Chronological Reading: Gen 43-45
The story of Joseph is pretty amazing. He was basically hated by his brothers and left for dead in a hole, when brother Judah thought it was an even better idea to sell him as a slave to folks on their way to Egypt. (Gen 37:26-27) The thing is that in Egypt, Joseph proves himself worthy and over time, becomes 2nd in command of the whole empire and thru his diligence, and God’s grace, wisely stores food for an impending famine – thus preserving both him and the whole empire of Egypt.
Meanwhile, back home – Josephs’ brothers are quickly running out of food and they need to go to the only place where there is food – Egypt. So after 20 years of separation, Joseph is now face to face with the very brothers that sold him down the river, but they don’t know it’s him…yet.
To make a long, wonderful story short – Joseph provides food for them, and says that if/when they come back they need to bring their youngest brother too (Benjamin) or else don’t bother coming at all. Their father (Jacob/Israel) is really uncomfortable with this idea, but he allows him to go on the condition that Judah will be his pledge of safety (Gen 43:8). OK, so they are off. David gives them more food, takes care of them, (still not revealing who he is) and in a crazy plot to keep Benjamin with him plants his silver cup in Benjamin’s bag – thus leveraging this apparent “theft” to keep Benjamin with him. Except that can’t happen – remember Judah promised their father that Benjamin would return safely.
In an amazing heart change from the one who sold his other brother to Egypt in the first place, Judah says to David that he will stay in Benjamin’s place. (Gen 43:33-34).
Joseph is so touched by this change of heart that he reveals his identify, and then brings his whole family to Egypt – thus saving them from the famine and continuing the family line.
There is a lot of stuff pointing to Christ here – so let’s pick it out: (thank you ESV Study Bible!)
- Judah offers himself as a substitute, prefiguring the substitution of Christ (the offspring of Judah)
- Joseph thru Joseph includes not only rescue from famine, but a change of heart in the brothers – compared to their earlier envy and violence towards Joseph.
- The change prefigures the change of heart that Christ works thru the Spirit
- Reconciliation (of the brothers with Joseph) prefigures God’s reconciliation and forgiveness in Christ
I also couldn’t help myself to think of the awesome sovereignty of God at work in this – he preserves the line of Christ thru these amazing events – which included being sovereign over evil that was done to Joseph. If we skip ahead to Chap 50:19-20:
19But Joseph said to them, “Do not fear, for(A) am I in the place of God? 20As for you, you meant evil against me, but(B) God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people[a] should be kept alive, as they are today.
A comforting thought in a world where thousands of people have just perished in an earthquake. God is truly sovereign over everything, including evil and epic disasters. We don’t know what he is doing, or why sometimes – and we really should resist the temptation to try and figure that out – that’s his job – but the Bible is clear that God is always in control and working his sovereign will for the good of those that love him (Rom 8:28). That doesn’t always mean for this life here on Earth – God’s ways are above our ways and working good his eternal glory. We see in this story how Joseph experienced that first hand and how wonderful promises of reconciliation with God thru Jesus Christ are prefigured and modeled here.