Genesis 46:28-34

28 Now Jacob sent Judah ahead of him to Joseph to get directions to Goshen. When they arrived in the region of Goshen, 29 Joseph had his chariot made ready and went to Goshen to meet his father Israel. As soon as Joseph appeared before him, he threw his arms around his father and wept for a long time.

30 Israel said to Joseph, “Now I am ready to die, since I have seen for myself that you are still alive.”

31 Then Joseph said to his brothers and to his father’s household, “I will go up and speak to Pharaoh and will say to him, ‘My brothers and my father’s household, who were living in the land of Canaan, have come to me. 32 The men are shepherds; they tend livestock, and they have brought along their flocks and herds and everything they own.’ 33 When Pharaoh calls you in and asks, ‘What is your occupation?’ 34 you should answer, ‘Your servants have tended livestock from our boyhood on, just as our fathers did.’ Then you will be allowed to settle in the region of Goshen, for all shepherds are detestable to the Egyptians.”
(Genesis 46:28-34 NIV)

In our last time together, we saw Jacob and all his family pull up roots in Canaan and begin the journey to Egypt.  Jacob stopped at Beersheeba to worship the Lord, and the Lord reassured Jacob that this was part of His plan to care for him and his family.

As we pick up today’s text, we see Jacob sending Judah ahead to get directions to where they are to settle.  Joseph had told them to settle in Goshen; Jacob wanted to make sure they went to the correct place Joseph had reserved for them.

When Joseph heard of his family’s impending arrival, he went by chariot to Goshen and met them.  They family reunion between Jacob and Joseph was overwhelming and joyful at the same time.  When Joseph reintroduced himself to Benjamin, he embraced him and wept tears of joy; when Joseph saw his father again, he embraced him and wept tears of joy for a long time.

Jacob’s comment to Joseph said it all – his life was fulfilled, having now seen his son whom he thought was dead and gone.

After the family reunion, Joseph knew that he needed to inform Pharaoh that his family had arrived.  This was no clandestine sneaking in of his family to provide for them.  Pharaoh had invited Joseph’s family to come live in Egypt; Joseph wanted to let Pharaoh know they had arrived.  Joseph gave his father and brothers clear instructions on what he would tell Pharaoh, and what they were to say to Pharaoh when asked about their occupation.

Joseph’s message and theirs were to be one and the same – their family’s occupation was and is that of shepherds – keepers of livestock.

Joseph wanted his family to identify as shepherds for several reasons:

  1. Because that is what they did for a living
  2. Because they would not be a threat to the Egyptians or their way of life
  3. Because they would be left alone and not integrated into the Egyptian culture
  4. Because they could then freely worship their God and not be forced into pagan worship of the Egyptian gods
  5. Goshen was closer to Canaan, and was likely less populated than the rest of Egypt
  6. Goshen had better pastures for their flocks than any other area in Egypt
  7. Because they could have dignity in what they did for a living, even as lowly shepherds

Joseph knew that living separately from the Egyptians was important to preserve their culture and faith walk with God.  Thus, he made their calling and occupation the central part of the message to Pharaoh, knowing that Pharaoh would gladly agree to send them off to Goshen to live and work, as shepherds were repulsive to Egyptians.

May we identify with our true calling, with what the Lord has put before us to do, whether that calling might be.  If God calls us to a humble post, may we be satisfied with that post and serve Him with all our might, even if the world looks down on us.  If God calls us to something greater, may we serve Him equally well with all our might, and not look down on others serving the Lord as He has called them.

The ground at the foot of the cross is level – we are all sinners, equally guilty before God’s righteousness, except for the blood of Christ that wiped away our sins and provides the way for us to come before God.

Blessings,
~kevin

Genesis 46:1-27

46 So Israel set out with all that was his, and when he reached Beersheba, he offered sacrifices to the God of his father Isaac.

And God spoke to Israel in a vision at night and said, “Jacob! Jacob!”

“Here I am,” he replied.

“I am God, the God of your father,” he said. “Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for I will make you into a great nation there. I will go down to Egypt with you, and I will surely bring you back again. And Joseph’s own hand will close your eyes.”

Then Jacob left Beersheba, and Israel’s sons took their father Jacob and their children and their wives in the carts that Pharaoh had sent to transport him. So Jacob and all his offspring went to Egypt, taking with them their livestock and the possessions they had acquired in Canaan.Jacob brought with him to Egypt his sons and grandsons and his daughters and granddaughters—all his offspring.

These are the names of the sons of Israel (Jacob and his descendants) who went to Egypt:

Reuben the firstborn of Jacob.

The sons of Reuben:

Hanok, Pallu, Hezron and Karmi.

10 The sons of Simeon:

Jemuel, Jamin, Ohad, Jakin, Zohar and Shaul the son of a Canaanite woman.

11 The sons of Levi:

Gershon, Kohath and Merari.

12 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.

13 The sons of Issachar:

Tola, Puah, Jashub and Shimron.

14 The sons of Zebulun:

Sered, Elon and Jahleel.

15 These were the sons Leah bore to Jacob in Paddan Aram, besides his daughter Dinah. These sons and daughters of his were thirty-three in all.

16 The sons of Gad:

Zephon, Haggi, Shuni, Ezbon, Eri, Arodi and Areli.

17 The sons of Asher:

Imnah, Ishvah, Ishvi and Beriah.

Their sister was Serah.

The sons of Beriah:

Heber and Malkiel.

18 These were the children born to Jacob by Zilpah, whom Laban had given to his daughter Leah—sixteen in all.

19 The sons of Jacob’s wife Rachel:

Joseph and Benjamin. 20 In Egypt, Manasseh and Ephraim were born to Joseph by Asenath daughter of Potiphera, priest of On.

21 The sons of Benjamin:

Bela, Beker, Ashbel, Gera, Naaman, Ehi, Rosh, Muppim, Huppim and Ard.

22 These were the sons of Rachel who were born to Jacob—fourteen in all.

23 The son of Dan:

Hushim.

24 The sons of Naphtali:

Jahziel, Guni, Jezer and Shillem.

25 These were the sons born to Jacob by Bilhah, whom Laban had given to his daughter Rachel—seven in all.

26 All those who went to Egypt with Jacob—those who were his direct descendants, not counting his sons’ wives—numbered sixty-six persons. 27 With the two sons who had been born to Joseph in Egypt, the members of Jacob’s family, which went to Egypt, were seventy in all.
(Genesis 46:1-27 NIV)

As we finished Chapter 45, we saw Jacob’s sons return home and share the news that Joseph was still alive.  Jacob did not believe his sons – how could this be?  After so many years of living with the belief that Joseph was dead, this seemed like an impossibility.

But hearing all his son’s stories, and seeing the Egyptian carts that Pharaoh and Joseph had sent to bring them to Egypt, Jacob was convinced that their stories were true and he could see his son Joseph before he died.

As we begin Chapter 46, we see Jacob and all his family – his sons and their wives and children, all begin their migration from Canaan to Egypt.

In his younger days, Jacob had dreams from the Lord about the future; now as an old man, he has a direct encounter with God when he stops to worship the Lord on his way to Egypt.  The Lord assures him that he will see his son Joseph before he dies, and instructs him to not fear going to Egypt.  The Lord is going before him, and will one day bring him and his descendants back to the land that He had promised as their earthly home for all their generations to come.

Strengthened from the visit from the Lord, Jacob and all his family took one last look around their homeland and began their caravan to Egypt.

Moses then provides a genealogy of Jacob and his descendants that left Canaan and moved to Egypt.  Verses 26 and 27 tell us that there were 66 direct descendants in the caravan, and 70 total (including Jacob, Joseph, and Joseph’s two sons) that moved to Egypt.

While that genealogy and count seems immaterial at this point, the Lord knew its importance far into the future.  Four hundred plus years later, Jacob’s little tribe of 70 would grow into a mighty people that the Egyptians would fear because of their sheer numbers.  God’s promise to Jacob to make his descendants into a might nation (v. 3) would, and did, come true.

May we learn to trust the Lord with the future of our family, especially for future generations that go far beyond our lifetime.

May we pray for the future of our family, that future generations would walk faithfully with the Lord, and that the Lord’s Divine Providence would go before them as He did for and through Jacob and Joseph.

Blessings,
~kevin

Genesis 45:16-28

16 When the news reached Pharaoh’s palace that Joseph’s brothers had come, Pharaoh and all his officials were pleased. 17 Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Tell your brothers, ‘Do this: Load your animals and return to the land of Canaan, 18 and bring your father and your families back to me. I will give you the best of the land of Egypt and you can enjoy the fat of the land.’

19 “You are also directed to tell them, ‘Do this: Take some carts from Egypt for your children and your wives, and get your father and come.20 Never mind about your belongings, because the best of all Egypt will be yours.’”

21 So the sons of Israel did this. Joseph gave them carts, as Pharaoh had commanded, and he also gave them provisions for their journey. 22 To each of them he gave new clothing, but to Benjamin he gave three hundred shekels of silver and five sets of clothes. 23 And this is what he sent to his father: ten donkeys loaded with the best things of Egypt, and ten female donkeys loaded with grain and bread and other provisions for his journey. 24 Then he sent his brothers away, and as they were leaving he said to them, “Don’t quarrel on the way!”

25 So they went up out of Egypt and came to their father Jacob in the land of Canaan. 26 They told him, “Joseph is still alive! In fact, he is ruler of all Egypt.” Jacob was stunned; he did not believe them. 27 But when they told him everything Joseph had said to them, and when he saw the carts Joseph had sent to carry him back, the spirit of their father Jacob revived. 28 And Israel said, “I’m convinced! My son Joseph is still alive. I will go and see him before I die.”
(Genesis 45:16-28 NIV)

In the beginning of Chapter 45, Joseph revealed his identity to his brothers.  Scripture records that the brothers were terrified – most likely, they were fearing for their lives.  Joseph quickly addressed their fears, letting them know that what they meant for evil so many years ago, God was orchestrating for the good of the whole family.  There would be no paybacks, no retribution.

As we noted last time, the news quickly spread to Joseph’s Egyptian counterparts, and all the way up to Pharaoh himself.

In today’s passage,  we Pharaoh’s response to the news of Joseph’s brothers.  Pharaoh summoned Joseph and told him to invite his whole family to move to Egypt.  Pharaoh promised them land and provision for all of Joseph’s family – his brothers and their families, as well as his aged father.  Pharaoh even sent provisions and carts to make the journey easier for the women, children, and Joseph’s father.

Joseph arranged for all the provisions as Pharaoh had commanded.  Joseph’s last admonition before the brothers left Egypt was to get along – no quarreling on the way!  Joseph knew his brothers all too well – sibling rivalry was still strong among his brothers.

When the brothers arrived home, they told their father that Joseph was still alive.  Imagine Jacob’s shock and disbelief as he heard this news.  In fact, verse 26 records that Jacob did not believe them!

I find it ironic that Jacob immediately jumped to worst-case scenario and assumed Joseph was dead back in Chapter 37 when the brothers presented Joseph’s multi-colored coat to Jacob and asked if it belong to Joseph, and now, when the brothers tell the truth, Jacob does not believe them.

But the brothers prevailed by telling their father everything that Joseph had said to them, and by the evidence of the Egyptian carts that were ready to take them to Egypt.

Verse 27 says that the brothers told Jacob everything that Joseph had said to them.  I wonder if they came clean about their hatred and evil deeds so many years ago, or if they simply said that God sent Joseph ahead to provide for them?  After so many years, did it even matter any more?

Upon hearing from his sons and seeing the carts, Jacob was convinced that his sons’ message was true.  Verse 28 records Jacob saying, “I’m convinced!”  The literal translation from the Hebrew is actually Jacob saying, “Enough!”  Jacob had heard all he needed to hear, and stopped the conversation.  Jacob’s mind was made up; he was ready to go see his long-lost son Joseph before he died.

Interestingly, today’s text refers to Jacob as both his old name (Jacob) and his new God-given name (Israel).  Indeed, transformation was still taking place in Jacob’s life, even in his old age.

May we allow God to transform our hearts and minds, no matter how old we are, or what life has thrown at us.

May we rejoice at good news, and look forward to experiencing what God in His Providence has been knitting together for His glory and our good so many years ago.

Blessings,
~kevin

Genesis 45:1-15

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. And he wept so loudly that the Egyptians heard him, and Pharaoh’s household heard about it.

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.

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! 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. For two years now there has been famine in the land, and for the next five years there will be no plowing and reaping.But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance.

“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.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.

Blessings,
~kevin

Genesis 44:18-34

r18 Then Judah went up to him and said: “Pardon your servant, my lord, let me speak a word to my lord. Do not be angry with your servant, though you are equal to Pharaoh himself. 19 My lord asked his servants, ‘Do you have a father or a brother?’ 20 And we answered, ‘We have an aged father, and there is a young son born to him in his old age. His brother is dead, and he is the only one of his mother’s sons left, and his father loves him.’

21 “Then you said to your servants, ‘Bring him down to me so I can see him for myself.’ 22 And we said to my lord, ‘The boy cannot leave his father; if he leaves him, his father will die.’ 23 But you told your servants, ‘Unless your youngest brother comes down with you, you will not see my face again.’ 24 When we went back to your servant my father, we told him what my lord had said.

25 “Then our father said, ‘Go back and buy a little more food.’ 26 But we said, ‘We cannot go down. Only if our youngest brother is with us will we go. We cannot see the man’s face unless our youngest brother is with us.’

27 “Your servant my father said to us, ‘You know that my wife bore me two sons. 28 One of them went away from me, and I said, “He has surely been torn to pieces.” And I have not seen him since. 29 If you take this one from me too and harm comes to him, you will bring my gray head down to the grave in misery.’

30 “So now, if the boy is not with us when I go back to your servant my father, and if my father, whose life is closely bound up with the boy’s life,31 sees that the boy isn’t there, he will die. Your servants will bring the gray head of our father down to the grave in sorrow. 32 Your servant guaranteed the boy’s safety to my father. I said, ‘If I do not bring him back to you, I will bear the blame before you, my father, all my life!’

33 “Now then, please let your servant remain here as my lord’s slave in place of the boy, and let the boy return with his brothers. 34 How can I go back to my father if the boy is not with me? No! Do not let me see the misery that would come on my father.”
(Genesis 44:18-34 NIV)

As we began Chapter 44, Joseph gave his brothers one final test to see how much they had really changed. Did they really care about their half-brother Benjamin, or would they give him up as they had given up Joseph so many years ago? The test would feel extremely ominous, but in the end, pose no real threat to Benjamin.

Joseph worked through his house steward to set up the test.  The house steward returned each man’s money in their grain sack, and put Joseph’s silver cup in Benjamin’s grain sack.  The men departed, then the house steward chased down the men after they left town and accused them of stealing Joseph’s silver cup.  The men vehemently denied any wrongdoing, and said if one of the brothers had Joseph’s cup, they must die.  The house steward fit the punishment to the crime; if the cup was found in one of the men’s sacks, then that man must become Joseph’s slave.

Upon inspection of each man’s sack, the men discovered their money returned, and Joseph’s cup in Benjamin’s sack.  The brothers tore their clothes, signifying deep sorrow and pain.  They knew that they could not go home without Benjamin, as the news would kill their father.  They quickly went back to Egypt and went before Joseph to explain and make amends.

As we pick up the story today, Judah becomes the family spokesman and recounts their full history with Joseph.  Judah focuses on the relationship between his father and Benjamin, and the devastating effect it would have on their father if Benjamin were held captive and not allowed to return home.  Judah repeatedly refers to himself and his family as “your servants”, showing proper respect to Joseph and putting themselves under his authority.

In the final two verses, Judah pleads with Joseph to allow himself to be made Joseph’s slave in place of Benjamin.  Judah had given his word to his father that he would safely return Benjamin home or take the blame for not doing so.

In this passage, we see Judah’s humility and integrity come out.  Judah did not abandon ship and look out for his own interests when faced with an insurmountable challenge.  Instead, he offered himself in place of his brother, standing in the gap, just as he had promised his father he would do.

We also see Judah engaging Joseph’s heart, pleading with Joseph to not break his father’s heart by detaining Benjamin as a slave.  His offer of substituting his life for Benjamin’s shows the extent to which he knows and believes the devastation that would take place in his father’s life if Benjamin did not safely return home.

This is a vastly different Judah than the one we saw back in Chapter 37 who sold his brother Joseph to the slave traders.  We can’t speak for the other brothers, but Judah passed Joseph’s character and loyalty tests with flying colors.

When faced with difficult and seemingly insurmountable circumstances, may we stay true to the Lord and His Word, even if, like Judah, it requires us to lay down our own life and deny ourselves.

Blessings,
~kevin

Genesis 44:1-17

44 Now Joseph gave these instructions to the steward of his house: “Fill the men’s sacks with as much food as they can carry, and put each man’s silver in the mouth of his sack. Then put my cup, the silver one, in the mouth of the youngest one’s sack, along with the silver for his grain.” And he did as Joseph said.

As morning dawned, the men were sent on their way with their donkeys. They had not gone far from the city when Joseph said to his steward, “Go after those men at once, and when you catch up with them, say to them, ‘Why have you repaid good with evil? Isn’t this the cup my master drinks from and also uses for divination? This is a wicked thing you have done.’”

When he caught up with them, he repeated these words to them. But they said to him, “Why does my lord say such things? Far be it from your servants to do anything like that! We even brought back to you from the land of Canaan the silver we found inside the mouths of our sacks. So why would we steal silver or gold from your master’s house?If any of your servants is found to have it, he will die; and the rest of us will become my lord’s slaves.”

10 “Very well, then,” he said, “let it be as you say. Whoever is found to have it will become my slave; the rest of you will be free from blame.”

11 Each of them quickly lowered his sack to the ground and opened it.12 Then the steward proceeded to search, beginning with the oldest and ending with the youngest. And the cup was found in Benjamin’s sack.13 At this, they tore their clothes. Then they all loaded their donkeys and returned to the city.

14 Joseph was still in the house when Judah and his brothers came in, and they threw themselves to the ground before him. 15 Joseph said to them, “What is this you have done? Don’t you know that a man like me can find things out by divination?”

16 “What can we say to my lord?” Judah replied. “What can we say? How can we prove our innocence? God has uncovered your servants’ guilt. We are now my lord’s slaves—we ourselves and the one who was found to have the cup.”

17 But Joseph said, “Far be it from me to do such a thing! Only the man who was found to have the cup will become my slave. The rest of you, go back to your father in peace.”
(Genesis 44:1-17 NIV)

As we ended Chapter 43, we saw Joseph throw a lunch party for his brothers, where he honored his brother Benjamin by serving him five times as much food as the rest of the brothers.  Joseph has not revealed himself to his brothers, so they only know him as the Egyptian ruler, second only to Pharaoh.

As we begin Chapter 44, we see Joseph giving them one final test to see how much they had really changed.  Did they really care about their half-brother Benjamin, or would they give him up as they had given up Joseph so many years ago?  The test would feel extremely ominous, but in the end, posed no real threat to Benjamin.

Joseph worked through his house steward to set up the test.  The steward was to put the money back in each man’s grain sack, and also put Joseph’s silver cup in Benjamin’s grain sack.

The next morning, the brothers headed back to their homeland.  Joseph sent his steward after the brothers to begin the test by accusing them of stealing his silver cup.  Joseph did not mention the money he returned to each man; the silver cup was the only focus.

Joseph intensified the accusation by instructing his steward to tell the brothers that the silver cup was not just for drinking, but for divination as well.  We don’t know if Joseph actually practiced divination (fortune telling) or not.  The brothers would be familiar with the Egyptian practice of divination, and would know the value of a vessel used for such practices, and the seriousness of the charges against the one who would steal it.

When the steward finally catches up to the brothers, they innocently and vehemently  deny any such wrongdoing.  They even promise to kill the brother that has the silver cup and volunteer the rest of them to be slaves to the Egyptians if the steward’s accusations are true.  These are pretty bold statements for men who had not bothered to check their grain sacks before leaving Joseph’s house.

The steward fits the punishment to the crime – the brother with the silver cup in his sack will become a slave to Joseph; all the rest of the brothers can go free.

The brothers quickly complied, and the inspection began.  To the brothers’ horror and bewilderment, the silver cup was found in Benjamin’s grain sack.  The brothers immediately tore their clothes as a sign of deep sorrow that knows no comfort.  The tearing of garments was often practiced when someone very close had died.

The brothers had passed the first part of the test – they did not abandon their brother Benjamin and head back home – they all went back to Egypt to face Joseph.

When the brothers came into Joseph’s house, they showed extreme humility by prostrating themselves on the floor before Joseph.  Judah spoke up and begged forgiveness and mercy on behalf of all the brothers.    Judah passed the second part of the test – demonstrating solidarity among all the brothers.  If Benjamin was guilty and deserved enslavement, then they would all be guilty and become slaves.

Joseph appreciated the gesture, but only wanted the one who had the cup.  The rest were free to go home, fully acquitted, cleared of all wrongdoing.  This was the final test – would they abandon their half-brother Benjamin, or would they stand with him and protect him at all costs, even their own freedom?

We’ll see how the brothers respond in our next time together.

Here we have such a clear picture of what Jesus did for us, taking the penalty for our sins so we can be set free.

May we follow the brothers’ and Jesus’ example and stand with those who need someone to be an advocate, a united voice to stand with them.

Blessings,
~kevin

Genesis 43:16-34

16 When Joseph saw Benjamin with them, he said to the steward of his house, “Take these men to my house, slaughter an animal and prepare a meal; they are to eat with me at noon.”

17 The man did as Joseph told him and took the men to Joseph’s house.18 Now the men were frightened when they were taken to his house.  They thought, “We were brought here because of the silver that was put back into our sacks the first time. He wants to attack us and overpower us and seize us as slaves and take our donkeys.”

19 So they went up to Joseph’s steward and spoke to him at the entrance to the house. 20 “We beg your pardon, our lord,” they said, “we came down here the first time to buy food. 21 But at the place where we stopped for the night we opened our sacks and each of us found his silver—the exact weight—in the mouth of his sack. So we have brought it back with us. 22 We have also brought additional silver with us to buy food. We don’t know who put our silver in our sacks.”

23 “It’s all right,” he said. “Don’t be afraid. Your God, the God of your father, has given you treasure in your sacks; I received your silver.” Then he brought Simeon out to them.

24 The steward took the men into Joseph’s house, gave them water to wash their feet and provided fodder for their donkeys. 25 They prepared their gifts for Joseph’s arrival at noon, because they had heard that they were to eat there.

26 When Joseph came home, they presented to him the gifts they had brought into the house, and they bowed down before him to the ground.27 He asked them how they were, and then he said, “How is your aged father you told me about? Is he still living?”

28 They replied, “Your servant our father is still alive and well.” And they bowed down, prostrating themselves before him.

29 As he looked about and saw his brother Benjamin, his own mother’s son, he asked, “Is this your youngest brother, the one you told me about?” And he said, “God be gracious to you, my son.” 30 Deeply moved at the sight of his brother, Joseph hurried out and looked for a place to weep. He went into his private room and wept there.

31 After he had washed his face, he came out and, controlling himself,said, “Serve the food.”

32 They served him by himself, the brothers by themselves, and the Egyptians who ate with him by themselves, because Egyptians could not eat with Hebrews, for that is detestable to Egyptians. 33 The men had been seated before him in the order of their ages, from the firstborn to the youngest; and they looked at each other in astonishment. 34 When portions were served to them from Joseph’s table, Benjamin’s portion was five times as much as anyone else’s. So they feasted and drank freely with him.
(Genesis 43:16-34 NIV)

In the first part of Chapter 43, the brothers finally convinced their father to let them return to Egypt with their youngest brother Benjamin in order to buy more food, as the famine was over their country as well as Egypt.

In today’s passage, Joseph sees his brothers, including his full brother Benjamin with the rest of his half-brothers.  He orders his servant to prepare a noon meal for them all at his home.

The brothers were afraid when they were taken away from the public buildings to Joseph’s home.  Their minds went to worst-case condition – they thought they were being punished and possibly enslaved for the money that was returned in their sacks from their last visit.  After all, their father had warned them that they would be seen as thieves as well as foreigners, didn’t he?

Not wanting to leave anything to chance, the brothers spoke to the servant in charge and told him all about their last visit, including the part about finding their money in each man’s grain sack.  The servant assured them they had nothing to fear, and that God was showing them mercy, not justice.  To reaffirm his words, the servant brought Simeon (who had been held until the brothers returned with Benjamin) out and reunited him with the rest of the brothers.

The brothers heeded the servant’s message, and got busy preparing themselves for the meal with the Egyptian ruler (Joseph).  They prepared their gifts they had brought, and cleaned themselves up as well.

When Joseph arrived, the brothers bowed down to him (as God had given Joseph the dream so many years before) and gave their gifts to him.  When Joseph saw Benjamin, he was overcome with emotion and left the room until he could compose himself again.

When Joseph returned, he ordered lunch to be served.  The brothers were amazed that they were seated according to birth order.  They were also astonished that Benjamin was given five times as much food as any of the other brothers.  What was happening here?

Moses points out the Egyptian cultural customs for dining.  Joseph, being a ruler, dined at a table by himself.  The other Egyptians dined together, as they did not share the same table with Hebrews.  The brothers ate at a separate table by themselves.

Among all this wonder, the brothers relaxed and had a wonderful dinner with Joseph.  Before Joseph revealed himself to them, he was reacquainting himself with his brothers, learning what they were like now that so many years had passed.

While the story is quite straightforward, there are some definite lessons to be learned from today’s text.

One lesson is how we perceive the unknown before us.  Do we automatically jump to “worst-case scenario” like the brothers did when they were taken to Joseph’s house?  Or do we stop and pray and inquire what the Lord is doing, to see if it might be a blessing instead?

Another lesson is the amazing power of hospitality and a shared meal.  Even though Egyptian customs dictated separate tables, Joseph, the Egyptians, and the brothers still enjoyed breaking bread together and sharing the time as a group.

May we make time – create margin – in our busy schedules to connect with others.  It’s not about the house being perfectly in order; it’s not about a fancy meal – it’s simply about spending time together to get to know one another and hear one another’s stories.

And in those shared stories and time together, we find commonality as well as learn to respect and appreciate our uniqueness and differences.

Blessings,
~kevin