptian dungeon!
“…only with respect to the throne will I be greater than you “ (41:40). Joseph’s sufferings were over, as he was lifted up in front of all those who had previously resented him.
In almost every aspect of Joseph’s life we see Christ pre-figured. He had been sent
by his father to seek the welfare of his brothers, but they despised and rejected him, selling him into Egypt. In Egypt he falsely accused and imprisoned along with two malefactors – one of whom lived, and the other of whom died. Eventually he was raised to supreme power and became the Saviour of countless multitudes from every country and nation under the sun. The very name Zaphnath-paaneah which was given to him means “Saviour of the world,” our Saviour’s title.
Joseph’s exaltation is a particularly beautiful picture of Christ when God “raised
him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come” (Eph 1:20,21).
See the details of his exaltation:
a) The Ring
“Then Pharaoh his signet ring from his finger, and put it upon Joseph’s
finger” (41:42). Pharaoh’s ring was a symbol of executive power. The wearer had authority to place his seal and signature on official documents of state.
So the Father has committed all power and authority to the Son. “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth” (Mat 28: 18).
When He was here on earth He was, of course, all powerful. But that power was veiled and restrained. Even so, men caught occasional glimpses of it as He exercised power over demons, disease, and death. This was but a small foretaste of His future power, when His full authority shall be publicly acknowledged.
b) The Robe of Fine Linen
“He dressed him in robes of fine linen” (41:42). Garments speak of character, see Rev 19:8 where “the white linen is the righteousness of saints.”
The life of Christ is presented woven through the Gospels as a fine linen fabric. Absolutely spotless. Peter declared, “He did no sin.” Paul testified, “He knew no sin.” John said “In Him was no sin.” Even Pilate declared, “1 find no fault in him.” One day all will acknowledge the total righteousness of His character and person.
c) The Chain of Gold
“…and put a gold chain around his neck” (41:42). This gold chain was the
outward evidence of divine glory. The “gold” speaks of that which is sovereign, royal, divine, and glorious.
No longer “veiled in flesh the godhead see. “ Previously Pilate could ask
“Art thou a King, then?” and we could almost forgive him for making such a mistake, so incongruous were the facts before him. But on that day, when the fullness of His glory will be evident as He wears it like a public mayoral chain about his neck, no one will ask that.
d) The Second Chariot
“He had him ride in a chariot as his second-in-command” (41:43). Twice in the N.T. we find the Lord riding. Firstly in fulfilment of Zechariah 9:9, “lowly, riding upon an ass.” Secondly in Rev 19:13, when John saw “a white horse and Him that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war” treading out the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.
e) “Bow the Knee!”
“The men shouted before him, ‘Make way!”’ (41:43). “Bow the knee” (AV).
Thirteen years had passed since Joseph had dreamed about the sun, moon and stars bowing down before him. Now as the cry goes up, “Bow the knee” he recognises the fulfilment of God’s plan for his life.
Phil 2:10 tells us that one day “every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. All will bow the knee before Him, and “every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.” Everybody and everything will bow before Him.
– The redeemed – as in Rev 5. His people willing in the day of his power.
– Those who reject him. Psalm 2, He will break them with a rod of iron
– The hosts of heaven. In Revelation 19:6 they cry with a voice like the voice of many waters, “Alleluia; for the Lord God omnipotent reigns.”
– The hosts of hell. Satan will finally bow to his authority at the final judgement, and will be cast into the Lake of fire.
f) A New Name
“And Pharaoh called Joseph’s name Zaphenath-Paneah “ (41 :45). This name has two meanings:
(i) The Egyptian Meaning – “Saviour of the world.” This is what Joseph
was to the Egyptians. The unsaved man needs to know only one truth about Jesus – He is the ;Saviour of the world. This is the name by which we first come to know Christ. He has many names, but none is so precious as this name -”Jesus” -Saviour.
How sweet the name of Jesus sounds
In a believer’s ear.
It soothes his sorrows, heals his wounds,
And drives away his fear.
(ii) The Hebrew Meaning ”The revealer of secrets.” As the believer later comes to know Christ in a deeper way, he finds He is the One who can reveal the secrets of God’s heart to his soul.
f) A Bride
“Pharaoh gave him Asenath daughter of Potipherah priest of On to be his wife” (41:45). Asenath, Joseph’s Gentile bride, was intimately associated with him in his
glory, and is a lovely type of the church.
Many of the brides mentioned in the OT speak of Christ and His church. e.g.
– Eve, formed from Adam in a death-like sleep to share his life and be the object of his love, is a picture of the church’s formation.
– Rebekah, who responded to go with one whom she had never seen, speaks of the church’s faith.
– Asenath, taken from obscurity and made to share Joseph’s glory, speaks of the church’s future.
But what about Asenath’ s doubtful past? Her name means “One who belongs to Naith. “ Her father had been a pagan priest, and she herself had been a priestess of the ancient goddess Naith, given over to the worship of the mother of Isis, Horus, and Osiris, three of the chief gods in the Egyptian pantheon. Wonderfully, when she was brought into relationship with Joseph God blotted out her past. All that mattered was that her life was linked to Joseph’s, and she would share his glory.
2. JOSEPH’S PERSPECTIVE (41:50-52)
Few things underline Joseph’s perspective on life like the names he gave to his two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim.
Joseph named his firstborn Manasseh and said, ‘It is because God has
made me forget all my trouble and all my father’ s house-hold “(41:50,51). “Manasseh” means “Forgetting.” Joseph had been able to forget all the long years of hurt he had endured. His mind was being healed of all he had come through. If we fail to forget, we all too often end up bitter and twisted. When that is the case, we also need a Manasseh to be born into our lives to help us leave the past behind us.
“The second son he named Ephraim and said, ‘It is because God has made me fruitful in the land of my suffering’”“ (41:52). “Ephraim” means “fruitful,” and Joseph so named him in thankfulness for the manner in which God had so richly blessed him. He had forgotten the trials and now saw only the fruit and blessing that God had brought about in his life.
Few lives have ever been as fruitful as that of Joseph. Jacob would later describe him as a fruitful bough” (49:22). The Lord said, “Herein is my father glorified that ye bear much fruit. “ Paul says “we are married to another, even to him that is raised from the dead that we should bring forth fruit unto God. “ Are the fruits of the Spirit evident in my life?
3. JOSEPH’S PROGRAMME (41:53-57)
“The seven years of abundance in Egypt came to an end “ (41:54). As a fierce hunger settled over the land, how glad the people were that they had acted on Joseph’s instructions.
Egypt was faced with:
a) A Universal Need
“The seven years of abundance in Egypt came to an end” (41:54). No one escaped the effect of this world-wide problem. It was common to Jew and Gentile, rich and poor, and reflects the universal need for spiritual bread in a hungry world.
b) A Unique Saviour
Pharaoh’s answer to his people’s demand for bread was simple – “Go to Joseph” (41:55). There was no one else who could help. He was unique. When a convicted sinner cries to God for the Bread of Life, he is pointed to Christ. “Neither is there salvation in any other for there is none other Name under heaven, given among men whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).
c) An Urgent Invitation
The gospel for Egypt said “Go to Joseph, and do what he tells you” (41:55). There was plenty for everybody with unlimited resources. Only two things were necessary before a person could be helped.
(i) Trust. “GO to Joseph.” There had to be a conscious decision to “go “ to him. Hunger would never have been satisfied by sitting at home and wishing that someone would take action!
(ii) Obey. “DO what he tells you.” This obedience meant a bowing of the will. It meant commitment to his word.
THE POWER OF CONSCIENCE
The spotlight now swings from Joseph in Egypt to Jacob and his family back in
Canaan. Twenty years had elapsed since they had sold Joseph, and all this that his brothers had lived with their guilty secret. Often they must have thought of Joseph and wondered about him. Broken hearted Jacob refused to be consoled over his loss.
This chapter takes up the threads of God’s workings with the chosen family as event after event is woven into His plan for them. God’s constant providence reigns supreme as He creates circumstances that drive the chosen family to Joseph and lead to repentance and reconciliation.
1. THE FAMILY’S DECISION (42:1-4)
Caught in the grip of the world-wide famine, starvation and death stared Jacob and his family in the face.
A short time before they had plenty of grain and were content. They had been unconcerned about Joseph and the sins they had committed. Now God was at work in their lives, and He would use the famine to set in motion events that would work on their consciences to bring about conviction.
a) A Felt Need
Word filtered through that there was plenty of grain in Egypt, but the effort must be made to get there. Eventually Jacob told his sons “I have heard that there is grain in Egypt. Go down there and buy some for us” (42:1,2).
So today there is provision in Christ to meet the sinner’s spiritual hunger.
Just as every seeker after corn got the message, “Go to Joseph” (41:55), so the message for the sinner is, “Go to Jesus.” But we have to make the effort to “go.”
“All the countries came to Egypt to buy grain from Joseph” (41:57). All
were welcome. There was only one person who could help. All that was required was a
sense of need.
b) A Restless Conscience
Throughout the chapter God was nudging memories and stirring the brothers’ consciences. Conscience continually makes cowards of us all. Only the blood of Christ can cleanse our conscience and liberate us from its power (Heb 9:14).
(i) The Brothers’ Reluctance. Why were they so strangely indecisive and reluctant to go to Egypt? Jacob asked, “Why do you just keep looking at each other?” (42:1). Even talk about Egypt brought unwelcome memories of Joseph.
(ii) The Father’s Refusal. Jacob refused to allow Benjamin to go with his brothers. “He was afraid that harm might come to him” (42:4). He remembered the day he sent Joseph to seek the welfare of his brethren, and decided the Benjamin should stay with him. Obviously he had little confidence in his older sons.
2. JOSEPH’S DESIRE (42:5-28)
Jacob’s sons joined the thousands of others from all over the world heading for Egypt. They had no idea that they would have to deal with Joseph himself. Anyone going to buy had to get a permit from him.
As the brothers came face to face with the Governor, four issues dominate the story
“Although Joseph recognised his brothers, they did not recognise him” (42:8). It was not surprising that they did not recognise Joseph who was twenty years older and speaking the Egyptian language. Perhaps they thought they might see him among the slaves, but never as Governor of Egypt!
They “bowed down before him with their faces to the ground” (42:6). The word “bowed down” in verse 6 is the same as “make obeisance” in 37:7. As they bowed before him, Joseph’s mind flashed back to his dreams of years previously. He was back again in the field where he saw his sheaf standing, and where he saw his brothers sheaves bowing down to him.
In their blindness they did not recognise Joseph for who he was. It is the same for the Jew today. The finger keeps pointing at Jesus, but most Jews fail to see in Him their long looked-for Messiah, Saviour and Lord. “Blindness” says Paul, “has happened to Israel” (Romans 11:25).
As Joseph dealt with his brothers the power of recollection must have been hard at work in their minds. What was happening to them was a mirror image of what had happened to Joseph.
(i) “You are spies!” (42:14). Twenty years earlier the brothers had accused Joseph of spying on them; now he was accusing them. They protested, “Your servants are honest men, not spies” (42 :11). True men! If only they had known to whom they were speaking!
(ii) “…one is no more” (42:13). On the defensive, the brothers volunteered more information about themselves. “Your servants were twelve brothers. ..the youngest is now with our father, and one is no more” (42:13). They would rather not think about him, or even name him. Joseph was an awkward fact of history they would rather forget altogether. Step by step, Joseph would make them face the facts, bringing them to repentance and eventual reconciliation. How hard it is to acknowledge that we are sinners!
(iii) “He put them all in custody for three days”(42:17). Joseph was probing deeper. When they had accused him, they cast him in a pit. Now he case them into prison, perhaps the very same prison where he himself had languished falsely accused.
(iv) “Sure we are being punished because of our brother!” (42:21). Speaking in Hebrew, the brothers blurted out their confession. “We saw how distressed he was when he pleaded with us for his life, but we would not listen; that’s why this distress has come upon us” (42:21).
God’s Spirit was speaking as conscience, memory, and reason combined in a powerful call to repentance. Only He can “reprove the world of sin, and righteousness, and of judgement (John 16:8).
Conscience is the “knowing” part of us that “knows together” with God (con-science). It is this that convicts us when we sin and reminds us of the need for cleansing. This is only possible when the conscience is kept pure through the blood of Christ by the Eternal Spirit (Heb 9:14).
(v) “Our brother…the boy!” (42:21,22). Attitudes were changing.
Twenty years previously Joseph had been “this dreamer,” The bitter medicine was working!
‘Tis not enough to say
‘I’m sorry and repent,
And then go on from day to day
Just as we always went.
Repentance is to leave
The sins we loved before,
And show that we in earnest grieve
By doing them no more
With the roles switched, Joseph must have been tempted to retaliate. But Joseph had no desire for revenge. This was because:
(i) He Had Dealt With The Past. In naming his first son Manasseh (41:51), Joseph had expressed how God had enabled him to forget the past which no longer ruled him.
(ii) He Depended Upon God. For all the pain of the past years, God had been in them. It was this that preserved him from bitterness. When his brothers bowed down before him ,Joseph remembered his dreams (42:9). Yet he did not take pleasure in their bowing down, but in God’s being faithful in every detail.
(iii) He Desired Reconciliation. Joseph did not want retaliation; he only wanted reconciliation. He loved his brothers and longed to reveal himself to them. Even
his harsh treatment when “he pretended to be a stranger and spoke harshly to them” (42:7), was only designed to bring the reconciliation he longed for. How this reflects God’s attitude towards us. “He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities” (Ps 103:10,11).
Joseph responded in two ways:
(i) Inwardly he was overcome by emotions as he “turned away from them and began to weep” (42:24). In all his career Joseph was never stronger than the day he wept over his brothers. Years of hardship had not dimmed his love for them. The brothers did not see this.
(ii) Outwardly he acted with apparent harshness as he “had Simeon taken from them and bound him before their eyes” (42:24). Had Simeon had been the leader in what they had done to Joseph earlier?
The brothers saw only the outward harshness, and had no idea how tender his heart really was. So it is with the Lord’s working in our lives. He often allows apparently harsh circumstances to drift into our lives, but His heart is always tender, and they are designed only for our blessing.
3. THE FATHER’S DESPAIR (42:29-38)
Their journey home would take them about three weeks. They had much to think about oil the way. They had even more when they opened their sacks at the first oasis and stared in utter disbelief at their money! Their sacks were full of corn, but their hearts were greatly troubled. What would happen to Simeon? What would they say to their father? Where would it all end?
Two things had certainly changed:
a) Their Attitude to Money
Years before they had sold Joseph for cash. They were men who loved money, and had prospered financially during the long days of rejection of him. Now a great loathing for money surged up in their souls .
b ) Their Acknowledgement of God
On finding their money they declared, “What is this that God hath done to us?” (42:28). For just about the first time God is brought into their life. He was getting through to them.
* * * * * *
Nearing home, they wondered what they would say to their father. Memories went back to the day when they wondered what they would say to him about Joseph. Again, history was repeating itself.
a) The Sons’ Report
When they arrived home they recounted the whole story to their father. This time there were no lies or deceptions. They could see God’s hand in all that had happened,
but repentance was still some distance away.
b) The Father’s Reaction
“Everything is against me!” (42:36). Poor Jacob reacted with utter despair . He forgot that when God is in control “all things work together for good.” All he could see was the immediate circumstance. There seemed no hope whatsoever.
Jacob made a list of all his troubles, but his assessment could not have been further from the truth. He said Joseph was dead, when he was not. He thought Simeon would die in Egypt, when he was perfectly safe. He interpreted the taking of Benjamin as a loss to himself forever. He said that everything was against him. He could not have been more short-sighted.
Joseph’s brothers had travelled far along the road to repentance and reconciliation.
However much ground still had to be covered before they would be ready to serve as
founding fathers of the nation. They had yet to learn the utter confusion and helplessness
into which sin leads. Most important of all, they had yet to confront Joseph himself. Only
then could they experience the joy of forgiveness.
Three people are prominent in the chapter: Jacob, Judah. and Joseph. Their problem’s, promises, and plans sum up the lessons for us.
1. JACOB’S PROBLEM (43:l-7)
Food stocks were low and the spectre of starvation loomed large. Nevertheless the
brothers kept putting off a second trip to Egypt (43:10) because of Jacob’s stubborn refusal
to let Benjamin go with them. They well knew a trip would be prove disastrous unless he
a) Jacob’s Reservation
As long as Jacob was reluctant to part with Benjamin there could be no food
and no blessing. But Benjamin was the only remaining link with his beloved Rachel, and he loved him dearly. The choice was starkly clear; allow Benjamin to go, or perish in the
Jacob’s salvation depended on letting go what was dearest to him. How
many a man, awakened to his need of salvation, has failed to find blessing because of
refusal to part with some cherished idol. For the rich young ruler it was lands and
possessions. For many another it has been something else.
For the believer there is also a lesson. To obtain fullness of blessing there
must be “full surrender.” There are many temptations in the path; ambition, desire for
success and material things. We need to seek first the kingdom of God, and His
righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” When we do so “the things
of earth become strangely dim,” and Christ becomes all in all.
b) Jacob’s Hesitation
Judah argued, “As it is, if we had not delayed, we could have gone and
returned twice” (43:10). What a dangerous situation they had put themselves in by
How dangerous it is to “linger”! Felix in Acts 24 had a golden opportunity
to embrace salvation, but he “lingered” and put it off for a convenient season. But that
convenient season never came. The only other time the word “lingered” is used is in
connection with Lot in Genesis 19:16, “While he lingered, the men laid hold upon his
hand…” They were loath to leave the city that was under judgement.
c) Jacob’s Resolution
Judah’s earnest appeal brought Jacob back to his senses. As he finally
surrendered his will to God, a number of things happened:
(i) Contrast. The name “Israel” is used instead of “Jacob” (43:11). As
long as he held out against God’s plans for him, his old name, Jacob, is used. Now that his
trust in God and faith are being revived, he is again called Israel.
(ii) Confidence. “And may God Almighty grant you mercy…” (43:15). This
title, El-Shaddai. Reminded Jacob of the all-sufficient God in whom he could have absolute
(iii) Contentment. “As for me, if I am bereaved, I am bereaved” (43:14).
Jacob’s faith had again become strong. Stayed upon Jehovah, he found that peace that
comes from acceptance of God’s will and dependence on Him.
2. JUDAH’S PROMISE (43:8-10)
Judah next becomes prominent in our story.
a) Judah’s Past
Judah had a most unsavoury history. Chapter 38 tells of the immoral life he
lived away from the fellowship of home. It makes sad reading. He had evidently returned
home, and come back into the fellowship of the family.
God had been at work in his life. and it was a different Judah that now stepped forward to lead the family. God had dealt with his past, and he was now to be a channel of blessing to the whole family.
b) Judah’s Persuasion
Judah bluntly told Jacob that Benjamin must go with them (43:3). Facts
were facts. Either Benjamin must go, or nobody would go. There was no longer any time
c) Judah’s Pledge
“I myself will guarantee his safety…If I do not bring him back to you, I will
bear the blame before you all my life” (43:9). In some of the most moving verses in the
Bible (43:8-10), Judah pledged himself as surety for Benjamin and guaranteed his safe
Reuben had earlier offered, “Slay my two sons, if I bring him not to thee” I
(42:47). No wonder Jacob said to Reuben “My son shall not go down with you.” Judah was different. He put himself in the pledge and meant every word he said.
Judah’s action reflects that of Christ, the One who became our Surety. A surety is one who takes the responsibility for another. Prov 11:15 says, “He that is surety for a stranger shall smart for it.” That is exactly what Christ did when He became our Surety on the cross.
Christ our Surety:
(i) His Ability. No one could be a surety who could not meet the demands
involved. Our Surety was totally able to meet all God’s demands and pay the full penalty
of our sin.
(ii) His Humility. He humbled Himself and became obedient unto death,
even the death of the cross.
(iii) His Responsibility. On the cross He became responsible for our sin.
He took the guilty suffered in his stead.
(iv) His Efficacy. So complete was the work of salvation, He is now able to
save to the uttermost all that come unto God by Him.
3. JOSEPH’S PLANS (43:15-34)
Joseph commanded that they should dine with him – one invitation they would have
rather avoided! They were rough rural men, ill at ease in a Prime Minister’s palace. They
worried that Joseph was seeking occasion against them because of the money in their sacks.
They thought he might “fall upon us, and take us for bondmen, and our asses” (43:18).
The events which followed reflected Joseph dealings with them.
a) His Hesitation
Joseph took his time in dealing with his brothers. He acted slowly to allow
the Holy Spirit to ripen His work in their hearts.
God is never in a hurry. We put pressure on people to make hasty decisions
for Christ, and end up plucking unripe fruit. The Holy Spirit takes time to first bring a
sinner to genuine repentance. Only then does He bring him to the point of decision.
b) His Emotion
“Joseph went into his private room and wept there” (43:30). His emotions overflowed when he saw Benjamin, and he had to leave the room to weep in private. He loved Benjamin and his brothers to the point where he could weep for them.
“Joseph…wept.” How like the Lord! Jesus wept! How often He weeps
over a soul, longing to sweep aside all that stands between and overwhelm with His grace.
Thank God for His compassion. It was compassion that moved Him as He
saw the multitudes “scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd” (Mat 9:36). It was
compassion that caused Him to weep outside the grave of Lazarus. It was compassion that
made Him weep over Jerusalem on the eve of his crucifixion. It was compassion that
brought Him to earth, and love that led Him to the cross. “The Son of God loved me. and
gave himself for me” (Gal2:20).
c) His Examination
Benjamin’s portion was five time greater than that of the other brothers.
Joseph was deliberately honouring him. He remembered how they had once resented him,
and wanted to know if that green-eyed jealousy still burned in their hearts. Would they resent
Benjamin’s honour, as they had resented him?
They did not, and Joseph was apparently satisfied that his dealings were
d) His Information
The brothers were set at Joseph’s table according to their ages. How did he
know? The chance of this being done by accident were 40 million to one! Reuben,
Simeon. Levi. Judah, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, Asher, Issachar, Zebulon. Last of all Benjamin.
The brothers stared at one another in amazement. They were known! No wonder “They looked at each other in astonishment” (43:33).
Our Lord also knows us through and through. Nothing can be hid from His
presence. David confessed.”O Lord thou hast searched me, and known me” (Ps 139:1).
And yet He waits for us to allow Him to shine the spotlight into the darkness of our souls.
At the end of the same Psalm David prayed, “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try
me, and know my thoughts: and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the
way everlasting” (Ps 139:24,25).
THE FINAL TEST
The time for Joseph’s full revelation of himself and reconciliation with his brothers
had almost arrived. Already he had detected genuine sorrow and honesty as they spoke
about their sin against himself and their love for their father and younger brother. Only
one last test remained.
What would his brothers do if forced to make a choice between their own welfare
and that of Benjamin? Would they sacrifice him for their own safety, just as they had done
to himself years before? Joseph had to know. Everything hung on the answer to this final
1. THE DEPARTURE (44:1-5)
The brothers’ spirits were high as they got ready to leave Egypt. Simeon was free,
Benjamin was safe. and their sacks were full of grain! Soon they would be home with their
father and their families. Intense relief and self-congratulation were the order of the day.
Everything was going right.
Joseph, however, had other ideas. Once his brothers had conspired in hate against
him; now he conspired in love against them to determine their attitudes:
a) To Their Riches
Once they loved money so much they had sold him for it. Had they changed? To find out Joseph had their money put in their sacks.
b) To Their Relatives.
Joseph told the steward to place his silver goblet in Benjamin’s sack. Benjamin was about to become a threat to them all. What would they do with him? And
would they worry about their elderly father? Joseph was determined to find out.
2. THE DILEMMA (44:6-17)
The light-hearted party had only just left the city behind them when Joseph sent his
steward after them with the accusation that they had stolen his drinking cup. Who had
taken it? And why? The sacks were searched, beginning with Reuben and going down to
The brothers hotly denied the charge. Earlier they had been accused of being spies,
now they were being branded as ungrateful thieves. Totally confident of their innocence,
they declared that if the cup were found among them, the guilty one should forfeit his life,
while they themselves would become Joseph’s slaves. What horror must have
overwhelmed them when the steward put his hand in the last sack, Benjamin’s, and
triumphantly pulled out the cup!
In Egypt such a drinking cup was frequently used in fortune telling. Small pieces of
gold or silver or precious stones were cast into the cup, and incantations made over it.
Joseph never indulged in such practices, but knew about them. No wonder the brothers.
already in awe of Joseph and his prophetic powers were terrified at his supposed ability to
see into their sacks.
Two things are noteworthy:
a) The Brothers’ Action
Suddenly, a golden opportunity to be rid of Benjamin, just as they had got
rid of Joseph long ago, stared them in the face. Why should they suffer for his crime?
Indeed, they would all be better off without him, as he would likely receive an undue share
of the inheritance. True, the bad news might, kill Jacob, but he was old and likely to die
soon anyway. They didn’t know it, but their hour of decision had arrived.
If such thoughts entered their minds, they were well hidden. Instead, they
all rent their clothes in grief. Benjamin was their brother, and they were willing to stand
by him. Also, they loved their father too much to face him with the news that Benjamin,
like Joseph, was gone. That kind of news would kill him.
Only one course of action lay before them; to fling themselves before Joseph
and beg for mercy. ‘Judah and his brothers came in and they threw themselves to the ground before him” (44:14).
b) Joseph’s Attitude
“Joseph was still in the house” (44:14). It was impossible for Joseph to rest.
He knew they would soon return and was longing to make himself known to them. What
a picture of the Lord, as He waits with outstretched arms to receive the returning sinner.
Joseph seemed to take their guilt for granted. Right away he made them face
the fact of his greatness and power. “What is this you have done?” (44:15). Every
conscience in the group was now wide awake. Every mind flashed back to the cries of the
young Joseph in the pit years before. Surely there was some connection between his
sorrow and theirs. Judah’s first words betray their thoughts, “What can we say? How can
we prove our innocence? God has uncovered your servants’ guilt” (44:16).
Joseph listened intently to every word. Now he knew they were changed.
Benjamin and their father were more important to them than their own lives. Never again
would they act as they had done 20 years previously.
Lessons To Fe Learned
The story is full of Gospel lessons:
a) Own Up!
We cannot explain away our guilt. We need instead to admit it, and cry with
the brothers, “God has uncovered your servants’ guilt” (44:16). Or. as the publican cried,
“God be merciful to me a sinner!”
b) Pay Attention!
At times God has to be severe to make people pay attention to their
sinfulness. C. S. Lewis spoke about “a severe mercy.” Through both Old Testament and
New, God has allowed His people to pass through all kinds of problems in order that He
might gain their attention. A light on the Damascus road, an earthquake in the jail at
Philippi. A mother’s death.
c) Be Sincere!
Joseph knew that superficial repentance would have been followed by
superficial reconciliation. That was not what Joseph had in mind. Great grace and
salvation are offered to the truly repentant sinner, but the repentance must be genuine.
d) Hidden Tears
The brothers aw only Joseph’s austere exterior. Not for a moment did they
think of him as being gentle. But then they were unaware that he had even turned aside to
weep for them. All they knew was that “the man, who is lord of the land, spake roughly to
We are not left in such ignorance regarding the gentleness of the Lord Jesus.
We have seen His tears, and listened to His tender invitations to come to Him. We have
stood beneath His cross and heard His plea for His murderers. We know he loves the
bruised reed and the smoking flax. All who plead guilty and cast themselves on His mercy
find rest and peace.
3. THE DECLARATION (44:I6-34)
“What shall we say to my lord?” (44:16). Cornered and silenced, the brothers had nowhere to turn. They could only cast themselves upon Joseph’s mercy.
a) The Advocate
At such at time the brothers needed a spokesman. Someone who could
represent them all and knew their need. Who would speak for them?
Reuben was the firstborn, but his themes were always of self-justification
and self-protection. Earlier, when Judah pledged his own life for the safety of Benjamin,
Reuben pledged the lives of his children. Reuben had no authority to speak for the group.
Simeon was the second-born. but was known for his cruelty. He was likely
the instigator of the crime against Joseph. He too had nothing to say.
Then Judah stepped forward. It was Judah who at the pit’s mouth had
diverted the brothers from their first thought of murder. It was Judah who pledged his own
life for Benjamin’s, should Benjamin not return from Egypt. Judah was genuine.
Judah’s earlier weaknesses, especially in connection with Tamar, had
stumbled him badly, but he was now a strong man of godly character and compassion. He
was pleading, not only for Benjamin, but also for his father’s life.
Isn’t it amazing what God can do with His child who confesses his sin and
moves again into a path of usefulness for God?
b) The Address
Judah’s plea to Joseph is one of the great intercessory prayers of the Bible.
He spoke from his heart. He had never taken elocution lessons, but he spoke with an
eloquence born out of concern for Benjamin and love for his father.
After recounting the story, Judah came to the climax of his plea. If
Benjamin was to be punished, he, Judah, would bear the punishment. Though innocent, he
was willing to suffer Benjamin’s punishment. Last of all, at breaking point, he cried, “How shall I go back to my father if the boy is not with me? No! Do not let me see the
misery that would come upon my father” (44:34).
He appealed to Joseph’s:
(i) Patience. “Please, my Lord, let your servant speak a word to my Lord.
Do not be angry with your, servant, though you are equal to Pharaoh himself “ (44: 18).
(ii) Purposes (44:19-23), telling how the famine had affected the family. He
reminded him of him that Benjamin be brought when they returned.
(iii) Pity (4:24-31), speaking to him of Jacob’s great sorrow that Benjamin
must go. How that must have touched Joseph’s heart! Here was Judah telling him of the
father’s distress at the news of Joseph’s death.
(iv) Power (4:32-34). Joseph held the power of life and death. Far better
to be dead than to return to his father without Benjamin. The plea melted Joseph’s heart
What lessons are here about intercession! If we would be intercessors, let us
talk to the Lord as Judah talked to Joseph. Let us tell Him about His patience and ask that
He might withhold judgement. Let us tell Him about His purposes, and ark that, in spite of
our failings, they might be fulfilled in us. Let us focus on His pity, His grace, love, and
mercy, without which we are hopeless and helpless. Let us tell Him about His power, and
remind Him that we can do all things through His strength and power.
* * *
Joseph had faced his brothers with their guilty past, and was about to share with
them the joy of reconciliation and full forgiveness. The basic conditions of reconciliation
had been met. Conscience had been awakened. Sin had been confessed. Repentance had
Joseph was now free to reveal his identity.
I AM JOSEPH!
Joseph’s brothers had been tested and had proved themselves to be radically changed men. The time for revelation and reconciliation had arrived.
Before this they had known Joseph as a man of enormous power and authority. But as yet they did not know who he really was.
Any understanding of Christ must begin with an understanding of who He really is. To some He is a historical figure, a great prophet, or a great example. He is all of these, but much more as well. He is the Christ, the Son of the living God.
1. THE REVELATION
“I am Joseph!” Joseph’s revelation to his brothers left them stunned. One moment they had no idea who he was; the next he stood fully revealed before them.
a) It Was Secret
“Have everyone leave my presence” (45:1). Only in the secret of Joseph’s presence would divinely wrought conviction come face to face with divine grace.
b) It Was Sympathetic
“And he wept so loudly” (45:2). Seven times over we read of Joseph weeping. He was the saviour of the land, the country’s highest official, yet he was unashamed to weep in front of his brothers.
How encouraging to remember that our all-powerful Saviour and Lord also knows what it is to weep. As our Great High Priest He can “be touched with the feeling of our infirmities.”
c) It Was Saving
“I am Joseph” (45: 1). Conversion does involve a personal choice, and a total surrender, but it is primarily a divine revelation of the Saviour to the soul.
2. THE REACTION
Stunned and speechless, the brothers waited for the avalanche of revenge, reproach, and rebuke they were sure would come. Yet Joseph had only words of encouragement and cheer.
How like God! When a sinner comes to Christ, he becomes conscious of two
a) The Greatness Of His Guilt
The Holy Spirit’s first work in the soul is always to convict of sin (Jn 16:7¬11). The brothers had been haunted by their sinful past. They had done their best to leave it behind, yet it refused to go away until it had been dealt with.
b) The Greatness Of God’s Grace
Where sin abounds, grace super-abounds! Joseph’s revelation was followed by total reconciliation and peace.
3. THE REASSURANCE
Joseph graciously put their minds at ease. Revenge was not on his agenda, and he had only their good at heart. Here are lessons of:
a) God’s Plan.
“Not you…. but God. “ (45:8). Joseph repeatedly emphasised that God had planned it all. It was a plan that provided for all the family and the whole world. It would not be thwarted.
b) God’s Power.
Joseph knew that all things work together for good to them that love God. God had used His power to override every evil and unplanned circumstance and bring blessing to the world. That, of course, is also the story of the Cross.
c) God’s Peace
Joseph’s first words were “Come close to me” (45:4). Only Christ can remove the distance and divisions that make peace with God impossible. Once “far off,” we are “made nigh by the blood of Christ” (Eph 2:13), and step into the marvellous intimacy of peace with Him.
4. THE RECONCILIATION
Joseph “kissed all his brothers” (45:15) thereby sealing his reconciliation to them. He and his brothers were one.
Joseph’s kiss meant two things:
Joseph “kissed ALL his brothers” (45:15). Reuben, Simeon, all of them. Great waves of full forgiveness swept over those who had treated him so badly and pitilessly ignored his cries.
“Afterward his brothers talked with him” (45:15). Reconciliation resulted in communion. With all barriers removed, how they must have talked! Do we take time to talk with the One who has forgiven us so much?
5. THE RETURN (45:9-13)
Before they returned home, Joseph gave the brothers detailed instructions for the journey.
a) “Tell my father” (45:13)
Joseph even told them what to say to their father:
(i) Witness. They were to carry the good news that Joseph was alive (45:12), was inviting the hungry family to come to him. “Come down to me, don’t delay” (45:9). This is still the essence of the Great Commission.
(ii) Worship. “Tell my father about all the honour accorded me in Egypt” (45:13). This is the best definition of worship in the Bible.
b) “Never mind about your belongings “ (45:20)
Pharaoh warned them not to worry about and be held back by their belongings, in the light of the “best of all Egypt” (45:20). It was a wise word to them and to us.
c) “Don’t quarrel on the way!” (45:24).
Good advice! Even reconciled and forgiven believers often “quarrel on the way”! The antidote, then and now, is Paul’s advice to the Philippians, “In humility consider others better than yourselves” (2:3).
d) “Joseph … gave them provisions for their journey” (45:2 1)
Wagons, silver, changes of raiment, bread, meat and corn (45:21-23). All they needed until they finally returned. Not only were they forgiven and reconciled, but they were made partakers of Joseph’s rich bounty. Rom 8:32 says “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not, with him also, freely give us all things. “
6. THE RESPONSE
“Joseph is still alive!” (45:26). It was all too much to grasp.
a) Jacob’s Doubt
Jacob’s first reaction was unbelief, he “was stunned; he did not believe them” (45:26). He only believed “when he saw the carts” which Joseph had sent to carry him. Like him, we need a constant procession of well-loaded wagons to impress us and assure us that God is at work. Unless we see, we will not believe.
b) Jacob’s Decision
As faith dawned, Jacob’s spiritual strength returned. The narrative suddenly begins to call him Israel again (45:28), and it is the Prince of God who resolves to go down to see his son Joseph. Jacob’s joy overflowed. He would see Joseph! That was enough.
A PROPHETIC PICTURE
This story of Joseph’s revelation and reconciliation is also a sharply focused picture of what will happen to the nation of Israel in a future day at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
At that time the nation of Israel, which has for so long despised and rejected Him, will recognise who He really is. “They shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn” (Zech 12:10).
In response to genuine repentance, they will find a “fountain which shall be opened to the house of David, and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and for uncleanness” (Zech 13:1).
EXIT TO EGYPT
For years Jacob had been comfortable in Canaan. It was the land of promise, which God had given him. It was also the land of precious memories, where his beloved Rachel was buried. Now he faced the challenge of change. Moving would not be easy.
We all have to face change at times, and we usually fear it. The friendly and familiar make way for the unfamiliar, new friends are exchanged for old, and adjustments made to new surroundings. It may mean leaving home, starting a job, or moving house, and it can all be quite intimidating. But when the unchanging God is in it we have His promise, “Fear not …I will go with you.”
1. THE FAREWELL (46:1-7)
Jacob was in a quandary. Should he move to Egypt? Was he wise to make this complete break with his former life, and commit himself to such a hazardous journey?
a) The Response
Two opposing emotions surged through his mind:
(i) Jacob’s Fear. “Jacob was stunned; he did not believe them” (45:26). His first reaction had been fearful unbelief, and he only believed “when he saw the carts “ (45:27). Jacob had always been easily impressed by the visible and the tangible. For him seeing was believing.
We too are easily impressed by well-loaded wagons. It is more difficult to believe when all we have is God’s promises. The Lord’s words still ring true, “Blessed are they who have not seen, and yet have believed” (Jn 20:29).
(ii) Israel’s Faith. “So Israel set out” (46:1). Note the name change from “Jacob” to “Israel. “ It was Jacob, the old man, who doubted, but it was Israel, the new man, who looked up and decided to move forward on the path of faith.
b) The Reassurance
“Israel set out, “ but still needed to be sure that this major decision was part of God’s will for his life. He felt good about it, everyone else was urging him to do it, and all the circumstances seemed just right. But Jacob knew that was not enough. He needed the assurance of a word from God.
Jacob knew that Egypt was a dangerous place for the people of God. Abraham had gone there and the results had been disastrous. Isaac had also nearly gone, and was only prevented by a direct word from God. Jacob was well aware of the danger of
stepping out of the will of God. How could he know? What happened at Beersheba left him in no doubt.
(i) The Place. Jacob set out and came to Beersheba. There he paused. It was there that Abraham had a special revelation of God (21:33). So did Isaac (26:24). Jacob’s early home had been there, so it was a very sacred and special place.
Beersheba means “the well of the oath.” A well is a place of water, and water has the double meaning of the Word of God and Spirit of God. That is where Jacob stopped. To spend time with God’s Word, interpreted by God’s Spirit. No wonder God spoke to him.
(ii) The Promise (46:3-4). First at Bethel, then at Peniel, and now at Beersheba, the assuring word comes, “Do not be afraid. “ The burden of anxiety was lifted, and Jacob resolved to go and see Joseph. God gave him a four-fold promise for the future.
* “I will make you into a great nation there” (46:3). God would transform the family into a nation, but it would be done “there” – in Egypt. In Canaan there was constant danger of annihilation by hostile neighbours or assimilation into friendly ones. Either would be fatal. Egypt, on the other hand, would provide the safety and separation needed to develop from a family into a nation.
* “I will go down to Egypt with you” (46:4). Everything hung on whether God would be with him or not. Nothing else mattered. It anticipated Moses’ later heart-felt cry, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here” (Exod 33:15).
* “I will surely bring you back again” (46:4). God made it clear that going to Egypt was only a temporary move, but it was part of His plan for His people.
* “Joseph’s own hand shall close your eyes” (46:4). The apex of Jacob’s hope was to see Joseph. But God promised even more. He would not only see him, but would live with him until he died.
c) The Resolution
“Then Jacob left Beersheba…and went to Egypt” (46:5-6). It was with a lighter step that Jacob set a southern course toward Egypt. He had sought God’s will, and found it exactly what he wanted. We often think that God’s will is unacceptable and the opposite to what we want. Not so! God’s will is good, perfect, and acceptable.
2. THE FAMILY (46:8-27)
The writer now gives the names and numbers of the Children of Israel who went to Egypt. This was to be nucleus of the great nation promised by God in 46:3.
a) The Number
“The members of Jacob’s family, which went into Egypt, were seventy in all” (46:27). The total number, including Jacob, as well as Joseph and his two sons, was seventy (46:27).
b) The Names
“These are the names of the Israelites, (Jacob and his descendants) who went into Egypt” (46:8). The historian makes several comments.
(i) Simeon. Simeon’s sixth son, “Shaul, the son of a Canaanite woman, “ married a member of a cursed race (46:10). The Holy Spirit notes it, for unlike Judah, who had also married a Canaanite, Simeon and his family continued in carnality, with little concern as to what pleased God.
(ii) Judah. “The sons of Judah; Er, Onan, Shelah, Perez, and Zerah (but Er and Onan had died in the land of Canaan). The sons of Perez: Hezron and Hamul” (46:12). The sordid saga of Judah’s first two sons, Er and Onan, is passed over, as is the shameful story of Tamar. Judah had repented, and God, who delights to cover sins, passes on from Perez to Hezron to show that the coming of Christ through Judah’s line, had begun.
(iii) Benjamin. Although only about 22 years of age at the time, Benjamin had ten sons (46:21). Multiple births, or multiple wives? The tribe at this stage looked as though it would be the largest, but on account of sin it ended up as the smallest.
(iv) Issachar. “The sons of Issachar: Tola, Puah, Jashub (Job) and Shimron” (46:13). See the name of his third son – Job. Can this be the Job? Job’s friends were all descendants of Esau, and contemporaries of Job the son of Issachar.
3. THE ARRIVAL (46:28-34)
As Jacob neared Egypt he must have been excited at the thought of meeting Joseph – 22 long years!
a) Judah’s Prominence (46:28)
Judah occupied a prominent place in Israel’s history. He was the leader of the brothers, and later became the kingly tribe. Three significant indications of Judah’s leadership stand out:
(i) First Into Egypt – The Forerunner. Judah went on ahead of the others to inform Joseph of the family’s soon arrival. He was the forerunner of the advancing caravan. As the family moved from Canaan, the place of death and famine, to Egypt, the place of life, reconciliation, and food, Judah leads the way.
This is what Christ means to us. He has not only led the way to our place of reconciliation, bread, and life, but He IS the way! As Hebrews 6:20 says, “…whether the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus.”
(ii) First Through The Wilderness – The File-leader (Num 10:14). It was Judah who led the Children of Israel through the wilderness. There was not an inch of pathway that Judah had not trodden first. Hebrews 12:2 describes Christ as our “file-leader.” He is the One who goes first.
Again, Judah is here a lovely picture of Christ. He knows our weaknesses. He has trodden the way before us.
(iii) First Into Canaan – Fulfiller Of God’s Purposes (Judges 1:2). As the nation entered Canaan to subjugate Israel’s enemies, Judah took the lead.
The antitype is seen in Rev 5:4,5 where Christ is about to subjugate the nations and make His enemies His footstool. John looks and weeps that none was found worthy to take and open the book. Then he is told that “the Lion of the tribe of Judah hath prevailed.” He is pre-eminent in victory and the fulfilment of God’s plans.
b) Joseph’s Programme (46:29-34)
Joseph had selected Goshen, a fertile land unsettled by the Egyptians and adjacent to Canaan, as a settling place for the family. It was important that they be situated IN Egypt, although they would not be OF Egypt.
The parallel between Joseph and Jesus is again inescapable.
(i) His Actions. “I will go up and speak to Pharaoh… “ (46:31). Someone was needed to bridge the huge gap between the rustic farmers from Canaan and the divine Pharaoh. Only Joseph could do it.
(ii) His Advice. “You should answer, Your servants have tended livestock from our boyhood on, just as our fathers did” (46:34). The brothers were to tell Pharaoh that they were shepherds. The Egyptians were a settled, agricultural people. Shepherds, on the other hand, were ever on the move, never sending their roots down deeply into any one spot. Joseph knew the importance of retaining this pilgrim character. If they didn’t, all would be lost.
“All shepherds are detestable to the Egyptians. “ They despised
them! They were not even allowed to enter the temples or to marry any other Egyptian outside their castes. Joseph was determined they would not get involved with the Egyptians either spiritually or socially. As shepherds living in Goshen they would be secure in Egypt, yet separate from harmful Egyptian influences.
His concern reflects what the Lord expects of His pilgrim and shepherd people in today. Spiritually and socially we are to be separate from the world around us. This world is not our home.
JOSEPH’S NEW AGE
We have already seen various aspects of Joseph’s life. The narrative now turns to his ability as a statesman and ruler. Not for nothing did the people turn to him and acknowledge, “You have saved our lives!” (47:25). They knew just how much they owed him.
Once again, the parallel pictures of Joseph and Jesus are clear. He has not only forgiven our sins and saved our lives, but has supplied our every need and given us guidelines for living.
1. JOSEPH THE MEDIATOR (47:1-12)
Joseph is here a beautiful picture of our Great High Priest. With his position at Pharaoh’s right hand, his greater knowledge and greater wisdom, he knew what was best for them, and was able to guide them in what to say and what to do (46:34). All they had to do was obey. What a mess they would have made if they had gone against his guidance.
It was a major moment for the brothers and their father to be presented to Pharaoh. Pharaoh asked two probing questions.
a) “What is your occupation?” (47:3)
Joseph had primed them to say they were shepherds and to ask to stay in the land of Goshen. Goshen was part of Egypt, but separate from the mainstream of Egyptian life. Settling there, they could be IN Egypt, but not OF it.
b) “How old are you?” (47:8)
Jacob’s reply concentrated on two things:
(i) The Quantity of Life. “The years of my pilgrimage are an hundred and thirty” (47:9). Jacob was 130 years old, and yet this was `few” compared with Abraham (175) and Isaac (180).
“How old are you?” We measure life by its length, as though nothing else mattered. We divide life’s course by age markers. We drive at 17, and gain our independence at 21. Life “begins” at 40. We retire at 60 or 65. Advancing years bring an increasing sense of urgency as time runs out.
(ii) The Quality of Life. Jacob knew that there is more to life than its length. His life had been one of:
* Difficulty. He described his years as `few and difficult”
(47:9). He reflected on Laban, Esau, Dinah, Rachel, and Joseph. They all brought back “difficult” memories. What recurrent disasters! Many would have called his life a failure.
* Blessing. Without God Jacob’s life would have been a failure. But the true estimate of his life was seen in the way in which “Jacob blessed Pharaoh” (47:7,10), both on entering and on leaving his presence. It is a principle that “the less is blessed of the better” (Heb 7:7). For all the differences of wealth, rank, and culture, Jacob was greater than Pharaoh. He was a prince with God. Pharaoh had power on earth; Jacob had power in heaven.
Do we, as princes with God, bring a blessing when we come before others? Do we leave a blessing behind when we go? Jacob did.
2. JOSEPH THE PROVIDER (47:11-12)
Joseph settled his family in Goshen and looked after them. “He gave them… the best” (47:11). What grace! They had done their worst to him; he did his “best” for them.
a) Where He Placed Them (47: 11)
“So Joseph settled his father and his brothers in Egypt. “ He placed them in the land of Goshen, later called Rameses. These two names reflect two aspects of the Lord’s character today.
(i) Goshen means “to draw near.” The family was placed where they had access to the one who was at the right hand of Pharaoh. Likewise God’s people have access to the One at God’s right hand and are invited to “draw near” (Heb 10:22).
(ii) Rameses means “the thunder that destroys. “ This reminds us that Christ is not only a merciful High Priest, but also the Lord of glory. He is not to be toyed with. He is a consuming fire.
b) How He Nourished Them (47:12)
“Joseph also provided his father and his brothers and all his father’s household with food. “ Outside, the world was starving, but in Goshen the family was safe and satisfied. Isn’t that the Gospel? Once linked to Christ, we are secure in Him, and satisfied. He still “satisfies the longing soul, and fills the hungry soul with goodness” (Ps 107:9).
Jacob was to be nourished by Joseph for 17 years. Back home in Hebron, Jacob had nourished Joseph for 17 years. There is a practical lesson here for children regarding their parents in later years. The precept and promise of the fifth commandment still stand.
3. JOSEPH THE GOVERNOR (47:13-26)
The focus now returns to Joseph’s dealings with the Egyptians.
a) The Problem
“There was no food in the whole region because the famine was severe; both Egypt and Canaan wasted away because of the famine” (47:13). Hunger stalked through
the land and the people were totally powerless to relieve their desperate situation.
b) The Programme
The Egyptians realised that there was no hope and no future apart from Joseph. Little by little they came to an end of themselves, and learned that only in surrender to him would they find salvation.
Joseph’s solution for Egypt’s ills was to bring all things under the authority of the throne. Little by little the people surrendered all they possessed to him.
(i) Their Purses. “And Joseph collected all the money that was to be found in the land of Egypt” (47:14). People could no longer trust in money, for the simple reason
that they did not have any. All men, rich or poor, were reduced to the same level.
(ii) Their Possessions. “Then bring your livestock, “ said Joseph, “I will sell you food in exchange for your livestock, since your money is gone” (47:16). When the money failed, the people gave their cattle for bread. Joseph was wise to take over the animals, as the people would have been unable to keep them alive anyway.
(iii) Their Property. “So Joseph bought all the land in Egypt for Pharaoh. The Egyptians, one and all sold their fields… the land became Pharaoh’s “ (47:20). With their money gone, also the cattle, all they possessed now were their bodies and their lands. The Egyptians were being brought to the place where total and unquestioning trust had to be placed in Joseph.
(iv) Their Persons. “Joseph reduced the people to servitude, from one end of’ Egypt to the other” (47:21). Joseph resettled the population of the land so that the
manpower resources of the land could be utilised in the future for the good of all.
A Prophetic Picture
The story foreshadows the day when the Lord Jesus will return to rule over the world. The terrible disasters of Revelation will have taken their toll – earthquakes, wars, famines, diseases, and dreadful cosmic disasters – will have decimated the world’s population.
At that time all power will be concentrated in the hands of the Lord Jesus. His reign of righteousness will concentrate all power in His own hands as all will owe allegiance to Him.
c) The Results (47:23-26)
(i) The Tax He Instituted. “Joseph said to the people, Now that I have bought you and your land today for Pharaoh” (47:23). Concentration of power in the throne was to be a means of blessing, not of oppression.
“Here is seed for you so you can plant the ground. But when the crop comes in, give a fifth of it to Pharaoh” (47:24). During the years of plenty Joseph had introduced a 20% tax on the people against the years of need. Now he made that tax permanent. By comparison, Jacob tithed 10%, Zaccheus promised 50%, the widow with her two mites, gave all.
(ii) The Tribute He Received. “You have saved our lives.. .May we find favour in the eyes of our Lord; we will be Pharaoh’s servants” (47:25). Joseph’s new name, Zaphnath-paaneah, meant “The Saviour of the world.” Now its significance was demonstrated and universally acknowledged. The people frankly and fully acknowledged that Joseph had saved their lives.
This points us to the Lord who “is able to save …to the uttermost.” The gospels are a record of His willingness and ability to save. None was ever rejected.
We need to follow the example of the Egyptians and gratefully yield all we have to our Saviour; to acknowledge all that He has done for us, and to present ourselves as His servants.
Genesis is filled with funerals. We have already attended the funeral services of Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Ishmael, and have wept with Jacob at Rachel’s tomb. Two more funerals, those of Jacob and Joseph, come before us in the final three chapters.
Jacob was about to die. His life had been a roller-coaster of faith and failures as he rose and fell between relying on his God and trusting in his wits. Now, in the evening of life, the peace, presence, and promises of God were so real that nothing else mattered. God had won through in His dealing with His servant.
The record of Jacob’s death spans three chapters, and is filled with promises and prophecies. At age 147 his natural vision was dim, but his spiritual sight was sharply focused as he reviewed the past and then outlined with uncanny accuracy the future history of Israel.
How wonderful to be like Moses – “his eye was not dim, nor his natural force abated.” Good to start well, but better to finish well!
1. JACOB’S BURIAL (47:27-31)
“The time drew near that Israel must die.” Jacob called Joseph and asked him to promise that he would bury him back in Canaan, where his parents and grandparents were buried. These last verses of the chapter give insight into the real Jacob.
a) His Witness (47:27-28)
“And Israel dwelt in the land of Egypt, in the country of Goshen; and they had possessions therein, and grew and multiplied exceedingly” (47:27).
He was in Egypt, but Egypt was not in him. 17 years in Egypt with all its attractions had made little impression on Jacob. Note that it was “Israel” who “dwelt in the land of Egypt.” His home was in Egypt, but his heart was in Canaan, the land of promise, the place where God had put His name.
b) His Wish (47:29-31)
“Bury me not, I pray thee, in Egypt: but I will lie with my fathers, and thou shalt carry me out of Egypt and bury me in their burying place” (47:29-31).
Jacob wanted to be buried in Canaan, not because it was where he had come from, but because it was where he was going. It was the land of promise. He knew God had promised that the land would belong to his seed. Canaan, not Egypt was the abiding place of his people.
c) His Worship (47:31)
“Israel bowed himself upon the bed’s head” (47:31). Jacob’s heart overflowed with worship as he reviewed God’s goodness. The word “bow” frequently indicates homage or worship. The NIV says “Israel worshipped as he leaned on the top of his staff” (the Hebrew words for “bed’s head” and “top of his staff” are similar). Hebrews 11:21 says this was a true act of faith on Jacob’s part.
2. JACOB’S BLESSING (48:1-20)
Joseph was told, “Behold thy father is sick” (48:1), and immediately went with his sons to see him. More than anything else he wanted his father to bless the boys before he died. These boys might have become princes in Egypt, but for Joseph it was more important that they receive the blessing of the dying Jacob.
a) Hindsight (48:3-4)
Jacob looked back over his life and let his mind run back to Bethel where it all started. Actually, God had appeared to Jacob at Bethel twice. That was where he had first met God (35:6-13), and to where he had later come back for restoration (28:10-19). Jacob likely had both of these occasions in mind when he said God appeared to him there. He remembered:
(i) God’s Goodness In Saving Him. “God Almighty appeared unto the at Luz in the land of Canaan, and blessed me” (48:3-4). Jacob lay again at the foot of Bethel’s ladder. That was where, in spite of his sin, God had met with him.
(ii) God’s Faithfulness In Keeping Him. Jacob had frequently failed, but he well knew that not one promise had failed. Jacob was taken up with God’s Word and his heart rested on what God had done, and what He promised to do. Faith is always nourished by God’s Word, finding in it encouragement, inspiration and power.
How wonderful, at the end of life, to be able to confidently go back to the beginning. To be able to look back over time and know that all is well with the soul as we move into eternity. How awful to be like Saul, “I have played the fool, and have erred exceedingly” (1 Sam 26:21).
b) “Your two sons… shall be mine” (48:5)
Jacob’s decision to bring the boys into his family had far-reaching implications for Joseph and his sons.
(i) Joseph. What did Joseph really want for his children? Egypt had everything to offer. Education, entertainment, position. Would he allow them to cast their lot in with the people of God and “lose out” re the world? Joseph never hesitated.
(ii) Ephraim & Manasseh. They were about 20 years old at the time. Few young people have stood on the threshold of such a fantastic future with its brilliant prospects. In saying “they shall be mine,” Jacob was inviting them to be identify themselves with God’s family, and anticipate the same choice that Moses would later make. It would be costly. But Joseph had taught them well, and there is not a hint that the boys wavered. All that Egypt could give them was put on one side, in order to cast their lot with the people of God.
(iii) Jacob. “I had not thought to see thy face; and lo, God hath shewed me also thy seed” (48:11). Isn’t God great! How often God’s people have had happy surprises when after a long time their prayers have been answered. ¬He ever surprises us with better blessings abundantly above all that we ask or think.
3. JACOB’S BLINDNESS (48:17-19)
“And Israel behold Joseph’s sons, and said, Who are these?” He had been talking about the two boys, but because of his poor vision had not noticed or recognized them. His decision to adopt them was not because he had seen them. It was the result of premeditated thought under the direct leading of the Spirit of God.
How wonderful to move into old age with a clear vision of God. To be like Abraham, Jacob, or Moses, all of whom could see beyond the physical and grasp the spiritual realities given to them by God.
Poor Isaac had neither spiritual nor physical vision, and made major mistakes in his old age. So did Eli. The last judge, Samson, and the last king of Judah, Zedekiah, had their eyes put out by their enemies, and the last of the seven churches became spiritually blind through complacency.
4. JACOB’S BLESSING (48:13-16)
Jacob’s affection for Joseph and his sons called forth an outpouring of blessing and prayer that God would “bless the lads.” His prayer was that the God who had been with him would be with his sons and grandsons.
a) A Review Of The Past
In blessing the lads, Israel travels back into the past (48:15). All through the story Jacob’s one theme is God’s promise and presence (48:3,11,15,20,21). Three things stand out in him memory:
(i) “God before whom my fathers did walk.” He remembered how his father and grandfather walked before their God. He never forgot his spiritual heritage.
(ii) “the God who fed me all my life long unto this day.” He recalled the faithfulness of the same covenant God. “fed me” is equivalent to “shepherded me.” The same covenant God of his fathers had met his every need.
(iii) “the Angel which hath redeemed me from all evil.” Jacob had met with the Angel at Peniel (Gen 32), and was conscious of what He had done in redeeming him. This is the first mention of the word “redeem” (goel), and it occurs as a description of the work of the great Angel of Jehovah, i.e. the incarnate Christ.
b) A Revelation Of The Future
Joseph wanted the older boy, Manasseh, to get the superior blessing and set him directly in front of Jacob’s right hand. But Jacob crossed his hands so that the right hand rested on Ephraim and the left hand on Manasseh.
Joseph was “displeased” by his father’s action and gently tried to reverse his father’s hands. But Jacob was not a senile old man. “I know it my son, I know it,” he said. Jacob’s prophetic insight told him that Ephraim’s tribe would be superior to the tribe of Manasseh.
This passing over of the natural firstborn is a feature of Genesis. Isaac instead of Ishmael, Jacob instead of Esau, Joseph instead of Reuben, and now Ephraim instead of Manasseh. Thus God underlined His sovereignty, and emphasised yet again that His blessings do not flow along channels of natural privilege.
5. JACOB’S BELIEF (48:21-22)
Behold I die, but God…” (48:21). How often these two words “but God” make the difference! Death is usually thought of with dread. Heb 2:11 speak of those “who through fear of death were all their life time subject to bondage.” How grateful we should be that Christ hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. Paul was not only “ready” but had “a desire to depart” because that meant to be with Christ which is far better. What a difference Christ makes!
In his last days he was not only occupied with God as a present reality, but looked forward and expressed itself in hope and expectation as he looked forward to the glorious future assured by God to him and to his seed. “I die, but God shall be with you, and bring you again unto the land of your fathers.” Faith takes us through the present, but hope sets our hearts on the future.
O thou of little faith,
God hath not failed thee yet!
When all looks dark and gloomy,
Thou dost so soon forget –
Forget that He has led thee,
And gently cleared thy way;
On clouds has poured His sunshine,
And turned the night to day.
And if He’s helped thee hitherto,
He will not fail thee now;
How it must wound His loving heart
To see thy anxious brow
Oh! doubt Him not any longer,
To Him commit thy way,
Whom in the past thou trusted
And is just the same today.
JACOB’S FINEST HOUR
Jacob had almost come to an end of his days. Knowing this, he called his sons together round his bed and spoke to each one in turn. His word to each was short, and contained both a review of the past and a revelation of the future. It all took only 10 minutes. Every word was weighty with inspiration. This was Jacob’s finest hour.
1. THE GATHERING (49:1-2)
The chapter holds a double lesson:
a) The Judgement Seat of Jacob
There was authority in Jacob’s voice as he called his sons to “assemble and listen” (49:1). His bedroom became a courtroom as he spoke to his sons. What he said looked both backward in review of their lives and forward in revelation of future history. Future careers were being determined on the basis of past character.
(i) Review. The shrewd old man was weighing his sons and reviewing their lives. Futures were being formulated. Some would be blessed, others would suffer loss. Character and career were the determining factors. The past was determining the future.
(ii) Revelation. Jacob, through the Holy Spirit, projected these character traits into the future and with unerring accuracy predicted their future as tribes. Each tribe would inherit the character trait of its founder, e.g. Reuben never did excel, while Judah became the leading tribe.
b) The Judgement Seat of Christ
The scene prefigures the Judgement Seat of Christ where lives will be reviewed and rewarded (2 Cor 5: 10). Character on earth will determine careers in the Kingdom.
2. THE BLESSING (49:3-27)
Commencing with the Reuben, the eldest, Jacob spoke to each of his sons in turn.
a) Reuben (49:3-4)
“Reuben, you are my firstborn, my might, the first sign of my strength, excelling in honour, excelling in power. Turbulent as the waters, you will no longer excel, for you went up onto your father’s bed, onto my couch and defiled it” (49:3). Poor Reuben always wanted to do what was right, but never had the strength to do it. He should have had the birthright with all its privileges, but forfeited everything because of unconfessed sin in his life. Jacob identified two problems:
(i) Lack of Character. “Turbulent as the waters, “ he lacked both courage and conviction, e.g. he had wanted to deliver Joseph in chapter 37, but lacked the courage to follow through.
(ii) Lack of Control. “You went up onto your father’s bed, onto my couch and defiled it. “ Reuben had never confessed or repented of his incest with Bilhah 40 years before. Now his sin was exposed and he was denied all that might have been. “You will no longer excel. “ His tribe never did provide any leader for the nation. Reuben excelled in nothing.
b) Simeon and Levi (49:5-7)
(i) Their Companionship. “Simeon and Levi are brothers” (49:5). They had always been close companions and Jacob spoke to them together.
(ii) Their Cruelty. “Cursed be their anger, so fierce, and their fury, so cruel!” (49:7). Jacob judged their treachery and violent treatment of the Shechemites. With great emotion he cursed their anger and cruelty.
(iii) Their Condemnation. Likely they hoped that all would be forgotten and forgiven. But Jacob said, “I will scatter them in Jacob and disperse them in Israel” (49:7).
c) Judah (49:8-10)
Jacob does not even mention Judah’s earlier waywardness. Remember Tamar? Judah seems to have repented and put his past behind him. Jacob’s purpose was not to drag up confessed and forgiven sin. He saw Judah as:
(i) The Leader. “Judah, your brothers will praise you. Your hand will be on the neck of your enemies; your father’s sons will bow down to you” (49:8). Judah would have the pre-eminence of the firstborn. Praise and power were to be features of his tribe.
(ii) The Lion. “You are a lion’s cub, 0 Judah; you return from the prey, my son. Like a lion he crouches and lies down, like a lioness–who dares to rouse him?. “ Jacob could not know that the Lord would be “the Lion of the tribe of Judah” (Rev 5:5).
(iii) The Lord. “The sceptre will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he comes to whom it belongs (or “until Shiloh comes”) (49: 10). This verse contains two beautiful Messianic titles:
* Sceptre – symbol of sovereignty, and * Shiloh – more a person than a place
(iv) The Land. “He will tether his donkey to a vine, his colt to the choicest
branch: he will wash his garments in wine, his robes in the blood of grapes” (49:11). Jacob sketched a picture of peace and plenty with abundant vines and full winepresses.
d) Zebulun (49:13)
“Zebulun will live by the seashore and become a haven for ships” (49:13).
Zebulun’s borders may have reached as far as Capernaum on the shore of Galilee. This was Jesus’ country where He did many of is mightiest miracles. Little did insignificant Zebulun realise the great honour bestowed upon him that day.
f) Issachar (49:14-15)
Jacob compared Issachar to “a rawboned donkey lying down between two saddlebags” (49:14). He seems to have been a docile individual, content to take a humble place.
g) Dan (49:16-18)
(i) His Position. “Dan will provide justice for his people as one of the tribes of Israel” (49:16). Jacob’s vision was accurate, for out of Dan came the mightiest
judge of all, Samson.
(ii) His Poison. “Dan will be a serpent by the roadside, a viper along the path, that bites the horse’s heels so that its rider tumbles backward” (49:17). The serpent
may refer to the idolatry introduced by the Danites into Israel (Judges 18:30-31). Also Jeroboam later set up one of his two golden calves in Dan.
(iii) His Pardon. “I look for your deliverance, 0 Lord” (49:18). After his reference to the serpent, Jacob speaks of God’s salvation. The word is the Hebrew Yeshuah, which is the name “Jesus”! The serpent and the Saviour linked together!
h) Gad (49:19)
“Gad will be attacked by a band of raiders, but he will attack them at their
heels” (49:19). Gad settled on the far side Jordan, and was under constant threat from enemies. Although vanquished by invading troops, he would eventually be victorious.
i) Asher (49:20)
Asher’s inheritance was the fertile strip that ran along the foot of Carmel and up the Mediterranean coast past Tyre. But they failed to move the Phoenicians of Tyre, which lingered on for years, a stronghold of Satan in Cancan. With their love of ease and proximity to the Phoenicians, the tribe became weak and eventually insignificant.
j) Naphtali (49:16-21)
“Naphtali is a doe set free; he utters beautiful words” (49:21). Naphtali’s walk and talk were praised by Jacob.
k) Joseph (49:22-26)
Jacob marks three of the foremost features of Joseph’s life and underscores the secret of each.
(i) The Secret of Fruitfulness. “Joseph is a fruitful vine, a fruitful vine near a spring, whose branches climb over a wall” (49:22). If ever a life was fruitful, it was
Joseph’s. The secret of such fruitfulness was in the roots which went deep into the ground beside the well. The well speaks of the Word of God and the Spirit of God. Also here are all N.T. lessons of “abiding.”
(ii) The Secret of Strength. “With bitterness archers attacked him; they shot at him with hostility. But his bow remained steady, his strong arms stayed limber, because of the hand of the Mighty One of Jacob” (9:23-24). The picture is that of a father who places his strong and older arms over his child’s weak arms, and together they pull back the bowstring. In situations where we have no strength, we need to relax under the grip of His stronger and experienced hands. When we do so, we find that His strength is made perfect in our weakness.
(iii) The Secret of Blessedness. Words seem to have failed Jacob as he described all the blessings he could see in Joseph. The secret of such blessedness is summed up in the promise “they shall be on the crown of the head of him that was separate from his brethren “ (49:26). Throughout his life Joseph had been separated from them by distance, but the meaning is much deeper than that. He was separate from them in his motives, desires, and obedience to God. That was what mattered,
l) Benjamin (49:27)
“Benjamin is a ravenous wolf; in the morning he devours the prey, in the
evening he divides the plunder. “ Benjamin was the son of Jacob’s old age, born in the same hour that Rachel died, and the son of his right hand. Jacob underlined his character and his conquests.
Two famous Benjamites are found in Scripture – both Saul’s, one in the OT and the other in the NT. Saul the son of Kish became Israel’s first king, and Saul of Tarsus became the greatest apostle.
One by one the sons had stood before Jacob as their lives had been reviewed and their futures revealed. What he had said had been painful for some, pleasant for others, but the verdict had been totally just in each case. Each knew he had been fairly dealt with. It was a powerful prediction of the Judgement Seat of Christ.
3, THE PASSING (49:29-33)
The rest of the chapter deals with two final matters in the life of Jacob.
a) His Desire (49:29-32)
“Bury me with my fathers in the cave in the field of Ephron the Hittite. “
Jacob wanted to be buried in the field of Machpelah that Abraham had purchased as a burying place. His mind was full of God’s purposes and His promises to Abraham, to Isaac, and to himself. Those purposes did not relate to Egypt.
b) His Death (49:33)
“When Jacob had finished giving instructions to his sons, he drew his feet up into the bed, breathed his last and was gathered to his people. “ He yielded up his spirit to God, and was reunited with his people. That is what death meant to Jacob. The name Machpelah means “the way in and the way out.” For those who die there is a “way in” to death. For the believer there is also a “way out” in resurrection!
THE LAST LAP
Genesis opened with life in Eden, but ends with death in Egypt. It commenced with a description of God’s perfect creation, but the last verse tells of a “a coffin in Egypt. “ Satan’s lie, “You shaft not surely die,” stands finally exposed!
Yet even that coffin spoke of life to come. It was a symbol of hope, a reminder that God would deliver His people and keep His promises. Genesis with its coffin in Egypt is followed by Exodus, the book of departure and deliverance.
1. JACOB’S FUNERAL (50:1-14)
This is the fullest description of any funeral in the Bible.
a) The Preparation (50:1-3)
Jacob had lived 17 years in Egypt, and in having a state funeral was perhaps being honoured in his own right, and not just because he was Joseph’s father.
Embalming was big business in Egypt. First the brain and vital organs were removed. The hollowed out body was then filled with spices and soaked in nitron for several weeks. The corpse was then washed, wrapped in strips of fine linen, and smeared with gum.
b) The Permission (50:4-6)
Joseph spoke unto the house of Pharaoh in order to get permission from Pharaoh to go up to Canaan, and promised to return. Joseph’s word was enough for Pharaoh.
c) The Procession (50:7-14)
The funeral caravan, complete with high officials and military escort, wended its way from Egypt across Sinai, and up the eastern bank of the Dead Sea until they came to “the threshing floor of Atad” (50:10). There a seven day ceremonial mourning period was observed.
Joseph and his brothers then carried Jacob’s body over Jordan to the cave in the field of Machpelah, and buried him there as he had requested. Jacob had come home. He had lived in Egypt for 17 years, but it had never been “home.”
2. JOSEPH’S FORGIVENESS (50:14-21)
It is with sad surprise that we find old sores opened up once more, as the brothers
a) The Brothers’ Request (50:17-18)
As long as Jacob was alive the brothers felt safe and protected from the consequences of their early sins. Now they suddenly felt vulnerable. Their message to Joseph contained three statements:
(i) Jacob’s Request. “Your father left these instructions before he died-Forgive your brothers…. “ (50:16). Did Jacob really say this? Likely not. He knew Joseph too well, and would have in any case spoken to him.
(ii) The Brothers’ Confession. Their message to Joseph contained a forthright confession of their sin (actually for the first time) and asked him to forgive them.
(iii) Joseph’s Servants. “We are your slaves” (50:18). The brothers offered to be Joseph’s slaves, just as they had sold him into slavery.
They questioned that Joseph had fully forgiven them. They were measuring him by themselves. How they misjudged him! He was their Saviour, not their Slave¬driver!
How often we make the same mistake. Old sins, dealt with years before at the cross, still mount up before us and bind us into slavery that God never intended. It all stems from a wrong view of our sin, and a wrong view of our Saviour.
b) Joseph’s Reaction (50:17-21)
“When their message came to him, Joseph wept” (50:17). He wept because they had so little faith in him. In spite of being so misunderstood, Joseph comforted them and spoke kindly to them.
What he said contained lessons of:
(i) Sovereignty. “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good” (50:20). Joseph saw the sovereign hand of God in every circumstance. It was this that removed desire for retaliation.
(ii) Sympathy. “Don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children” (50:21). They were afraid, but only tyrants can enjoy such fear. That was not Joseph. His only concern was their blessing.
(iii) Sufficiency. “Am I in the place of God? “ (50:19). Revenge was never on Joseph’s agenda. He knew that vengeance belonged to God. He, not Joseph, would deal with their sin. This is the example of the Lord Himself, who “committed himself to him that judgeth righteously. “
3. JOSEPH’S FUTURE (50:22-26)
“Joseph stayed in Egypt, along with all his father’s family. He lived a hundred and
ten years” (50:22). The last paragraph of Genesis jumps 54 years from the preceding verse. It records the only incident of Joseph’s life mentioned in Hebrews 11:22. “By faith Joseph, when his end was near, spoke about the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and gave instructions about his bones. “
a) Joseph’s Children (50:23)
“And Joseph saw the third generation of Ephraim’s children. “ Joseph was
more than a Prime Minister, he was a godly grandfather who loved to fill the young minds of his grandchildren with stories of God’s goodness. Godly grandparents form a living link between the past from which they have come and the future to which they are going.
b) Joseph’s Confidence (50:24)
“I am about to die. But God… “ Like Jacob (48:21), Joseph confidently looked death in the face. It held no terrors for him. His life had been wrapped up in his God, and now that he was dying, nothing had changed.
c) Joseph’s Charge (50:25)
“And Joseph made the sons of Israel swear an oath and said, `God will surely come to your aid, and ye must carry my bones up from this place. “ Successful
Egyptians spent fortunes in preparation for their funerals. Joseph was an Egyptian, but he never forgot the true values of life and death. Those values did not include a tomb in Egypt. Joseph dwelt in Egypt, but lived in Canaan!
Joseph charged his brothers that they would bring his bones back to Canaan. Those bones were:
(ii) A Message. They proclaimed loudly that their future was not in Egypt. God’s promises were fixed on the land that God had given to them.
(ii) A Memorial. For the rest of their time in Egypt, and all through the desert journey, Joseph’s bones travelled with God’s people. For 200 years those bones would constantly turn their minds towards Canaan. In times of:
* temptation, when tempted to settle comfortably in Egypt, they were a reminder that one day they must return to the land God had given them.
* trial under the taskmaster’s lash, they were reminded that “God will surely come to your aid. “ Hope would again come as they realised that God’s promises are unchangeable.
Picture of Christ’s Memorial
Just like Joseph, the Lord gathered His own around Him before He died. Just as Israel carried Joseph’s bones every step of the way until the wilderness journey was ended, so the Saviour left the “memorials” of his own death for the Church’s journey on earth. Those they would carry with them until the last step of the journey would be taken and heaven reached.
Joseph’s coffin reminded Israel of God’s unconditional covenant made with Abraham, giving them the right to Cancan. Christ’s “memorials” remind us that “this cup is the new covenant in my blood… shed for you. “ By that blood the believer has been redeemed, cleansed, forgiven, justified, sanctified, and glorified.
“Till He come.” Joseph’s coffin spoke more about life than death! It pointed to God’s future promises for His people. The Lord’s memorial is not just a loving look back to Calvary, but a longing look forward to His coming again.
Joseph’s bones buried
Two hundred years later Moses carried those bones up out of Egypt and through the wilderness. Joshua then carried them on to Cancan, and eventually buried them in Shechem, where Joseph had lived his early life (Josh 24:32). Joseph had come home.
Joseph’s Death (50:26)
“So Joseph died at the age of a hundred and ten. And after they embalmed
him, he was placed in a coffin in Egypt. “ There is nothing said about the Egyptian reaction to his death. Sixty years before, Jacob had been accorded a state funeral. But when Joseph died, there seems to have been silence from the Egyptians. Had the persecution already commenced?
“So Joseph died.” Thus ends Genesis. It began with the glory of Eden, and ends with a grave in Egypt. Life and light had given way to death and darkness. Even Joseph, the most Christ-like man in all the Bible, had to die.