Peace be with you!
Reunions are normally joyous and full of hugs and kisses. Videos of the homecoming reunion between Iraq war veterans and their kids have gone viral. A joyful, sobbing child jumps into their father’s arms, squealing, “Daddy!” Being reunited with a loved one is the best feeling in the world, because the missing part of you is back.
However, sometimes reunions have their awkward moments where you are not exactly sure what to say or do. Your relationship with the other person is complicated with feelings of betrayal, forgiveness, and love. You are not sure which emotion the other person feels, so you are not sure how to act and sheepishly say, “Hello.” The story of Joseph and his brothers’ reunion is full of this kind of awkwardness, but it ends with redemption.
Several years pass since his ten older brothers have seen Joseph when Jacob sends them to Egypt to buy grain during the famine (Genesis 42:1-2). Unknown to his ten brothers, Joseph is now second-in-command in Egypt and is in charge of distributing the grain (Genesis 42:6). His ten brothers do not recognized Joseph when they ask for grain (Genesis 42:8), and Joseph acts as though he does not know them and throws accuses them of being spies, throwing them in prison for three days (Genesis 42:9-12, 17). On the third day, Joseph tells them to pick one brother to stay in prison, while the other nine brothers take grain back to their families and bring back their young brother, Benjamin, to Egypt (Genesis 42:18-20). Before the brothers leave, Joseph gives back their money in their grain sacks without their knowledge; when they discover this, they are terrified (Genesis 42:25, 35).
When the brothers run out of grain, they are forced to return to Egypt with Benjamin despite Jacob’s fearful protests (Genesis 43:2-10). When Joseph sees his brothers again, invites them to a big feast (Genesis 43:16-17) and releases Simeon from prison (Genesis 43:23). His nine brothers confess their money was in their grain sacks and offer to make it right, but Joseph reassures the brothers (Genesis 43:20-23). Just as Joseph had dreamed years before, the brothers bow down and present Joseph with their gifts from their father and enjoy the feast he had prepared for them (Genesis 43:26).
As the brothers prepare to leave, Joseph tests them again, having his palace manager put Joseph’s personal silver cup in Benjamin’s sack (Genesis 44:1-2). Joseph sends his palace manager after them to accuse them of theft (Genesis 44:4-5). The brothers have no idea why they are being accused of stealing, and they offer to open their bags of grain (Genesis 44:6-9).
Of course, the palace manager finds the silver cup in Benjamin’s bag of grain and takes all the brothers back to Joseph (Genesis 44:12-14). Judah pleads with Joseph that Benjamin is innocent, saying they are being punished by God for their past sins (Genesis 44:16), but Joseph demands Benjamin stay as his slave while the others return home to their father (Genesis 44:17). Judah explains how his father will be heartbroken without Benjamin (Genesis 44:30-34). Judah even offers to stay as Joseph’s slave in Benjamin’s place to ease his father’s pain (Genesis 44:33).
The story of Joseph and his brother is a beautiful story, but also one of many deceptions. Some commentators believe Joseph is just as bad as his brothers because he planted the money and silver cup in their grain bags. I disagree because I believe Joseph needed to test them and see if they had changed their attitudes. Most of us can understand Joseph’s position; it is difficult to let people who have hurt you back into your life. Joseph’s brothers wanted to kill him but settled on selling him into slavery in Egypt. Who in their right minds would forgive and trust these brothers easily? Joseph has to protect himself from any more emotional abuse.
After Judah pleads with him, Joseph is overwhelmed with his brothers’ repentance. Joseph weeps as he reveals his identity to his eleven brothers (Genesis 45:4). Joseph explains that God is the one who sent him to Egypt to preserve all of their lives and how he predicted the famine from Pharaoh’s dream and his rise to a powerful position (Genesis 45:5-8). Then Joseph tells his brothers to go back to their father, children, grandchildren, and flocks and herds, and bring them back to live in the region of Goshen (Genesis 45:10-11).
The brothers demonstrate to Joseph how they have changed. The brothers even admit their past sin and how much pain it has brought to their father (Genesis 44:16). Through their father’s daily misery, the brothers have been punished enough for their sins. This story demonstrates that it is possible to forgive people who have done [whatever “it” is] to you, but it takes time and space. Joseph did not forgive his brothers overnight; it took years – over a decade. Yet Joseph eventually finds it in his heart to forgive his ten older brothers. Thanks be to God!
Dear Heavenly Father, Thank you for having Joseph demonstrates forgiveness. Help us to forgive those who have sinned against us. Give us gentle hearts to be forgiven for our sins. Amen.
Please answer the following reflective questions in the comments below. Please agree to disagree and be respectful to each other. (If you have not already done so, please also take a moment, to sign the behavior covenant by commenting on it.) You can answer as many questions as you would like.
- How have you deceived others?
- How have you offered redemption to others?