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Do we have a heart that promotes reconciliation or a heart that harbors bitterness and resentment? Do we have a confidence that God’s Providence and overall Sovereign Plan is bigger than our limited perspective? Are we able to live above the ups and downs of our personal circumstances because our vision is focused on God’s ultimate kingdom agenda?

We can learn may important lessons from this account of Joseph’s dealing with his brothers and his father Jacob, despite having been abandoned and severely mistreated.

Constable: quoting Hamilton — In using terms like remnant and survivors, Joseph is employing words that elsewhere in the OT are freighted with theological significance. It may well be that in the deliverance of his brothers and his father Joseph perceives that far more is at stake than the mere physical survival of twelve human beings. What really survives is the plan of redemption announced first to his great grandfather.


A. (:1-3) Revealing Himself to His Brothers with a Heart of Love and Forgiveness

1. (:1) Communication in Private

“Then Joseph could not control himself before all those who stood by him, and he cried, ‘Have everyone go out from me.’ So there was no man with him when Joseph made himself known to his brothers.”

Joseph has been testing the heart of his brothers to see if there has been any inward change. They have passed his various tests and now he can no longer continue to hide his identity.

J. Ligon Duncan: Joseph is not ashamed of his weeping, and he’s not ashamed of the disclosure that he’s going to make. The reason that he sends his servants out of the room is again to protect his brothers.

Deffinbaugh: I find several possible reasons for Joseph expelling the Egyptians from his presence before he made himself known to his brothers. First, this was a family matter. It was to be an intimate time, and outsiders would not add anything to that moment. Perhaps also Joseph felt that the full release of his emotions, held in check for years, would cost him the esteem of his servants. Mainly, however, I believe that it was for another reason that Joseph commanded everyone to leave except his brothers: it was in order to deal with the matter of the sin of his brothers in strictest privacy. If Joseph intended for no one but his brothers to observe the outpouring of his emotions, it didn’t work, for “the Egyptians heard it” (verse 2), and this report even reached Pharaoh’s ears (verses 2, 16).

2. (:2) Crying Heard by All

“And he wept so loudly that the Egyptians heard it, and the household of Pharaoh heard of it.”

Must have been very unusual for a person of Joseph’s high station to be heard weeping so loudly. Joseph was about to make public his connection with this foreign family.

3. (:3) Concern for His Father

“Then Joseph said to his brothers, ‘I am Joseph! Is my father still alive?’

But his brothers could not answer him, for they were dismayed at his presence.”

One of the greatest self-disclosures in all of Scripture.

Immediately he expresses his concern for the condition of his father – wanting to have the opportunity to be reunited with him as well.

Parunak: Up until now he has spoken in Egyptian, through an interpreter, and if they have known his name at all, it is as Zaphnath Paaneah (41:45). Now all of a sudden they hear Hebrew words coming from his lips, and on them the name of one they thought long dead.

Deffinbaugh: Fear and guilt were written on their ashen faces, and their silence confirmed this to Joseph. They had nothing more to say, no more appeals left, no hope for mercy. Every word recorded in the first 15 verses of chapter 45 is spoken by Joseph because his brothers were speechless (verse 3). Not until Joseph had demonstrated that he had forgiven them and loved them did they speak (verse 15).

B. (:4-8) Reassuring His Brothers that He Harbors No Bitterness Because of His Confidence in God’s Sovereignty

1. (:4) Family Forgiveness

“Then Joseph said to his brothers, ‘Please come closer to me.’ And they came closer. And he said, ‘I am your brother Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt.’”

Parunak: Joseph endeavors to comfort them in three ways.

• 4a, he urges them to draw near, that he might embrace them (14,15).

• 4c, he repeats his name, this time adding, “your brother.”

• 5-8, most extensively, he reminds them of God’s sovereignty in the whole affair.

2. (:5-8) Providential Provision

“And now do not be grieved or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life. For the famine has been in the land these two years, and there are still five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvesting. And God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant in the earth, and to keep you alive by a great deliverance. Now, therefore, it was not you who sent me here, but God; and He has made me a father to Pharaoh and lord of all his household and ruler over all the land of Egypt.”

No words of reproach – he attributes what took place to the sovereignty of God who had bigger plans for Joseph and the Jewish nation.

Where has God sent you and for what purpose??

J. Ligon Duncan: And now in verses 4 through 8 we learn how Joseph had conquered bitterness, and how he had become reconciled to his brothers. Here’s the secret. He rested in the doctrine of providence. . . This passage is the waterloo of Arminianism. I don’t know how an Arminian reads this passage.

Parunak: What was God’s greater purpose in moving him to Egypt? He says three times that God sent him, and each time he adds another purpose, starting with the broadest and most general and focusing down each time to a smaller group. If they recognize God’s purpose, they will not destroy themselves with guilt or recriminations.

• 5, “to preserve life.” The focus here is not on their lives alone, but on life in general. God in his grace toward his creatures provided Joseph as a way to mitigate the effect of the famine. Joseph here recognizes the divine purpose behind a secular job. Paul shows the same sense of priority in Titus 3:14 (“let ours also learn to maintain good works for necessary uses”).

• 7, to save their lives and thus “preserve you a posterity in the earth.” Now he traces God’s purposes of grace down to the chosen family. Joseph treasures the promises that God made through Abraham, and he recognizes that the family must be saved through this time of famine if those promises are to be realized. So his focus has shrunk from all whom he fed, down to Jacob’s family.

• 8, to exalt Joseph himself. The focus finally comes to rest on Joseph and his position as “a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house, and a ruler throughout all the land of Egypt.” Now that he has focused God’s blessing down to himself, he shows how his authority spreads out, starting with Pharaoh, then his house, and then all Egypt. Joseph has learned the truth of Rom 8:28.

Deffinbaugh: We know that the righteous God hates all sin with a perfect and irreconcilable hatred; but it is his prerogative to bring good out of evil, and no sin can be committed without his knowledge, or in opposition to his holy counsels. Sinners are as really the ministers of his providence as saints, and he glorifies himself by the wickedness which he hates and punishes, as well as by that holiness which he loves and rewards

C. (:9-13) Reporting Back to Jacob the Grace of God Who Abundantly Provides

1. (:9) Communicate My Invitation to Jacob

“Hurry and go up to my father, and say to him, ‘Thus says your son Joseph, God has made me lord of all Egypt; come down to me, do not delay.’”

Sense of urgency; he does not know how long his father has to live; in addition, his family needs to relocate to Egypt for the duration of the famine in order to survive.

Again, a strong statement of God’s sovereign purpose at work.

2. (:10-11) Call to Deliverance and Provision

“And you shall live in the land of Goshen, and you shall be near me, you and your children and your children’s children and your flocks and your herds and all that you have.”

“There I will also provide for you, for there are still five years of famine to come, lest you and your household and all that you have be impoverished.”

What an amazing and abundant provision by the grace of God for those who truly are not deserving of such kindness.

W. H. Griffith Thomas: How significant it is that our actions are left perfectly free, and yet all the while we may be unconsciously accomplishing the great and far-reaching purposes of Divine wisdom! It gives a dignity to life to realize that nothing is trivial and without meaning.

3. (:12-13) Communicate My Splendor to Jacob

“And behold, your eyes see, and the eyes of my brother Benjamin see,

that it is my mouth which is speaking to you.”

“Now you must tell my father of all my splendor in Egypt, and all that you have seen; and you must hurry and bring my father down here.”

J. Ligon Duncan: Why does Joseph emphasize that they are to tell his father about his rule and his glory in Egypt. Is it because Joseph is still the prideful, slightly un-self-aware man that he was more than twenty years ago? No. It’s because he wants his father to remember God’s revelation in the dream. What had God said? God had said He was going to exult his son. And Joseph wants his father to remember the dream and to realize, Lord God, you have brought this dream to pass in the most amazing way. We couldn’t have ever dreamt that this is the way you are going to fulfill the dream of the grain bowing down to my son, Joseph, and the stars and the sun and the moon bowing to my son, Joseph, the ruler of Egypt. And Joseph knows that’s going to be hard for his father to take in. So he emphasizes to them, you must tell them of the glory that you have seen of my glory in Egypt. Because it’s a fulfillment of the revelation of God.

Deffinbaugh: In these verses there is a noticeable emphasis upon the glory and splendor which Joseph has attained in Egypt. For some this appears to be out of character for Joseph, who has previously been marked by modesty and humility. Why would he now flaunt his position before his brothers? There are several explanations, one or more of which may satisfy our concerns.

First, the glory which Joseph now possesses would serve to encourage his brothers, who are guilt-ridden for the wicked deed they committed against him by selling him as a slave. Joseph would thus be reminding them that his humiliation and suffering were the means to his promotion and exaltation. Look what their sin had brought about in Joseph’s life! Second, it would comfort Jacob and assure him of Joseph’s ability to provide for the entire family during the famine. Finally, it was a glory which Joseph desired to share unselfishly with his brothers. His motive would thus be Christ-like.

D. (:14-15) Restoring Family Affections with Genuine Emotion and Intimacy

1. (:14) With Benjamin

“Then he fell on his brother Benjamin’s neck and wept;

and Benjamin wept on his neck.”

Alexander Maclaren: This wonderfully beautiful scene ends with the kiss of full reconciliation and frank communion. All the fear is out of the brothers’ hearts. It has washed away all the envy along with it. The history of Jacob’s household had hitherto been full of sins against family life. Now, at last, they taste the sweetness of fraternal love. Joseph, against whom they had sinned, takes the initiative, flinging himself with tears on the neck of Benjamin, his own mother’s son, nearer to him than all the others, crowding his pent-up love in one long kiss. Then, with less of passionate affection, but more of pardoning love, he kisses his contrite brothers. The offender is ever less ready to show love than the offended. The first step towards reconciliation, whether of man with man or of man with God, comes from the aggrieved. We always hate those whom we have harmed; and if enmity were ended only by the advances of the wrong-doer, it would be perpetual. The injured has the prerogative of praying the injurer to be reconciled. So was it in Pharaoh’s throne-room on that long past day; so is it still in the audience chamber of heaven. ‘He that might the vantage best have took found out the remedy.’ ‘We love Him, because He first loved us.’

2. (:15) With His other Brothers

“And he kissed all his brothers and wept on them,

and afterward his brothers talked with him.”

Constable: Joseph then embraced Benjamin and all his brothers to express his love and to confirm his forgiveness (Genesis 45:14-15). The writer highlighted the genuine reconciliation between Joseph and his brothers by recording that they talked with him (Genesis 45:15). Much earlier they could not speak to him (Genesis 37:4). After a threefold expression of Joseph’s goodwill toward his siblings (weeping, explaining, and embracing), the shocked and fearful brothers gained the courage to speak. They now recognized Joseph as the one they had so cruelly abused and who was now able to crush them if he chose to do so.

Outstanding in this section is the way in which Joseph’s perception of God’s ways made him gracious, forgiving, and accepting rather than bitter and vindictive. He saw the loving hand of his God behind the cruelty of his brothers. He had accepted all that had come to him as the will of God, and therefore he experienced the blessing of God. Reconciliation is possible when there is forgiveness, and forgiveness is possible when there is recognition of God’s sovereignty.


A. (:16-20) Blessing Ordered

1. (:16) Pharaoh’s Blessing

“Now when the news was heard in Pharaoh’s house that Joseph’s brothers had come, it pleased Pharaoh and his servants.”

Did not look at providing for this additional large household as a burden, but rather a blessing and a privilege.

2. (:17-20) Pharaoh’s Charge to Joseph

“Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘Say to your brothers, Do this: load your beasts and go to the land of Canaan, and take your father and your households and come to me, and I will give you the best of the land of Egypt and you shall eat the fat of the land. Now you are ordered, ‘Do this: take wagons from the land of Egypt for your little ones and for your wives, and bring your father and come. And do not concern yourselves with your goods, for the best of all the land of Egypt is yours.”

God gives us of the abundance of His riches in unexpected ways;

Do we give our best to God?

Why should we be anxious for material provisions – certainly our God is a better provider than Pharaoh.

Constable: Goshen (a Semitic rather than an Egyptian name) was the most fertile part of Egypt (cf. Genesis 45:18). It lay in the delta region northeast of the Egyptian capital, Memphis.

B. (:21-24) Charge Obeyed

1. (:21) Summary Description

“Then the sons of Israel did so; and Joseph gave them wagons according to the command of Pharaoh, and gave them provisions for the journey.”

Wagons of provisions would impress Jacob with the status of Joseph in Egypt.

2. (:22) Favored Status of Benjamin

“To each of them he gave changes of garments, but to Benjamin he gave three hundred pieces of silver and five changes of garments.”

J. Ligon Duncan: It’s very likely that these garments are festive robes of fine Egyptian linen. Can you imagine his brothers receiving two or three of those festive robes from Joseph? The one that they had taken the coat of many colors from and left him for dead.

3. (:23) Abundant Provision for His Father

“And to his father he sent as follows: ten donkeys loaded with the best things of Egypt, and ten female donkeys loaded with grain and bread and sustenance for his father on the journey.”

4. (:24) Parting Prohibition

“So he sent his brothers away, and as they departed, he said to them, ‘Do not quarrel on the journey.’”

Attitude needs to be one of thanksgiving and peace – not contention and strife

Not the time to be blaming one another for past failures

Alternate Interpretation:

Constable: referencing Wenham — However the usual meaning of the Hebrew word is to fear (cf. Exodus 15:14). So part of his meaning may be that they should not be afraid of robbers as they returned to Canaan or fearful of returning to Egypt in the future.


A. (:25) Return of Joseph’s Brothers to Jacob to Bring the Good News

“Then they went up from Egypt, and came to the land of Canaan to their father Jacob.”

B. (:26-27) Revival of Jacob’s Heart – Transformation From Despair to Hope

1. (:26) Stunning Announcement

“And they told him, saying, ‘Joseph is still alive, and indeed he is ruler over all the land of Egypt.’ But he was stunned, for he did not believe them.”

2. (:27) Convincing Assurance

“When they told him all the words of Joseph that he had spoken to them, and when he saw the wagons that Joseph had sent to carry him, the spirit of their father Jacob revived.”

Parunak: Note the two sides of Jacob, marked with the shift in his name.

• 26, Jacob is marked with weakness and unbelief.

• 28, Israel is marked with belief and resolve

The transition between the two is marked by an experience like death and resurrection.

• 26, Jacob’s heart fainted.—Lit, “was numb” or “stopped.” Alter thinks that he had a slight heart attack, that his heart stopped momentarily. He knows his sons are not models of trustworthiness. The report about Joseph is absolutely incredible. Are they playing a cruel hoax on him?

• 27, the spirit of Jacob their father revived.—What persuades him that they are speaking the truth is the sight of the wagons, distinctively Egyptian vehicles that he would not expect his sons to have. At this point, he recovers from his attack

C. (:28) Resolve of Jacob to Visit Joseph in Egypt – Renewed Commitment and Energy

“Then Israel said, ‘It is enough; my son Joseph is still alive. I will go and see him before I die.’”

Deffinbaugh: All of the evidence led to the conclusion that Joseph was indeed alive. The broken spirit of Jacob was immediately revived. He now yearned to see his son before his death. And lest we think that Jacob was on the verge of death, let us recall that he had yet seventeen years to spend with his son in Egypt (47:28). All that Jacob had feared was going against him suddenly appeared in its true light. It was the hand of God in his life, sparing him from the physical and spiritual death of Canaan by preparing a place for him in Egypt.


2 Cor. 5:18-21

How are we doing in the area of being ambassadors for Christ to spread His ministry of reconciliation?