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Joseph    part 4

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Story of his life:

Summary of part one, two and three in the series

In the first three parts of this series of the life of Joseph we have seen him grow up and become the favourite son of his father, Jacob. His brothers envied him and sold him into Egypt as a slave. In Egypt, the Pharaoh had a dream, Joseph interpreted this as meaning that there would be seven years of plenty followed by seven years of famine. Because he correctly interpreted this dream of Pharaoh’s he was given the position of being second in charge of all of Egypt. He then set about to prepare for the seven years of famine by setting aside food during the seven years of plenty. So when the famine finally did arrive he had storehouses full of corn. People from not only Egypt but other countries as well, came to Joseph for the corn. And that is where we got to in part three.

Jacob and his sons travel to Egypt

Because the severity of the drought reached to Palestine as well as other countries, it eventually meant that the family of Jacob would be involved. Jacob found out that there was corn in Egypt and so he instructed his sons to go down there and purchase some. He made it clear why they had to go there when he said the words “that we may live, and not die”.

As we have seen, Joseph was a type of Christ and so by handing out the only source of food, he had become a source of salvation for these people. So Jacob’s words of “that we may live, and not die” were appropriate not only for then but also for those who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ. We must go to Jesus to be fed so that we may live, and not die.

So ten of Joseph’s brethren were sent to Egypt but Benjamin did not go because Jacob was concerned that he would lose him through some unfortunate incident. Jacob’s previous love for Joseph was now lavished upon the remaining son of Rachel. Jacob also had attributed the loss of Rachel’s other son Joseph in part to the carelessness of his other sons which was another reason why he didn’t want Benjamin to go.

So the other ten sons made their way to Egypt (and unknowingly to Joseph) and found themselves amongst a great crowd of Jews and people from other countries all going to buy corn. In a similar way, it is not only Jews but gentiles also who seek food from the Lord Jesus Christ.

Joseph the governor and his brothers meet

Joseph was the governor over the land and so he was responsible for selling the corn. He did not personally dispense the food, but supervised the sale of it. He probably adjusted the price, regulated the amount to be sold to each person, and kept an eye upon those who came to buy in case enemies of Egypt infiltrated into the country to overthrow it in its weakened condition. When the sons came into Egypt they first paid their respects to the Governor of the land. They bowed down before him with their faces to the ground. What a tremendous moment of triumph it would have been for Joseph, as he saw his brethren humbling themselves before him. He would have recognised the dream that God had given him was now fulfilled. Here were his brothers bowing to him. Many years of sorrow and tears had passed away, and now God’s promise to him had been fulfilled. So it will also be with the Lord Jesus Christ - all his brethren in the future will come and bow down before him.

Joseph recognised his brethren but he continued to act as though he didn’t know them. He spoke severely or harshly to them and asked them where did they come from? They answered that they came from Canaan. This was a interesting situation, as Joseph recognised his brothers but they didn't recognise him.

And Joseph recognized his brothers, but they did not recognize him. Genesis 42:8 ESV

In a similar way, when Christ first came in the first century, the Jews failed to recognise him for what he was and what he stood for. At Christ’s second coming, they will also fail at first to recognise him.

Joseph accuses his brothers

Joseph accuses his brothers of being spies

Joseph accused his brothers of being spies. Joseph claimed that they had come to walk about the land to work out how unprotected and unfortified it was, with the ultimate object of attacking it. This was their response to his accusations:

They said to him, “No, my lord, your servants have come to buy food. We are all sons of one man. We are honest men. Your servants have never been spies.”

He said to them, “No, it is the nakedness of the land that you have come to see.”

And they said, “We, your servants, are twelve brothers, the sons of one man in the land of Canaan, and behold, the youngest is this day with our father, and one is no more.”

But Joseph said to them, “It is as I said to you. You are spies. By this you shall be tested: by the life of Pharaoh, you shall not go from this place unless your youngest brother comes here. Send one of you, and let him bring your brother, while you remain confined, that your words may be tested, whether there is truth in you. Or else, by the life of Pharaoh, surely you are spies.” And he put them all together in custody for three days.   Genesis 42:10-17 ESV

So in these verses we see the brothers being thrown into prison for three days. Does this sound familiar? Remember we previously considered that three days represented the period by which Jesus was bound in the grave. We saw that it pointed forward in symbol to us also being bound for three days and on the third day we would be taken before the judgment seat.

So keeping this mind, in these verses we just read we saw that Joseph is demanding that after his brothers have been imprisoned for three days that on the third day they produce Benjamin to prove that he is indeed truly one of their brethren.

If we look at the name Benjamin we find out that it means The Son of the Right Hand. So Benjamin also represented Christ.

Joseph put his brothers in jail for three days until they could produce Benjamin in their midst. We have to do exactly the same thing. We are bound for three days and on the third day at the judgment seat, we must show that Jesus is in our midst. We must show that he is truly one of our brothers. We must prove that he is part of our family. How do we do that ? By showing that we have taken on the character of Jesus.

And this is what is happening with Joseph. He is demanding that after his brothers have been imprisoned for three days that on the third day they produce Benjamin to prove that he is indeed truly one of their brethren.

After three days, Joseph released his brothers from prison on the provision that they returned with Benjamin. The brothers talked amongst themselves in Hebrew, not realising that Joseph could understand them. They regretted all that they had done to Joseph when he was seventeen years old. So they therefore were repenting of their past sins. Joseph excused himself for a moment, and overcome by his feelings of love and compassion, he wept.

Compassion has always been a characteristic of our Heavenly Father. God was afflicted with the afflictions of His people. The same with the Lord Jesus Christ. The Lord Jesus Christ wept over Jerusalem. He did so, even though he realised that Jerusalem deserved the punishment that would fall upon it. He also wept at the grave of Lazarus, even though he knew that Lazarus would shortly emerge from the tomb alive.

So Joseph’s emotions pointed forward to the Lord Jesus Christ. He was a man of deep compassion. As matter of fact, it is recorded that at seven different times Joseph wept. The great men of faith were not men of cold indifference to the sufferings of others, but were warmly emotional to existing circumstances. We likewise must show those same feelings of compassion to others in our daily lives. And if we do then we have taken on another characteristic of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The brothers return to their father

So Joseph told his brothers to get Benjamin but he kept Simeon as a hostage. So he sends them away with their sacks full of corn but also with their money returned to them. But this only added to their consternation and fear.

The brothers eventually arrive back to their father with the amazing story of their adventures. But they also told him of the request that Benjamin be taken to Egypt. Jacob had already lost Joseph and he didn’t want to lose Rachel’s other son so he refused to let Benjamin go.

As time past they used up all the corn that they had brought from Egypt and so Jacob asked his sons to once again go down to Egypt to buy some corn. Judah pointed out that Joseph had made it clear that they would not see him unless they had Benjamin with them.

But Judah said to him, “The man solemnly warned us, saying, ‘You shall not see my face unless your brother is with you.’   Genesis 43:3 ESV

As we saw before Benjamin was also a type of Christ. So Joseph’s comment about not seeing him was pointing forward to Jesus saying to us that we will not see his face until we have taken on his character, until we can say that Jesus is truly our brother. If we want to see the Lord Jesus Christ in the kingdom we have to take on his character now.

See, your house is left to you desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again, until you say, 'Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’”  Matthew 23:38-39 ESV

Judah knew they needed grain so he promised to guarantee the welfare of his younger brother. He says that If he does not bring back Benjamin, then he will bear the blame for the rest of his life. Jacob realised the situation was impossible without sending his son Benjamin, so he gave permission.

Here we see Judah taking the lead as he did the first time when Joseph was in the pit. In a similar way, Judah as a nation, took the lead in putting the Lord to death, but in the mercy of our Heavenly Father, it is being given the opportunity to rehabilitate itself at the second coming of the Lord. If it fails again, it will be branded a sinner without hope, bearing the guilt forever.

But there is a second lot of symbolism in this part of Joseph’s story - Benjamin represents the redeemed (those who have been judged worthy to be in God's kingdom). As Joseph refused to receive the brethren before he had honoured his closest brother Benjamin, so Christ will honour first the saints (at God's future kingdom) before extending help to Israel.

The brothers are invited to Joseph's house

So the brothers make their way to Egypt. When Joseph saw Benjamin with them, he told the steward of his house to bring the men to his house. The brothers were fearful on hearing of this invitation but they knew they had to accept.

When Joseph came home, they brought into the house to him the present that they had with them and bowed down to him to the ground. And he inquired about their welfare and said, “Is your father well, the old man of whom you spoke? Is he still alive?” They said, “Your servant our father is well; he is still alive.” And they bowed their heads and prostrated themselves. And he lifted up his eyes 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!”

Then Joseph hurried out, for his compassion grew warm for his brother, and he sought a place to weep. And he entered his chamber and wept there. Then he washed his face and came out. And controlling himself he said, “Serve the food.” They served him by himself, and them by themselves, and the Egyptians who ate with him by themselves, because the Egyptians could not eat with the Hebrews, for that is an abomination to the Egyptians.   Genesis 43:26-32 ESV

So here we see that Joseph saw his brother Benjamin and he could scarcely restrain himself, so great was his love. In a similar way, when Christ sees those brothers who represent the redeemed, he will have great love, for it was for these that he had died on their behalf.

So Joseph was so overcome with emotion, that he withdrew himself for a moment, and wept with tears of joy. Yet they were unseen by Benjamin, so he wasn’t aware of the intensity of Joseph’s feelings and the tears shed on his behalf.

Do we realise the intensity of Jesus feelings for us? Do we realise what joy it will bring to him if we truly become one of his, by living our lives in accordance with his wishes and those of his father’s.

Jesus said “with desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you”. Let us never forget the great love and desire that Christ has towards us and as a result, respond with a measure of warmth and love towards him. Paul declared that there is laid up a crown of righteousness for them that love Christ’s appearing. Are we anxiously desiring his coming? Do we look upon it as we would the coming of a beloved friend or relation? Only we can answer these questions.

Joseph placed the brothers in order of age at the meal he gave them and this amazed the brothers. Joseph did not sit at the same table with them for it was a custom that Egyptians did not eat at the same table as Hebrews.

Benjamin being the most honoured guest, had five times the portion of his brothers. However, they were not jealous of him, showing that they had changed since the time that they were jealous of Joseph. Why was Benjamin given five times the portion? Because five is the number of grace. As mentioned before, Benjamin represents the redeemed [1]. So it points towards the greater gifts of grace which will be extended to the Ecclesia ( church) of Christ.

The redeemed [1] have a lot to look forward to. The brothers began to relax and they drank and were merry with him. Joseph knew that Benjamin had now taken his place in Jacob’s affections. So the question in his mind was, would the brothers show the same envy of Benjamin as they had of Joseph twenty years before?

Joseph tests his brothers one last time

He imposed a further test on them. How would they react if Benjamin was in peril? Joseph instructed his steward to hide his silver cup in Benjamin’s sack, and when the brothers left Egypt on their way home he pursued them with the accusation that it had been stolen. When it had been found, they returned to the city in consternation. Brought before Joseph, the brethren had no way of clearing themselves. They made no defense, but confessed themselves as guilty before God and man, and were therefore ready to become bondslaves of the Governor from then on. But Joseph refuses this. Only the one with whom the cup had been found would be retained, and the rest could return to their father.

This was a crucial test of the brothers. The ten elder sons had an excuse for leaving Benjamin and returning to their father safe and free, rid of both the brothers who had been their father’s favourites. But they refused to do so. Judah, good to his word, pleaded for the restoration of Benjamin to his father because it was necessary for his father’s life. He offered to take his place as an Egyptian slave if it meant Benjamin’s freedom. Joseph was now satisfied that his brothers were changed, humbled men. Especially with Judah’s touching appeal to remain instead of Benjamin.

When Judah was younger, he showed no regard for his brother Joseph or his father, Jacob. First he convinced his brothers to sell Joseph as a slave, then he joined his brothers in lying to his father about Joseph’s fate. But what a change had taken place in Judah! The man who sold one favoured younger brother into slavery now offered to become a slave himself to save another favoured brother. He was so concerned for his father and younger brother that he was willing to die for them. When you are ready to give up hope on yourself or others in some particular incident, remember that God can work a complete change in even the most selfish personality as we saw in Judah.

In a similar way will the latter day Judah (modern day Israel) also change it’s ways. We know from such prophecies as Zechariah that Judah relates to those Jews in the land at Christ’s coming. As Judah the man changed his ways and assumed full responsibility. In like manner the troubles of Jews in the latter days will bring about great changes in the attitude of the Jews to God and His purpose.

Joseph finally reveals to his brothers who he really is

Joseph reveals who he is

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.   Genesis 45:1-5 ESV

So the time had come for Joseph to reveal himself to his brothers.

There was great amazement on the faces of Joseph’s brothers when Joseph revealed himself. As there will be great amazement shown by the worldly nation of Israel in the age to come. At this time there will be joy shown by the ecclesia (church). Joseph told them not to worry about their ill-treatment of him, as God meant it for good and designed it as a means of preserving their lives.

Joseph was rejected, kidnapped, enslaved, and imprisoned. Although his brothers had been unfaithful to him, he graciously forgave them and shared his prosperity. Joseph demonstrated how God forgives us and showers us with goodness even though we have sinned against him. The same forgiveness and blessings are ours if we ask for them.

The generous, affectionate attitude of Joseph pointed towards the Lord Jesus Christ. Whilst on the cross, Jesus had prayed for the forgiveness of those who had participated in his death through ignorance. The occurring of these difficult circumstances in life were meant for the ultimate good where there would be the preservation of Abraham’s seed [2] and ultimately there would be provided redemption for all those who seeked it.

And God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors.   Genesis 45:7 ESV

Joseph saw that his trials were not only designed for the preservation of life in a general sense, but also to preserve a remnant to Israel. The word posterity in this verse means remnant. So it is really saying that God sent him before them to preserve a remnant in the earth. So Joseph’s statement is quite clearly pointing towards the Lord Jesus Christ. As the last part of the verse says, Joseph was a Deliverer of his brethren and again he pointed forward to the Great Deliverer who will come to save those who have dedicated their lives to him. He who has come to preserve a remnant.

Jacob requested to come to Egypt

Jacob and family came to Egypt and lived in Goshan.

Joseph called upon them to return home and bring back his aged father, promising them food for themselves and pasture for their cattle through the remaining years of the famine. They were to live in Goshan, a relatively unused part of Egypt near the fertile Delta of the Nile.

When the report was heard in Pharaoh's house, “Joseph's brothers have come,” it pleased Pharaoh and his servants.   Genesis 45:16 ESV

As we have seen, Pharaoh represents our Heavenly Father. So what this verse is saying to us is that the return of Israel to the Lord will be pleasing in the sight of the Father. And Our Heavenly Father waits for the day to come.

So the brothers hastened home to tell their father the joyous news. He refused at first to believe it, but when he saw the presents sent by Joseph he was compelled to recognise the truth. With thankfulness to God and joy in his heart, he prepared to go down and meet his son. So he travelled to Goshen in Egypt.

Then Joseph prepared his chariot and went up to meet Israel his father in Goshen. He presented himself to him and fell on his neck and wept on his neck a good while.  Genesis 46:29 ESV

Pharaoh received Jacob and his family kindly for Joseph’s sake. When he learnt that they were shepherds he appointed them land in Goshen. He even suggested that they might take charge of his cattle.

The fertile area of Goshen was situated in the north, and it was a area where the Israelites were a fair distance from the native Egyptians. So, not only was Israel provided with the best and most suitable land, but they were also separated from Egyptian idolatry and given every opportunity to remain faithful to the one true God who had so mercifully preserved them.

Jacob went on to live seventeen years in the land of Egypt before he died.

The final years of Joseph

Joseph continued to live in Egypt until he saw his children’s children of the third generation. Before his death he gave a last message to the people of Israel reminding them of the promises of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and telling them to await the time when God would surely visit them to deliver them from Egypt.

Joseph was so confident that this time would come, that he requested that they take his bones with them when they left the land, and bury them in Canaan.

It was some 150 years later that Joseph’s coffin was carried from Egypt by the Israelites, throughout the 40 long years the Israelites wandered in the wilderness until they came to Canaan.

To finish our consideration of Joseph let us read the words of blessing which Jacob pronounced on Joseph in Genesis chapter 49 and verses 22 to 26.

For these words capture the life and character of his son. And as we read these words let us not forget the man who Joseph’s life pointed towards:

“Joseph is a fruitful bough, a fruitful bough by a spring; his branches run over the wall.

The archers bitterly attacked him, shot at him, and harassed him severely, yet his bow remained unmoved; his arms were made agile by the hands of the Mighty One of Jacob (from there is the Shepherd, the Stone of Israel), by the God of your father who will help you, by the Almighty who will bless you with blessings of heaven above, blessings of the deep that crouches beneath, blessings of the breasts and of the womb.

The blessings of your father are mighty beyond the blessings of my parents, up to the bounties of the everlasting hills.

May they be on the head of Joseph, and on the brow of him who was set apart from his brothers. Genesis 49:22-26 ESV



Redeemed are those baptised believers who are accepted into God's future kingdom.


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Last Updated: Sunday, 08 March 2015