For the past two weeks we’ve been talking about Joseph. If you remember, the first week we talked about how his father, Jacob, favored him over all of his brothers—and he had eleven brothers. Because of this his brothers were super jealous and basically sold him into slavery. Joseph ended up in Egypt where a lot of terrible things happened to him but in the end, he ends up being Pharaoh’s right hand man. Because Joseph interpreted a dream Pharaoh had. Does anyone remember what the dream was about? [Let them answer.]
That’s right. Pharaoh’s dream warned him that there was coming seven years of plenty and seven year of famine. That they needed to save up during the seven years of plenty so they wouldn’t starve to death during the famine. So Pharaoh put Joseph in charge of this whole saving food business. And for seven years everything is great, and then the famine comes. And Joseph becomes Pharaoh’s guy in charge of handing out the grain—doing so I imagine in careful increments so they don’t run out before the seven years.
So that’s where we stopped last week. Can someone read, Genesis 42:1-5?
42 When Jacob learned that there was grain in Egypt, he said to his sons, “Why do you keep looking at one another? 2 I have heard,” he said, “that there is grain in Egypt; go down and buy grain for us there, that we may live and not die.” 3 So ten of Joseph’s brothers went down to buy grain in Egypt. 4 But Jacob did not send Joseph’s brother Benjamin with his brothers, for he feared that harm might come to him. 5 Thus the sons of Israel were among the other people who came to buy grain, for the famine had reached the land of Canaan.
So this famine is everywhere, even back in Joseph’s home—Canaan. Joseph’s brothers and dad still live there. And they have no food now. But Jacob hears that Egypt has food so he wants his sons to go there and get food! But not Benjamin. Who is Benjamin? We really haven’t talked about him, have we?
Well, let’s figure out who he is. Let’s flip back a few chapters. Can someone read Genesis 35:16-19? For reference the “they” referred to in this section is going to be Jacob and his family. This is likely before Joseph was sold into slavery.
16 Then they journeyed from Bethel; and when they were still some distance from Ephrath, Rachel was in childbirth, and she had hard labor. 17 When she was in her hard labor, the midwife said to her, “Do not be afraid; for now you will have another son.” 18 As her soul was departing (for she died), she named him Ben-oni;[a] but his father called him Benjamin. 19 So Rachel died, and she was buried on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem),
So if you remember Rachel was Joseph’s mother, and she was Jacob’s favored wife. That’s why Jacob favored Joseph, because he favored Rachel. But Rachel also had another son, though many years later. Benjamin probably would have been a baby or a toddler when Joseph was sold into slavery—so these two brothers probably never really knew each other. But after Joseph was presumed dead by his father, Benjamin would be the only remaining person Jacob had to remember Rachel by.
So why do you think Jacob didn’t want Benjamin to go to Egypt with his brothers? [Let them answer.]
The Bible only says it’s because he feared what harm might come to Benjamin. But why would he be worried about Benjamin’s well-being over his other brothers? Jacob probably favored Benjamin just like he used to favor Joseph.
So if Benjamin is the baby brother and is favored just like Joseph was, do you guys think these other older brothers also hate Benjamin? [Let them answer.]
Well we’ll see in a bit. Meanwhile, the older brothers but not Benjamin are traveling to Egypt to get food. Which means they’re going to come into contact with Joseph who they haven’t seen in at least 11 years. Can someone read Genesis 42:6-13?
6 Now Joseph was governor over the land; it was he who sold to all the people of the land. And Joseph’s brothers came and bowed themselves before him with their faces to the ground. 7 When Joseph saw his brothers, he recognized them, but he treated them like strangers and spoke harshly to them. “Where do you come from?” he said. They said, “From the land of Canaan, to buy food.” 8 Although Joseph had recognized his brothers, they did not recognize him. 9 Joseph also remembered the dreams that he had dreamed about them. He said to them, “You are spies; you have come to see the nakedness of the land!” 10 They said to him, “No, my lord; your servants have come to buy food. 11 We are all sons of one man; we are honest men; your servants have never been spies.” 12 But he said to them, “No, you have come to see the nakedness of the land!” 13 They said, “We, your servants, are twelve brothers, the sons of a certain man in the land of Canaan; the youngest, however, is now with our father, and one is no more.”
So Joseph’s brothers show up and come before Joseph and bow to him. Does that sound familiar to you guys? Like maybe like a dream Joseph bragged about where his brother’s bowed to him? Yeah?
Well this is certainly not the scenario any of them envisioned, and the brothers don’t recognize Joseph. It’s been at least—if not more—than 11 years since they sold their brother. At that time Joseph was just a boy, around seventeen. Now Joseph would around 30. People change a lot from when they are teenagers to when they are 30, so it’s not surprising that his brother’s didn’t recognize him. But Joseph recognized them. He knew it was them. And he treated them like strangers.
No worse than strangers. He treated them like spies, like he was suspicious of them. Why do you think he did that? [Let them answer]
Yeah maybe he’s punishing them, just a little. Also maybe he honestly thinks they are horrible people—they did after all sell him into slavery. So maybe he doesn’t think they really deserve any of the grain. Let’s continue reading and see. Can someone skip ahead to Genesis 42:17-20?
17 And he put them all together in prison for three days.
18 On the third day Joseph said to them, “Do this and you will live, for I fear God: 19 if you are honest men, let one of your brothers stay here where you are imprisoned. The rest of you shall go and carry grain for the famine of your households, 20 and bring your youngest brother to me. Thus your words will be verified, and you shall not die.” And they agreed to do so.
Joseph puts his brothers in jail for three days, and then he lets them out and basically says: I’m going to keep one of you here hostage. The rest of you can go back, but you have to bring back your baby brother the next time you come to prove you’re not lying. Seems pretty harsh.
Can someone read Genesis 42:21-22?
21 They said to one another, “Alas, we are paying the penalty for what we did to our brother; we saw his anguish when he pleaded with us, but we would not listen. That is why this anguish has come upon us.” 22 Then Reuben answered them, “Did I not tell you not to wrong the boy? But you would not listen. So now there comes a reckoning for his blood.”
Basically the brothers think that this whole scenario is a punishment from God about what they did to Joseph. Because up to this point other than their dad being depressed over Joseph’s death, their lives probably didn’t change much. But now they have famine, and a seemingly cruel Egyptian—who they don’t know is really Joseph—who is going to keep one of them hostage until they can bring back their little brother. So for them this is a reckoning about Joseph.
And they’re not completely wrong. This is a reckoning about Joseph. It’s just not a reckoning from God. It’s a reckoning from Joseph.
Basically what happens next is Joseph keeps Simeon as the hostage but gives the other brothers bags of grain. They actually have to pay for this grain. I’m not sure if everyone had to pay for the grain or it’s just because they’re not Egyptians, but they had to pay in silver. But when Joseph is packing the grain up he slips their payment in the sacks of grain. Why do you think Joseph would do this? [Let them answer]
Maybe he still cares about them. Maybe he knows that’s his father’s money, and he doesn’t want to punish his dad. Or maybe it’s because when they come back he wants to accuse them of not paying and stealing. I guess we’ll see.
But the brothers do make it back to Canaan, though now minus a brother. And they tell Jacob everything that happened. That there was this mean Egyptian dude who thought they were spies and is holding Simeon hostage and wants them to come back with Benjamin. How do you guys think Jacob is going to take this news? [Let them answer.]
We’ll let’s see. Can someone read Genesis 42:36-38?
36 And their father Jacob said to them, “I am the one you have bereaved of children: Joseph is no more, and Simeon is no more, and now you would take Benjamin. All this has happened to me!” 37 Then Reuben said to his father, “You may kill my two sons if I do not bring him back to you. Put him in my hands, and I will bring him back to you.” 38 But he said, “My son shall not go down with you, for his brother is dead, and he alone is left. If harm should come to him on the journey that you are to make, you would bring down my gray hairs with sorrow to Sheol.”
Jacob is basically like “heck no, you’re not taking Benjamin.”
Reuben wants to go back for Simeon. If we look at the family tree, you see that Simeon is the second born, probably the one that Reuben is closest too. He doesn’t want to leave his brother there! And basically tries to tell Jacob that if they fail to bring back Benjamin when they go back to Egypt, Jacob is allowed to kill Rueben’s two kids. But Jacob is still like “no.”
Jacob is not willing to risk Benjamin’s life to save Simeon. Which shows us that Benjamin definitely gets the same kind of preferential treatment that Joseph used to get.
And there is not really anything Reuben can do in the face of this. Jacob is the patriarch of their family. They need his permission to take Benjamin and Reuben is certainly not going to okay the kidnapping of another brother. So it looks like Simeon is going to be stuck there.
But remember this is a seven year famine. So after time, the family in Canaan runs out of grain again. And Jacob is like “hey guys, go back to Egypt and get us more grain!” Judah, one of the brothers, reminds them why they can’t. They can’t go back without Benjamin, and they still have the silver from last time. What if the Egyptians think they stole it?
But they have no food. They are going to starve to death if they don’t get more grain. And this time its Judah, not Reuben, who offers to take personal responsibility for Benjamin. Maybe all that changes Jacob’s mind, because let’s see what he says this time. Can someone read Genesis 43:11-15?
11 Then their father Israel said to them, “If it must be so, then do this: take some of the choice fruits of the land in your bags, and carry them down as a present to the man—a little balm and a little honey, gum, resin, pistachio nuts, and almonds. 12 Take double the money with you. Carry back with you the money that was returned in the top of your sacks; perhaps it was an oversight. 13 Take your brother also, and be on your way again to the man; 14 may God Almighty grant you mercy before the man, so that he may send back your other brother and Benjamin. As for me, if I am bereaved of my children, I am bereaved.” 15 So the men took the present, and they took double the money with them, as well as Benjamin. Then they went on their way down to Egypt, and stood before Joseph.
Jacob says for them to go back. This time he wants them to take gift from their land—the few things they can still produce in this famine as a present for this mean Egyptian dude they encountered last time. He also wants them to take double the money—so if they’re accused of stealing, they can pay back for the old grain and the new. And he relents and lets them take Benjamin. And he hopes the Eygptian man and God will spare Benjamin and his sons and let them come home to them, but he’s not very optimistic about it.
But if he doesn’t do this they’re all going to starve to death anyway.
So they take all these things and go back to that mean Egyptian dude, who is actually their brother Joseph.
What do you guys think Joseph is going to do? Treat them well? Tell them the truth? Be mean to them again? [Let them answer]
Can someone read Genesis 43:16-18?
16 When Joseph saw Benjamin with them, he said to the steward of his house, “Bring the men into the house, and slaughter an animal and make ready, for the men are to dine with me at noon.” 17 The man did as Joseph said, and brought the men to Joseph’s house. 18 Now the men were afraid because they were brought to Joseph’s house, and they said, “It is because of the money, replaced in our sacks the first time, that we have been brought in, so that he may have an opportunity to fall upon us, to make slaves of us and take our donkeys.”
Joseph throws them a party! Or at least that’s the plan. So it seems Joseph is happy to see them right? But the brothers don’t know why they’ve been called into the house and are afraid it’s because Joseph might think they stole the money.
As soon as they get into the house they tell Joseph’s steward everything. They’re like “we have the money, we have the baby brother” and you know what they’re thinking is “please don’t enslave us!”
But the Steward is all like “no, you’re cool. We don’t you in our books as stealing any money, so if there is money in your sacks it must be because your God put it there. Now why don’t you come in for a nice awesome Egyptian party and by the way here is your other brother, Simeon! You can have him back now.”
Alright now let’s see what happens when Joseph shows up for this party. Can someone read Genesis 43:26-30?
26 When Joseph came home, they brought him the present that they had carried into the house, and bowed to the ground before him. 27 He inquired about their welfare, and said, “Is your father well, the old man of whom you spoke? Is he still alive?” 28 They said, “Your servant our father is well; he is still alive.” And they bowed their heads and did obeisance. 29 Then he looked up and saw his brother Benjamin, his mother’s son, and said, “Is this your youngest brother, of whom you spoke to me? God be gracious to you, my son!” 30 With that, Joseph hurried out, because he was overcome with affection for his brother, and he was about to weep. So he went into a private room and wept there.
Joseph comes in and he asks about their dad—his dad. Joseph may be upset with his brothers, but his dad didn’t do anything wrong, and Joseph has been away from him for all this time. It’s probably a relief to Joseph to hear that his dad is alive and well. Then Joseph turns to Benjamin, who shares a mom with him, and who Joseph probably hasn’t seen since he was a baby. Joseph probably couldn’t even imagine what Benjamin looked like in his mind before this without seeing a baby, and now here he is. And it’s too much for Joseph. He has to leave the room and weep.
Because he has nothing against Benjamin. It wasn’t Benjamin who threw him in a well.
So they have this great lunch/party. The food is great and Joseph makes sure that Benjamin has like five times as much food as everyone else. And the brothers are probably thinking, “man this is going well. We’ll get out of here with both Simeon and Benjamin and it’s going to be great!”
But things don’t go quite as smoothly as they want. Because Joseph is still not sure he’s cool with these brothers who threw him in a well. So let’s see what happens. Can someone read Genesis 44:1-12?
Then he commanded the steward of his house, “Fill the men’s sacks with food, as much as they can carry, and put each man’s money in the top of his sack. 2 Put my cup, the silver cup, in the top of the sack of the youngest, with his money for the grain.” And he did as Joseph told him. 3 As soon as the morning was light, the men were sent away with their donkeys. 4 When they had gone only a short distance from the city, Joseph said to his steward, “Go, follow after the men; and when you overtake them, say to them, ‘Why have you returned evil for good? Why have you stolen my silver cup? 5 Is it not from this that my lord drinks? Does he not indeed use it for divination? You have done wrong in doing this.’”
6 When he overtook them, he repeated these words to them. 7 They said to him, “Why does my lord speak such words as these? Far be it from your servants that they should do such a thing! 8 Look, the money that we found at the top of our sacks, we brought back to you from the land of Canaan; why then would we steal silver or gold from your lord’s house? 9 Should it be found with any one of your servants, let him die; moreover the rest of us will become my lord’s slaves.” 10 He said, “Even so; in accordance with your words, let it be: he with whom it is found shall become my slave, but the rest of you shall go free.” 11 Then each one quickly lowered his sack to the ground, and each opened his sack. 12 He searched, beginning with the eldest and ending with the youngest; and the cup was found in Benjamin’s sack.
Joseph gives them the grain but he has his steward hide a silver cup in Benjamin’s bag of grain. Then he has his men go after the brothers and basically accuse them of robbery. The brothers are like “No, we didn’t! But if someone did let them die as punishment!”
Which might seem like an overreaction, but Joseph could have them all put to death for less reason if he wanted. So they probably thought getting one of us killed but the rest can live would be fine. But they were also probably thinking “We didn’t steal the stupid cup!” Because they didn’t! And since they were all innocent of course they would agree to this.
But then the steward finds the cup in Benjamin’s bag. Benjamin. The brother that if they don’t bring back to Jacob they’re all going to be in deep deep trouble.
So what is going on here? Why do you guys think Joseph did this? Why put a cup in Benjamin’s bag to accuse him of stealing it? [Let them answer.]
Well let’s see what happens. Remember how Judah personally swore to Jacob he would bring Benjamin back? Well all the brothers go back to Joseph—cuz they have to, they’re basically criminals right now—but it’s Judah who pleads the case in front of Joseph. Can someone read Genesis 44:30-34?
30 Now therefore, when I come to your servant my father and the boy is not with us, then, as his life is bound up in the boy’s life, 31 when he sees that the boy is not with us, he will die; and your servants will bring down the gray hairs of your servant our father with sorrow to Sheol. 32 For your servant became surety for the boy to my father, saying, ‘If I do not bring him back to you, then I will bear the blame in the sight of my father all my life.’ 33 Now therefore, please let your servant remain as a slave to my lord in place of the boy; and let the boy go back with his brothers. 34 For how can I go back to my father if the boy is not with me? I fear to see the suffering that would come upon my father.”
Judah basically says if Joseph keeps Benjamin their father will die and offers to take Benjamin’s place. Judah says he will stay there and be a slave so as to not cause his father any more suffering.
Judah offers to take the favored young brother’s place as a slave. So I ask again, why do you think Joseph did this? Why did he put a cup in Benjamin’s bag? [Let them answer.]
He did it as a test of is brothers. Joseph knew Jacob would favor Benjamin—since Benjamin was both the baby and the child of Rachel. He remembered how that favoritism had made his brothers so jealous that they sold him into slavery. So he wanted to see if his brothers were unchanged, if they were still willing to get rid of a favored brother if they had the chance. And he gave them the perfect excuse. He put the cup in Benjamin’s bag, making Benjamin a criminal. Judah and the other brothers could have left and essentially been faultless, saying Benjamin was a criminal, and been free of their favored baby brother.
But that’s not what Judah does. Judah—the very brother whose idea it was to sell Joseph into slavery—offers to take Benjamin’s place and become Joseph’s slave instead, because Judah cannot bear to cause his father pain.
Judah has changed.
And Joseph sees that.
Can someone read Genesis 45:1-4?
45 Then Joseph could no longer control himself before all those who stood by him, and he cried out, “Send everyone away from me.” So no one stayed with him when Joseph made himself known to his brothers. 2 And he wept so loudly that the Egyptians heard it, and the household of Pharaoh heard it. 3 Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph. Is my father still alive?” But his brothers could not answer him, so dismayed were they at his presence.
4 Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Come closer to me.” And they came closer. He said, “I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt.
Joseph is overcome with emotion when Judah makes his declaration that he will take Benjamin’s place, and Joseph cannot contain himself anymore. He tells them the truth, that he is Joseph. And the brothers don’t believe him, which isn’t surprising. They probably thought Joseph was dead—slavery is a really hard life as Joseph learned firsthand—and if Joseph was still alive, they wouldn’t think he would be pharaoh’s right hand man!
But then Joseph calls them closer so they can see his face clearly—a face that would be changed by age but not unrecognizable—and tells them he is their brother which they sold into slavery, which no one else but them would have known.
Can someone read Genesis 45:5-11?
5 And now do not be distressed, or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life. 6 For the famine has been in the land these two years; and there are five more years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest. 7 God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. 8 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. 9 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 delay. 10 You shall settle in the land of Goshen, and you shall be near me, you and your children and your children’s children, as well as your flocks, your herds, and all that you have. 11 I will provide for you there—since there are five more years of famine to come—so that you and your household, and all that you have, will not come to poverty.’
What is Joseph saying here? He’s saying that they should forgive themselves for selling Joseph into slavery, because God has used their horrible behavior not just to God’s glory, but to save them. It’s only two years into a seven year famine. They have no food in Canaan, but because of Joseph’s position and job there is food for them in Egypt. He tells them to go get their dad and move to Egypt.
And I want to be clear here, what the brothers did to Joseph was bad. Wanting to murder your brother is something we’ve already talked about God not being cool with. But even bad things God can use to further his plan. God knew the famine was coming. And he prospered Joseph in Egypt to make possible the survival of God’s chosen people. All of this was used to further God’s plan.
Sometimes we make mistakes. Sometimes we do truly horrible things, but not even the most horrible of mistakes and sins can unravel God’s plan. God can use anything for his purpose, and he can use even an arrogant boy like Joseph to save his people. And even his murderous older brothers were saved and became better people who learned from their mistakes.
God saved them all by bringing them to Egypt.
So we’ll end with one last passage. Can someone read Genesis 45:25-28?
25 So they went up out of Egypt and came to their father Jacob in the land of Canaan. 26 And they told him, “Joseph is still alive! He is even ruler over all the land of Egypt.” He was stunned; he could not believe them. 27 But when they told him all the words of Joseph that 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 Israel said, “Enough! My son Joseph is still alive. I must go and see him before I die.”
Jacob learns Joseph is still alive and it says he is “revived.” Remember Jacob had been depressed every since Joseph died. And Jacob doesn’t care that Joseph is ruler over Egypt or anything like that. He’s just happy to know his son lives.
So all of Israel’s household moves to Egypt. His children, their children, their servants, and livestock. They leave Canaan behind. And we’ll see next week what comes of that.
And yes, after three weeks we are done with the story of Joseph.