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The Message of The Bible - Part Five
by Dave Miller In our last lesson Joseph had arrived in Egypt. After years of slavery and being in prison, he was elevated to the top post of Prime Minister. During the seven year period of plenty, he carried out his governmental responsibilities in fine fashion, distinguished himself and pleased Pharaoh. During that period of time he married an Egyptian girl and they had two children. In the last lesson we looked at the names of those sons, and how those names gave insight into the emotional trauma, the psychological stress, that Joseph experienced as he went through the adversities of life. Yet he maintained his spiritual equilibrium. He maintained his relationship with God.
At the end of the seven year period of plenty, the seven year period of famine then set in. It was a very difficult time. The Egyptian population came before Pharaoh and cried out for governmental subsistence. Pharaoh sent them to Joseph, the Prime Minister. Joseph opened up the storehouses of Egypt and provided for the sustenance and the well being of the Egyptian populace.
The Bible then informs us that far to the north, up into Palestine, Jacob was experiencing the same sort of difficulty. One day he called all of his sons in and said, "I understand thereís food down in Egypt that will see us through this period of deprivation. You need to take provisions for the trip, money to purchase grain for us, and go down into Egypt in order to secure our future". In obedience to their fatherís command they gathered their necessary preparations for the trip and traveled down into Egypt. They arrived at the governmental distribution facility and were ushered into the very presence of the Prime Minister, Joseph, their own brother, whom they did not recognize.
You can understand why. Heís the last person they expected to see in such a lofty position. They havenít seen him for many years. In fact when they last saw their brother he was a teenager. He is now middle age--nearly forty years old. People undergo a major change from the time of their teens to the time of middle age. They didnít recognize him. He is fully enculturated, an Egyptian for all practical purposes. He knows the Egyptian language fluently. He stills remembers the Hebrew language and can understand it and speak it. But he doesnít speak to his brothers in Hebrew. He speaks Egyptian to an interpreter who in turn speaks to them in Hebrew. They donít recognize their brother. But he recognizes them, and after just a few words of greeting, thereís no doubt in my mind that all of those years of pent up resentment and anger, welled up within him and suddenly he blurts out of his mouth to his brothers, "You are spies."
Now their reaction is, "Whoís he talking to?" He says, "You are spies. You have come down to Egypt to investigate and check out our vulnerabilities." They said, "No sir, we are not spies." They began to talk quickly. They said, "Weíre all brothers. Weíre all the sons of one man. In fact, there were twelve of us, but one of is not." That one, you see, would have been Joseph. They said, "And our other brother is at home with our father." Now notice when they said that, Josephís mind was flooded with memories of the identity of that brother. They were speaking of Benjamin, Josephís one and only full-blooded brother. Benjamin would not have participated in the conspiracy that landed Joseph down in Egypt. He would have been too young at the time. Itís clear to me that whenever they said, "Weíre all the sons of one man and one of our brothers is still at home," Joseph entertained renewed thoughts of this younger brother.
Do you remember how Benjamin came into this world? Rachel was the one true love of Jacobís life. He worked seven years in order to marry her, and yet was swindled, and had to work an additional seven years to have the right to marry her at the end of that first seven year period. Rachel was unable to have children for quite some years and finally had Joseph. Then she became pregnant with her second child. The family was out on a family trip, caught in between towns. Midwives traveled with the caravans back in those days. She went into labor with her second child. In fact, the Bible calls it hard labor. The midwives gathered around her, trying to reassure her and assist her with this delivery. But it became apparent she was not going to survive the childbirth. The Bible tells us that when she gave birth to this little baby boy, even as her spirit was exiting her body, she named the little boy Benoni, which means "son of my distress". Then she died.
Jacob was crushed. Here was the one true love of his life and he had just lost her as she gave birth to their second child. He didnít want that name to stick, Benoni, "son of my distress", and ever be reminded of the loss of his wife at the birth of his son. So he changed the name from Benoni to Benjamin, which means "son of my right hand". So when Joseph heard his brothers say, "We have another brother still at home", he knew it was his one and only full-blooded brother--who had nothing to do with the conspiracy that landed him in Egypt.
Itís clear to me that he concocts in his mind a plan by which he can get Benjamin down into Egypt with him and get rid of his brothers at the same time. He said, "In order for me to verify your story, to determine whether you have told me the truth as to your identity, I am going to require all of you to be held hostage, with the exception of one of you, whom I will allow to return home to secure this brother you say you have, and bring him back down here so I can verify your story." But, after he tells them that, he throws all of them into prison. You can see the years of pent up resentment well up within him. After three days he brings them back out of prison and he says, "I fear God, therefore Iím not going to keep all of you here. Iíll just hold one of you hostage. The rest of you may take the provisions that you came for and I will allow you to return to your father. But when you get home, you secure this brother that you say you have and you bring him back down here for me to verify your story."
After he tells them that, they begin to talk amongst themselves in the Hebrew language, obviously not knowing that he can understand what they are saying. They say, "We are very guilty concerning our brother," referring to Joseph. "We saw the anguish of his spirit." Thatís how the King James words it. In other words, "We saw the trauma of this young man on the day that we put him into that pit and sold him into slavery. We saw the anguish of his spirit, when he besought us and pleaded with us not to do this to him, when we sold him off into slavery into Egypt." They said, "But, you know, we wouldnít listen." Then Reuben the big brother spoke up and said, "Yes, and didnít I tell you not to sin against this boy? Now his blood is being required of us."
Now Joseph is standing there listening to these fellows talk amongst themselves, and he is obviously impressed by two things. Number one, there is evidence that these men regret what they have done to him. Number two, he realizes the oldest brother Reuben had stuck up for him. He didnít know that before. Thatís a new insight. At least the oldest brother didnít hate me. He didnít want me sold into slavery. He is so moved by these realizations that he turns away from his brothers and weeps. But then after regaining his composure he allows them to purchase the provisions that they had come for. Then he gives private orders to his personal steward to take the money that they have purchased the supplies with and secretly to put it back into their sacks without them knowing about it. Have you ever stopped to think about why he did that? He did that because these mean brothers of his were so low down and greedy that they sold him, their own brother, for twenty pieces of silver. Obviously he is testing them to see if they are the same kind of men that they were so many years earlier when they had mistreated him.
They loaded up their provisions and off they went. When they arrived at their first nightís lodging, one of the brothers happened to go through his luggage and found the money returned. His heart sank. He turned to his other brothers and said "What is this that God is doing to us?" When they finally arrived home, they went into the presence of their father Jacob. Joseph had allowed all of them to return except Simeon. He skipped over the oldest brother, Reuben, and took the second oldest brother, Simeon, and bound him and lead him off into custody. So when they got home they told their father all that had happened. They said, "Heís taken Simeon into custody and told us we were to return home and secure Benjamin and bring him back down there to prove that weíre telling the truth. We are not even to show our faces in Egypt without the boy." Jacob became angry. He said, "Youíre not taking Benjamin back to Egypt. Iíve already lost Joseph and now I have lost Simeon. Youíre not taking Benjamin back down there." They said, "Dad, we have to." In fact, Reuben, the oldest brother, spoke up and said, "If you will entrust the ladís safety to me and if I donít get him back here safely, you can take my two sons and murder them." Notice Reuben, the older brother, is the self-sacrificial, giving, caring individual. But Jacob will have none of it. He says, "Thereís no way."
So they finally give up and go on about their business with their families and their jobs until the day comes when Jacob reassembles them. He says, "We are going to have to have more provisions. Weíve run out. Youíre going to have to go back to Egypt." They said, "Weíre not going if you donít take Benjamin back. The man said we had to come back with him." Well, once again, Jacob became angry. He said, "Why did you tell that man that you had a brother back here at home? You didnít have to tell him that."
They said, "How were we to know? We were just trying to verify our story, to prove that we were telling him the truth. How were we to know that heíd make us go home and get him and bring him back?" Another one of the older brothers speaks up, Judah this time, and he says, "Dad, if you will allow me to take custody of the child and take him down there, Iíll get him back to you safely. If I donít, you can hold it against me the rest of my life." Notice the change that weíre seeing in these men. They have a willingness to sacrifice themselves and not be vicious and cruel as they were in their younger years.
Jacob doesnít want to agree to this, but he realizes he has to if the family is to survive this famine. So he says, "Take the boy, and if I go to my grave in sorrow, so be it." So they very hurriedly load up with provisions for the trip. They take money to purchase more supplies and they take the money that had been returned to them before in order to return that. When they arrived in Egypt at the governmental distribution facility, they are once again ushered into the presence of the Prime Minister. This time, as Joseph is standing there, the first words out of his mouth, "How is your father, is he still alive?" Their response is, "Yes, sir, our father is alive and well."
The brothers bowed down to Joseph, in fulfillment of those dreams that he had spoken more than two decades before. He looks out over those heads and he sees Benjamin. He says, "Is this the brother of whom you spoke?" They said, "This is him." Joseph is so moved emotionally that he chokes out a few words to the effect, "God be merciful to you, my son." Then he turns around and leaves their presence and cries like a baby, so moved at the sight of this, his little brother, after all these years. He comes back and gives orders for all of the brothers to be fed. Simeon has been brought back out of prison and rejoins the group. He gives orders for the brothers to be fed, with orders given to place five times as much food on Benjaminís plate as the other brothers.
When they had first arrived at the distribution facility, they were given orders to go to Josephís private residence. When they did so, they encountered Josephís steward, and they said to him, "Sir, when we were here last time we purchased supplies, but when we got out of town, we found that our money had been returned to us." He said, "Donít worry about that, we got your money." That showed Joseph that these brothers were not greedy like they had been in their younger years.
As they are loaded up with their provisions, this time Joseph gives orders to his private steward to place his own personal silver chalice in the sack of the youngest of the brothers, which he does without them knowing about it. They are then sent on their way. They get outside the city limits and Joseph then says, "Now I want you to go after them. I want you to overtake their caravan, and I want you to make this speech. I want you to say, ĎHow dare you mistreat my master and repay him evil when he has done you so well, treating you so kindlyí. Then I want you to instigate a search and whenever you find my silver chalice, you take that person into custody, bring him back to me. Tell the rest of them to go home." His plan is coming to fruition. So the steward heads out. He overtakes the caravan. He makes the speech, "How dare you mistreat my master?" They said, "No problem, search us." So they commence a search of the luggage. They start with the oldest brother and work down through all that luggage. Horror of horrors, when they come to the youngest brother, there is the silver chalice! He is taken into custody.
What are these brothers going to do? They canít go back home and face their father, having lost this prized and last son of Rachelís. All they can do is follow the steward back into town and come into the presence of Joseph once again. Joseph keeps up the charade. He knows they havenít stolen anything. He put that cup in their sack. But he makes the same speech. "Why are you mistreating me when Iíve been so good to you?" They said, "Sir, please listen to us, donít be angry with us. Weíve got some things we need to explain to you." They proceeded to explain how theyíd had another brother that they had lost and it nearly killed their father. That must have been new insight to Joseph. He must have wondered why, even though his brothers had mistreated him and sold him into slavery, why his father had not come down in search of him. You see, Joseph had no way of knowing that the brothers had torn his clothing and given it to his father with animal blood on it and convinced him that he was dead. Thatís why no effort was ever made to find Joseph. Then the brothers explain that if they donít return this boy back to their father it will kill him, because he has already suffered too much loss and grief. The implication of the brothersí speech is that if Joseph will allow them to take this boy back home to their father, they would all be willing to place themselves into slavery or whatever Joseph wanted to do with them. These are not the same brothers that Joseph knew when he was a teenage boy. These brothers have matured. Now theyíre self-sacrificial, theyíre giving, even to the point that they are willing to offer themselves in place of Josephís own full-blooded brother.
He can stand it no longer. He bursts out crying in front of them, bawling like a child. He gives orders for the room to be cleared of all the Egyptian personnel. When they leave and shut the door, he turns to his brothers and says, "Itís me, Joseph, your brother." They donít believe it and he has to repeat it to them and convince them of who he is. The text in Genesis 45 indicates that he proceeded to explain to them, "I know you intended to do me harm. But now I can see that you were not doing this to me, but this was God in the background orchestrating these affairs. He knew that one of our family would need to be in Egypt during this time of hardship in order to see to the safety and the survival of this family." He refers back to their forefathers, Abraham and Isaac. Therefore, he now sees this as Godís doing, even though his brothers were mean to him.
He goes over to Benjamin, who must have been nineteen or twenty years old at least, puts his arms around him, gives him a hug and a kiss. Then he goes to each one of the brothers and hugs each one of them. Then the Bible says they sat down and had a good family talk. They just sat down and talked things over. Wouldnít you like to have heard what they said?
The text indicates that he loaded his brothers up, not only with provisions, but with what we would call moving vans, carts and trailers. They go back home and come into the presence of their father, Jacob. They said, "Joseph is alive and well! In fact, he is Prime Minister over the Egyptian empire." Jacob does not believe them. He says, "Youíre telling me heís not dead, heís been alive for all these years, and has been elevated to this top political post in Egypt?" They have to do some tall talking and convincing in order to convince their father that in fact Joseph was alive.
So they loaded up all of the family, children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, over seventy people in this family at this point. Some of the sonís wives had died. They loaded all of those up and moved down into Egypt. Pharaoh deeded them prime real estate in the land of Goshen and there they settled. Joseph was permitted only a very few short years with his father. Then the day came that his father Jacob died. At the funeral, Joseph threw himself down on the body of his father and wept. You know he must have wanted to recapture his lost childhood, but you canít regain a childhood thatís gone. They embalmed Jacobís body according to Egyptian funeral technology. They then had a big funeral procession to take his body back to Palestine.
When the family reassembled in Egypt the brothers said, "Now Josephís going to get even." So they put together a little entourage, a group of messengers, and they went before Joseph and they said, "Joseph, before our father died, he came to us and told us that after his death, he wanted us to come to you and to beg you in his name to forgive us for what we did to you." That hurt Josephís feelings. He began to cry. In Genesis 50 he said, "I told you that I donít hold this against you. I know that you meant it for evil, but God meant it for good. Therefore, as I said, I am going to take care of you and your little ones." The Bible indicates that he comforted his brothers with those words. He, himself, came to the end of his life at the age of one hundred and ten. His body was also embalmed according to Egyptian funeral methods. He left this provision in his will: "The day is coming when the God of our fathers is going to fulfill His promise that He made to those fathers. Heís going to give us the promised land, the land of Canaan. When that day comes, I want my body disinterred here in Egypt, transported to the promised land and there re-interred." That was fulfilled literally centuries later at the end of Joshua and in the first part of the book of Judges.
We come to the close of the book of Genesis. We have sixty-five books to go in future lessons. Iíd like for you to notice that Joseph in many ways is a type, a prefiguring, of Jesus Christ. Jesus came to His own and His own received Him not. Isaiah 53 says that He was despised and rejected of men. Thatís what Joseph experienced. His own brothers, his own flesh and blood, rejected him. But he came to be their savior. After all they had done to him, after so many years, he ended up being their salvation. Thatís the role that Jesus Christ plays for us. We have not treated Him properly. Prior to becoming Christians, we lived an ungodly life, we violated His will, we rejected Him.
Peter said in Acts 2:38, "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of your sins." Jesus himself said in Mark 16, "He who believes and is baptized will be saved." Therefore when we respond to Jesus Christ in the fashion that He has asked us to, He becomes our savior. He forgives us for all past sins. I hope that youíve made that decision.This item originally appeared in The Truth In Love Television Program
The Message of The Bible - Part One
The Message of The Bible - Part Two
The Message of The Bible - Part Three
The Message of The Bible - Part Four
The Message of The Bible - Part Five
The Message of The Bible - Part Six
The Message of The Bible - Part Seven
The Message of The Bible - Part Eight
The Message of The Bible - Part Nine
The Message of The Bible - Part Ten
The Message of The Bible - Part Eleven
The Message of The Bible - Part Twelve