Genesis: The Beginning
Begging Brothers 2-7-16
Yesterday, we read about how Joseph went from the prison to the palace by interpreting Pharaoh’s dream; seven years of plenty and seven years of famine. Today, we will find Joseph during the seven years of famine. He is distributing food to the needy; the famine is far reaching beyond Egypt. As he looks out into the crowd gathered, Joseph immediately recognizes his ten older brothers waiting in the food line; they had traveled from Canaan for provisions.
The brothers approach Joseph and bow down; they do not recognize him as he speaks through an interpreter. Joseph’s dream years ago of binding grain sheaves in the field and his sheaf rising with the brother’s sheaves bowing has been fulfilled; Joseph is in a place of authority over his begging brothers. Joseph is 38 years old and he looks entirely Egyptian. He does not show any inkling he recognizes them. In fact, he wants to know what is going on in the family, but he does so in a very harsh manner. Joseph accuses the brothers of being spies and puts them in prison for three days.
I must smile a bit at this move of Joseph as he gives them just a little “taste” of what he spent years living. A ‘brother’s think tank’ so to speak; they are brainstorming and identifying reasons for where they find themselves in this moment. It works because the brothers connect their present punishment with their past sin against Joseph; they treated him unfairly, questioned his motives, and bound him and threw him in a pit. Yet, even though Joseph hears the dialogue among the brothers and even turns away to weep, he never lets on that he understands the story all too well. Joseph could have order his brothers to be killed as spies, but instead he extends mercy and seeks relationship. He chooses to keep Simeon in Egypt and sends the rest of the brothers home to Canaan with bags of provision; he hides and returns their money for food, as well. Simeon will be set free when the brothers bring Benjamin to Egypt; this will reflect whether they are honest men and not spies. Joseph knows they are not spies, but he wants a family update and this is a way to get it.
Things have changed in the hearts of the brothers; they have learned some valuable life lessons. When they return home, they tell Jacob everything exactly as it happened on their trip. Previously, they had no trouble lying to their father when a brother came up missing; they selectively told him what they wanted him to know. Jacob wants no part of sending Benjamin with the other sons; they keep loosing one of his boys. Even though Reuben takes responsibility by offering the lives of his two son with his promise to bring Benjamin back home, Jacob refuses to allow Benjamin to travel to Egypt. He is the last son of his beloved Rachel and Jacob would die if anything happened to him. So, they eat and live until the provision is depleted.
Joseph balances authority with mercy, justice with love, and never looses his priority that family is a gift from God. May we learn and apply these valuable lessons as well…