Day 14 Genesis 45:1- 46:4 ... A Long Forgiveness


The old, lingering rivalry between Joseph and his brothers comes to a dramatic climax in this chapter.  First, a famine nudged Joseph’s brothers out of Palestine toward Egypt, a country which, thanks to Joseph, had prepared for the emergency.  There, the brothers knelt unwittingly before Joseph-so Egyptian by now as to be unrecognizable-and begged for the right to buy food.  Thus began a long, anguished struggle of the heart.

Joseph could have disclosed his identity and made up with his brothers on the spot, or he could have gotten revenge by ordering their executions.  He did neither.  he began a series of elaborate tests, demanding things from them, playing tricks on them, accusing them for nearly two years.  All these games brought his brothers confusion and fear, and also flashbacks of guilt over their treatment of him years ago.  “Surely we are being punished because of our brother.  We saw how distressed he was when he pleaded with us for his life, but we would not listen” (42:21).

The drama took an emotional tool on Joseph.  Five times, Genesis records, he broke into tears, once with cries loud enough to be overheard in the next room.  Joseph was feeling the awful strain of forgiveness.  Finally, as this chapter tells, the brothers discovered the stunning truth:  The teenager they had sold as a slave, and nearly killed, was now the second-ranking imperial official of Egypt.  He held their fate in his hands.

But Joseph had no interest in revenge.  At long last he was ready to forgive, and to welcome them all to the haven of Egypt.  The brothers’ reconciliation opened the way for the children of Israel to become one family of twelve tribes, a single nation.  The old man Jacob, back home in Palestine, didn’t know what to believe when he heard the news about his “dead” son.  But, spurred on by one last personal revelation from God, he, too, headed off for Egypt.

A large family, a nation, a land-God had promised all these to Abraham and to Isaac and to Jacob.  As Genesis closes, only the first of the promises has come true: Jacob’s twelve sons have produced a flock of children.  The Bible makes plain that these twelve were no more holy than any others sons-eleven of them, after all, had betrayed Joseph.  But from this starting point, God would build his nation.  Joseph never lost hope that the rest of the promises would be fulfilled as well: On his deathbed, he asked that his bones be carried back to the land God has promised to his father (50:25).


Point to Ponder: What makes it so hard for us to forgive others?