Joseph Reveals Himself to His Brothers
I. The disclosure (vss. 1-8).
A. The event as such.
1. Why is the first reaction of the brothers to Joseph’s identification of himself one of terror?
a. “they were troubled” (vs. 3) is, literally, “they were terrified.”
b. That this terror was deeply rooted is indicated:
1) In vs. 15, which shows that only after Joseph had given extensive assurance to them did they dare to begin talking with him.
2) In chapter 50:15-18, which shows that vestiges of terror remained in them after seventeen years had passed.
2. How does Joseph remove the brothers’ terror?
a. Why does not Joseph expose and condemn the wickedness of the brothers in selling him, at any length?
1) He merely refers to the deed in vs. 4.
2) Is Joseph confident that the brothers are repentant so that for him to enlarge further on their guilt would mean needlessly depressing them?
b. Even though Joseph does not say, in so many words, “I forgive you,” does he indicate that he has forgiven his brothers?
c. The deepest ground of the brothers’ consolation, Joseph points out, must be God and His purpose in the matter of Joseph’s being in Egypt (vss. 5-8).
B. Joseph’s explanation of the event of his being brought into Egypt (vss. 5-8.
1. This passage is of great importance (with the companion passage of chapter 50:20) for our understanding of the relationship between God’s providence and sinful deeds.
a. The doctrine of providence asserts that God not only upholds but also governs all creatures.
b. This passage clearly shows that God’s sovereign control extends also to the sinful deeds of men.
c. We have looked into the matter of God’s providence, a little, in the November and December, 1965 issues of Beacon Lights.
2. Some remarks on this passage by John Calvin in his “essay” on “The Secret Providence of God” in the Book, Calvin’s Calvinism. (Every Reformed student of Scripture would do well to obtain, read and reread this beautiful work, which also contains the “essay,” “The Eternal Predestination of God.” Eerdmans Pub. Company carries the book which sells for the trifling sum of $3.50).
a. “That the way of God’s goodness is prepared by the evil deeds of men one single portion of the writings of Moses will fully demonstrate. The conspiracy of the brethren of Joseph against him was more than wicked, perfidious and cruel…But Joseph himself transfers the cause of this selling him, though with a different motive, to God Himself! … It is evident, therefore, that though they did wickedly,God nevertheless did His work by their means…” (pp. 239, 240).
b. This and similar passages of Scripture on God’s governing the sinful deeds of men lead Calvin to describe God’s providence as follows: “the internal affections of men are not less ruled by the hand of God than their external actions are preceded by His eternal decree; and, moreover, that God performs not by the hands of men the things which He has decreed, without first working in their hearts the very will which precedes the acts they are to perform” (p. 243).
c. Over against those who claim God merely permits men and devils to sin but does not ordain the sinful deed nor positively govern its happening, Calvin remarks: “how vain and fluctuating is that flimsy defense of the Divine justice which desires to make it appear that the evil things that are done, are so done, not by the will of God, but by His permission only” (p. 244).
3. Questions on this passage.
a. When Joseph tells his brothers not to grieve because it was God Who sent him into Egypt does he mean that their act was no sin and that they should not sorrow in repentance?
b. The objection always lodged against the doctrine that God ordains and governs men’s sinful deeds is that this doctrine makes God the author of sin (which “the Reformed Churches… detest with their whole soul,” “Conclusion” of the Canons of Dordrecht). Odes not Joseph carefully distinguish, in the one event of his being sent to Egypt, the pure and holy act of God from the evil act of the brothers when he says, “ye sold” (vs. 4) but “God did send” (vss. 5, 7)?
c. Are we, following Scripture, to conceive of God’s governing this deed in such a way that the brothers, first and quite independently of God, make and carry out their wicked plot and God, only afterwards, works at making the deed turn out well or are we to conceive of God’s control in such a way that God first determines to bring Joseph into Egypt by means of the brothers sin and controls the brothers’ very thoughts and wills so as to accomplish His determination?
d. Are we able to comprehend that God is sovereign over men’s sinful deeds and, yet, that men are guilty, God being perfectly holy and sinless, indeed, hating with all His Being the deed He ordained and controlled? (Against those who reject this doctrine because they cannot comprehend it, Calvin says, “This depravity… is utterly intolerable, that we, who by nature are hardly gifted with worthiness to creep as worms on the earth, should approve of nothing but that which, as if lying on the ground, we can look down upon with our natural eyes,” Calvin’s Calvinism, p.233).
II. The Church prepares to come into Egypt (vss. 9-28).
A. The invitation of Joseph and Pharaoh.
1. Why is Joseph confident that it is permissible for the people of God to leave the promised land and abide in Egypt?
2. What accounts for Pharaoh’s overwhelmingly generous hospitality?
a. In addition to the Pharaoh’s motives, ought we to see in his hospitality the working of God’s providence (cf. Proverbs 21:1)?
b. Does not this attitude and conduct of Pharaoh (and, in him, the Egypt he represents) make the actions of the later Pharaohs towards Israel all the more evil?
c. Perhaps, Proverbs 12:10 applies here?
3. What is the meaning of Joseph’s warning in vs. 24. “See that ye fall not ou by the way?” (Literally, Josephs’ words are, “Be not disturbed” and the word “disturbed” can refer to disturbance of anger, grief, or fear.)
B. The reaction of Jacob.
1. What was his initial reaction to the news? (“Fainted” in vs. 26 is, literally, “was cold.”)
2. Was the announcement the brothers made to Jacob, do you suppose, entirely a happy task for them?
3. Is there any significance in the change of name of the old patriarch in vs. 28?
The Death of Jacob and Joseph
A. Jacob’s Descent into Egypt (Gen. 46:1-30)
1. His fear
a. The occasion
1) Pharaoh requested Joseph to send for his father and furnished wagons for their transportation. This Joseph did.
2) Jacobs was overcome by the news that Joseph was yet alive and was ruler in Egypt. He resolved to go down to Egypt (45:28).
3) They departed with their families, servants, and all their possessions.
b. The problem.
1) Jacob realized as they traveled southward, he was not taking a journey, he was moving.
2) Approaching Beersheba (very southern edge of Canaan) he became afraid.
a) Canaan was the promised land.
b) Everytime the patriarchs left Canaan it brought trouble. Abraham in Gen. 12 and 20, Isaac in Gen. 26, and Jacob himself in Haran, Gen 28-30.
c) God had not approved as yet this act of departure. His problem was this, was he running away from God by going to Egypt.
c. His sacrifice
1) This was in a certain sense the Old Testament form of prayer.
2) Jacob addressed himself to the covenant God (God of Isaac)
3) A good lesson in taking our problems to the same God.
2. The Divine Assurance
a. Jehovah engaged in direct communication with Jacob. Is there anything like this today?
b. God’s message to Jacob contained 3 things to assure him not to fear
1) God had a purpose for this descent into Egypt, he would make of Israel a nation. This He would accomplish in Egypt. This harmonizes with Gen.15:13ff.
2) God assured Jacob He would be with him while he was in Egypt. God is with His people even while they are in the house of bondage. Today no less.
3) God assured him the stay in Egypt would be temporary. God would bring them back again to Canaan.
a) This does not mean that Jacob would personally return to the earthly Canaan. Jacob was going to die in Egypt, but Israel, not the man but the nation, would return.
b) For proof of all this, God told Jacob that Joseph would “put his hands upon thine eyes.” Joseph, whom he thought dead, would be present at his death, and he would out live Jacob. The generations would continue.
(To be continued, D.V.)