GOD’S MERCIFUL LOVE AND PROVISION FAR SURPASS OUR FEARS AND ANXIOUS EXPECTATIONS – PREPARATION FOR CONVICTION AND REPENTANCE
This passage bounces back and forth between the fears of Jacob and his sons and the unbounded love and provision from the hand of Joseph. Certainly, Joseph had every right to be vindictive and bitter and hateful. But his compassion and kindness and grace and mercy and love overflow in every interaction with his family as God providentially sets up the ultimate reconciliation.
Allen Ross: In this chapter the brothers promised to take the blame for any catastrophe (responsibility); they acknowledged their culpability and made restitution for the money in their sacks (honesty); they retrieved their brother from prison in Egypt (unity); they recognized that God was at work in their midst (belief); and they rejoiced in their provisions, even when a brother was receiving more than they were (gratitude).
S. Lewis Johnson: I say that sin is a disintegrating force, it is a dividing force, it is a separating force, and God does not overlook sin. The Prophet Isaiah speaking for the Lord God says your iniquities have separated between you and the Lord God. Sin is a separating force and for that reason, it is a disintegrating force and because God cannot overlook sin, he must have conviction, repentance, and conversion and therefore in the prime minister of Egypt’s life, Joseph, we have all of these events transpiring together with the lives of Jacob and his sons toward this one goal: that there may be conviction of sin and repentance and true conversion and the brothers may be welded together into a unified body doing works meet for repentance.
I. (:1-15) MISSION OF DESPERATION
A. (:1-2) Providential Pressure Forces the Family’s Hand
1. (:1) Severe Famine
“Now the famine was severe in the land.”
Desperate mission on a number of levels
Famine continued for many years
2. (:2) Sourcing Food From Only Option = Egypt
“So it came about when they had finished eating the grain which they had brought from Egypt, that their father said to them, ‘Go back, buy us a little food.’”
They held on as long as they could; rationed out their food – leaving poor Simeon back in bondage in Egypt; finally they were forced to return to Egypt
B. (:3-7) Primary Problem – Show-stopper must be addressed
1. (:3-5) No Access Without Benjamin
“Judah spoke to him, however, saying,
‘The man solemnly warned us, You shall not see my face unless your brother is with you.
If you send our brother with us, we will go down and buy you food.
But if you do not send him, we will not go down;
for the man said to us, You shall not see my face unless your brother is with you.’”
Chiastic structure of these 3 verses
Must comply with the stated condition or there is no point in making the journey and putting others at risk
Parunak: The prominent brother in the first cycle was Reuben. It was he who led the discussion in 42:22, and who is prominent in the report to their father in 42:37 (with his incredible suggestion that Jacob should slay Reuben’s sons if Benjamin didn’t come home). In the second cycle, Reuben disappears from view, and Judah becomes prominent, both in Canaan and Egypt. He is emerging as the dominant son in the family.
2. (:6-7) No Mulligans
“Then Israel said, ‘Why did you treat me so badly by telling the man whether you still had another brother?’ But they said, ‘The man questioned particularly about us and our relatives, saying, Is your father still alive? Have you another brother? So we answered his questions. Could we possibly know that he would say, Bring your brother down?’”
Jacob – still the shrewd, cunning deceiver — was advocating for less than honesty if it would get the job done
Joseph’s questions had been very pointed and specific
Joseph now referred to as “the man”
C. (:8-10) Persuasive Points Argued by Judah
“And Judah said to his father Israel,”
1. Argument #1 – Self Preservation
“Send the lad with me, and we will arise and go, that we may live and not die, we as well as you and our little ones.”
2. Argument #2 – Surety Guarantee
“I myself will be surety for him; you may hold me responsible for him. If I do not bring him back to you and set him before you, then let me bear the blame before you forever.”
3. Argument #3 – Stopwatch Metrics – No Point Delaying Further
“For if we had not delayed, surely by now we could have returned twice.”
D. (:11-15) Practical Preparation Instructed by Israel
“Then their father Israel said to them,
“If it must be so, then do this: take some of the best products of the land in your bags, and carry down to the man as a present, a little balm and a little honey, aromatic gum and myrrh, pistachio nuts and almonds.”
Hughes: There was irony here. The gift was of the same produce that the original caravan bore that first took Joseph to Egypt, including the silver! Life was coming full circle.
Henry Alford: This is probably not honey of bees, which was probably, as now, very plentiful in Egypt, but the thick inspissated juice or jelly of grapes, which still is manufactured in Palestine and exported from Hebron to Egypt. In Ezek. xxvii. 17 it seems to be this honey which is spoken of.
o Proverbs 21:14 A gift in secret pacifieth anger: and a reward in the bosom strong wrath.
o Proverbs 18:16 A man’s gift maketh room for him, and bringeth him before great men.
o Proverbs 19:6 Many will intreat the favour of the prince: and every man is a friend to him that giveth gifts
“And take double the money in your hand, and take back in your hand the money that was returned in the mouth of your sacks; perhaps it was a mistake.”
“Take your brother also, and arise, return to the man; and may God Almighty grant you compassion in the sight of the man, that he may release to you your other brother and Benjamin.”
“’And as for me, if I am bereaved of my children, I am bereaved.’ So the men took this present, and they took double the money in their hand, and Benjamin; then they arose and went down to Egypt and stood before Joseph.”
“if I am bereaved … “ – sounds like Queen Esther: “if I perish, I perish”
Dave Guzik: It was good for Jacob to say and believe this, but we sense too much fatalism and too little faith (If I am bereaved, I am bereaved!). Faith and fatalism aren’t the same.
II. (:16-24) FEAR OF RETRIBUTION
A. (:16-17) Planned Celebration
“When Joseph saw Benjamin with them, he said to his house steward, ‘Bring the men into
the house, and slay an animal and make ready; for the men are to dine with me at noon.’
So the man did as Joseph said, and brought the men to Joseph’s house.”
Is this a feast or a last meal?
B. (:18) Anxious Speculation
“Now the men were afraid, because they were brought to Joseph’s house; and they said, ‘It is because of the money that was returned in our sacks the first time that we are being brought in, that he may seek occasion against us and fall upon us, and take us for slaves with our donkeys.’”
George Bush: So unhappy a thing is it to have guilt lying upon the conscience. It deadens the enjoyments of life and embitters its sorrows. It raises fearful apprehensions on the slightest occasions, and continually arrays the Most High in an aspect of wrath. If we wish to be happy let us seek the removal of that never-failing source of misery.
C. (:19-22) Defensive Explanation
“So they came near to Joseph’s house steward, and spoke to him at the entrance of the house, and said, ‘Oh, my lord, we indeed came down the first time to buy food, and it came about when we came to the lodging place, that we opened our sacks, and behold, each man’s money was in the mouth of his sack, our money in full. So we have brought it back in our hand. We have also brought down other money in our hand to buy food; we do not know who put our money in our sacks.’”
D. (:23-24) Comforting Reassurance
1. (:23a) Reassurance by Word
a. Peace – not Fear
“And he said, ‘Be at ease, do not be afraid.”
b. Acknowledgement of God’s Providence
“Your God and the God of your father has given you treasure in your sacks;”
c. Removal of Any Offense
“I had your money.’”
2. (:23b-24) Reassurance by Action
a. (:23b) Reunion with Simeon
“Then he brought Simeon out to them.”
b. (:24a) Hospitality
“Then the man brought the men into Joseph’s house and gave them water, and they washed their feet;”
c. (:24b) Provision for Their Donkeys
“and he gave their donkeys fodder.”
III. (:25-34) RENEWAL OF INTERACTION
A. (:25-26) Interaction Reflects Respectful Submission
1. (:25) Preparing the Present
“So they prepared the present for Joseph’s coming at noon; for they had heard that they were to eat a meal there.”
2. (:26a) Presenting the Present
“When Joseph came home, they brought into the house to him the present which was in their hand”
3. (:26b) Performing the Posture
“and bowed to the ground before him.”
All 11 bowed down; fulfillment of Joseph’s dream – God’s providence works everything out to the smallest detail
B. (:27-30) Interaction Stirs Hidden Emotions
1. (:27-28) Emotions Associated with Joseph’s Father — Jacob
a. (:27) Inquiry
“Then he asked them about their welfare, and said, ‘Is your old father well, of whom you spoke? Is he still alive?’”
b. (:28) Report
“And they said, ‘Your servant our father is well; he is still alive.’
And they bowed down in homage.”
2. (:29-30) Emotions Associated with Joseph’s Brother — Benjamin
a. (:29) Public Blessing
“As he lifted his eyes and saw his brother Benjamin, his mother’s son, he said, ‘Is this your youngest brother, of whom you spoke to me?’ And he said, ‘May God be gracious to you, my son.’”
Rachel only had 2 sons: Joseph and Benjamin; unique relationship; overwhelmed with love and emotion
Parunak: “lifted his eyes” — The expression usually indicates that what is seen is of particular importance (cf. 13:10, Lot regarding the plain of Sodom; 18:2, when Abraham’s three visitors arrived; 37:25, the brothers spying the approaching caravan). He takes special notice of Benjamin, then, overcome with emotion, he withdraws into his chamber to weep.
Hughes: In addressing Benjamin, Joseph communicated tender, paternal affection. And his “God be gracious to you” is the same word found in the Aaronic benediction of Numbers 6:25 – “the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you” – indicating a special blessing, because these words do not appear elsewhere in the Old Testament.
b. (:30) Private Weeping
“And Joseph hurried out for he was deeply stirred over his brother, and he sought a place to weep; and he entered his chamber and wept there.”
C. (:31-34) Interaction Centers Around Communal Feast
1. (:31-32) Serving the Meal
“Then he washed his face, and came out; and he controlled himself and said, ‘Serve the meal.’ So they served him by himself, and them by themselves, and the Egyptians, who ate with him, by themselves; because the Egyptians could not eat bread with the Hebrews, for that is loathsome to the Egyptians.”
Bruce Waltke (quoted by Parunak): Herein lies a clue to the rationale for the Egyptian sojourn. Whereas the Canaanites are willing to integrate and absorb the sons of Israel, the Egyptians hold them in contempt. Judah’s intermarriage with the Canaanites in Genesis 38 shows the danger that syncretistic Canaanites present to the embryonic family. The Egyptian segregated culture guarantees that the embryonic nation can develop into a great nation within their borders.” The Canaanite threat took the form of contamination; The Egyptian threat will take the form of tyranny.
Dave Guzik: Egypt was one of the most racially separated societies on earth. They believed that Egyptians came from the gods, and all other people came from lesser origins. There was little social mixing with foreigners in the Egypt of Joseph’s day.
2. (:33) Seating the Brothers
“Now they were seated before him, the first-born according to his birthright and the youngest according to his youth, and the men looked at one another in astonishment.”
Must have been puzzling to the brothers to be seated in their birth order
Borgman: the steward has their nametags on their plates
3. (:34a) Singling Out Benjamin for Preferential Treatment
“And he took portions to them from his own table; but Benjamin’s portion was five times as much as any of theirs.”
Parunak: He makes an obvious distinction between Benjamin’s serving and that sent to the others. The point is not to reflect his fondness for his brother, but to test their reaction. The root of their original sin in selling him into Egypt was their jealousy over the favored position in which his father had placed him. He is about to test their love for Benjamin. By ordering them in order of birth, then favoring the youngest, he is giving them an opportunity to show any jealousy that might exist.
Or was this just a legitimate and sincere expression of the deep love that Joseph had for Benjamin – perhaps their was no grand testing scheme in view
4. (:34b) Summarizing the Celebration
“So they feasted and drank freely with him.”
“The goodness of God leads to repentance”
S. Lewis Johnson: How often is that not true my dear Christian friends? You and I have experiences and we think, “Why has the Lord allowed this to happen?” It’s amazing to me really, it’s amazing how often we say things like this in the midst of the experiences that we have. Why has this happened to me? But our whys are answered by the word of God. They ultimately are designed to be part of the plan and program of God. He works all things together according to the counsel of his own will. If we ask why, we must look for answers in the word of God. He also works in such a way that all things work together for the ultimate good of those who are the called according to his purpose, to those who love him.
And so in the case of Jacob, he is weeping over the fact that he is losing Benjamin and all the time there is Joseph, he is not dead, he is alive. He is the prime minister in Egypt. He furthermore has access to all of the things that Jacob and the sons need and furthermore he is the key figure in bringing them into Egypt to preserve them from the evil of the land in which they are at the present time. Everything is working for Jacob’s good and he is speaking about being bereaved. So characteristic of us.
We look at the empty tomb and we weep, but in faith we see it really is the sign of victory. And I’d like to suggest to you my Christian friends that no matter what happens to you and the ultimate things do happen to us. We do lose our loved ones. They do suddenly die. They do suddenly pass from our presence into the presence of the Lord. We don’t really have to ask, “Why has this happened to me?” in the tone of a complaint. We may want to be exercised by it and ask, now what has God to teach me from this? But ultimately we know, if we have truly been brought by the Holy Spirit to trust in him, this is part of his plan and program for me. And now by the grace of God, I would like to adjust to it and respond to it in faith.