Genesis 45:1-28

Then Joseph could not control himself before all those who stood by him. He cried, “Make everyone go out from me.” So no one stayed with him when Joseph made himself known to his brothers. And he wept aloud, so that the Egyptians heard it, and the household of Pharaoh heard it. And Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph! Is my father still alive?” But his brothers could not answer him, for they were dismayed at his presence.

So Joseph said to his brothers, “Come near to me, please.” And they came near. And he said, “I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life. For the famine has been in the land these two years, and there are yet five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest. And God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. So it was not you who sent me here, but God. He has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt. Hurry and go up to my father and say to him, ‘Thus says your son Joseph, God has made me lord of all Egypt. Come down to me; do not tarry. 10 You shall dwell in the land of Goshen, and you shall be near me, you and your children and your children’s children, and your flocks, your herds, and all that you have. 11 There I will provide for you, for there are yet five years of famine to come, so that you and your household, and all that you have, do not come to poverty.’[1]

Joseph the savior had mercifully arranged his brothers’ trip to Egypt in order to test their hearts and further transformed them. He created situations which revealed their past sins and gave them opportunities to see their sins, repent, and be transformed by their savior’s grace. Joseph triggered their fears by inviting them to his Palace for a noontime feast. They were certain Joseph intended them evil. But when they entered, Joseph’s chief stew wish them Shalom. Joseph himself arrived and wished them Shalom. And they feasted from noon until evening as grace and mercy rained down upon the undeserving, sinful brothers.

Unbeknownst to them, Joseph ordered his chief Stew to place a silver cup in Benjamin’s grain sack. Then the vizier had his steward organize a posse to pursue his brothers to the outskirts of town as they traveled back to Canaan. Predictably, the brothers were outraged at the accusation of their thievery. As each brothers’ grain sack was searched, they grew more confident in their circumstances and more indignant. We can easily infer this from the fact that they had confidently taken an oath that the offending brother should be killed and the rest of them become slaves. Fortunately, the chief stew modified their punishment so that only the offending party would become a slave. But when the gleaming silver Cup was pulled from Benjamin’s grain sack, the brothers tore their clothes in grief and solidarity. The 10 of them were free to return to Canaan on the spot, they all traveled back to Joseph’s Palace as one family. Radical change was taking place in the Jacobites.

What would the brothers do? Would they abandon another brother to slavery in Egypt? Would they sell out Benjamin for the price of their own freedom? No. Judah “stepped forward and confessed not to the cup, but that God had found out their long-standing guilt. And then, in a long, impassioned speech on behalf of the brothers, he unwittingly revealed to Joseph that a transformation had taken place in their lives. Not only did the brothers admit their guilt, but they affirmed their love for their father (mentioning him fifteen times) and his now favorite son Benjamin. They had implicitly forgiven their father’s favoritism. They had proved their integrity and family loyalty.”[2] Foreshadowing what is ultimate descendant, The Lord Jesus Christ – the Promised Seed – would do for his people, Judah step forward to offer himself in Benjamin’s place.

Judah’s heartrending speech overwhelmed Joseph. Twice before Joseph had broken down— on the brothers’ initial visit when he heard Reuben recount his cries when they sold him into Egypt (42:24) and then on their second visit when he saw young Benjamin and retired to weep alone (43:30). There was no further need for testing, the savior had brought his undeserving family to repentance and showed them their desperate need for grace.


Joseph dismissed all but his family from the room. “He cried, ‘Make everyone go out from me.’ So no one stayed with him when Joseph made himself known to his brothers. And he wept aloud, so that the Egyptians heard it, and the household of Pharaoh heard it.” The brothers stood in a palace room covered in frescoes, decorated with precious stones and gold, and watched in fear as the second-most powerful man in the world wailed like a screaming toddler in their presence – so loudly that not only did his entire staff hear the commotion, but also Pharaoh’s palace next door. In all their previous meetings, this hairless, impeccably-dressed Egyptian aristocrat had been as inscrutable as the image on a sphinx.

At first, they were clueless and helpless and trembling. Then, they were stunned and terrified as the wailing man cried out, “I am Joseph! Is my father still alive?” We can imagine his words tumbled out as a run-together jumble more than an exclamation and a question. Judah’s descriptions of their father as delicately-perched on the edge of the grave made Joseph wonder if Jacob/Israel was still alive. The brothers were too stunned to answer: “But his brothers could not answer him, for they were dismayed at his presence.” Perhaps, they were crying out in their minds for the mountains to fall down upon them in the same way those dying unforgiven in their sin-guilt will wail at Christ the Judge’s appearance (Rev. 6:16).

This is surely the climax of the Joseph story, as he reveals himself to his brothers who thought him as good as dead. Yet here he stands before them in all his resurrected splendor, power, and glory. His is the power to pardon or execute, to judge or to forgive. Will he sentence them as they deserve, or will he save them out of sheer grace? We have been referring to Joseph as a rough picture (a type and shadow) of Christ. There are several ways in which the Joseph story points to Christ. First, Joseph knew his brothers before they knew him. But on their part, the brothers thought him some mysterious Egyptian potentate about whom they knew virtually nothing. They did not perceive that he was Joseph until he revealed himself on this occasion. Genesis 42:8 says, “Although Joseph recognized his brothers, they did not recognize him.[3]

Isn’t it strange that we should fail to know and recognize the God who has created us or the Lord Jesus Christ who is our Savior, the Promised Seed? The Bible says, “The ox knows his master, the donkey his owner’s manger, but Israel does not know, my people do not understand” (Isa. 1:3). When Jesus, the Son of God, appeared on earth on that first Christmas, the same thing was true. John wrote, “He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him” (John 1:10–11). We did not know him; but he knows us, and he has known us from the beginning.[4] He knows you profoundly and deeply. There is nothing you can ever hide from him and none of your darkest thoughts will ever shock him.

Second, Joseph loved his brothers before they ever loved him. In fact, they hated him at first because he, like the Christ, was the beloved of his father. They could hardly love a person whom they had only known more than twenty years before and whom they now supposed was dead. Yet Joseph loved them and was actually acting toward them in love, although they did not know it. All he had done to them was part of his great plan to draw them to dwell with him in a land of plenty. He loved them in spite of any appearance to the contrary as he drew them through trying circumstances to reveal their sins and bring to repentance.

Again, not only did Joseph know his brothers before they knew him, and not only did he love them when they did not love him, he also saved them before they were aware of their salvation.[5] The brother’s condition was exactly that condition in which every truly awakened sinner finds themselves. They knew they were sinners and that they had no excuse for what they had done. They knew they deserved the ultimate punishment for trying to kill their savior. Earlier they had said, “Surely we are being punished because of our brother” (Gen. 42:21) and “What is this that God has done to us?” (Gen. 42:28).

When the cup was uncovered in Benjamin’s sack, they saw it as an uncovering of their guilt: “How can we prove our innocence? God has uncovered your servants’ guilt” (Gen. 44:16). These words reveal what was happening in their hearts. Yet in this episode, when Joseph is revealed to them and the enormity of their guilt and its public disclosure is poured out on them, they find themselves speechless. Like those who will one day stand before the judgment seat of Christ, their mouths are stopped, and their tongues silenced with unspeakable guilt (Rom. 3:19).[6] They are in Joseph’s absolute power and at whatever mercy he alone wishes to bestow.

Finally, Joseph effectively called his brothers to their salvation when they would have preferred to run. Joseph revealed himself to them and they were terrified. Yet, he bid them come close. Though they feared he meant them harm, they discovered him to be a loving brother who eagerly embraced them. Joseph, it turns out, was not calling them in his anger, but in his great and merciful and gracious love. He was calling them out of the guilt of their sins in into relationship with the only one who could save them and their families and Jacob/Israel. James Boice writes of this scene:

Can we imagine him to have done that without calling their names? He would have cried out, “Come here, Benjamin. Judah, don’t be afraid; come. Come to me, Reuben.…” So on with all the brothers, one by one and name by name. Jesus calls you in the same manner. Do you hear him calling? He is not calling your neighbor. He is not calling the person seated next to you. He is not calling your husband or your wife or your children or your parents. He is calling you. Hear him. Respond to him.[7]

Like the Promised Seed who would be the chief cornerstone of Judah’s lineage, Joseph related everything to God. “And he said, ‘I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life. For the famine has been in the land these two years, and there are yet five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest’” (4c-6). God, in his free will, had allowed the 10 brothers, in their free will, to sin. But God, in his providence, had used their sin to affect his salvation through a merciful and forgiving Joseph. Joseph could ONLY be forgiving because he recognized God’s absolute sovereignty over him. It’s not that Joseph had on rose-colored glasses because he had only experienced “good” in life.

He had been unreasonably hated, treacherously enslaved, falsely accused, and wrongly imprisoned. He was acutely aware of his brothers’ evil and of their need to turn from it. No, the importance of these statements lies in Joseph’s attributing what was evil in its intent to God’s providence. He was not saying that God is the author of evil. God is not. God intends no person to sin. Rather, God is in charge even of the wicked designs and evil deeds of men, so that his purposes are accomplished, not theirs. Joseph says that God was accomplishing a good purpose in it—so that the end was good despite the evil. “It was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you.… God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance” (vv. 5, 7).[8] “In using terms like remnant and survivors, Joseph is employing words that elsewhere in the OT are [heavy] with theological significance. It may well be that in the deliverance of his brothers and his father Joseph perceives that far more is at stake than the mere physical survival of twelve human beings. What really survives is the plan of redemption announced first to his great grandfather.”[9]

Donald Grey Barnhouse wrote of Joseph’s example of forgiveness:

To see God in all things, both good and evil, enables us to forgive easily those who injure us. It does not incline us to condone their fault as if they were unconscious instruments impelled by him who made use of them, for they act as freely as if God had no part at all. But we can pity, forgive, and pray for them, as slaves to their own passions, enemies to their own welfare, and real, though unwitting, benefactors to our souls.[10]

Kent Hughes says, “Believers who see and embrace who God is and what he is doing in life forgive! Hatred and unwillingness to forgive comprise the province of hearts that are ignorant of God and his Word.”[11] Having revealed himself as their powerful and forgiving savior, Joseph now calls and commissions them to bring the people of Israel into an abundant land. “Joseph’s message to his father is to be delivered to Jacob by Joseph’s brothers. The message consists of the following components: (1) the commissioning of a messenger, (v. 9a: Hurry, go up to my father and tell him); (2) a message formula (v. 9b: Your son Joseph says); (3) the actual message, consisting of two parts: a report in the perfect [tense](v. 9c), and a summons in the imperative [tense](vv. 9d–10); (4) motivation (v. 11).”[12] His charge begins and ends with a note of urgency, “hurry.”

Hurry and go up to my father and say to him, ‘Thus says your son Joseph, God has made me lord of all Egypt. Come down to me; do not tarry. 10 You shall dwell in the land of Goshen, and you shall be near me, you and your children and your children’s children, and your flocks, your herds, and all that you have. 11 There I will provide for you, for there are yet five years of famine to come, so that you and your household, and all that you have, do not come to poverty.’ 12 And now your eyes see, and the eyes of my brother Benjamin see, that it is my mouth that speaks to you. 13 You must tell my father of all my honor in Egypt, and of all that you have seen. Hurry and bring my father down here.”

The land of Goshen was identified with the land of Rameses (47:11), which was in the eastern Nile delta, a very fertile district. Here at the close of Genesis God was blessing his people with a shadow of Eden – an extremely fertile and well-watered land. When Pharaoh restated Joseph’s promise, he twice gave them the “best” (literally, “good,” tov) of the land (45:18, 20; 47:6), unconsciously echoing the repeated “goods” of the land given to Adam. Joseph’s invitation is not an offer of mere survival but one of restoration of the blessings promised to Jacob/Israel’s offspring.


Now Joseph demonstrated his reconciliation with his brothers. “14 Then he fell upon his brother Benjamin’s neck and wept, and Benjamin wept upon his neck. 15 And he kissed all his brothers and wept upon them. After that his brothers talked with him.” The reconciliation was not simply with Benjamin, but with all 11 of his brothers. Confessions were offered and forgiveness extended. The guilt melted away and they talked peaceably – a contrast to 37:4, “they could not speak to him peaceably.” There was 20 years of catching up to do with 11 brothers – over 240 years of collective catching up.

Not surprisingly, given that Moses recorded Joseph’s wailing could be heard next door in Pharaoh’s palace, the report that the vizier has received his 11 brothers from Canaan makes its way across the courtyard:

16 When the report was heard in Pharaoh’s house, “Joseph’s brothers have come,” it pleased Pharaoh and his servants. 17 And Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Say to your brothers, ‘Do this: load your beasts and go back to the land of Canaan, 18 and take your father and your households, and come to me, and I will give you the best of the land of Egypt, and you shall eat the fat of the land.’ 19 And you, Joseph, are commanded to say, ‘Do this: take wagons from the land of Egypt for your little ones and for your wives, and bring your father, and come. 20 Have no concern for your goods, for the best of all the land of Egypt is yours.’”

Pharaoh’s invitation is his way of ratifying Joseph’s offer, of putting the royal seal of approval upon receiving this new family group. Why not? It’s a small repayment for the man who had not only saved Egypt from disaster but made the king even more wealthy from selling surplus grain. “If anything, Pharaoh’s invitation is more generous than Joseph’s. Joseph focused on the male members of his family: ‘you, your sons, your grandsons.’ Pharaoh explicitly mentions everybody, including little ones and wives. Joseph designated the invitation as an invitation to settle in Goshen. Pharaoh appears to open the door even wider with phrases like the very best in Egypt, the fat of the land, the best in the land of Egypt. These may be general descriptions of Goshen, but it is likely that they range beyond that one region. Finally, Pharaoh offers wagons so that the aged Jacob, the young children, and the women will not have to make the trip on foot.”[13] And he tells them to leave their stuff behind because he will provide them all the personal property they need to thrive in their new fertile land.


Joseph presided over his brothers’ (the sons of Israel) departure to Canaan. “Joseph gave them wagons, according to the command of Pharaoh, and gave them provisions for the journey. 22 To each and all of them he gave a change of clothes, but to Benjamin he gave three hundred shekels of silver and five changes of clothes. 23 To his father he sent as follows: ten donkeys loaded with the good things of Egypt, and ten female donkeys loaded with grain, bread, and provision for his father on the journey. 24 Then he sent his brothers away, and as they departed, he said to them, “Do not quarrel on the way.

Once again, the motifs of clothing and silver, each prominent at different points in the Joseph narrative, surface. He who once was stripped of his clothes by his brothers now clothes those same brothers. Unlike the previous occasion when Joseph secretly slipped money into the sacks of the brothers, he now openly gives three hundred silver shekels to Benjamin. The one previous place where clothing and silver appeared side by side was chapter 37. Joseph is demonstrating his forgiveness of that dastardly event both by his words (45:5ff.) and by his actions (vv. 21ff.).[14]

Joseph’s parting admonishment, “Do not quarrel on the way,” was so appropriate. Squabbling and blaming one another could come so easily on the journey back. “You were the one who argued for the pit.” “No, but it was you who thought of selling him to the caravan.” “You never liked him anyway!” These men had to go and confess to their father what they had done to Joseph or invent some convenient lie to explain how Joseph was not only alive but had become vizier of Egypt. The brothers had been told to cool it. And so, they journeyed loaded up with ten donkeys laden with good things, ten she-donkeys for milk, plus the Egyptian wagons. Did they confess to Jacob/Israel? Moses does not consider it important to the plot since he has already demonstrated their repentance and relationship to their savior.

The sons of Israel traveled back from the Nile, across the Sinai, through the Arabah, and across the Jordan.

25 So they went up out of Egypt and came to the land of Canaan to their father Jacob. 26 And they told him, “Joseph is still alive, and he is ruler over all the land of Egypt.” And his heart became numb, for he did not believe them. 27 But when they told him all the words of Joseph, which he had said to them, and when he saw the wagons that Joseph had sent to carry him, the spirit of their father Jacob revived. 28 And Israel said, “It is enough; Joseph my son is still alive. I will go and see him before I die.”

How revealing the statement is that Jacob’s “heart became numb, for he did not believe them.” His sons’ lies had told to hide their guilt had poisoned his trust in them. Such sins soil everything. What self-serving cruelty were his sons perpetrating now, he wondered. Literally, Jacob’s “heart became weak.” He felt that he might die. But his repentant and excited sons, including now-freed Simeon and unharmed Benjamin sporting his new Egyptian linen travel wear, told him Joseph’s God-ordained story and showed him the famously-elegant Egyptian wagons, Jacob/Israel experienced a physical and spiritual revival. The clouds of disappointment and grief parted and his prayer for mercy and shalom from “the man” in Egypt received its final fulfilment in good measure, pressed down and running over.

God is not just proving his control of events but keeping his promise to the patriarchs that they should have a multitude of descendants, or as Joseph puts it, ‘a great number of survivors.’” It was God who informed Joseph’s heart as to the ultimate good that would triumph over his brothers’ evil deeds. And it was God who gave him the grace to forgive. Without forgiveness there never would have been reconciliation, regardless of his brothers’ repentance.[15]

Today, on this side of Christ’s cross, we can be reconciled with God and with one another because the Promised Seed (of whom Joseph was but a rough outline) forgives all who come to him in repentance, trusting into his perfectly-lived life as their righteousness and into his sacrificial death as the only payment for their condition of sin.

18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. [16]


[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ge 45:1–11.

[2] Hughes, 517-518. Kindle Edition.

[3] Boice, 3:1051–1052.

[4] Id.

[5] Id., 1054.

[6] Id.,1054.

[7] Id., 1056.

[8] Id., 158-161.

[9] Hamilton, 2:576.

[10] Barnhouse, Genesis: A Devotional Exposition, 2:203.

[11] Hughes, 520. Kindle Edition.

[12] Hamilton, 2:580.

[13] Hamilton, 2:584.

[14] Id., 586.

[15] Hughes, 524. Kindle Edition.

[16] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), 2 Co 5:18–21.