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Bible Commentaries
Genesis 45

The Church Pulpit CommentaryChurch Pulpit Commentary

Verse 5


‘God did send me before you to preserve life.’

Genesis 45:5

Joseph recognised his brethren at once, though they failed, as they bowed before the mighty vicegerent of Egypt, to recognise in him the child by them so pitilessly sold into bondage; and Joseph, we are told, ‘remembered the dreams which he had dreamed of them’: how their sheaves should stand round about and make obeisance to his sheaf; how sun and moon and eleven stars should all do homage to him. All at length was coming true.

I. Now, of course it would have been very easy for him at once to have made himself known to his brethren, to have fallen on their necks and assured them of his forgiveness. But he has counsels of love at once wiser and deeper than would have lain in such a ready and off-hand declaration of forgiveness. His purpose is to prove whether they are different men, or, if not, to make them different men from what they were when they practised that deed of cruelty against himself. He feels that he is carrying out, not his own purpose, but God’s, and this gives him confidence in hazarding all, as he does hazard it, in bringing this matter to a close.

II. Two things were necessary here: the first that he should have the opportunity of observing their conduct to their younger brother, who had now stepped into his place, and was the same favourite with his father as Joseph once had been; the second, that by some severe treatment, which should bear a more or less remote resemblance to their treatment of himself, he should prove whether he could call from them a lively remembrance and a penitent confession of their past guilt.

III. The dealings of Joseph with his brethren are, to a great extent, the very pattern of God’s dealings with men.—God sees us careless, in easily forgiving ourselves our old sins; and then, by trial and adversity and pain, He brings these sins to our remembrance, causes them to find us out, and at length extracts from us a confession, ‘We are verily guilty.’ And then, when tribulation has done its work, He is as ready to confirm His love to us as ever was Joseph to confirm his love to his brethren.

—Abp. Trench.


(1) ‘Joseph referred the whole order and purpose of his existence, all that had been adverse to it, all that had been prosperous in it, to God. He knew that violence and disorder had been at work in his life. What temptation had he to think of them as God’s? Imputing to Him a distinct purpose of good and blessedness, what a strange perverseness it would have been to think that anything which had marred the goodness and blessedness, anything which had striven to defeat the purpose, was His! It was the great eternal distinction which a heart cultivated, purged, made simple by God’s discipline, confessed—nay, found it impossible to deny.’

(2) ‘It may be that we have here an exact representation of a revelation which Jesus is going to make of Himself to his brethren the Jews. Now He is passing them through awful sufferings to bring them to repentance, and to prepare them to receive the supreme revelation of Himself. Ere long He will drop the veil, and say, I am Jesus, your brother, whom ye sold unto Pilate. The bride of Christ may well rejoice as she hears the tidings of this blessed reconciliation, for His brethren must ever be dear to her.’

(3) ‘The great mechanism of life contains many wheels within wheels. All would seem a meaningless whirl or result in a disastrous tangle and derangement were it not for the divine Spirit that presides over all, adjusting one historic motion or process to another, and developing as a resultant of all a higher life for the race, and a broader arena for the sweep and sway of the gracious influences of the Cross.’

Verse 28


‘Joseph my son is yet alive!’

Genesis 45:28

I. But for the provision Joseph sent them for the way, Jacob and his sons’ sons and daughters could never have crossed the hot desert. But the impossible had been made possible by the command of Pharaoh and the love of Joseph. The journey was accomplished successfully, the desert was traversed without peril, without excessive fatigue, by means of the wagons sent out of land of Egypt. When Jacob saw the wagons his heart revived.

II. Let us apply this to our Lord and to ourselves. Jesus Christ, the true Joseph, remembers us in His prosperity and He sends an invitation to us by the desire of God the Father, Who loveth us. He does not bid us come to Him in our own strength, relying only on the poor food which a famine-struck land yields—does not bid us toil across a burning desert, prowled over by the lion, without provision and protection. There are sacraments and helps and means of grace, which He has sent to relieve the weariness of the way, to carry us on, to support us when we faint, to encourage us lest we should despair.

III. Let us not despise the means of grace. We may not ourselves want them, but others do. Go in your own wagon, or on your feet if you can and dare, but upbraid not those who take refuge in means of transport you have not tried, or do not require. Those sacraments, those means of grace, those helps, ever new, yet old as Christianity, have borne many and many a blessed one along to the ‘good land,’ who is now resting in Goshen and eating the fat of the land.

Rev. S. Baring-Gould.


(1) ‘It is as a liberated man that Joseph is most signally the type of our Redeemer. Set free from prison, Joseph became the second in the kingdom, even as the Redeemer, rising from the prison of the grave, became possessed in His mediatorial capacity of all power in heaven and earth, and yet so possessed as to be subordinate to the Father. Joseph was raised up of God to be a preserver of life during years of famine. Christ, in His office of mediator, distributes bread to the hungry. All men shall flock to Jesus, eager for the bread that came down from heaven.’

(2) ‘How tenderly our Joseph considers our needs; wagons for the aged and children; corn, bread, victual, raiment; loving messages of welcome. Oh to trust Him, Who will supply all our need according to his riches in glory, till we see Him as He is!’

(3) ‘The effect of Joseph’s glory, as described by the brethren to the old man, was very marked. At first he was incredulous, it seemed too good to be true; but afterwards, when he saw the wagons, the spirit of Jacob, their father, revived. So would sad and fainting hearts revive, if they once realised what is involved for us all in the Ascension of Christ.

Tell them that He is glorified as our High Priest, not that He glorified Himself thus, but by the appointment of the Father ( Hebrews 5:5); tell them that He is able to save to the uttermost; that the power which raised Him waits to raise us; that from His glory He sends the wagons to carry us home, according to His great request: “Father, I will that those whom Thou hast given Me, be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory.” ’

(4) ‘One of the Olney Hymns is on “Joseph made known to his Brethren,” as illustrative of the forgiving love of Jesus. The last two stanzas are—

“I am Jesus whom thou hast blasphem’d

And crucified often afresh;

But let me henceforth be esteem’d

My pardon I freely bestow,

Thy wants I will fully supply:

I’ll guide thee and guard thee below

And soon will remove thee on high.

Go, publish to sinners around,

That they may be willing to come,

The mercy which now you have found

And tell them that yet there is room.”

Oh, sinners, the message obey!

No more vain excuses pretend;

But come without further delay

To Jesus, our Brother and Friend.’

Bibliographical Information
Nisbet, James. "Commentary on Genesis 45". The Church Pulpit Commentary. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/cpc/genesis-45.html. 1876.
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