Lectionary Calendar
Thursday, February 29th, 2024
the Second Week of Lent
There are 31 days til Easter!
We are taking food to Ukrainians still living near the front lines. You can help by getting your church involved.
Click to donate today!

Bible Commentaries
Genesis 45

The Biblical IllustratorThe Biblical Illustrator

Verses 1-3

Genesis 45:1-3

Joseph made himself known unto his brethren

Joseph and his brethren


JUDAH’S PATHETIC APPEAL FOR THE RELEASE OF BENJAMIN (Genesis 44:30-34). In this appeal the following points are made:

1. Jacob’s strong attachment to Benjamin.

2. That Benjamin was the mainstay of Jacob in his advanced age.

3. A strong sense of personal honour.


1. Manifested in the tears he shed.

2. Manifested in his eager inquiry concerning his dear father.

3. Manifested also in the desire to take in his brothers to his heart.


1. A very touching lesson is here taught the sons and daughters of aged parents concerning their greatest need in their declining years--not expensive clothing or luxurious living, but the manifestation of real, tender, loving sympathy.

2. Joseph’s readiness to forgive his brothers, and his deep emotion when he saw their sincere love for his father, contain timely lessons, not only for brothers and sisters according to the flesh, but also for brethren and sisters in Christ..

3. The deep insight into the purposes of the providence of God, and perfect acquiescence in them, and joy that they have wrought out good for others, even though at a cost of personal sacrifice, are fraught with instructive lessons.

(1) That special light is given to the obedient.

(2) That in this, as in so many other features, Joseph is an eminent type of Christ. (D. C. Hughes, M. A.)

The soul in silence

No one doubts that Joseph is a type of Christ; in nothing is he more so than in that significant record,. “there stood no man with him while Joseph made himself known to his brethren.” Egypt and its idols were shut out; Pharaoh and his pomp; officers of state; obsequious servants; men of business--“he caused every man to go out from him”; and then in the silence he spoke in his own Hebrew tongue, with no interpreter then, and made himself known to his brethren. What is this most plainly and evidently but a parable of God and the soul? What is prayer but a speaking to God in silence? Silence is the height of worship. Conversing is silencing the world, silencing the tumult of sin, silencing the clamour of the passions. Growth in grace and holiness is but silencing human interests, human love, human pleasures. What is God’s purpose in sickness but to create a silence in the soul in which He may make Himself known? So with sorrows, losses, deaths, calumny, persecution: they make a solitude round the soul; “there stands no man with us,” but God stands with us, and it is far better. And what are all these things but preparations for, rehearsals before that great last reality--death? At that hour the soul is alone, and a great silence reigns; one by one all persons and things have been severed from the soul; one by one the senses fail, and all communion with the world and with creatures is eat off; most familiar things, most necessary things, faces, sounds, acts, all are not; the soul lives, but lives in silence; the silence deepens and deepens till it becomes absolutely perfect, and then death has come, and the soul finds itself sensibly face to face with God. This is the end of all human life. (F. C. Woodhouse, M. A.)

Joseph discovers himself


1. Of a great injury.

(1) To Joseph.

(2) To Jacob. The beloved and trusted son taken from him. His heart well nigh broken by the story that was told him.

2. Of brothers. The crime therefore greater. More easy to forgive the offence of a stranger than of a friend (Psalms 41:9; Psalms 55:12-13; Psalms 55:20).

3. The pardon magnanimously bestowed. Proved by deeds as well as words. Their sin extenuated. He dwells on the good that came out of it, not on the evil that was in it. Tried to soften down their harsh self-censure. The method of professing pardon may detract from its value, and suggest a doubt of its sincerity.

4. Marked by deep affection. He could not repress his emotions, nor conceal his joy. Judah, the darkest character, not excepted.

5. Practically demonstrated. He will henceforth care for them during the famine.


1. It had been already proved. He had exalted Joseph.

2. He now cares for Joseph’s friends. Royally lays himself out for their present good. Strange contrast to the conduct of many kings towards their deliverers and helpers (Charles I. and Earl Stafford; Charles II., and his treatment of the faithful adherents of his house in its misfortunes; also David and Barzillai).

3. It was bountifully expressed. Will have all Joseph’s family invited to Egypt. Promises that they shall have “ the fat of the land.” Sends with the invitation the means of conveyance. Enjoins the free use of means and subsistence. “Regard not your stuff,” &c. (Genesis 45:20).

A FATHER’S ZOO. Jacob’s.

1. Imagine Jacob’s home. The old man of 130 years, feeble, doubtful, fearful, apprehensive. Waiting for the return of his sons. Anxious concerning Benjamin.

2. Picture the arrival at home. They are all there. Benjamin amongst them. Simon also. Joyful greeting.

3. They tell their story. Good news. Joseph yet alive! governor of Egypt.

4. Jacob’s doubts. He is suspicious of his sons.

5. The arrival of the waggons convinces him. His spirit revives. His great joy. New hopes. He will see Joseph again, and in such a robe of office as his affection could not have provided. What greater joy can a father know than that excited by good news of absent children. Those who leave home with good principles the most likely to create such joy. Religion supplies the only true basis of character. The Lord was with Joseph. He will be with us in our wanderings, if we begin them with Him. Learn: Let love be without dissimulation. Forgive injuries and prove the reality of forgiveness. (J. C. Gray.)

Joseph’s dealings with his brethren

Joseph recognized his brethren at once, though they failed, as they bowed before the mighty vicegerent of Egypt, to recognize 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.

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 Cod’s, and this gives him confidence in hazarding all, as he does not hazard it, in bringing this matter to a close.

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.

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. (Archbishop Trench.)

Joseph makes himself known

THE ENDURING STRENGTH AND WORTH OF FAMILY AFFECTION. Nothing more beautiful in man than this. Age does not congeal it, nor death destroy it. A holy, perennial fire. It begets gentleness, patience, long suffering, forgiveness of injury, oblivion of wrong.

THE CONSTANT FEAR WROUGHT BY CONSCIOUS GUILT. The tender emotion of Joseph was not shared by his brethren. His declaration, “I am Joseph,” drew from them no glad expressions of joy. They were silent from dismay. “His brethren could not answer him; for they were troubled at his presence.” Conscious guilt filled them with alarm and anxious questioning. Could he ever forgive them? Since he had them now in his power, and he had become so great, would he not take vengeance upon them? Their sense of guilt had not perished or weakened with time. It was as enduring as Joseph’s love.

GOD CHOOSES THE WICKED TO ACCOMPLISH HIS DIVINE PURPOSES. Joseph had been sold, from malice, by his brethren into Egypt. And yet God had sent him there. It seems like an irreconcilable contradiction of facts, and yet the thing alleged was true. And our view of the world’s events is inadequate unless we believe that God in a similar way always takes a controlling part in the affairs of men. Did this fact lessen the guilt of the sons of Jacob? Did Joseph mean that they were excused on account of it? Certainly not. Their guilt was according to their intention.

THE INVITED FIND GRACE BECAUSE OF THEIR RELATIONSHIP TO THE GOOD, For his father’s sake and for Benjamin’s sake, Joseph forgave them all they had done to him. What magnanimity of spirit! It was as if he had blotted out their sin and remembered it no more. And his efforts to allay and banish their fears assured them that from him they had nothing to dread. It was a beautiful fore-gleam of the grace of the Gospel. So Christ has sought to assuage our guilty fears by speaking to us of His Father and our Father, and by owning us as His brethren. Well is it for us that we are connected in this way by ties of relationship with the good of earth and sky. If we stood alone, unconnected with others whose prayers and merit move heaven’s favour in our behalf to give us further opportunity to repent, or which win for us undeserved consideration from our fellow-men--who show us kindness for the sake of a father, or a mother, or a sister,or some other--it would be far worse with us. But their merit, like charity, covers a multitude of sins in us. We are clad in a borrowed grace, derived from them, and our faults are excused and borne with, and our meagre virtues rated far above their real value.

THE GROUND OF PEACE FOR WRONG-DOERS. When Joseph had fallen upon Benjamin’s neck and wept, and had kissed all his brethren and wept upon them, “after that his brethren talked with him.” The speechless terror exhibited by them at first then vanished away. What cured their trouble of heart? It was the assurance they had that Joseph looked upon them graciously for their father’s and brother’s sake, and that he entirely forgave their sin. This assurance had been wrought in them by the words and acts of Joseph. The kiss he had given them, and his tears of joy, formed an indubitable token of pardon and reconciliation. In his treatment of them we have, therefore, a hint of God’s treatment of men for their sin, and of the way a guilty soul may find peace. Two things are required:

1. A worthy Mediator to whom we are so related that His merit will procure us Divine favour.

2. Indubitable evidence of acceptance and pardon through Him. The Christ was such a Mediator. He was “holy, harmless, undefiled,. . . higher than the heavens,” and “not ashamed to call us brethren.” Through our relationship with Him as brethren, we are invested with His righteousness. (A. H.Currier.)

Joseph and his brethren


THE SACREDNESS OF FAMILY TIES. The relation of children to their parents, and of brothers and sisters to each other is peculiarly sacred. Other connections we may determine for ourselves; this is appointed by God. It brings great opportunities and great risks. There are no others we can hurt so sorely, or make so glad, as those in our own household.

THIS STORY ILLUSTRATES CHRIST’S FORGIVENESS. The great Elder Brother suffers at our hands; yet loves us when we will not love Him, and waits for years till our need shall bring us to His feet. Even then He cannot take us at once to His bosom. The sense of guilt must be awakened, the tears of penitence flow. (P. B. Davis.)


Joseph made known to his brethren



1. He strives to prevent remorse.

2. He bids them see in their past history the plan of God. (T. H.Leale.)

Joseph reveals himself


1. Observe the delicacy of Joseph’s feelings in removing all the witnesses of his emotion. Feeling, to be true and deep, must be condensed by discipline.

2. Notice the entireness of Joseph’s forgiveness.

(1) This may be inferred from his desire to prevent remorse (Genesis 45:5).

(2) A further proof of the entireness of Joseph’s forgiveness is, that he referred the past to God’s will (Genesis 45:8). Upon this we have three remarks to make. First, that it is utterly impossible for us to judge of any event, whether it is a blessing or misfortune, from simply looking at the event itself; because we do not know the whole. Fancy the buying of a slave in a cave in Canaan; and straightway there springs up in your breast a feeling of indignation. Pass on a few years, and we find Joseph happy, honoured, and beloved; two nations at least are saved by him from famine. Secondly, we remark how God educes good from evil, and that man is only an instrument in His hands. A secular historian, treating of mighty events, always infers that there has been some plan steadily pursued; he would have traced step by step how it all came about, and referred it all to Joseph. But from the inspired history we find that Joseph knew not one step before him. Thirdly, we remark that there is a danger in the too easy acquiescence in the fact that good comes from evil; for we begin to say, Evil then is God’s agent, to do evil must be right; and so we are landed in confusion. Before this had taken place, had Joseph’s brethren said, “Out of this, good will come, let us sell our brother,” they would have been acting against their conscience; but after the event it was but faith to refer it to God’s intention. Had they done this before, it would have been presumption. But to feel that good has come through you, but not by your will, is humiliating. You feel that the evil is all yours, and the good is God’s.


1. Remark, Pharaoh rejoiced with Joseph (Genesis 45:16). Love begets love. Joseph had been faithful, and Pharaoh honours and esteems him.

2. The advice given by Joseph to his brethren (Genesis 45:24). We should do well to ponder on Joseph’s advice, for when that wondrous message was given to the world that God had pardoned man, men at once began to quarrel with each other. They began to throw the blame on the Jew alone for having caused His death; they began to quarrel respecting the terms of salvation.

3. Last]y, we remark the incredulity of Jacob, “his heart fainted.” There are two kinds of unbelief, that which disbelieves because it hates the truth, and that which disbelieves because the truth is apparently too glorious to be received. The latter was the unbelief of Jacob; it may be an evidence of weakness, but not necessarily an evidence of badness. (F. W. Robertson, M. A.)

Recognition and reconciliation

DISCLOSURE. “I am Joseph.” Were ever the pathos of simplicity, and the simplicity of pathos, more nobly expressed than in these two words? (They are but two in the Hebrew.) Has the highest dramatic genius ever winged an arrow which goes more surely to the heart than that? The question, which hurries after the disclosure, Seems strange and needless; but it is beautifully self-revealing, as expressive of agitation, and as disclosing a son’s longing, and perhaps, too, as meant to relieve the brothers’ embarrassment, and, as it were, to wrap the keen edge of the disclosure in soft wool.

CONSCIENCE-STRICKEN SILENCE. An illustration of the profitlessness of all crime. Sin is, as one of its Hebrew names tells us, missing the mark, whether we think of it as fatally failing to reach the ideal of conduct, or as always, by a Divine nemesis, failing to hit even the shabby end it aims at. “Every rogue is a roundabout fool.” They put Joseph in the pit, and here he is on a throne. They have stained their souls, and embittered their father’s life for twenty-two long years, and the dreams have come true, and all their wickedness has not turned the stream of the Divine purpose any more than the mud dam built by a child diverts the Mississippi. One flash has burned up their whole sinful past, and they stand scorched and silent among the ruins. So it always is. Sooner or later the same certainty of the futility of his sin will overwhelm every sinful man, and dumb self-condemnation will stand in silent acknowledgment of evil desert before the throne of the Brother, who is now the prince and the judge, on whose fiat hangs life or death. To see Christ enthroned should be joy; but it may be turned into terror and silent anticipation of His just condemnation.

ENCOURAGEMENT AND COMPLETE FORGIVENESS (Genesis 45:4-8). More than natural sweetness and placability must have gone to the making of such a temper of forgiveness. He must have been living near the Fountain of all mercy to have had so full a cup of it to offer. Because he had caught a gleam of the Divine pardon, he becomes a mirror of it; and we may fairly see in this ill-used brother, yearning over the half-sullen sinners, and seeking to open a way for his forgiveness to steal into their hearts, and rejoicing over his very sorrows which have fitted him to save them alive, and satisfy them in the days of famine, an adumbration of our Elder Brother’s forgiving love and saving tenderness.


1. It bespeaks a simple nature, unspoiled by prosperity, to delight thus in his father’s delight, and to wish the details of all his splendour to be told him. A statesman who takes most pleasure in his elevation because of the good he can do by it, and because it will please the old people at home, must be a pure and lovable man. The command has another justification in the necessity to assure his father of the wisdom of so great a change. God had sent him into the promised land, and a very plain Divine injunction was needed to warrant his leaving it. Such a one was afterwards given in vision; but the most emphatic account of his son’s honour and power was none the less required to make the old Jacob willing to abandon so much, and go into such strange conditions.

2. We have another instance of the difference between man’s purposes and God’s counsel in this message. Joseph’s only thought is to afford his family temporary shelter during the coming five years of famine. Neither he nor they knew that this was the fulfilment of the covenant with Abraham, and the bringing of them into the land of their oppression for four centuries. No shadow of that future was cast upon their joy, and yet the steady march of God’s plan was effected along the path which they were ignorantly preparing. The road-maker does not know what bands of mourners, or crowds of holiday makers, or troops of armed men, may pass along it.

THE KISS OF FULL RECONCILIATION AND FRANK COMMUNION. 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 only ended 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.” (A. Maclaren, D. D.)

Joseph discovering himself to his brethren

“I am Joseph.”

1. It is an expression of great humility. The governor of Egypt remembered that he was Joseph, a Hebrew--the son of an old pilgrim who now sojourned in Canaan, and the brother of these plain and vulgar strangers who depended on his goodness and solicited his clemency.

2. Here is soft and gentle reproof. He hints at their crime, but without menaces or reproaches. He alludes to it as if he only aimed to palliate it.

3. Here is the language of forgiveness.

(1) Proceeding not merely from a sudden flow of passion, but from settled goodness of heart.

(2) Permanent.

4. Here is a pious reference of his brethren to the wonderful works of Providence. Your Joseph, whom you had doomed to death or perpetual slavery, is employed of God to preserve you and your families from misery and ruin.

5. This is an expression of filial affection; for mark what immediately follows: “Doth my father yet live?” How tender, how affectionate, how dutiful the question.

6. Here is an expression of general benevolence. “I am Joseph, whom ye sold in Egypt God did send me before you, to preserve life.” He considered himself as promoted to power, not for his own sake, but for the public good; and to this end he applied the power which he possessed. (J. Lathrop, D. D.)

The reconciliation

1. The modes in which our Lord makes Himself known to men are various as their lives and characters. But frequently the forerunning choice of a sinner by Christ is discovered in such gradual and ill-understood dealings as Joseph used with those brethren. It is the closing of a net around them. They seem to be doomed men--men who are never at all to get disentangled from their old sin. If any one is in this baffled and heartless condition, fearing even good lest it turn to evil in his hand; afraid to take the money that lies in the sack’s mouth, because he feels there is a snare in it; if any one is sensible that life has become unmanageable in his hands, and that he is being drawn on by an unseen power which he does not understand, then let him consider in the scene before us how such a condition ends or may end. There is always in Christ a greater love seeking the friendship of a sinner than there is in the sinner seeking for Christ.

2. In finding their brother again, those sons of Jacob found also their own better selves which they had long lost. They had been living in a lie, unable to look the past in the face, and so becoming more and more false. Trying to leave their sin behind them, they always found it rising in the path before them, and again they had to resort to some new mode of laying this uneasy ghost. So, too, do many of us live as if yet we had not found the life eternal, the kind of life that we can always go on with--rather as those who are but making the best of a life which can never be very valuable, nor ever perfect. There seem voices calling us back, assuring us we must yet retrace our steps, that there are passages in our past with which we are not done, that there is an inevitable humiliation and penitence awaiting us. It is through that we can alone get back to the good we once saw and hoped for; there were right desires and resolves in us once, views of a well-spent life which have been forgotten and pressed out of remembrance, but all these rise again in the presence of Christ.

3. A third suggestion is made by this narrative. Joseph commanded from his presence all who might be merely curious spectators of his burst of feeling, and might, themselves unmoved, criticise this new feature of the governor’s character. In all love there is a similar reserve. (M. Dods, D. D.)

Joseph’s disclosure of himself to his brethren

Why was it he so long, and by artifices so strange, delayed the disclosure which an affectionate heart must have been yearning to make? There is a question antecedent to this, which forces itself on the student of the narrative, and to which Scripture can scarcely be said to furnish a reply. How came it that Joseph had made no inquiries after his family; or had not attempted to have had intercourse with his father, during the many years that Jacob had been bewailing his loss?--for more than twenty years had elapsed from his having been sold to the Ishmaelites to his meeting his brethren; yet he does not seem to have sent a single message to Jacob, though there was free communication between Egypt and Canaan. Fourteen of those years he had, indeed, been in trouble, and it may not have been in his power to transmit any account of himself; but, for the last six years, he had been ruler over the land; and you might have expected the first use made of his authority would have been to obtain tidings of his father--to ascertain whether he survived--and, if he did, to minister to his comforts in his declining years. Yet it appears that Joseph did nothing of the kind; he attempted no intercourse with his family, though his circumstances were such that, if attempted, it would have been readily effected. It is evident that Joseph considered himself as finally separated from his father and brethren, for we read, as his reason for calling his first-born Manasseh, “God hath made me forget all my toil, and all my father’s house.” It might be inferred from this expression, that Joseph regarded it as an appointment of God that he should forget his father’s house. At all events, there is ground enough for concluding that it was through Divine direction that he abstained from making himself known; and, though strange would be the silence of Joseph, if you supposed it to have proceeded from his own will, yet there are reasons enough to vindicate it, if maintained at the bidding of God. We would have you remember that Jacob had to undergo the retribution of his grevious fault, in having deceived Isaac his father, and gained by fraud, the blessing. The retribution commenced when he himself was deceived by Laban, who gave him Leah for Rachel; but it did not reach its full measure till he in turn was imposed on by his own sons, who persuaded him that Joseph was slain. God alone could determine for how long a time it was just that Jacob should be a victim of this cruel opposition; yet, when we understand that his being deceived was in recompense of his having deceived Isaac, we may readily believe that Joseph was not sooner allowed to make himself known, because the punishment of Jacob was not sooner complete. It would not be difficult to suppose other reasons; for, by effecting in so circuitous a manner, and after so long a time, the reunion of Joseph with the house of his father, God afforded occasions for the display of His over-ruling power and providence, which hardly could have occurred on any supposition, and which could not have been wanting but with great loss to the Church in every age. But, admitting that Joseph acted under the direction of God, in remaining so many years without intercourse with his father, and that therefore his silence is no proof of want of good affection, what are we to say of his conduct when his brethren were brought actually before him--of his harsh language--of his binding Simeon--of his putting the cup in Benjamin’s sack? Joseph, it must be remembered, was an injured man, and the persons with whom he is called upon to deal are those from whose hands his injuries had come. Unto a man of less pious feeling, the temptation would have been strong of using his present superiority in avenging the wrongs which had been heaped upon his youth. While, however, Joseph had no thought of avenging himself on his brethren, he must still have borne in mind the evil of their characters; and knowing them, by sad experience, to have been men of deceit and cruelty, he would be naturally suspicious both of the uprightness of their actions, and the veracity of their words. Now, if we keep this in mind, it will serve as a clue to much that is intricate. It was Joseph’s ruling desire to obtain accurate tidings as to the existence and welfare of Jacob and Benjamin; many years had rolled away since treachery and violence had torn him from his father--he had been as one dead unto his kindred, and his kindred as the deadunto him; therefore when his brethren who hated him, and cast him out, suddenly stood before him, his first impulse must have been to ascertain whether his father and the brother of his affections were yet among the living. And why, then, you may say, did he not follow the impulse--make himself known, and propose the question? Ah! he knew his brethren to be cruel and deceitful; they might have hated and practised against Benjamin, as they had done in regard to himself: and it was clear that, if Benjamin also had been their victim, they, when they found themselves in the power of Joseph, would have invented some false account as a shield from the anger which the truth must have provoked. Hence the method of direct questioning was not open to Joseph; he therefore tried an indirect method; brings an accusation against his brethren--the accusation of being spies--which he knew could only be refuted by some appeal to their domesticor national circumstances. Thus he throws them off their guard, and by making it their interest to tell the truth, he diminishes in a measure the likelihood of falsehood. Thus far, we ask you, was not the conduct of Joseph intelligible and exceptionable? He wanted information which he could not procure by ordinary means, therefore he took extraordinary means; for, if the brethren never returned, he would know too well that Benjamin had perished; but, if they returned, and brought Benjamin with them, his happiness would be complete. Hence, then, the harshness--though, by taking care that his brethren should depart laden with corn, and every man with his money in his sack, did he but, after all, give sufficient proof that the harshness was but assumed, and that kindness, the warmest and truest, was uppermost in his breast. But what shall we say of Joseph’s conduct, when his brethren returned and brought Benjamin with them? It is somewhat more difficult to explain. Strange, that in place of at once falling upon Benjamin’s neck, Joseph should have used deceit to make him seem a robber! Though the long delay of his brethren in Canaan might have strengthened the suspicions of Joseph, yet his suspicions must all have disappeared when Benjamin stood actually before him; and we hardly see why he need have put upon himself the painful restraint so pathetically described. “He made haste; for his bowels did yearn upon his brother: and he sought where to weep; and he entered into his chamber, and wept there.” And yet still he did not make himself known to his brethren, but allowed them to depart, providing, by concealment of the cup, for the after interruption of their journey. We may suppose that through this strange artifice, Joseph sought to ascertain the disposition of the ten brothers towards Benjamin; there was no doubt but that he was planning the bringing of the whole family to settle in Egypt, and it was needful, before carrying out this plan, that he should know whether the whole family were well agreed, or whether they were still divided by factions and jealousies: thus, by putting Benjamin apparently in peril, convicting him of theft, and then declaring his intention of punishing by enslaving him, he was morally sure of discovering the real feelings of the rest. For if they had hated Benjamin as they had hated him, they would treat his fate with indifference; whereas, if he were in any measure dear to them, the fact would become evident by the manifested emotions. The artifice succeeded--the agony which the ten brothers displayed, when they heard that Benjamin must be kept as a bondsman, put out of question that the son of Jacob’s old age was beloved by the children of Leah, and removed the natural apprehension that the feuds of early years remained to mar the plan with which Joseph was occupied. And further, may it not be possible that Joseph wished to assure himself that the children of Rachel were as dear to Jacob now as they had been in their youth. He might have thought that Jacob’s affections had possibly been alienated from Benjamin and himself; this he would be naturally desirous to ascertain, before he discovered himself in the ruler of Egypt. If the ten were quite ready to leave Benjamin behind, it would be too evident that they were under no fear of the consequences of meeting their father unattended by their brother, and Joseph would have reason to conclude that Jacob’s love had been estranged from the children of Rachel. On the contrary, if the ten showed by their conduct that to return without Benjamin would indeed be to “bring down Jacob’s gray hairs with sorrow to the grave,” there would be no place for any suspicion: nothing would remain but for Joseph to throw aside his irksome disguise, and hasten to be enfolded in the arms of his parent. (H. Melvill, B. D.)

I am Joseph

“I am Joseph!” Joseph, and yet more than Joseph. We are not the same twenty years afterwards that we are to-day. The old name--yet may be a new nature. The old identity; yet there may be enlarged capacity, refined sensibilities, diviner tastes, holier tendencies. I am Joseph 1 It is as if the great far-spreading umbrageous oak said, “I am the acorn!” or the great tree said, “I am the little mustard-seed!” Literally it was Joseph; yet in a higher sense it was not Joseph, but Joseph increased, educated, drilled, magnified, put in his right position. You have no right to treat the man of twenty years ago as if twenty years had not elapsed. I don’t know men whom I knew twenty years ago! I know their names; but they may be--if I have not seen them during the time, and if they have been reading, thinking, praying, growing-entirely different men. You must not judge them externally, hut according to their intellectual, moral, and spiritual qualities. To treat a man whom you knew twenty years ago as if he were the same man is equal to handing him, in the strength and power of his years, the toys with which he amused his infancy. Let us destroy our identity, in so far as that identity is associated with incompleteness of strength, shallowness of nature, poverty of information, deficiency of wisdom; so that men may talk to us and not know us, and our most familiar acquaintance of twenty years ago may require to be introduced to us to-day as if he had never heard our name. But the point on which I wish to fasten your attention most particularly is this: That there are in human life days of revelation, when people get to know the meaning of what they have been looking at notwithstanding the appearances which were before their eyes. We shall see men as we never saw them before. The child will see his old despised mother some day as he never saw her. And you, young man, who have attained the patriarchal age of nineteen, and who smile at your old father when he quotes some old maxim and wants to read a chapter out of what he calls the Holy Bible, will one day see him as you never saw him. The angel of God that is in him will shine out upon you, and you will see whose counsel you have despised and whose tenderness you have contemned. We only see one another now and then. Sometimes the revelation is quick as a glance, impossible to detain as a flash of lightning. Sometimes the revelation comes in a tone of unusual pathos, and when we hear that tone for the first time we say, “We never knew the man before. Till we heard him express himself in the manner we thought him rough and coarse, wanting in self-control, and delicacy, and pathos; but that one tone I Why, no man could have uttered it but one who has often been closeted with God, and who has drank deeply into Christ’s own cup of sorrow.” (J. Parker, D. D.)

Joseph weeps

It was his third weeping, the great weeping, although one other had more pain in it. It was the flood of love pent up and pressed back for so many years by man’s sin and God’s righteousness, now loosed by righteousness and greater love. It was noble, God-like weeping, which we need not fear to interpret by the tears of the Lord Jesus. It not only reminds us of the weeping of Jesus at the grave of Lazarus on the brow of Olivet; it helps us to understand these stranger tears. The spring-head of both was the same, the love of God--though here it appeared as but a little stream, there as the river of life. The immediate moving cause was the same, sympathy with the sorrowful, compassion for the erring--though here the objects of compassionate love were but some twelve persons, seventy at most, there a multitude whom no man can number. Even when He was about to reveal the fulness of His love at the grave of Lazarus, Jesus groaned in spirit and was troubled, because He felt how hard it was to bring men to believe and accept that love: Joseph’s soul now travailed with anguish keener than that of Dothan, in the effort to persuade his trembling brothers that he did indeed love them, and wished nothing but their love in return. (A. M. Symington, D. D.)

The value of circumlocution

There is an old English proverb that tells us that “the longest way round” is, or may be, “the shortest way home.” Sometimes there may be no other route at all but a roundabout or zigzag one. It would be impossible for the great lumbering Swiss diligence to climb the Simplon Pass and get over into Italy, were it not for that wonderful zigzag road that so patiently winds right and left, seeming to gain but a few feet in an hour, but at last emerging at the top of the Pass. Military engineers, too, know the value of zigzag. Except on this principle how could the besiegers of a fortress get their trenches up towards the walls? But a moral or spiritual path--that, surely, must never be tortuous: are we not to “make straight paths for our feet, and look right on?” And yet there is at least one branch of Christian duty in which a patient zigzag course is often the most effectual; and that is in laying siege to another’s soul. Nathan’s parable is a familiar instance: what success could he have expected if he had attacked David with a direct charge? Our Lord’s treatment of the lawyer in the tenth chapter of St. Luke--not answering directly his question as to who his neighbour was, but telling him a story first and making him apply it--is a case of yet higher authority; and so is His dealing with the Syro-Phoenician woman. And does not God deal so with us now? And what was the object of these strange dealings--of this zigzag course? It was twofold:

1. to test their character, to see whether they repented of their past life, whether they were now good sons to Jacob, and good brothers to Benjamin;

2. If their disposition was not changed, to change it. (E. Stock)

A son’s affection

While Octavius was at Samos after the battle of Actium, which made him master of the universe, he held a council to examine the prisoners who had been engaged in Antony’s party. Among the rest there was brought before him an old man, Metellus, oppressed with years and infirmities, disfigured with a long beard, a neglected head of hair, and tattered clothes. The son of this Metellus was one of the judges; but it was with great difficulty he knew his father in the deplorable condition in which he saw him. At last, however, having recollected his features, instead of being ashamed to own him, he ran to embrace him, and begged Caesar that they might be put to death together.

Verse 4

Genesis 45:4

Joseph said unto his brethren, Come near to me, I pray you

Separation ending in union

It was by a strange and seemingly circuitous route that these brethren of Joseph were brought near to him.

Between Joseph and his brethren there was an immeasurable distance--all the difference between a nature given over to God and one abandoned to the force of evil passion. We may see in this narrative a type of the ways and means God still employs for bringing the wandering brothers of Joseph’s great Antitype near to Him.

In order that the brothers may be really drawn near to Joseph, they have first to be separated from him by their own sin.

The next step towards bringing them near is their own want.

When they get into Joseph’s presence they are suddenly subjected to the most unlooked-for and crushing trials.

They are smitten to the heart with the recollection of bygone sins; these are brought to their remembrance as sins against their brother.

They were alone with Joseph when he made himself known to them. (W. HayAitken, M. A.)

Joseph’s treatment of his brethren


NOTICE, ALSO, THE ILLUSTRATION OFFERED OF THE SEEKING LOVE OF GOD. It is Joseph who makes all the advances here. “I pray you”: it is the monarch who invites, the judge who pleads. “Without all contradiction the less is blessed of the better.” It was always so. Adam had hardly eaten of the forbidden fruit before the voice of the Lord was heard in the garden asking for him. Our Maker takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but would rather that the wicked should turn unto Him and live.

HERE, TOO, IS AN ILLUSTRATION OF THE EXACT DESIGN OF THE GOSPEL. Men need many things: as those brethren needed food then, for themselves, their families, and their beasts. But Joseph knew that temporary relief would amount to little. What they most wanted for all the long future was simply himself in reconciliation. “Come near to me” is exactly what Jesus Christ has always been saying to such as labour and are heavy laden.

So COMPLETE IS OUR ILLUSTRATION IN THIS STORY, THAT IT LIKEWISE EXHIBITS THE NEED OF LAW-WORK IN REDEMPTION. Much as he yearned over them, he would not even for an instant relieve them of the salutary consciousness of so grievous a sin. Hence his earliest words were: “I am Joseph, your brother, whom ye sold into Egypt.” No doubt he meant to bring these men into greatest perplexity, and fill them with consternation. The first revelation of the Gospel is very much like a reiteration of the law. In some respects the rays from Calvary resemble those from Sinai; just as in some respects sunshine resembles lightning; but sunshine never strikes, and lightning often clears out a poison of impurity and so makes sunshine more welcome.

MARK THE EXCELLENT ILLUSTRATION WE HAVE HERE OF THE REVELATION OF DIVINE GRACE. When those brothers in that awful interview stood suppliant and frightened at the feet of the ruler, there was pictured something very like the literal fulfilment of a dream they must have remembered, when Joseph told them of the eleven wheat-sheaves he had seen bowing before the one upright. “I am your brother”: this one disclosure covered the whole ground. Sold--but a brother; a monarch--but a brother; a judge--but a brother! “I am Joseph”: here he probably began to talk in their own language; they heard the familiar accents of their home-speech. Benjamin recognizes his own mother’s son.

THERE IS AN ILLUSTRATION IN THIS STORY OF THE COMPLETENESS OF PARDON, AND RELIEF FROM PAIN. Watch how solicitous Joseph is lest his brothers should be “grieved or angry with themselves “ any longer over that old, acknowledged, but not forgotten sin. When our Saviour perceives that true repentance is already in the heart of a sinner; when He knows that he understands his whole responsibility for his sins; then He is prepared to administer for his comfort some of the sweet assurances he has of God’s wisdom in causing even man’s wrath to praise Him. Christ seems to say then: “I am the Lord of glory, whom ye with wicked hands have crucified and slain; but God has over-ruled even this crime to His own glory and your redemption; be not grieved with yourself therefore, over-much, for Divine foreknowledge sent Me before you to preserve life.”

SEE HERE WHAT AN ILLUSTRATION WE HAVE OF THE SINFULNESS AND FOLLY OF REJECTING THE GOSPEL. Of course, there is nothing in the story which suggests the thought; but there is room for imagination just to make the conjecture: how would it seem? Suppose Simeon, just out of prison, had turned his back upon Joseph’s offer! Suppose Benjamin, just delivered from accusation, had refused to have Joseph’s arms around his neck! Suppose Judah, his eyes still moist with pleading, had rejected Joseph’s kiss! And some have resisted the loving pleading and gracious tenderness of the Son of God who gave His life a ransom for us. (Charles S. Robinson, D. D.)

Joseph and his brethren

We think that the condition and posture of Judah and his brethren at the feet of the throne of Joseph, trembling in alarm, well describe THE CONDITION AND POSITION OF EVERY TRULY AWAKENED SINNER.

1. By different methods Joseph had at last awakened the consciences of his ten brethren. The point which seemed to have been brought out most prominently before their consciences was this: “We are verily guilty concerning our brother, in that we saw the anguish of his soul, when he besought us, and we would not hear; therefore is this distress come upon us.” And though, in the speech which Judah made, it was not necessary to accuse themselves of crime, yet in the confession, “God hath found out the iniquity of thy servants,” Joseph could see evidently enough that the recollection of the pit and of the sale to the Ishmaelites was vividly before their mind’s eye. Now, when the Lord the Holy Ghost arouses sinners’ consciences, this is the great sin which he brings to mind: “Of sin because they believed not on Me.” Once the careless soul thought it had very little to answer for: “I have not done much amiss,” said he; “a speedy reformation may wipe out all that has been awry, and my faults will soon be forgotten and forgiven”; but now, on a sudden, the conscience perceives that the soul is guilty of despising, rejecting, and slaughtering Christ.

2. A second thought, however, which tended to make Joseph’s brethren feel in a wretched plight was this: that they now discovered that they were in Joseph’s hands. There stood Joseph, second to none but Pharaoh in all the empire of Egypt. Legions of warriors were at his beck and command; if he should say, “take these men, bind them hand and foot, or cut them in pieces,” none could interpose; he was to them as a lion, and they were as his prey, which he could rend to pieces at his will. Now to the awakened sinner, this also is a part of his misery: that he is entirely in the hands of that very Christ whom he once despised; for that Christ who died has now become the judge of the quick and dead, He has power over all flesh, that He may give eternal life to as many as His Father has given Him. The Father judgeth no man, He has committed all judgment to the Son. Dost thou see this, sinner, He whom thou despised is thy Master?

3. Under a sense of all these things--note what the ten brethren did. They began to plead. Ah! nothing makes a man pray like a sense of sin.

We turn, however, now to remark, that THE SINGULARLY ROUGH BEHAVIOUR OF JOSEPH IS A NOTABLE REPRESENTATION OF THE WAY IN WHICH CHRIST DEALS WITH SOULS UNDER CONVICTION OF SIN. Joseph always was their brother, always loved them, had a heart full of compassion to them even when he called them spies. Kind words were often hastening to his lips, yet for their good he showed himself to be as a stranger and even as an enemy, so that he might bring them very low and prostrate before the throne. Jesus Christ often does this with truly awakened souls whom He means to save. Perhaps to some of you who are to-day conscious of guilt but not of mercy, Christ seems as a stern and angry Judge; you think of Him as one who can by no means spare the guilty; your only idea of Him is of one who would say to you, “Get thee behind Me, Satan, thou savourest not the things that be of God.” You went to Him in prayer; but instead of getting an answer He seemed to shut up your prayer in prison and keep it like Simeon bound before your eyes. Yea, instead of telling you that there was mercy, He said to you as with a harsh voice, “It is not meet to take the children’s bread and cast it unto dogs.” He appeared to shut his ear to your petitions and to hear none of your requests, and to say to you, “Except ye renounce a right eye sin and a right arm pleasure, and give up your Benjamin delights, ye shall see My face no more,” and you have come to think, poor soul, that Christ is hard and stern, and whereas He is ever the gentle Mediator receiving sinners and eating with them, whereas His usual voice is “Come unto Me all ye that labour and are heavy laden and I will give you rest,” to you He seemeth no such person, for He has put on a disguise, and ye understand not who and what He is. But you will perceive, brethren, in reading the narrative, that even when Joseph disguised himself there was still much kindness discoverable in his conduct; so to the awakened sinner, even while Jesus appears to deal hardly, there is something sweet and encouraging amid it all. Do you not remember what Joseph did for his brethren? Though he was their judge he was their host too; he invited them to a great feast; he gave to Benjamin five times as much as to any of them; and they feasted even at the king’s table, So has it been with you. Christ has rebuked and chastened you, but still He has sent you messes ‘from his royal table. Ay, and there is another thing He has done for you, He has given you corn to live upon while under bondage. You would have despaired utterly if it had not been for some little comfort that He afforded you; perhaps you would have put an end to your life--you might bare gone desperately into worse sin than before, had it not been that He filled your sack at seasons with the corn of Egypt. But mark, He has never taken any of your money yet, and He never will. He has always put your money in the sack’s mouth. You have come with your resolutions and with your good deeds, but when He has given you comfort He has always taken care to show you that He did not confer it because of any good thing you had in your hands. When you went down and brought double money with you, yet the double money too was returned. He would have nothing of you; He has taught you as much as that, and you begin to feel now that if He should bless you, it must be without money and without price. Ay, poor soul, and there is one other point upon which thine eye may rest with pleasure; He has sometimes spoken to thee comfortably. Did not Joseph say to Benjamin, “God be gracious unto thee, my son”? And so, sometimes, under a consoling sermon, though as yet you are not saved, you have had a few drops of comfort. Oh! ye have gone sometimes out of the house of prayer as light as the birds of the air, and though you could not say “ He is mine and I am His,” yet you had a sort of inkling that the match would come off one day. He had said--“God be gracious to thee, my son.” You half thought, though you could not speak it loud enough to let your heart distinctly hear it, you half thought that the day would come when your sins would be forgiven; when the prisoner should leap to lose his chains; when you should know Joseph your brother to have accepted and loved your soul. I say, then, Christ disguises himself to poor awakened sinners just as Joseph did, but even amidst the sternness of His manner for awhile, there is such a sweet mixture of love, that no troubled one need run into despair.


1. Notice that this discovery was made secretly. Christ does not show Himself to sinners in a crowd; every man must see the love of Christ for himself; we go to hell in bundles, but we go to heaven one by one. Each man must personally know in his own heart his own guilt; and privately and secretly, where no other heart can join with him, he must hear words of love from Christ. “Go and sin no more.” “Thy sins which are many are all forgiven thee.”

2. Mark, that as this was done in secret, the first thing Joseph showed them was his name. “I am Joseph.” Blessed is that day to the sinner when Christ says to him, “I am Jesus, I am the Saviour”; when the soul discerns instead of the lawgiver, the Redeemer; when it looks to the wounds which its own sin has made, and sees the ransom-price flowing in drops of gore; looks to the head its own iniquity had crowned with thorns, and sees beaming there a crown of glory provided for the sinner.

3. Having revealed his name, the next thing he did was to reveal his relationship--“I am Joseph, your brother.” Oh, blessed is that heart which sees Jesus to be its brother, bone of our bone, flesh of our flesh, the son of Mary as well as the Son of God.

4. And then will you please to notice, that having thus proved his affection, he gave them an invitation to approach. “Come near to me, I pray you.” You are getting away in the corner. You want to hide away in the chamber alone; you do not want to tell anybody ,about your sorrow. Jesus says, “Come near to Me, I pray you. Do not hold your griefs away from Me. Tell Me what it is you want. Confess to Me your guilt; ask Me for pardon, if you want it. Come near to Me, do not be afraid. I could not smite with a hand that bought you; I could not spurn you with the foot that was nailed for you to the tree. Come to Me!” Ah! this is the hardest work in the world, to get a sinner to come near to Christ.

5. I want you to notice again, having given the invitation, what consolation Joseph gave! He did not say, “I am not angry with you; I forgive you”; he said something sweeter than that--“Be not angry with yourselves,” as much as to say, “As for me, ye need not question about that: be not grieved nor angry with yourselves.” So my blessed, my adorable Master, says to a poor, cast down, dejected sinner--“As for My forgiving you, that is done. My heart is made of tenderness, My bowels melt with love; forgive yourself; be not grieved nor angry with yourself: it is true you have sinned, but I have died; it is true you have destroyed yourself, but I have saved you.”

6. Last of all, having thus given them the consolation, he gave a quietus for their understanding in an explanation. He says, “It was not you, it was God that sent me hither.” So doth Christ say to the poor soul that feels itself guilty of the Lord’s crucifixion. “It was not you,” says He, “it was God that sent Me to preserve your lives with a great deliverance.” Man was the second agent in Christ’s death, but God was the great first worker, for He was delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God; man did it to destroy righteousness, but God did it to save even the ungodly. Man hath the crime, but God hath the triumphing; man rules, but God over-rules. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Forgiveness of injury

A little boy being asked what forgiveness is, gave the beautiful answer: “It is the odour that flowers breathe when they are trampled upon.” Philip the Good, when some of his courtiers would have persuaded him to punish a prelate who had used him ill, he declined, saying, “It is a fine thing to have revenge in one’s power; but it is a finer thing not to use it.”

Verse 5

Genesis 45:5

Be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves

The duty of self-forgiveness

Is it allowable, in any case, to forgive ourselves?

Some of those who have a proper sense of man’s responsibility to his Maker would be inclined at first to say, No. Most of those whose views of man’s responsibility are inadequate would at once reply, Yes. It is only too evident, in fact, that they do forgive themselves where they ought not. But does it follow that their reply can never, in any case, be correct? The text implies, on the one hand, that we ought to grieve for our sins; and, on the other, that there is a proper limit to grief.

LET US CONSIDER OUR SINS IN THEIR ASPECT TOWARDS GOD, the most serious aspect of all. Acts of enmity and rebellion, treating God’s law with dishonour and scorn. Cause enough here for being grieved and angry with ourselves. Yet, if these sins are repented of, and if we have true faith in the Redeemer’s blood, there is an appointed balm for this wound.

THE EFFECTS OF OUR SINS UPON MAN. “One sinner destroyeth much good”--like an infectious disease introduced into a community. There is not a greater murderer in existence than the man who, through neglect or obstinacy, should introduce a fever into a city. Is the man very much better who sins against other men’s souls? Yet we have done this, all of us, in our time; we have sinned against many a soul, and we have occasioned many a pang and many a sin by our sins. On this account, therefore, it well becomes us to be grieved; and yet, as before, not to grieve in the way of despair. For if our sins have been repented of and forgiven, they are not the things that they were, either in God’s sight or in their effects upon men. (Homilist.)

Divine Providence in things evil

It were a mockery to tell us that we should have safety by the hand of Omnipotence, in regard to the powers of irrational nature; but that in all that concerns the free or the wicked actions of men, we must rely on ourselves or on chance. It were a crippled and insufficient Providence which should guard us against the serpent or the tornado, but which should leave us to ourselves the moment a moral and responsible agent came upon the stage. Yet this is the strange uncomfortable doctrine which prompts the language heard in many a Christian circle. Which of us has not listened to such words as these: “I could bear this trial if it were ordered of God, but it proceeds from man. It is not Providential, but from wicked human beings.” There is in this a sad confusion. Such a government as is here assumed would be no Providence at all; and would render all rule impossible, as excluding the very agencies which are most important. And we venture to say that the Bible teaches no such doctrine. While it abhors the thought of making God the author of sin, it does not exclude sinful acts from His wise and holy plan. While it evermore denies God’s participation in the evil of wicked deeds, it still asserts that, in the directing and governing of such deeds, there is a sovereign Providence, working out its own wise and holy ends: “Man’s goings are of the Lord; how then can a man understand his own way?” “A man’s heart deviseth his way, but the Lord directeth his steps.” The wrath of man shall praise Him, and the remainder of wrath He will restrain. Let it be clearly fixed in our minds, as the only true philosophy of this subject, that an act may be wicked as to the intent of its agent, and yet its result may be really intended by God. Were it not so we could have no relief under our worst sufferings, namely, those which we endure from depraved and malignant human creatures. But these also are Providential. Joseph’s brethren committed a great sin. This none can deny, so far as they were concerned. Yet was it strictly and particularly Providential: “So now it was not you that sent me hither, but God.” (Christian Age.)

A comforting thought for the penitent

To say to a hardened, reckless man that God will ever rule his sin for some good end, will only make him more regardless than ever. But when a man is truly penitent, and seems almost paralyzed by the perception of his guilt, to show him that God has brought good out of his evil will exalt God’s grace and wisdom in his eyes, and lead him more implicitly to cling to Him. It is a comforting thought, that while we cannot undo the sin, God has kept it from undoing us, and has over-ruled it for greater good to ourselves and greater blessing to others than perhaps might otherwise have been attained. We can never be as we were before we committed it. Always there will be some sadness in our hearts and lives connected with it and springing out of it. But still, if we really repent of it and return to God, there may come to us “meat out of the eater, and sweet out of the bitter.” It may give us sympathy with others, and fit us for being helpful to others; so that, though we may be sadly conscious of the evil of our course, we may yet see that through it all God was preparing us for the saving of those who, humanly speaking, but for our instrumentality would have gone down to perdition. But mark the condition--if we truly repent. There is no comfort otherwise; but that being secured, then the penitent may take the consolation, that out of his worst sin God can and may bring good both to himself and others, and he ought to look for the means of bringing that about. (W. M. Taylor, D. D.)

Cranmer and the traitors; or, forgiveness of great injury

Archbishop Cranmer appeared almost alone in the higher classes as the friend of truth in evil times, and a plot was formed to take away his life. The providence of God, however, so ordered it that the papers which would have completed the plan were intercepted and traced to their authors, one of whom lived in the archbishop’s family, and the other he had greatly served. He took these men apart in his palace, and told them that some persons in his confidence had disclosed his secrets, and even accused him of heresy. They loudly censured such villainy, and declared the traitors to be worthy of death; one of them adding, that if an executioner was wanted he would perform the office himself. Struck with their perfidy, after lifting up his voice to heaven, lamenting the depravity of man, and thanking God for his preservation, he produced their letters, and inquired if they knew them. They now fell on their knees, confessed their crimes, and implored forgiveness. Cranmer mildly expostulated with them on the evil of their conduct, forgave them, and never again alluded to their treachery. His forgiveness of injuries was so well known, that it became a byword, “Do my lord of Canterbury an ill-turn, and you make him your friend for ever.” (Moral and Religious Anecdotes.)

Providence difficult to interpret

The book of Providence is not so easily read as that of nature; its wisdom in design and perfection in execution are by no means as plain. Here God’s way is often in the sea, His path in the mighty waters, and His footsteps are not known. But that is because the scheme of Providence is not, like creation, a finished work. Take a man to a house when the architect is in the middle of his plan, and with walls half-built and arches half-sprung, rooms without doors, and pillars without capitals--what appears perfect order to the architect, who has the plan all in his eye, to the other will seem a scene of perfect confusion. And so stands man amid that vast scheme of Providence which God began six thousand years ago, and may not finish for as many thousand years to come. (T. Guthrie.)

God did send me before you

Joseph’s recognition of God’s hand in his life

The words of Joseph in the text contrast somewhat strangely with the words spoken by his brethren of themselves. It is clear that the view he took of their conduct was the one most likely to give them ease. He assured them that after all they were but instruments in God’s hands, that God had sent him, that God’s providence was at work for good when they sold him as a slave.
Both views are true and both important. The brethren had done what they did as wickedly and maliciously as possible; nevertheless it was true that it was not they, but God, who had sent Joseph into Egypt.

That God governs the world we do not--we dare not--doubt; but it is equally true that He governs in a way which we should not have expected, and that much of His handiwork appears strange. So strange, indeed, that we know that it has been in all times, and is in our time, easy to say, God cares not, God sees not; or even to adopt the bolder language of the fool, and say “There is no God.” Scriptural illustrations of the same kind of contradiction as we have in the text are to be found--

(1) in the case of Esau and Jacob;

(2) in the manner in which the hardheartedness and folly of Pharaoh were made to contribute to the carrying out of God’s designs concerning the Israelites;

(3) in the circumstances of our Lord’s sorrowful life on earth, and especially the circumstances connected with His shameful and yet life-giving death.

Our own lives supply us with illustrations of the same truth. Who cannot call to mind cases in which God’s providence has brought about results in the strangest way, educing good from evil, turning that which seemed to be ruin into blessing, making even the sins and follies of men to declare His glory and to forward the spiritual interests of their brethren? We see human causes producing effects, but we may also see God’s hand everywhere; all things living and moving in Him; no sparrow falling without His leave; no hair of one of His saints perishing. (Bishop Harvey Goodwin.)

Providence in life

The story of Joseph is to all men for ever the best proof of the working of the hand of Providence.

As through the life of Joseph, so through our life, there are threads which connect the different scenes and bind together the destinies of the different actors.

This history and the inspired commentary on it in Psalms 105:1-45. teach us the wonderful continuity of God’s plan and the oneness of the thread that binds together the histories of Israel and of Egypt. (Dean Butcher.)

Joseph’s statement

The principles illustrated in Joseph’s statement are these:

1. God’s absolute control over all creatures and events.

2. That while sinners are encouraged to hope in His mercy, they are left without excuse for their sin.

3. That God orders all human affairs with a view to the preservation of His sacred and gifted family--the Church.

Human and Divine agency inseparably connected

That the Scripture ascribes the actions of men both to themselves and to God. I shall endeavour to illustrate the truth, the propriety, and the importance of this doctrine.

We are to consider, THAT THE SCRIPTURE DOES ASCRIBE THE ACTIONS OF MEN BOTH TO THEMSELVES AND TO GOD. It will be universally allowed that the Scripture ascribes the actions of men to themselves. It ascribes to Abel his faith, to Cain his unbelief, to Job his patience, to Moses his meekness. Having just premised this, I proceed to adduce instances in which the Scripture ascribes the actions of men to God as well as to themselves. The first instance that occurs is in the history of Joseph.

THY PROPRIETY OF ASCRIBING HUMAN ACTIONS TO BOTH HUMAN AND DIVINE AGENCY. Human agency is always inseparably connected with Divine agency. And though it may be proper in some cases to speak of man’s agency alone, and of God’s agency alone, yet it is always proper to ascribe the actions of men not only to themselves, but to God. The propriety of the Scripture phraseology on this subject is so plain and obvious, that it is strange so many have objected against it, and endeavoured to explain it away. But since this is the case, it seems very necessary to show--

THE IMPORTANCE OF ASCRIBING THE ACTIONS OF MEN TO GOD, AS WELL AS TO THEMSELVES. We have no reason to suppose that the sacred writers would have used such a mode of speaking, unless it were necessary and important. It is the design of God, in all His works, to set His own character, and the character of all His rational and accountable creatures, in the truest and strongest light. This leads me to observe--

1. It is a matter of importance that the actions of men should be ascribed to themselves. They are real and proper agents in all their voluntary exercises and exertions.

2. The importance of ascribing men’s actions to God as well as to themselves. He is really concerned in all their actions; and it is as important that His agency should be brought into view as that theirs should be brought into view; for His character can no more be known without ascribing His agency to Himself, than their characters can be known without ascribing their agency to themselves.


1. In view of this subject, we learn when it is proper to ascribe the actions of men to themselves, and when it is proper to ascribe them to God. Whenever men are required or forbidden to act, and whenever they are approved or condemned for acting, there is a propriety in ascribing their actions to themselves, without any reference to the Divine efficiency. It is their own free, voluntary agency, which alone constitutes their virtue or vice, and which renders them worthy of either praise or blame. Though they always act under a Divine influence, yet that influence neither increases their virtue nor diminishes their guilt, and of consequence ought never to be brought into view when they are to be praised or blamed for their conduct. But when the power, wisdom, goodness, or sovereignty of God in governing their views and actions are to be displayed, then it is proper to mention His, and only His, agency in the case.

2. Since the Scripture ascribes all the actions of men to God as well as to themselves, we may justly conclude that the Divine agency is as much concerned in their bad as in their good actions.

3. If the actions of men may be ascribed to God as well as to themselves, then it is easy to form a just and full view of Divine Providence. If God is actually concerned in all human actions, it necessarily follows that He constantly and absolutely governs the moral as well as the natural world.

4. If it be true that all the actions of men may be ascribed to God as well as to themselves, then it is proper to submit to God under all the evils which He brings upon us by the agency of created beings.

5. If the actions of men may be ascribed to God as well as to themselves, then God will be glorified by all their conduct. Whether they have a good or bad intention in acting, God has always a good design in causing them to act in the manner they do.

6. If the actions of men may be ascribed both to God and to themselves, then we may see the duty and nature of true repentance.

7. Finally, if it be true that the actions of men may be properly ascribed both to God and to themselves, then it is of great importance for mankind to believe and acknowledge this truth. (N. Emmons, D. D.)

Verses 9-13

Genesis 45:9-13

Thus saith thy son Joseph



Providence may order traitors to be messengers of better news than they intended.

2. Gracious children are speedy to take off grief from their parents’ hearts.

3. God orders those events of mercy to be declared unto His, which they sometimes would not believe.

4. Joseph’s spirit owneth his afflicted father in all his own glory.

5. Joseph’s heart ascribes all his glory unto God only.

6. Joseph contents not himself to be in plenty and glory, but to have his father with him (Genesis 45:9).

7. Certain and fertile habitations are human motives to draw from barren places.

8. Nearness to dearest relations may persuade to change habitations (Genesis 45:10).

9. Alimony is a duty of children to parents in straights.

10. Assurance of nourishment may well draw from places where bread is wanting.

11. God’s continuance of famine should move souls to follow His providence for food.

12. It is beseeming God’s servants to provide under Him against impoverishing of their families. So Joseph (Genesis 45:11).

13. Eyewitnesses and they dear ones of God’s gracious events, should persuade good souls to believe them (verse 121.

14. Gracious souls may urge their dignity to help the distressed, but not in vain glory.

15. Grace makes nature speedy in the execution of its duty.

16. Gracious children desire earnestly their parents with them in their fulness (Genesis 45:13). (G. Hughes, B. D.)

Verse 14

Genesis 45:14

And he fell upon his brother Benjamin’s neck, and wept; and Benjamin wept upon his neck

Tears of love

This incident is the most unquestionable instance in the Bible of tears of love.

No other feeling but love made Joseph weep.

Tears of love are true evidences--and evidences which can scarcely speak falsely.

Tears have much of the nature of sacrifice in them.

Though there are no tears in heaven, yet loving tears on earth come nearer than anything else in the world to the alleluias of the saints, for they are the outbursts of an irrepressible emotion.

Tears of kindness act back again, and make the kindness from which they spring. In order to have the heart soft enough for tears--

(1) You must lead a pure life;

(2) You must feel that you are loved;

(3) You must be subdued;

(4) You must help yourself by action;

(5) You must have pity. (J. Vaughan, M. A.)


1. Grace forbids not natural working of affection in its measure.

2. Mutual workings of hearts in brethren is but natural (Genesis 45:14).

3. Sincere kisses and tears of injured brethren to offenders are remarkable.

4. Brotherly communion may be freely had, when grace had put away all offences, and accepted offenders (Genesis 45:15). (G. Hughes, B. D.)

The first embrace for Benjamin

There was an instinctive delicacy in selecting that one for his first embraces who was best able to return them freely. It gave the others time. Not that he thought of that and planned it; but the instincts of a good heart are very wise. Benjamin could weep tears of unmingled joy, for he had love only to accept--not forgiveness as well. One looks eagerly through the story to find some word telling that the others wept, the ten men who were over forty years of age, the sinners convicted, humbled, pardoned. Such a word would be very welcome; but I do not find it. We have to be content to take another lesson in the mystery of restoring love--that it is easier for God to forgive us than for us to forgive ourselves; that the part of Christ’s work which most proves the omnipotence of His grace, is when He persuades us to believe that He has forgiven us. That once believed by the heart, tears flow fast. There is only One who can so look on us that we shall go forth and weep bitterly. Leaving Benjamin after a time, Joseph went from one to another of his brethren, kissing them and weeping on them. I see him beginning with Reuben and Simeon, ending with Judah. The appeal, if one may translate so tender an utterance of the heart into any words, meant this, “I love and forgive you: love me and trust me, trust me and love in return.” “And after that his brethren talked with him.” The struggle had been a hard one, but love had conquered. It matters little what they talked about--the wonders of Egypt, the storehouses, the capabilities of Goshen, Asenath and Manasseh and Ephraim, the state of the flocks at home, the children of each, their father, the dreams; the great thing was that they talked at all. It was not now as it had been at the banquet yesterday; restraint and stratagem had gone for ever; brother talked to brother, heart to heart. (A. M.Symington, D. D.)

Verse 15

Genesis 45:15

He kissed all his brethren

A day of reconciliation

A day of reconciliation! A family made one.

Brethren coming together again after long separation. It is a beautiful picture. Why should it not be completed, where it needs completion, in our own day amongst ourselves? Ministers sometimes have misunderstandings and say unkind things about one another--and exile one another from love and confidence for years. Is there never to be a day of reconciliation and Christian forgetfulness of wrongs, even where positive wrong has been done? Families and households often get awry. The younger brother differs with his eldest brother--sisters fall out. One wants more than belongs to him; another is knocked to the wall because he is weak; and there comes in the heart bitterness and alienation, and often brothers and sisters never have a kind word to say about one another. Is it always to be so? Don’t merely make it up, don’t patch it up, don’t cover it up--go right down to the base. You will never be made one, until you meet at the Cross and hear Him say, “He that doeth the will of My Father, which is in heaven, the same is My mother, and sister, and brother.” It is in Christ’s sorrow that we are to forget our woes, in Christ’s sacrifice we find the answer to our sin, in Christ’s union with the Father that we are to find all true and lasting reconciliation. But who is to begin? That is the wonderful question that is often asked us. Who is to begin? One would imagine that there were some very nice people about who only wanted somebody to tell them who was to begin. They want to be reconciled, only they don’t know who is to begin. I can tell you. You are! That is exactly how it is. But I am the eldest--yes, and therefore ought to begin. But I am the youngest. Then whyshould the youngest be an obstinate pig-headed child? Who are you that you should not go and throw yourself down at your brother’s feet and say, “I have done you wrong, pardon me!” Who is to begin? You! Which! Both! When! Now! Oh! beware of the morality which says, “I am looking for the opportunity, and if things should so get together--” Sir! death may be upon you before you reason out your wretched casuistry; the injured or the injurer may be in the grave before you get to the end of your long melancholy process of self-laudation and anti-Christian logic. (J. Parker, D. D.)

The reconciled brethren




1. To avoid strife.

2. To repel any revengeful feelings.

3. To be kind and ready to forgive. (W. S. Smith, B. D.)

Emblem of forgiveness

Nothing is more moving to man than the spectacle of reconciliation; our weaknesses are thus indemnified, and are not too costly, being the price we pay for the hour of forgiveness; and the archangel who has never felt anger has reason to envy the man who subdues it. When thou forgivest, the man who has pierced thy heart stands to thee in the relation of the sea-worm, that perforates the shell of the mussel, which straightway closes the wound with a pearl. (W. Richter.)

Verses 16-20

Genesis 45:16-20

Take your father and your households, and come unto me: and I will give you the flood of the land of Egypt

Pharaoh’s invitation to Jacob and his sons





Bring your father; or, Christmas gatherings

Family gatherings are old as history! Governments change. There was government Patriarchal--government by Judges--government by Kings in old Judea; and there are governments now, Imperialist--Monarchical--Republican. But the family remains ever and always, founded by God, and rooted in the constitution of human life, as the mountains are rooted in the earth.

A GOOD MAN CARRIES THE OLD HOME IS HIS HEART. Joseph’s was not a self-chosen pilgrimage; “so then, it was not you that sent me hither, but God.” He knew that. It was a history over-ruled by God for highest ends. It is wise and well that enterprize and energy should characterize a nation’s sons, but they need not forget the old home. Surely, however, if any one might have cut off the remembrances of home, it was the castaway Joseph! That he owed his brethren nothing everyone must admit--nothing, indeed, but that which all Christians owe to their enemies and to themselves--the sovereignty of love over enmity. This man, successful, honoured, uplifted to be Prime Minister of Egypt, tried to exile the old home from his heart. The narrative in a previous chapter tells us this--“And Joseph called the name of the firstborn Manasseh: for God, said he, hath made me forget all my toil, and all my father’s house” (Genesis 41:51). But one sight of the dear old faces broke down all his power to exclude them from his love.

IN A TRUE HOME EVERY LOST CHILD CREATES A BLANK. God wants every wandering child home. While we are yet a great way off, He comes forth to meet us. Jacob had many sons, and these sons had wives, and then fresh children came into the world--“his sons and his sons’ sons”; “his daughters and his sons’ daughters.” Children--grandchildren! But these words, “Joseph is not!” constitute a little window into Jacob’s heart. If you have ever lost a child, you still say in the words of the beautiful poem, “We are seven!” And if Joseph is away--far away--lost to you in the saddest of all senses, still he lives in your heart.

THE TIME COMES WHEN THE FATHER VISITS THE SON. This is beautiful. And it is a parable of that which occurs sometimes now. The old home circle visits the successful son, and he heads the table, and feels not that he does his father honour, but that the father honours him by his presence; this is all-glorious. I am not sure that the old world, of which China is one of the permanent shoots, does not set us an illustrious example in this respect, viz., the honour due to age and parentage; but I am sure that ancient Greece might teach us reverence, for a young man would rise in an assembly there and give his place to an aged man at once. Flippant familiarity in speech is unseemly in relations between the young and the old, for speech is an index of character. Joseph’s speech is touched with reverence, and he seems to feel a culmination of kindly providence in the fact that his father should know of his glory in Egypt. I trust that many a son’s heart will leap in future days when he sees, amid the faces looking on with rapt interest in a season of honour and reward, the features of his father.

THE JOURNEY IS THAT OF A RELIGIOUS OLD MAN. Israel took his journey, and “came to Beer-sheba, and offered sacrifices unto the God of his father Isaac.” Then he thought of his father. We smile at old men finding it difficult to think themselves old, but their childhood is only a little way behind. (W. M. Statham, M. A.)

Verses 21-24

Genesis 45:21-24

Provision for the way

Divine provision for human wants


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 waggons sent out of the land of Egypt. When Jacob saw the waggons his heart revived.

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 dots 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.

Let us not despise the means of grace. We may not ourselves want them, but others do. Go in your own waggon, 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. (S. Baring-Gould, M. A.)

Joseph equips his brethren for their journey


1. In the portion he gave to Benjamin

2. In the portion he sent to his father.

HIS SHREWD WISDOM (Genesis 45:24). (T. H. Leale.)

Verse 24

Genesis 45:24

See that ye fall not out by the way

Good advice to Christians



THE COURSE OF CHRISTIANS. On their way from Egypt to Canaan, from house of bondage to Father’s house above.

THE DANGER OF CHRISTIANS. Falling out by the way--disagreeing, quarrelling, separating.

THE DUTY OF CHRISTIANS. To watch against this danger. Why?

1. Because brethren.

2. Because travelling to a place where there is no falling out.

3. Because you can’t fall out without falling down--lowering Christian character.

4. Because you can’t fall out without disobeying your Father, who tells you to love one another.

5. Because you can’t fall out without giving your enemies occasion to triumph. Fall out with yourselves, and with Satan, but not with one another. (J. F. Smythe.)

Christians walking harmoniously on the road of life

They whom Joseph thus addressed were all--

MEMBERS OF THE SAME FAMILY. Brethren: the relations Christians bear to each other (1 Peter 3:6; Romans 12:10; Hebrews 13:1).

PARTAKERS OF THE SAME GRACE. Forgiven ourselves, we are to be forgiving.

ASSOCIATES IN THE SAME SERVICE. Concerted action is required of us.


Christian agreement

Well would this text apply to that quarrelling among nations, which under the name of war has been thought honourable and often profitable, whereas it must ever be in the end most ruinous and disgraceful to the whole family of mankind. See then that in this respect “ye fall not out by the way.” See that you never be tempted, by any supposed honour or profit of war, to speak of it as desirable, or to wish for it in your hearts. Well would this text in like manner apply to natives of the same country, members of the same political community; and to the tumult, and strife, which of late years more especially have distracted the peace of society. Well does this rule apply also to those who esteem themselves members of the same household of faith. What can be more scandalous in the eyes of the scoffer, what can be more inconsistent with true piety in ourselves, than that all we, who would fain hope that we are going to the same heaven, and going by the same road of true faith in Christ, should embitter our few and evil days on earth by religious, or rather irreligious, contentions with each other. I might go on to apply the text to the variances and disputes, which arise often to mar the peace of a neighbourhood, the harmony of a parish, or the union of a charitable or friendly society. I speak to you of your brethren and sisters, of your parents or children, of your masters or servants, of your husbands or wives. And of these severally, whatever members you may each have, in the household to which you belong, of these severally I say, “See that ye fall not out by the way.”

1. Be humble. The more you are aware of your own failings, the more allowances you will make for those you live with. The less you will be disposed to fret at their selfishness and pride, the more heartily you are vexed at your own.

2. Be not selfish. Next to pride, if it be not the very same thing, stands selfishness, as the fruitful source of ill-temper. “‘Look not,” then, “every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others” Philippians 2:4).

3. Set in watch over your lips. And when an angry thought arises, for a while be resolutely silent. Words are to anger, as air to kindle flame. Without them it soon dies for want of vent.

4. Avoid whatever you have found to be your usual provocations to anger.

5. Take, then, in the last place, this one direction more, “Overcome evil with good.” “A soft answer turneth away wrath.” (E. Blencowe, M. A.)

Joseph’s charge to his brethren

“Prevention is better than cure.” Better keep out of debt than let someone pay your bills; better for a family to take care that all causes of difference and disagreement should be removed, than to be constantly making up quarrels. Joseph then would say, “See that ye fall not out by the way”--

1. Because ye are brethren.

2. Because ye are passing through an enemy’s country.

3. Because ye are the bearers of precious treasure.

4. Because ye are representative men. All these thoughts will apply to the Church of Christ. (A. F. Barfield.)

See that ye fall not out by the way!--a necessary warning

How well he knew human nature! They were going home with news which would reveal to their father that they had been the cause of their brother’s disappearance, and had imposed on him with a deliberate falsehood; and for anything they knew, he might turn upon them and upbraid them with their cruelty and deceit. What so likely, therefore, as that they should begin to accuse each other--that crimination should lead to recrimination, and words to blows? Reuben might say again, “It was not my fault, for I sought to save his life, and I went back to the pit hoping to find him and restore him to our father.” Judah might respond, “But for me he would have died, and it is to my happy suggestion to sell him to the Ishmaelites that we are indebted for all the good fortune that seems now to be coming to us”; while the rest, conscious of their share in the nefarious transaction, might have sought to still the upbraidings of their consciences by uttering bitter things against each other. All that might have happened on their journey home, and so Joseph was not giving unnecessary counsel when he said, “See that ye fall not out by the way.” And they heeded his advice, for they reached home in peace; and it may be that, so far from quarrelling, they spent some of their time as they rode in conversing on the marvellous manner in which, in spite of their antagonism, and without their consciousness of anything in the least degree out of the way, the dreams of their brother had been fulfilled, and they had done obeisance at his feet. (W. M. Taylor, D. D.)

Luther’s prayer

Controversy may be sometimes needful; but the love of disputation is a serious evil. Luther, who contended earnestly for the truth, used to pray: “From a vainglorious doctor, a contentious pastor, and nice questions, the Lord deliver His Church!”

Melancthon and his mother

Philip Melancthon, being at the conferences at Spire, in 1529, made a little journey to Bretten, to see his mother. This good woman asked him what she must believe amidst so many disputes, and repeated to him her prayers, which contained nothing superstitious. “Go on, mother,” said he, “to believe and pray as you have done, and never trouble yourself about religious controversies.”

Fraternal affection

Fraternal affection approaches very nearly to self-love, for there is but a short remove from our own concerns and happiness to theirs who came from the same stock, and are partakers of the same blood. Nothing, therefore, can be more unnatural than discord and animosity among members so allied, and nothing so beautiful as harmony and love. (L. N. Stretch.)

Church contention

When Caesar solicited the consulship he found Crassus and Pompey at variance, so that he could not apply to either of them for help, lest he should make the other his enemy. He determined to reconcile them by representing that if instead of fighting against each other, and thus raising enemies that might be formidable against them both, they would act in concert, by their united counsels and interest they might subdue all opposition. The scheme was successful, and Caesar by their help attained a pinnacle of power; and though neither Crassus nor Pompey gained any particular advantage by the league, if they had but used their united power wisely they might have affected great good. He who can bind together those who are at variance may procure for the state or for the Church a marvellous blessing. Never is a foe so ready to advance as when he sees those who should be one to attack him wounding and slaying each other. The battle of the sects has not only provoked ill blood in the Church of Christ, but has weakened her for offensive movements, because when she ought to have been increasing her armaments and completing her equipments for an aggression on the enemy’s territory, she has rather been engaged in quarrelling over some trivial point of doctrine, or perhaps some piece of church furniture, to her own dishonour and the enemy’s triumph. (New Handbook of Illustration.)

Trivial dissensions

Dr. Cannon was once appealed to by a certain church where there was a great commotion in regard to the point, whether in newly painting their church edifice the colour should be white or yellow. When the committee had stated their case, and with an emphasis, not to say acrimony, which gave sad proof of the existence of a fearful feud upon the unimportant question, the doctor quietly said, “I should advise you, on the whole, to paint the house black. It is cheap, and a good colour to wear, and eminently appropriate for a body that ought to go in mourning over such a foolish quarrel among its members.” (Homiletic Encylopoedia.)

Verse 27

Genesis 45:27

When he saw the waggons which Joseph had sent to carry him, the spirit of Jacob their father revived

Probability an aid to faith

We see here how probabilities are the handmaids and the helpers of faith.

Slight tokens become the aliment, the very food, on which action feeds, strengthens, nurtures itself, and goes forth to fulfil the work marked out by Providence for the life.

Jacob’s heart fainted; but old men, dying persons, often feel that some unrealized object detains them here. Jacob was like watchers who have gone to the point and taken lodgings, to be the first to hail the ship; and as pennon after pennon flutters in sight they hail it, but it is not the expected vessel, and the heart faints, until at last the well-known signal waves in the wind. Sense sees it, and faith revives.

The lesson of the patriarch’s history is that faith may not realize all it desires, but it may realize what confirms, revives, assures. “He saw the waggons”: “Faith cometh by hearing”; it is a moral principle created in the mind, not so much by facts as probabilities. Faith is moved and swayed by antecedental considerations. So these waggons were, in all probability, an aid to faith, and his heart revived. Treasure up marks and tokens of another country; you will find they will not be wanting.

If you deal faithfully with the tremendous hints and probabilities sacred to your own nature, sacred to the Holy Word, sacred to the infinite manifestation of God in the flesh in the person of Jesus Christ, they will hold you fast in the power of awful convictions, and in the embrace of infinite consolations. The waggons assured Jacob that Joseph was yet alive, and there are innumerable conveyances of grace which assure us that Jesus is yet alive. (E. Paxton Hood.)

The joyful news told to Jacob




1. His faith triumphs.

2. His dark destiny is about to be cleared up.

3. He anticipates his peaceful end. (T. H. Leale.)

Joseph’s waggons

1. No wonder certainly that Jacob could not believe his sons. You know from their history, and particularly from that part which is mingled with the earlier days of Joseph, how deceitfulness (inherited, too, from their parents and ancestry) had marked their conduct towards their father Jacob, whose life, I suspect, was often rendered very bitter by sad instances of their deceitfulness, and by the painful reflections upon his own conduct in his earlier days, which those instances would produce. Even Joseph’s messages were not believed by Jacob, not because Jacob doubted them, but because he could not believe the messengers.

And that Jacob believed at last, was convinced of the truthfulness of the messages, and going down to Egypt, he saw Joseph, often enjoyed his society, and finished his eventful pilgrimage there in peace, and with the full certainty of being buried in “the promised land.” A sight of Joseph’s waggons convinced him.

We have in this affecting narrative an illustration of two important ways by which truth may be received, and indeed through which it may be communicated. The difference betwixt the mode of teaching a truth by a simple revelation or message, and by the medium of the sight, is not, indeed, in the strictest sense of the term, that of an “objective “ and a “subjective” truth; but it is very nearly this. For though indeed it may be said truly enough that teaching by means of any of the senses is “objective,” there is nearly all the difference between “objective “ and “subjective “ in teaching by means of the sight and by means of words; because whatever the eye learns is learned by a real object, or by an object which does not profess to be the thing itself, but a recognized representation thereof. Thus the message of Joseph delivered by his brethren to their father was really (in my view) a “subjective” truth; I mean it was truth which he was to receive. But then, though the ear was the medium of reception, faith or credibility in the veracity of his children was necessary ere he could profit by it. And this faith he had not in them. He could not believe them, and he only became agitated; but the sight of the waggons convinced him. The truth was exhibited by another means; but I think also it was truth in another form. It was the truth that Joseph was alive, “objectively” brought home to Jacob by visible tangible realities. They were not like Joseph; they were not pictures, “carvings,” imitations of him; but there was a reality, a matter of fact truthfulness about what he there saw before him, which, though not a convincing demonstration, was a thoroughly satisfying “objective” realization to the eye of what would not have happened but for the true loving tenderness of his long lost son. And this “objective” truth seen as an object by the eye gave reality to the “ subjective” message, heard by the ear, indeed, but receivable only by the mind through faith, so that though it is said of that “subjective” truth Jacob believed not the messengers, it is immediately recorded of the “objective” truth that “when he saw the waggons which Joseph had sent to carry him, the spirit of Jacob their father revived, and he said, “It is enough; Joseph, my son, is yet alive: I will go, and see him before I die.”

The application of these observations to the Lord’s Supper, and indeed to either of the Sacraments, appears to me to be obvious and easy. Your only means of salvation is Christ Jesus, crucified for you and risen. God in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself; Christ, the Son of God, who, by His one oblation offered once for all, hath put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself, forms, through the Holy Spirit, your great hope of acceptance with God. The messages sent to you from heaven are true, and abound in tenderness; they are like Joseph’s message, full of truth and love. From various causes men demur to receive them. We who bring the messages are often not believed, You to whom the messages are delivered are conscious of many things which you think incapacitate you from applying them to yourselves. The blessed truths of salvation thus presented for your faith to receive and to make personally your own “subjectively,” are too often not received. But then, amidst all this clatter of disputings, doubtings and arguing, what meaneth this service? What meaneth it that to-day, that every Sunday throughout Christendom, in thousands and thousands of churches, and by many thousands and even millions of Christians, a simple though significant act is celebrated, even as it has been since the last Passover, and will continue to be so “till He come” who at first appointed it? Why is it that Christians from time to time gather together to break this bread and to drink this cup? What mean ye by this service? It is “objectively” for you what the waggons proved to Jacob. It is a very simple, but “objective” act, which brings before you vividly the love of Christ, in giving His body and His blood upon the Cross for you. (G. Venables, S. C. L.)

The king’s waggons

The Egyptian capital was the focus of the world’s wealth. In ships and barges there had been brought to it from India frankincense, and cinnamon, and ivory, and diamonds; from the north marble and iron; from Syria purple and silk; from Greece some of the finest horses of the world, and some of the most brilliant chariots; and from all the earth that which could best please the eye, and charm the ear, and gratify the taste. As you stand on the level beach of the sea, on a sunny day, you look either way and there are miles of breakers white with the ocean foam dashing shoreward, so it seemed as if the sea of the world’s pomp and wealth, in the Egyptian capital, for miles and miles flung itself up into white breakers of marble temple, mausoleum, and obelisk. This was the place where Joseph, the shepherd boy, was called to stand next to Pharoah in honour. What a contrast between this scene and his humble standing, and the pit into which his brothers threw him! Yet he was not forgetful of his early home--he was not ashamed of where he came from. The Bishop of Mentz, descended from a wheelwright, covered his house with spokes, and hammers, and wheels; and the King of Sicily, in honour of his father, who was a potter, refused to drink out of anything but earthen vessels. So Joseph was not afraid of his early surroundings, or of his old-time father, or of his brothers. When they came up from the famine-struck land to get corn from the king’s corn-crib, Joseph, instead of chiding them for the way they had maltreated and abused him, sent them back with waggons, which Pharoah furnished, laden with corn; and old Jacob, the father, in the very same waggon, was brought back that Joseph, the son, might see him, and give him a home all the rest of his days. Well, I hear the waggons--the king’s waggons--rumbling down in front of the palace. On the outside of the palace, to see the waggons go off, stands Pharaoh in royal robes, and beside him prime-minister Joseph, with a chain of gold around his neck, and on his hand a ring, given by Pharaoh to him, so that any time he wanted to stamp the royal seal upon a document he could do so. Waggon after waggon rolled down from the palace, laden with corn, and meat, and changes of raiment, and everything that could help a famine-struck people. One day I see aged Jacob seated in the front of his house; he is possibly thinking of his absent boys (sons, however old they get, are never anything more than boys), and while he is seated there he sees dust arising, and he hears waggons rumbling, and he wonders what is coming now, for the whole land had been smitten with famine and was in silence. But after awhile the waggons come near enough, and he sees his sons in the waggons, and before they come up they shout: “Joseph is yet alive!” The old man faints dead away. I do not wonder at it. The boys tell the story how that the boy, the long-lost Joseph, has got to be the first man in the Egyptian palace. While they unload the waggons the wan and wasted creatures come up and ask for a handful of corn, and they are satisfied. One day the waggons are brought up for Jacob; the old father is about to go to see Joseph in the Egyptian palace. You know it is not a very easy thing to transplant an old tree, and Jacob has hard work to get away from the place where he bad lived so long. He bids good-bye to the old place, and leaves his blessing with his neighbours; and then his sons steady him while he, determined to help himself, gets into the waggon, stiff, old, and decrepid. Yonder they go, Jacob and his sons, and their wives and their children, eighty-two in all, followed by herds and flocks, which the herdsmen drive along. They are going out from famine to luxuriance, they are going from a plain country home to the finest palace under the sun. My friends, we are in a world by sin famine-struck, but the King is in constant communication with us, His waggons coming and going perpetually; and in the rest of my discourse I will show what the waggons bring and what they take back.

1. In the first place, like those that came from the Egyptian palace, the King’s waggons now bring us corn and meat, and many changes of raiment. We are apt to think of the fields and the orchards as feeding us, but who makes the flax grow for the linen, and the wheat for the bread, and the wool on the sheep’s back? None but a God could clothe and feed the world. None but a King’s corncrib could appease the world’s famine. None but a King could tell how many waggons to send, and how heavily to load them, and when they are to start. Oh! thank God for bread--for bread!

2. I remark, again, that, like those that came from the Egyptian’s palace, the King’s waggons bring us good news. Jacob had not heard from his boy for a great many years. He had never thought of him but with a heart-ache. There was in Jacob’s heart a room where lay the corpse of his unburied Joseph; and when the waggons came--the king’s waggons--and told him that Joseph was yet alive, he faints dead away. Good news for Jacob! Good news for us! The King’s waggons come down and tell us that our Joseph--Jesus--is yet alive; that He has forgiven us because we threw Him into the pit of suffering and the dungeon of shame. He has risen from thence to stand in a palace. The Bethlehem shepherds were awakened at midnight by the rattling of the waggons that brought the tidings. Our Joseph--Jesus--sends us a message of pardon, of life, of heaven; corn for our hunger, raiment for our nakedness. Joseph--Jesus--is yet alive 1 The King’s waggons will, after a while, unload, and they will turn round, and they will go back to the palace, and I really think that you and I will go with them. The King will not leave us in this famine-struck world. The King has ordered that we be lifted into the waggons, and that we go over into Goshen, where there shall be pasturage for our largest flock of joy; and then we will drive up to the palace where there are glories awaiting us which will melt all the snow of Egyptian marble into forgetfulness.

3. I think that the King’s waggons will take us up to see our lost friends. Jacob’s chief anticipation was not of seeing the Nile, or of seeing the long colonnade of architectural beauty, or of seeing the throne-room. There was a focus to all his journeyings--to all his anticipations--and that was Joseph. Well, my friends, I do not think heaven would be worth much if our brother Jesus was not there. Oh! the joy of meeting our brother Joseph--Jesus! After we have talked about Him for ten, or fifty, or seventyyears, to talk with Him I and to clasp hands with the Hero of the ages, not crouching as underlings in His presence, but as Jacob and Joseph hug each other. The king’s waggons took Jacob up to see his lost boy; and so I really think that the King’s waggons will take us up to see our lost kindred. How long is it since Joseph went out of your household? How many years is it, now, last Christmas, or the fourteenth of next month? It was a dark night when he died, and a stormy day it was at the burial; and the clouds wept with you, and the winds sighed for the dead. The bell at Greenwood’s Gate rang only for a few moments, but your heart has been tolling, tolling, ever since. You have been under a delusion, like Jacob of old. You put his name first in the birth-record of the family Bible, and then you put it in the death-record of the family Bible, and you have been deceived. Joseph is yet alive l He is more alive than you are. Of all the sixteen thousand millions of children that statisticians say have gone into the future world, there is not one of them dead, and the King’s waggons will take you up to see them. In my boyhood, for some time, we lived three miles from church, and on stormy days the children stayed at home, but father and mother always went to church. That was a habit they had. On those stormy Sabbaths when we stayed at home, the absence of our parents seemed very much protracted, for the roads were very bad, and they could not get on very fast. So we would go to the window at twelve o’clock to see if they were coming; and at a quarter to one; and then at one o’clock. After awhile, Mary or Daniel, or De Witt would shout, “The waggon’s coming!” and then we would see it winding out of the woods, and over the brook, and through the lane, and up in the front of the old farmhouse; and then we would rush out, leaving the doors wide open, with many things to tell them, asking them many questions. Well, I think we:are many of us in the King’s waggons, and we are on the way home. The road is very bad, and we get on slowly; but after awhile we will come winding out of the woods, and through the brook of death, and up in front of the old heavenly homestead; and our departed kindred who have been waiting and watching for us will rush out through the doors, and over the lawn, crying: “The waggons are coming! the King’s waggons are coming!” Hark! the bell of the city hall strikes twelve. Twelve o’clock on earth; and likewise it is high noon in heaven. (Dr. Talmage.)

Verse 28

Genesis 45:28

And Israel said, It is enough; Joseph my son is yet alive

Joseph a type of Christ

Joseph is a type or figure of the Lord Jesus Christ.

1. Joseph, in his younger days, was distinguished from his brethren by a purity of life which became the more observable in contrast with their dissolute manners, and caused an evil report to be sent to their father. His brethren saw him afar off, and conspired to kill him. In this we have a true picture of the Jews’ treatment of Christ.

2. Joseph was carried down into Egypt, even as was Christ in His earliest days. Joseph was cast into prison, emblematic of the casting of Jesus into the grave, the prison of death; Joseph was imprisoned with two accused persons--the chief butler and the chief baker of Pharaoh; Christ was crucified between two malefactors. It was in the third year that Joseph was liberated, and on the third day that our Saviour rose.

3. 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.

4. Joseph’s kinsmen were the last to send into Egypt for corn, just as the Jews have been longest refusing to own Christ as their Deliverer. (H. Melvill, B. D.)

Joseph and his brethren

1. The first truth which I would point out to you as being strikingly illustrated and confirmed by this history is this: that THE PROVIDENCE OF GOD REGULATES THE MINUTEST MATTERS, and that He doeth all things according to His will, in the armies of heaven, and amongst the inhabitants of the earth. None are so besotted as not to acknowledge the existence of a Supreme Being; but the extent of His agency, and the interest He takes in the affairs of men, are far from being duly appreciated.

2. Another truth which this history equally confirms is that WICKED MEN, THOUGH FOLLOWING THEIR OWN DEVICES AND ACTUATED SOLELY BY THEIR OWN EVIL INCLINATIONS, DO BUT BRING TO PASS THE SECRET PURPOSES OF THE MOST HIGH. NO one, indeed, can read this history and not see the truth of the psalmist’s exclamation, “Surely the wrath of man shall praise Thee Psalms 76:10). And truly many events recorded in the Scriptures teach us the very same thing. What caused the gospel of Christ to be preached throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria by the early converts? The persecution raised at Jerusalem against the infant Church, and intended for its utter destruction (Acts 8:1). Again, when the Apostle Paul had gone through part of Asia and Greece, it was God’s intention that he should preach the gospel at Rome also; but who were the agents employed to bring about this His purpose? The Asiatic Jews, who raised a tumult which threatened the apostle’s life; scribes and Pharisees and wicked men, who bound themselves by an oath to kill him; and two Roman governors, one of whom, though he doubted not his innocence, to please the Jews, left him in prison, and the other, who, from no better motive, obliged him to appeal to Caesar, that he might not be taken back to Jerusalem.

3. Another truth which in this history we see clearly brought before us is that GOD’S PEOPLE ARE OFTEN TRIED BY GREAT AND LONG-CONTINUED AFFLICTION. “Many are the afflictions of the righteous” (Psalms 34:19).


But I will now direct your attention to some of THE LESSONS OF INSTRUCTION WHICH THIS HISTORY MAY FURNISH US WITH.

1. And, first, we may learn from it to put full and entire trust in the promises of God, and not to be moved from our confidence by any apparently untoward events.

2. Learn from this history to maintain uprightness and integrity in all your dealings, and to combine an active use of means with an earnest prayer for a blessing upon them. When Jacob determined to send his sons a second time into Egypt, he bids them take back the money found in the mouths of their sacks, saying, “Peradventure it was an oversight.”

3. Learn, again, from this history, that, as Joseph behaved towards his brethren, so God often deals with His people, and with the same object, namely, to make them sensible of their sins and to effect their humiliation.

4. Learn, lastly, from the example of Joseph, not to be overcome of evil, but to overcome evil with good. (T. Grantham.)

I will go and see him before I die

The old folks’ visit

Jacob had long since passed the hundred-year milestone. In those times people were distinguished for longevity. In the centuries after persons lived to great age. What a strong and unfailing thing is parental attachment! Was it not almost time for Jacob to forget Joseph? The hot suns of many summers had blazed on the heath; the river Nile had overflowed and receded, overflowed and receded again and again; the seed had been sown and the harvest reaped; stars rose and set; years of plenty and years of famine had passed on, but the love of Jacob for Joseph in my text is overwhelming dramatic. Oh, that is a cord that is not snapped, though pulled at by many decades! Joseph was as fresh in Jacob’s memory as ever, though at seventeen years of age the boy had disappeared from the old homestead. I found in our family record the story of an infant that had died fifty years ago, and I said to my parents, “What is this record, and what does it mean?” Their chief answer was a long, deep sigh. It was to them a very tender sorrow. What does all that mean? Why, it means our children departed are ours yet, and that cord of attachment reaching across the years will hold us until it brings us together in the palace as Jacob and Joseph were brought together. That is one thing that makes old people die happy. They realize it is reunion with those from whom they have long been separated. Oh parent, as you think of the darling panting and white in membranous croup, I want you to know it will be gloriously bettered in that land where there has never been a death, and where all the inhabitants will live on in the great future as long as God! Joseph was Joseph notwithstanding the palace, and your child will be your child notwithstanding all the reigning splendour of everlasting noon. What a thrilling visit was that of the old shepherd to the Prime Minister, Joseph! I see the old countryman, seated in the palace, looking around at the mirrors and the fountains and the carved pillars, and oh, how he wishes that Rachel, his wife, was alive; she could have come there with him to see their son in his great house. “Oh,” says the old man, within himself, “I do wish Rachel could be here and see all this!” I visited at the farmhouse of the father of Millard Fillmore, when the son was President of the United States, and the octogenarian farmer entertained me until eleven o’clock at night, telling me what great things he had seen in his son’s house at Washington, and what Daniel Webster said to him, and how grandly Millard treated his father in the White House. The old man’s face was illuminated with the story until almost midnight. He had just been visiting his son at the capital. And! suppose it was something of the same joy that thrilled the heart of the old shepherd as he stood in the palace of the Prime Minister. It is a great day with you when your old parents come to visit you. Blessed is that home where Christian parents came to visit! Whatever may have been the style of the architecture when they came, it is a palace before they leave. By this time you will notice what kindly provision Joseph made for his father, Jacob. Joseph did not say, “I can’t have the old man around this place. How clumsy he would look climbing up these marble stairs and walking over these mosaics. Then he would be putting his hands upon some of these frescoes. People would wonder where that old greenhorn came from. He would shock all the Egyptian court with his manners at table. Besides that, he might get sick on my hands, and he might talk to me as though I were only a boy, when I am the second man in all the realm. Of course he must not suffer, and if there is famine in his country--and I hear there is--I will send him some provisions, but I can’t take a man from Padan-aram and introduce him into this polite Egyptian court. What a nuisance it is to have poor relations!” Joseph did not say that, but he rushed out to meet his father with perfect abandon of affection, and brought him up to the palace and introduced him to the king, and provided for all the rest of the father’s days, and nothing was too good for the old man while living, and when he was dead, Joseph, with military escort, took his father’s remains to the family cemetery at Machpelah, and put them down beside Rachel, Joseph’s mother. Would God all children were as kind to their parents! “Over the hills to the poor-house” is the exquisite ballad of Will Carleton, who found an old woman who had been turned off by her prospered sons; but I think I may find in my text “Over the hills to the palace.” As if to disgust us with unfilial conduct, the Bible presents us with the story of Micah, who stole a thousand shekels from his mother, and the story of Absalom, who tried to dethrone his father. But all history is beautiful with stories of filial fidelity. Epimandes, the warrior, found his chief delight in reciting to his parents his victories. There goes AEneas from burning Troy, on his shoulders Anchises, his father. The Athenians punished with death any unfilial conduct. There goes beautiful Ruth escorting venerable Naomi across the desert amid the howling of the wolves and the barking of the jackals. John Lawrence, burned at the stake in Colchester, was cheered in the flames by his children, who said, “O God, strengthen Thy servant and keep Thy promise.” And Christ in the hour of excruciation provided for His mother. Jacob kept his resolution, “I will go and see him before I die,” and a little while after we find them walking the tessellated floor of the palace, Jacob and Joseph, the Prime minister proud of the shepherd. I may say in regard to the most of you that your parents have probably visited you for the last time, or will soon pay you such a visit, and I have wondered if they will ever visit you in the King’s palace. “Oh,” you say, “I am in the pit of sin.” Joseph was in the pit. “Oh,” you say, “I am in the prison of mine iniquity.” Joseph was once in prison. “Oh,” you say, “I didn’t have a fair chance; I was denied maternal kindness.” Joseph was denied maternal attendance. “Oh,” you say, “I am far away from the land of my nativity.” Joseph was far from home. “Oh,” you say, “I have been betrayed and exasperated.” Did not Joseph’s brethren sell him to a passing Ishmaelitish caravan? Yet God brought him to that emblazoned residence, and if you will trust His grace in Jesus Christ you too will be empalaced. Oh, what a day that will be when the old folks come from an adjoining mansion in heaven, and find you amid the alabaster pillars of the throne-room and living with the King! They are coming up the steps now, and the epauletted guard of the palace rushes in and says, “Your father’s coming, your mother’s coming.” And when, under the arches of precious stones and on the pavement of porphyry, you greet each other, the scene will eclipse the meeting on the Goshen highway, when Joseph and Jacob fell on each other’s neck and wept a good while. (Dr. Talmage.)

The lost found

There was once a boy in Liverpool who went into the water to bathe, and he was carried out by the tide. Though he struggled long and hard, be was not able to swim against the ebbing tide, and he was taken far out to sea. He was picked up by a boat belonging to a vessel bound for Dublin. The poor little boy was almost lost. The sailors were all very kind to him when he was taken into the vessel. One gave him a cap, another a jacket, another a pair of shoes, and so on. But that evening a gentleman, who was walking near the place where the little boy had gone into the water, found his clothes lying on the shore. He searched and made inquiries, but no tidings were to be heard of the poor little boy. He found a piece of paper in the pocket of the boy’s coat, by which he discovered who it was to whom the clothes belonged. The kind man went with a sad and heavy heart to break the news to the parents. He said to the father, “I am very sorry to tell you that I found these clothes on the shore, and could not find the lad to whom they belonged; I almost fear he has been drowned.” The father could hardly speak for grief; the mother was wild with sorrow. They caused every inquiry to be made, but no account was to be had of their dear boy. The house was sad; the little children missed their playfellow; mourning was ordered; the mother spent her time crying, and the father’s heart was heavy. He said little, but he felt much. The lad was taken back in a vessel bound for Liverpool, and arrived on the day the mourning was to be brought home. As soon as he reached Liverpool, he set off toward his father’s house. He did not like to be seen in the strange cap and jacket and shoes which he had on, so he went by the lanes, where he would not meet those who knew him. At last he came to the hall door. He knocked. When the servant opened it, and saw who it was, she screamed with joy, and said, “Here is Master Tom!” His father rushed out, and, bursting into tears, embraced him. His mother fainted; there was no more spirit in her. What a happy evening they all, parents and children, spent! They did not want the mourmng. The father could say with Jacob, “It is enough; my son is yet alive.” (E. P. Hammond.)


Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Genesis 45". The Biblical Illustrator. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/tbi/genesis-45.html. 1905-1909. New York.
adsFree icon
Ads FreeProfile