As Beth Moore says about this section of Scripture (42-50) as the 10 brothers finally have to face the music of their “hidden” sins against Joseph, “the cat comes out of the bag, the elephant in the living room is crushing the furniture and the brothers’ skeleton in Egypt’s closet is no less than their “missing” brother who now is a powerful world leader. This is an emotional zoo.” It is one of the most heart-rending sections of Scripture as we see Joseph, a type of Christ, as he tests his brothers to bring them to repentance and then forgives and restores them to be used by God. In the 20 plus years since they had sold him into slavery it seems that none of Joseph’s brothers had come to repentance over what they had done to him so God hits them in the face with it. Often deep pain is needed to make us own our sins.
Some commentators think that if the brothers had not repented God would not have used them for building the Jewish nation in Egypt but would have turned to Joseph’s sons, Manasseh and Ephraim, instead.
God (providential circumstances i.e., the famine), brings them face to face with their “hidden” sin. He uses Joseph to awaken their guilt. There are numbers of events/statements in this chapter alone that probably caused them to recall their sin. (vv. 1, 4, 6, 9, (v. 11 – “we are honest men” – many of them had a checkered past), vv. 13 & 32 (“one of our brothers is no more” – dead); v.17 (three days in prison with not knowing what may happen to them gave them a lot of time to think), vv. 21-24, finally the confession of a 20-plus year “hidden” sin: “They said to one another, "Surely we are being punished because of our brother. We saw how distressed he was when he pleaded with us for his life, but we would not listen; that's why this distress has come upon us. 22 Reuben replied, "Didn't I tell you not to sin against the boy? But you wouldn't listen! Now we must give an accounting for his blood." 23 They did not realize that Joseph could understand them, since he was using an interpreter. 24 He turned away from them and began to weep, but then turned back and spoke to them again. He had Simeon taken from them and bound before their eyes.” (The oldest, Reuben, had tried to stop them so Joseph held the next oldest hostage). 28 "My silver has been returned," he said to his brothers. "Here it is in my sack." Their hearts sank and they turned to each other trembling and said, "What is this that God has done to us?"
We don’t know all of Joseph’s feelings (shock, confusion, and anger) or motives for his actions as he is hit with this out of the blue. It seems he had tried to put this behind him and move on with his new life (wife, 2 children, and second in command of the world’s most powerful nation keeps you busy). In fact, he had named his first son “Forgetfulness.” Twice, he accused them of being spies. The brothers must have been overcome with fear. They were standing before a man who had absolute, autocratic power. At his word they could be executed. So maybe he did exact a few pounds of flesh in the way he treated them but then we hear him say this: "Do this and you will live, for I fear God:” For all of his more than twenty years in Egypt, a nation of idol worshipers, Joseph had not lost his belief in the true God. He released all but one of them from prison and though he continued to test them, it seems he was seeking to get them to confess their guilt. Also he probably wanted to make sure Benjamin was still alive and that they had not killed him as they had tried to kill him.
“Their father Jacob said to them, "You have deprived me of my children. Joseph is no more and Simeon is no more, and now you want to take Benjamin. Everything is against me!" (Jacob seems to have suspected their involvement in Joseph’s death all this time.) From verse 1 to verse 36 Jacob appears to be a very bitter and critical man and with little trust in his sons and maybe even the Lord. If the famine had not gotten worse (43:1) he may have let Simeon remain in prison and not risked losing his beloved Benjamin, the only other son of his beloved Rachael. V.1 "Why do you just keep looking at each other?" v.36 Everything is against me!" But Jacob said, "My son (Benjamin) will not go down there with you; his brother is dead and he is the only one left.” (What about the other 10? How this must have made them feel.) beloved Rachael.
May we learn from Joseph: If we don’t fear God we may continue to punish the people who have hurt us (family, friends, others) the rest of our lives.
Time does not heal things as is seen in this account. The brothers had been carrying a load of guilt for 20 years and only these deep trials brought it to the surface. Confession is good for the soul. We must tell it all to God first and foremost, to the people we have wronged, and to a trusted friend or two. “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.”(James 5:16)
“If believers have unresolved guilt in their lives, God will stir up their consciences to see if they are spiritually sensitive enough to share in His program (His on-going purposes for His kingdom). If people are fit for His service they will have to prove that they are sensitive to their guilty consciences, that they have changed to become honest people, and that if put in similar circumstances, they can be trusted to act righteously.” A. Ross – Creation and Blessing A Guide to the Study and Exposition of Genesis.
What spoke to you through this message?
What kept Joseph from taking full revenge on his brothers? It is stated in the text.
Ask the Lord if there is someone you may be “punishing” in your mind or in other ways for past wrongs against you?
True or false: Time heals things. Discuss your answer.
Is there a buried sin in you that you need to confess to someone you may have wronged in the past?
True or false: Confession is good for the soul. Discuss your answer.
Scripture memory verse: “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.” (James 5:16)