Well, Genesis is almost done. It is the beginning’s end. I really liked copying this chapter down. It was easy to process and write as there is a solid thought on each line (or in the least a solid chunk of a solid thought). It makes the process, oh, so much easier!
Israel has some final words to say to each of his sons. It is here that Jacob makes changes to the natural order of his progeny. Reuben was the firstborn, but here he officially loses that honor and privilege due to his hasty actions of sleeping with his father’s concubine. Yeah, now that was smart, Reuben </sarcasm>! Simeon and Levi are next in line, but they both lose that honor due to their rash decision to annihilate the Hivites (chapter 34) whose prince raped their sister Dinah. In fact, Simeon ended up receiving no natural inheritance at all when the Israelites reentered the land of Canaan.
So that left Judah to become heir apparent. He received the lion’s share of the blessing and inheritance (and gave some to Simeon because it was too much for them). Judah also received the blessing of having the Messiah, the Christ, come through his line.
It’s interesting to note that this is probably the last time that Joseph specifically gets named in the listing of the sons/tribes of Israel. From now on, Joseph’s place is taken by the half-tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh (Joseph’s two sons that Israel claimed as his own in chapter 48).
After charging his sons (i like the way this brings the word “charging” into a clearer understanding than the way we recognize it today) to bury him with his fathers in the cave at the end of the field bought from Ephron, Jacob finally breathes his last.
What do we do to ruin our inheritance? Are we like Reuben, Simeon, and Levi allowing our rash, unthinking, and angry natures to destroy our blessings? Is that even possible? Think on these things.
Also of note, there are some interesting names of God that appear in this text: Abir Yacob (Mighty One of Jacob), Ra-ah (Shepherd), Eben Yisrael (Stone of Israel), Shaddai (Almighty), and of course El (God).
We are coming to the end of the beginning. Israel is dying and Joseph is bringing his sons to Israel so that he can bless them. Israel does something unexpected. He tells Joseph that Joseph’s sons do not belong to him. Israel is taking Manasseh & Ephraim and claiming them as his own. Joseph can claim any others that come after them, but these two are his.
Then Israel goes to bless them. Joseph puts Manasseh (the elder) at Israel’s right hand, and Ephraim at Israel’s left. So Israel goes to bless them and he crosses his hands and places his right hand on Ephraim giving him the blessing of the elder while Manasseh gets the lesser blessing.
God does that sometimes. He sets up certain expectations and standards of His own actions and behaviors and of ours. Then He goes ahead and breaks those expectations as if they don’t really matter. Go figure, the God who sets the expectations can rearrange them as He sees fit. 🙂 God blesses / favors him who he wishes to bless / favor, and curses him who he wishes to curse.
Does that mean that we can do the same thing? I would say, absolutely positively, without a doubt, usually not. God puts his rules and expectations into place for specific reasons, they are important and when we ignore them it means trouble (…the rules serve the reasons). However, the purposes and reasons extend beyond the rules.
So when God chooses to bless His favored over the expectations of society and the individual, that is a choice He is free to make.
You could say that this is where it ends, or you could say that this is where it starts. Either way, Jacob and his family are on their way to Egypt. There is a much bigger plan for them than any of them can see right now. It is a plan that won’t be fulfilled for 400+ years.
Jacob makes a wise decision. Even though his lost son has called for him to come down to Egypt with all that he has and that he will be taken care of, he still seeks the advice of Elohim; the God of his fathers. Jacob wants to make sure that this is what God is directing him to do. What’s important to note here is that even when faced with something he desires more than anything in the world, Jacob does not just accept and do what he desires with all of his heart. He seeks God’s will before he makes the choice.
As a result God blesses him. God tells him that he is to go. That He (God) Himself will bring them out, and that Joseph will be there to see him off on his death bed. At this point there is nothing more that Jacob desires. We will see more of this plan of God’s in the coming books, but understand that all that occurs in the meantime is a part of God’s plan.
Do we jump into doing something that we want so badly just because we want it without consideration of the consequences or whether it is God’s will. Many times i have seen an amazing situation that i really, really want and think that it must be God blessing me, but i may forget to actually ask Him if it is from Him. Other times i seek God’s will and accept what He tells me; then when things fall apart i wonder if i really heard God or if i was just doing my own thing.
Just because it is a blessing, does not mean it is God’s will. Just because it has led to frustration and trouble, does not mean that it isn’t a part of God’s plan.
Some chapters i have to read and read and read the same thing over and over again before i can get it down on paper accurately. I just have a hard time keeping it all together in my mind long enough for it to get put on paper accurately. Other times, like today, i start copying the verses down and it all flows so smoothly.
This has to be my favorite part of this story. He just can’t take it anymore. Joseph breaks down and lets it all out. He reveals the truth in the presence of his brothers. All the work and testing that he has done, has led up to this purpose. He can now tell them not only who he is, but that this has all been a part of God’s plan. That they have nothing to fear and that God is blessing them abundantly above all things.
Wow, what it must have been like? To have all of this happen to you, to look back and know that God was directing and leading it all, and that you now have such a huge part to play in the process. Then to be able to come back, reconcile with those who “did you harm” and be able to tell them, “Do not fear. God meant for all of this to happen, and His plan is amazing!” What must it have been like for the brothers? Their dark and dirty secret out in the open, but for the good. All the guilt, pain, and agony that they had buried finally revealed with the ability to let it go. They still had to deal with the consequences and the backlash. But, the truth has been revealed, and they can finally be free.
Are their things in our lives that we have hidden that we wish would and could be revealed? I know that plenty of times in my life this has been the case. What Jesus told the Pharisees was that if they chose God and became His disciples, they would know the truth, and the truth would set them free. (John 8:32) They had enslaved themselves to the law and their own rules. They needed to be released from those chains. This was their chance and opportunity. One day, all will be revealed, until then; we may know / reveal the truth, and the truth will set us free.
“It all comes down to this.” How often in our lives do we work towards something; desiring for it to come to pass, and then it all comes down to the wire? It is the moment of truth. Will the hero save the day? Will the girl say. “Yes!”? Will he get the job that will spark his career and set him on the path for greatness? Will she get the score that she needs to get into the prestigious school that she wants?
This is just such a time for Joseph and his brothers. Joseph is pulling the strings and testing his brothers. He needs to know if they are still the same bitter, angry, jealous men they were when they decided to kill him and ended up selling him into slavery for a few coins. Is his little brother in just as much trouble as he was by being with them? Will they stand up for him, or give him away to whomever will take him? The plan is in place, and the opportunity is given. How will they respond, and what will it mean for them?
I wonder sometimes in reading this, what would have happened if the brothers had made the wrong choice? Ultimately we don’t know, because it never did. Judah stood up and wisely and tactfully responded to the problem. He explained the situation desiring to get Benjamin off the hook, but needing to do so without making this ruler / lord lose face. He sacrifices himself so that his younger brother (and father) would live.
Would you or I be willing and able to make the same choice?
Joseph’s brothers need to return to get food / sustenance, but boy is it a chore. They know what they have been told by Joseph. They cannot return to Egypt without their youngest brother. They also know that their father is not going to let Benjamin go without a fight. So the argument ensues. Jacob / Israel wails and moans that if they take Benjamin he will lose a second son. They remind him that if he doesn’t let Benjamin go, they will not be able to buy food. Jacob complains that they are trying to send him to an early grave. They remind him that if he does not let them go, he, they, and all the grandchildren will dis as well. Judah takes full responsibility for Benjamin’s health and safety. So Jacob / Israel finally consents.
So they return with not only Benjamin, but the money from the first trip that they found in their bags on the return home. When they return to Egypt Joseph arranges for them to eat with him. They are worried about the money, but Joseph’s intent is only to eat with them and see how they respond. In the process, Joseph has the table set up youngest to oldest, to their surprise.
How about us? How often does God do the same thing. He wants to sup with us. He wants to spend time with us. He wants relationship with us. What is our focus? We focus on what we want, or what we are afraid of, or what we have done wrong. We allow those things to prevent us from having a blessed celebration with our Father. All He wants is for us to return to Him, and we are still afraid that He might find out about something that we are ashamed of.
Is that where you’re at today? Are you missing out on an amazing relationship with the LORD because you are afraid of His response to something that happened in the past. Well, get over it; “Stop it!”
And working together with Him, we also urge you not to receive the grace of God in vain– for He says,”AT THE ACCEPTABLE TIME I LISTENED TO YOU,
AND ON THE DAY OF SALVATION I HELPED YOU.”
Behold, now is “THE ACCEPTABLE TIME,” behold, now is “THE DAY OF SALVATION”– (II Corinthians 6:1-2 NASB)
Joseph is more than 37 years old at this point. He was sold into slavery at the age of 18. He has lived more of his life in Egypt than he ever did in Canaan. Now, for the first time in 19 or more years he comes face to face with his brothers. They sold him into slavery because of his dreams and their jealousy of him and their father’s love for him.
Now, here they are bowing on their faces before him. After more than 19 years, Joseph has the opportunity to exact his revenge. He could arrest them, imprison them, and sell them into slavery, or worse. He could mock them, laugh at them and let them starve to death. He could reveal himself and simply threaten their lives. So what does he do?
Joseph decides to test them. He wants to know if they are the same jealous, angry, bitter men that they were when he was a child. He wants to know if there is remorse or if there is humility and love. He wants to know if they care more about themselves, or if they care about their family. So he accuses them of being spies, questions them, and puts them for a short stay in prison. Then he tells them that in order to be released or to get more grain they need to bring their youngest brother Benjamin back to Egypt with them. Meanwhile, he took Simeon and held him until the other brothers returned with Benjamin.
The brothers return home and tell Jacob, their father, what happened in Egypt. Jacob is upset and as time goes by they begin to run out of grain again. The brothers know that they can’t return to Egypt empty handed, so Reuben takes responsibility for Benjamin placing Benjamin’s fate on his own sons heads.
Are there situations that occurred a lifetime ago that you are still bitter and angry about? Do you have anger and unforgiveness towards someone that did something to you, or have you forgiven and moved on. It’s not a question of whether there is someone who hurt you. I don’t think that there is a person over the age of 20 who does not have emotional scars from something someone said or did to them. The question is, what are you doing about it? Joseph tested his brothers to see if they were still angry and bitter towards him and his brother Benjamin, but at the same time, God was testing Joseph to see if he still held anger and hostility towards his brothers.
When (not if) you are tested, how will you respond? Have you allowed anger and bitterness to take root in your life. I know that this is something that i am struggling with, and that i am in the process of trying to deal with. What about you?
So Joseph does what he has learned to do. First he answers the question that Pharaoh poses to him. What does this mean? Then, without being asked and it appears without even a pause he answers the question that results from his answer. He starts out be telling Pharaoh what his dreams mean. There will be seven years of great abundance followed by seven years of great famine. Then he tells Pharaoh what needs to be done to prepare for and respond to the coming famine. One fifth of the produce of the land during the abundance needs to be stored away for the famine time.
As a result, Pharaoh sees God’s hand and blessing on Joseph and places him over the entire nation of Egypt. Joseph was 30 years old at this time. He spent almost half of his life as a slave in Egypt, and most of that time was spent in prison. But the whole time, God had a purpose for him. He wasn’t doing nothing and watching his life waste away. He wasn’t stuck with no hope and no future. God had a purpose for him, and this was that purpose!
God was preparing Joseph to not only excel, but to become the second in command of Egypt; to provide leadership and wisdom to prepare the people and nations for the coming blessings and famine; to save not just lives, but nations from perishing in the flood of famine that would hit for seven years. God had a plan, and that plan had a name. It simply took a life of disappointment and overcoming to prepare Joseph for that purpose… a purpose that was revealed and a change that was laid out, all in 1 day.
How do we see our lives? I know that i struggle sometimes trying to see how and why my life has turned out as it has. I have seen people pass and surpass me in life, and i wonder, ” Why do they get blessed, and it seems like i don’t?” Why do i so often feel rejected and pushed away by God. I know that that’s not really the case and that God has a plan for me as well, but i can’t help feeling sometimes that i have been abandoned and left to rot in prison for some unknown reason. I know it’s not really like that, but that’s how it feels sometimes. Ultimately though, I know that I have a hope, and that God has a plan. That it’s not really about me. It’s about Him, and i have to make sure that i don’t get myself in the way.
So what is your struggle?
John J. Camiolo Jr.
Well, everything begins changing for Joseph at this point. He has been a slave in his master’s house. Then he was put into prison for a crime he didn’t commit, he remained faithful and did an amazing job while being a prisoner. He worked for the chief of the prison and helped out those who were placed there. Even then he was ignored and forgotten. It has been two years since he helped out the chief cup-bearer and chief baker through their dream interpretations. Now everything changes rather quickly.
Pharaoh has a pair of bad dreams, and no one can tell him what they mean. Finally the cup-bearer comes forward and says, “there was this young Hebrew man who told me my dream.” So Pharaoh sends for him and Joseph tells him that the interpretations come from the God who gave him the dreams, so tell them to Joseph and he will see what he can tell him. All that hard work and faithfulness pays off, God answers, and Joseph is about to have a life change.
How long are we willing to wait for God? Do we get frustrated and just give up when things just don’t go our way? Do we feel abandoned when instead of blessing us, it seems like God just puts us through more and more trials? Do we feel like it doesn’t really matter whether we do the right thing or not because either way we are getting screwed? Just because it takes time for the seed to grow, sprout, bud, flower, and come to fruition doesn’t mean that God doesn’t have a plan for us. It just means, that His timing is much different from ours.
The fruition of his faithfulness, hard work, and honesty in the face of great trials leads him to this very moment and time… and what happens in the second half of this chapter; tomorrow.