Genesis (Part 203)

Welcome back to my study/review of Genesis. If you missed the previous parts of this study, you can find them HERE.

Genesis 45:1-13

45 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.’ 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.” 


Joseph confesses to them and removes from them the blame for how they treated him. From Ellicott’s Bible Commentary:

(1) Joseph could not refrain himself.—The picture which Judah had drawn of his father’s love for Benjamin, the thought that by separating them he might have made his father die of grief, and the sight of his brethren, and especially of Judah offering to endure a life of slavery in order that Benjamin might go free, overpowered Joseph’s feelings, and he commanded all his attendants to quit the apartment in order that there might be no restraint upon himself or his brethren when he made known to them that he was the brother whom they had so cruelly years ago condemned to be a slave.

We see above, from Joseph’s personal timeline, that this moment is about 26 or 27 years after his brothers last saw him. Nevertheless, for Joseph, time has not dulled his emotions. He weeps so loudly that everyone hears. I would guess that for this brief moment, prior to his speaking, Joseph’s brothers are baffled. Verse 3 from The Pulpit Commentaries gives us his confession:

Genesis 45:3

And Joseph said unto his brethren, I am Joseph. The effect of this announcement can be better imagined than described. Hitherto he had been known to his brethren as Zaphnath-paaneah. Now the voice and the appearance of their long-lost brother would rush upon their minds at the first sound of the familiar name, and fill them with apprehension. Probably Joseph’s discernment of this in their countenances was the reason why he asked so abruptly after Jacob. Doth my father yet live? It is not now “the old man of whom ye spake” (Genesis 43:27) for whom Joseph inquires, but his own beloved and revered parent—”my father.” “Before it was a question of courtesy, but now of love” (Alford). And his brethren could not answer him; for they were troubled (or cast into a trepidation, hence terrified) at his presenceliterally, before his face. Not only did his present greatness overawe them, but the recollection of their former crimes against him filled them with alarm.

The note here points out that Joseph tries to make them less worried, concerning his true identity, by asking after Jacob in the loving way he did. Ellicott views the confession in the same way:

(4) I am Joseph your brother.—There is much force in the assurance that he was still their brother. For they stood speechless in terrified surprise at finding that the hated dreamer, upon the anguish of whose soul they had looked unmoved, was now the ruler of a mighty empire. But with magnanimous gentleness he bids them neither to grieve nor be angry with themselves; for behind their acts there had been a watchful Providence guiding all things for good.

The Pulpit Commentary recounts the rest of Joseph’s reaction in one note:

Genesis 45:4-13

And Joseph said unto his brethren, Come near to me, I pray you. It is probable they had instinctively shrunk from his presence on learning the astounding fact that he was Joseph, but felt reassured by the kindly tone of Joseph’s words. And they came near. And he said, I am Joseph your brother, whom ye sold into Egypt. It was impossible to evade allusion to their early wickedness, and this Joseph does in a spirit not of angry upbraiding, but of elevated piety and tender charity. Now therefore be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves (literally, let it not burn in your eyes, as in Genesis 31:35), that ye sold me hither (their self-recriminations and heart upbraidings for their former wickedness Joseph in all probability saw depicted in their faces): for God (Elohim) did send me before you to preserve life (literally, for the preservation of life). For these two years hath the famine been in the land (literally, in the midst of the land)and yet there are five years, in the which there shall neither be earning nor harvest—literally, neither ploughing nor reaping, the term ploughing, or earing, charish (cf. ἄροσις, aratio, Anglo-Saxon, origin), being derived from a root signifying to cut. And God (Elohim, the use of which here and in Genesis 45:5 instead of Jehovah is sufficiently explained by remembering that Joseph simply desires to point out the overruling providence of God in his early transportation to Egypt) sent me before you to preserve you a posterity in the earth (literally, to keep for you a remnant on the earth, i.e. to preserve the family from extinction through the famine), and to save your lives by a great deliverance—literally, to preserve life to you to a great deliverance, i.e. by a providential rescue (Rosenmüller, Kalisch, Murphy, ‘Speaker’s Commentary’), which is better than to a great nation or posterity, פְלֵיטָה being understood, as in 2Sa 15:14; 2 Kings 19:302 Kings 19:31, to mean a remnant escaped from slaughter (Bohlen), an interpretation which Rosenmüller thinks admissible, but Kalisch disputes. So now (literally, and now) it was not you that sent me hither, but God—literally, for the Elohim (sent me). Joseph’s brethren sent him to be a slave; God sent him to be a savior (Hughes). And he hath made me a father to Pharaoh,—i.e. a wise and confidential friend and counselor (Keil, Kalisch, ‘Speaker’s Commentary;’ cf. 1 Macc. 11:32). Murphy explains the term as signifying “a second author of life,” with obvious reference to the interpretation of his dreams and the measures adopted to provide against the famine—and lord of all his house, and a ruler throughout all the land Egypt (vide Genesis 41:40Genesis 41:41). Haste ye, and go up to my father, and say unto him, Thus saith thy son Joseph, God (Elohim) hath made me lord of all Egypt: come down unto me, tarry not: and thou shalt dwell in the land of Goshen. Goshen, Γεσὲμ Αραβίας (LXX.), was a region on the east of the Pelusiac branch of the Nile, extending as far as the wilderness of Arabia, a land of pastures (Genesis 46:34), exceedingly fertile (Genesis 47:6), styled also the land of Rameses (Genesis 47:11), and including the cities Pithon and Rameses (Exodus 1:11), and probably also On, or Heliopolis. And thou shalt be near unto me, thou, and thy children, and thy children’s children, and thy flocks, and thy herds, and all that thou hast: and there will I nourish thee (the verb is the Pilpel of כּול, to hold up, hence to sustain); for yet there are five years of famine; lest thou, and thy household, and all that thou hast, come to poverty—literally, be robbed, from יָרַשׁ, to take possession (Keil), or fall into slavery, i.e. through poverty (Knobel, Lange). And, behold, your eyes see, and the eyes of my brother Benjamin, that it is my mouth that speaketh unto you. And ye shall tell my father of (literally, ye shall relate to my father) all my glory (cf. Genesis 31:1in Egypt, and of all (literally, ail) that ye have seen; and ye shall haste and bring down my father hither. Calvin thinks that Joseph would not have made such liberal promises to his brethren without having previously obtained Pharaoh’s consent, nisi regis permissu; but this does not appear from the narrative.

As the note states, Joseph communicates several things here:

  1. Do not be angry with yourself, or worried.
  2. The act of selling Joseph into slavery was directed by the hand of God and was done to save lives.
  3. The famine will last another five years. (This communicates to them that he has divine knowledge of future events.)
  4. God sent Joseph to Egypt to preserve their lives specifically and the lives of their descendants.
  5. He tells them exactly how powerful he has become since they sold him: “He has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt.”

Then he gives instructions to his brothers to return home, let him know that Joseph lives and rules in Egypt, then bring him to Egypt as well. Joseph explains that he has prepared a place for their entire families, their flocks, etc., in Goshen. He reiterates that they need to hurry in this.

Ellicott includes a few notes on some of these verses:

(7) To preserve you a posterity in the earth.—Heb., To put for you a remnant in the land, that is, to preserve a remainder for you, as the word is translated in 2 Samuel 14:7. During the seven years’ famine many races probably dwindled away, and the Hebrews, as mere sojourners in Canaan, would have been in danger of total extinction.

By a great deliverance.—That is, by a signal interference on your behalf. But the word rendered “deliverance,” more exactly signifies that which escapes (see 2 Kings 19:31, where, as here, it is joined with the word remnant, and 2 Kings 19:30, where it is itself rendered remnant)The two nouns really signify the same thing; but whereas in the first clause the words seem to forebode that only few would escape, in the second there is the assurance of their surviving in such numbers as to be able to grow into a great nation.

Ellicott also addresses the somewhat strange title Joseph gives himself – “a father of Pharaoh.”

(8) But God.—Heb., but the God. The article is. rarely found with Elohim in the history of Joseph, but wherever it is added it is a sign of deep feeling on the speaker’s part. (Comp. Genesis 48:15.) It was the Elohim, who had been the object of the worship of their race, that had now interposed to save them.

father.—This was a not uncommon title of the chief minister or vizier of Oriental kings.

This is essentially a different way to imply that he advises – just as a father might advise a son. It does not appear to imply any authority over Pharaoh.

Ellicott also provides a little more information regarding Goshen:

(10) The land of Goshen.—This land, also called “the laud of Rameses” (Genesis 47:11), probably from the city “Raamses,” which the Israelites were compelled to build there (Exodus 1:11), was situated on the eastern bank of the Nile, and apparently commencing a little to the north of Memphis extended to the Mediterranean, and to the borders of the Philistines’ land (Exodus 13:17). In Psalms 78:12Psalms 78:43, it is called the “field of Zoan,” or Tanis. It probably was an unsettled district, but rich in pastures, and belonged in a very loose way to Egypt. In the LXX. it is called “Gesem of Arabia,” to which country both Herodotus and Strabo reckoned all the district on the east of the Nile towards the Isthmus of Suez as belonging. And here the Israelites were constantly joined by large numbers of Semitic immigrants, who were enrolled in their “tafs,” and swelled the rapidly increasing number of their dependants. For, as we have seen before, not merely the lineal descendants of Abraham were circumcised, but all his household and his slaves; and being thus admitted into the covenant became members of the Jewish church and nation (Genesis 17:23).

Though we eventually learn in Exodus that the Hebrews became slaves in Egypt, initially they were welcome guests.

As the note states, many believe that the Hebrews lives in what was later named Tanis, a city known today in part for its hypothetical connection to the Ark of the Covenant.

Would it make sense, in a time of distress, to hide the Ark in the place where the Israelites had been slaves for four hundred years? Perhaps.

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