45 Then Joseph could no longer control himself before all his attendants, and he cried out, “Have everyone leave my presence!” So there was no one with Joseph when he made himself known to his brothers. 2 And he wept so loudly that the Egyptians heard him, and Pharaoh’s household heard about it.
3 Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph! Is my father still living?” But his brothers were not able to answer him, because they were terrified at his presence.
4 Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Come close to me.” When they had done so, he said, “I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt! 5 And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you. 6 For two years now there has been famine in the land, and for the next five years there will be no plowing and reaping.7 But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance.
8 “So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God. He made me father to Pharaoh, lord of his entire household and ruler of all Egypt.9 Now hurry back to my father and say to him, ‘This is what your son Joseph says: God has made me lord of all Egypt. Come down to me; don’t delay. 10 You shall live in the region of Goshen and be near me—you, your children and grandchildren, your flocks and herds, and all you have. 11 I will provide for you there, because five years of famine are still to come. Otherwise you and your household and all who belong to you will become destitute.’
12 “You can see for yourselves, and so can my brother Benjamin, that it is really I who am speaking to you. 13 Tell my father about all the honor accorded me in Egypt and about everything you have seen. And bring my father down here quickly.”
14 Then he threw his arms around his brother Benjamin and wept, and Benjamin embraced him, weeping. 15 And he kissed all his brothers and wept over them. Afterward his brothers talked with him.
(Genesis 45:1-15 NIV)
As we ended Chapter 44, Judah had just finished a lengthy discourse to remind Joseph (whom he only knew as the second-in-command of all Egypt) of their obedience to his orders, and the terrible consequences of going back home without Benjamin. In the end, Judah offers himself as servant in Benjamin’s place so Benjamin can safely return home to their father.
Joseph had arranged this final test to see if his brothers would be loyal to Benjamin or not. Judah had passed the test – he had a humble, self-sacrificing heart toward others.
Chapter 45 is a continuation of the same story and the same meeting. Now it is Joseph’s time to talk to his brothers.
Joseph’s heart must have been leaping out of his chest at this moment. The first thing Joseph did was to order all his Egyptian officials, attendants, and workers out of the room. Joseph wanted to be alone with his brothers when he revealed his identity.
Verse 2 paints such a vivid picture – decades of emotion came pouring out as Joseph prepared to reveal who he was to his brothers. The Egyptians heard Joseph weeping, and news of the event quickly traveled all the way up to Pharaoh himself.
Finally, Joseph speaks through his tears with a statement and a question:
- “I am Joseph!”
- “Is my father still living?”
Imagine, for a moment, if you were one of Joseph’s brothers, learning that the ruler standing in front of you was your long-lost brother that you had helped sell into slavery so many years ago. What would be your first thought? Repentance? Fear of retribution or retaliation?
The text says that the brothers were completely speechless and physically immobile – they were terrified; their worst nightmare had just come true.
Joseph breaks his brothers’ “deer-in-the-headlights” response by ordering them to approach him, to come closer to him. The brothers approach Joseph, and he then began talking to them.
In verses 4 – 8, Joseph repeated his revelation as their brother, then proceeded to tell them not to be distressed or angry with themselves, for God had a bigger plan to preserve the entire family during the famine. This was not their plan, but God’s preparation for this time and this place.
In verses 9 – 23, Joseph quickly laid out what their future would look like. They would go back to Canaan, retrieve all their father and all their family members and possessions, and move to Egypt where Joseph would take care of them. Joseph did not want his brothers to over-think this command, so he created a sense of urgency for them to obey him. They wouldn’t have time to think, just to obey.
Joseph knew his father was old, so he wanted to ensure that his brothers moved to Egypt quickly so he could see his father before he died.
Finally, Joseph approached his brothers, weeping for joy over them – Benjamin, his full blood brother first, then the rest of his half-brothers (vv. 14 – 15). Relieved to know that their lives were not in danger, Joseph’s half-brothers finally began talking to Joseph.
The key to this story is seeing Joseph give God the glory for all the events that had taken place over so many years. God had taken the horrible acts of jealousy, selfishness, lying, and deceit on the part of the half-brothers and redeemed them into a path forward to save the entire Jewish race.
Where in your life have you seen God take something devastating and awful and supernaturally transform it into something for His glory and your good?
May we learn to hold our circumstances lightly, knowing that God transforms our brokenness and hurts into something amazing when we let Him, when we surrender our desire to retaliate or become a victim or to try to control the circumstances or the outcome. When we allow God to take control, he transforms the worst into the best, for both Himself and for us, as only He can do.