JOSEPH FORGIVES HIS BROTHERS
GENESIS 50:20A, ESV
As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good...
GENESIS 43:15-23, NIrV
15 So the men took the gifts. They took twice the amount of money. They also took Benjamin. They hurried down to Egypt and went to Joseph. 16 When Joseph saw Benjamin with them, he spoke to the manager of his house. “Take these men to my house,” he said. “Kill an animal and prepare a meal. I want them to eat with me at noon.”
17 The manager did what Joseph told him to do. He took the men to Joseph’s house. 18 They were frightened when they were taken to Joseph’s house. They thought, “We were brought here because of the money that was put back in our sacks the first time. He wants to attack us and overpower us. Then he can hold us as slaves and take our donkeys.”
19 So they went up to Joseph’s manager. They spoke to him at the entrance to the house. 20 “Please, sir,” they said. “We came down here the first time to buy food. 21We opened our sacks at the place where we stopped for the night. Each of us found in our sacks the exact amount of the money we had paid. So we’ve brought it back with us. 22 We’ve also brought more money with us to buy food. We don’t know who put our money in our sacks.”
23 “It’s all right,” the manager said. “Don’t be afraid. Your God, the God of your father, has given you riches in your sacks. I received your money.” Then he brought Simeon out to them.
After their first trip to Egypt ended in total disaster, I’m sure Jacob’s sons were not excited about going back. But they had no choice. They'd run out of food and a grumpy Egyptian was holding their brother hostage because he thought they were spies! To prove their innocence, they brought their baby brother Benjamin back with them. And to prove they hadn’t stolen the food from their first trip, they brought twice as much money. But when they tried to pay it back, the grumpy Egyptian’s servant gave an odd answer: “Don’t worry! We received your money. God must have given you a gift!”
+ Though the brothers didn’t know it, who was the “grumpy Egyptian”?
+ What did the brothers think Joseph was going to do to them? (vs. 18)
GENESIS 43:26-34, NIrV
26 When Joseph came home, they gave him the gifts they had brought into the house. They bowed down low in front of him. 27 He asked them how they were. Then he said, “How is your old father you told me about? Is he still living?”
28 They replied, “Your servant our father is still alive and well.” And they bowed down to show him honor.
29 Joseph looked around. Then he saw his brother Benjamin, his own mother’s son. He asked, “Is this your youngest brother? Is he the one you told me about?” He continued, “May God be gracious to you, my son.” 30 It moved him deeply to see his brother. So Joseph hurried out and looked for a place to cry. He went into his own room and cried there.
31 Then he washed his face and came out. He calmed down and said, “Serve the food.”
32 They served Joseph by himself. They served the brothers by themselves. They also served the Egyptians who ate with Joseph by themselves. Because of their beliefs, Egyptians couldn’t eat with Hebrews. 33 The brothers had been given places in front of Joseph. They had been seated in the order of their ages, from the oldest to the youngest. That made them look at each other in great surprise. 34 While they were eating, some food was brought to them from Joseph’s table. Benjamin was given five times as much as anyone else. So all Joseph’s brothers ate and drank a lot with him.
When the grumpy Egyptian came out to meet them, the ten brothers wondered, “What’s he going to do to us now?” Last time, he tossed them in jail! They bowed before him and gave him a pile of presents. They did this to say, "Please believe us! We're not spies!" To their surprise, the grumpy Egyptian asked how their dad was doing, spoke kindly to their little brother, and fed them a feast! The surprises continued when they sat down to eat. Without knowing the brothers' ages, the Egyptian servants seated the ten brothers at the table in the order of their birth, oldest to youngest!
+ How could the servants know how to arrange the brothers from oldest to youngest without knowing their birthdays?
+ As they ate, what did the Egyptian (who was Joseph) do for Benjamin? (vs. 34)
GENESIS 44:1-9, NIrV
1 Joseph told the manager of his house what to do. “Fill the men’s sacks with as much food as they can carry,” he said. “Put each man’s money in his sack. 2 Then put my silver cup in the youngest one’s sack. Put it there along with the money he paid for his grain.” So the manager did what Joseph told him to do.
3 When morning came, the men were sent on their way with their donkeys. 4 They hadn’t gone very far from the city when Joseph spoke to his manager. “Go after those men right away,” he said. “Catch up with them. Say to them, ‘My master was good to you. Why have you paid him back by doing evil? 5 Isn’t this the cup my master drinks from? Doesn’t he also use it to find things out? You have done an evil thing.’ ”
6 When the manager caught up with them, he told them what Joseph had said. 7 But they said to him, “Why do you say these things? We would never do anything like that! 8 We even brought back to you from Canaan the money we found in our sacks. So why would we steal silver or gold from your master’s house? 9 If you find out that any of us has the cup, he will die. And the rest of us will become your slaves.”
The moment his brothers first came to Egypt (and didn’t recognize him), Joseph had acted strangely. He called them spies, locked them in jail, kept Simeon as a prisoner, and hid silver in their food bags. He wasn’t playing pranks or trying to get revenge; he was testing them. He wanted to know, “Are my brothers still the same old bullies, or have their hearts changed?” To answer his question, Joseph tried one final test. He ordered a servant to hide his silver cup in young Ben’s bag. Then, when his brothers left for home, he had a servant to chase down them down and accuse them of swiping it!
+ Besides his cup, what else was placed inside the brothers’ bags? (vs. 1)
+ What did the brothers say should happen if the cup was found in their bags? (vs. 9)
GENESIS 44:10-17, NIRV
10 “All right, then,” he said. “As you wish. The one found to have the cup will become my slave. But the rest of you will not be blamed.”
11 Each of them quickly put his sack down on the ground and opened it. 12 Then the manager started to search. He began with the oldest and ended with the youngest. The cup was found in Benjamin’s sack. 13 When that happened, they were so upset they tore their clothes. Then all of them loaded their donkeys and went back to the city.
14 Joseph was still in the house when Judah and his brothers came in. They threw themselves down on the ground in front of him. 15 Joseph said to them, “What have you done? Don’t you know that a man like me has ways to find things out?”
16 “What can we say to you?” Judah replied. “What can we say? How can we prove we haven’t done anything wrong? God has shown you that we are guilty. We are now your slaves. All of us are, including the one found to have the cup.”
17 But Joseph said, “I would never do anything like that! Only the man found to have the cup will become my slave. The rest of you may go back to your father in peace.”
The brothers were confident none of them had stolen the Egyptian's silver cup. Why? Because they hadn’t! Imagine their shock and horror when that cup was found in their little brother's bag! How did it get there? We know the answer to that mystery, but Jacob’s eleven sons didn't have a clue! All they knew was that their father's beloved boy Ben was in huge trouble! After the brothers bowed before Joseph, Judah was the first of them to speak up. Before the trip, he had made a promise to bring Benjamin back to his father. Now, Judah was ready to do whatever it took to keep that promise!
+ Because Joseph’s cup was found with Benjamin, what did Judah offer to do? (vs. 16)
+ What did the Egyptian ruler (Joseph) say would happen to Benjamin? (vs. 17)
GENESIS 44:18-23, 30-34, NIRV
18 Then Judah went up to him. He said, “Please, sir. Let me speak a word to you. Don’t be angry with me, even though you are equal to Pharaoh himself. 19 You asked us, ‘Do you have a father or a brother?’ 20 We answered, ‘We have an old father. A young son was born to him when he was old. His brother is dead. He’s the only one of his mother’s sons left. And his father loves him.’
21“Then you said to us, ‘Bring him down to me. I want to see him for myself.’ 22 We said to you, ‘The boy can’t leave his father. If he does, his father will die.’ 23 But you told us, ‘Your youngest brother must come down here with you. If he doesn’t, you won’t see my face again.’
30 “So now, what will happen if the boy isn’t with us when I go back to my father? His life depends on the boy’s life. 31 When he sees that the boy isn’t with us, he’ll die. Because of us, he’ll go down into the grave as a sad old man. 32 I promised my father I would keep the boy safe. I said, ‘Father, I’ll bring him back to you. If I don’t, you can put the blame on me for the rest of my life.’
33 “Now then, please let me stay here. Let me be your slave in place of the boy. Let the boy return with his brothers. 34 How can I go back to my father if the boy isn’t with me? No! Don’t let me see the pain and suffering that would come to my father.”
Before the brothers left for Egypt, Judah had made a promise to his father: “If Benjamin doesn’t come home safe and sound, you can blame me forever!” But after the Egyptian ruler’s cup was found in his little brother’s bag, it looked like Benjamin wouldn't be coming home ever again! Instead, he would spend the rest of his days serving as a slave in Egypt. To save his dear old dad from dying with despair, Judah bravely offered the grumpy Egyptian a deal: “Take me as your slave instead.” To keep his promise to his dad, Judah was prepared to be punished in his brother’s place.
+ What did Judah say his dad would do if Benjamin didn’t come home? (vs. 31)
+ Joseph hid his cup to test his brothers. Did they pass that test? Why or why not?
GENESIS 45:1-11, NIRV
1 Joseph couldn’t control himself anymore in front of all his attendants. He cried out, “Have everyone leave me!” So there wasn’t anyone with Joseph when he told his brothers who he was. 2 He wept so loudly that the Egyptians heard him. Everyone in Pharaoh’s house heard about it.
3 Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph! Is my father still alive?” But his brothers weren’t able to answer him. They were too afraid of him.
4 Joseph said to his brothers, “Come close to me.” So they did. Then he said, “I am your brother Joseph. I’m the one you sold into Egypt. 5 But don’t be upset. And don’t be angry with yourselves because you sold me here. God sent me ahead of you to save many lives. 6 For two years now, there hasn’t been enough food in the land. And for the next five years, people won’t be plowing or gathering crops. 7 But God sent me ahead of you to keep some of you alive on earth. He sent me here to save your lives by an act of mighty power.
8 “So then, it wasn’t you who sent me here. It was God. He made me like a father to Pharaoh. He made me master of Pharaoh’s entire house. God made me ruler of the whole land of Egypt. 9 Now hurry back to my father. Say to him, ‘Your son Joseph says, “God has made me master of the whole land of Egypt. Come down to me. Don’t waste any time. 10 You will live in the area of Goshen. You, your children and grandchildren, your flocks and herds, and everything you have will be near me. 11 There I will provide everything you need. There are still five years to come when there won’t be enough food. If you don’t come down here, you and your family and everyone who belongs to you will lose everything.” ’
In our study this week, we’ve been calling Joseph by a nickname: the Grumpy Egyptian. That’s exactly who Joseph’s brothers thought he was: a grouchy guy giving them gobs of grief. They didn’t know the secret identity of this moody ruler. He was the same baby brother they had tossed into a pit and sold as a slave twenty years before!
Though Joseph behaved like a grumpy Egyptian, it was all just an act. Everything he did was a test to answer the question, “Are these the same brothers who bullied me back when I was a boy, or have their hearts changed?” When he heard his brother Judah offer to be punished in the place of his little brother Benjamin, Joseph believed the answer to his question was “Yes! They have changed!”
Twenty years before, Joseph had been his father’s favorite son. Filled with jealousy, his brothers tossed him in a pit, then sold him as a slave. Now Benjamin, their father’s new favorite kid, was facing the same future as Joseph: being a slave in the land of Egypt. But instead of celebrating their baby brother’s punishment, they were asking to be punished in his place!
After hearing Judah say, “Punish me instead!”, Joseph stopped pretending to be a grumpy Egyptian and revealed his secret identity to his brothers. But when they heard him say, “It’s me, Joseph!” the brothers weren’t happy; they were terrified! Why? Because they were certain their powerful brother wanted revenge for the horrible things they had done to him so long ago.
Happily, revenge was the last thing on Joseph’s mind. He didn’t want to pay them back; he wanted to bring them back to Egypt! There were still five more food-less years to come. He told his brothers to bring their dad, their families, and all their stuff to live in the food-filled land of Egypt with him.
Many years later, after their father died, Joseph said something incredible to his brothers. You can read about it in the last chapter of the book of Genesis. Talking about all the cruel things his brothers had done to him, Joseph said, “You meant to do evil. But God used it to do good and save a whole bunch of lives.”
What did Joseph mean? When the brothers sold Joseph to slave traders, they did something evil. But incredibly, God used it to do good. God wanted Joseph in Egypt to save up food during the seven food-filled years. He used Joseph to save lots of people from starving during the seven food-less years, including his own family!
Taking our bad and turning it into good is one of God’s great talents! When a bunch of angry people nailed Jesus to the cross, it looked like the worst thing ever. But since Jesus came to die to pay for our sins, it ended up being the best thing ever!
+ What did Joseph tell his brothers to do? (vs. 9-11)
+ How did God use Joseph being sold as a slave to save many lives?