The story of Joseph continues to be a fascinating one. There are so many important principles to learn about doing good, suffering endured in a godly way, forgiveness, family relations, avoiding temptation, and more. But there is also things to file away in your brain for understanding other things. There’s even a little bit of historical and archaeological mystery to ponder.
We left Joseph and his brothers in a long overdue reunion and reconciliation. But the next hurdle to overcome would be going home to tell Jacob. Years of deceit, guilt, grief, and family dysfunction now had to all be dealt with; the brothers had to tell dad. No wonder Joseph told them, “Do not quarrel on the journey.” Genesis 45:24, NAS95.
Jacob could scarcely believe his ears that Joseph was still alive; it took the caravan of Egyptian wagons to convince him. But once he was convinced, he was overjoyed — though it still may have been an awkward and uncomfortable series of conversations between father and sons as they journeyed to Egypt with their entire family (68 people in all). The final reunion of Joseph and Jacob in the land of Goshen — the eastern side of the Nile delta — was profoundly moving; Joseph wept on his father’s neck a long time. Years of pent-up emotions came flooding out in a moment.
It’s important to see such great heroes of faith not as granite figures who never flinched at pain or suffering, who never shed a tear of sorrow. What’s important to see is that they did flinch at pain, they did cry out in sorrow; but they did so continuing to do what is right. Joseph bled just like you and me; he doubtlessly cried at the time of his kidnapping, at the time of his being sold as a slave to Potiphar, at the moment he was accused by Potiphar’s wife and he saw in Potiphar’s eyes that he believed her, at the moment he heard the door his prison cell close, at the long years of being forgotten by the cupbearer — all without support, without a friend to encourage him, and without any tangible reason to have any hope at all. Find courage in Joseph’s story!
Israel, now settled in Goshen with Pharaoh’s blessing, fared well as a family and fledgling nation. They were fed by Joseph’s and Pharaoh’s largess, while prospering well enough to buy land and quickly grow in number. The rest of Egypt wasn’t as blessed. The famine took an enormous toll and the Egyptians had to, first, buy grain from Pharaoh (Joseph) until their money was gone, then, second, sell their lands to Pharaoh (Joseph), and lastly, sell themselves to Pharaoh (Joseph). In spite of the hardship of the Egyptians, they were still blessed by having Joseph in charge, storing up grain for 7 years against the day of this terrible catastrophe. Other regional societies apparently did not fare as well. Joseph essentially made the Egyptians Pharaoh’s tenant farmers, but even so, he was generous with them allowing them to keep 80% of the product they grew for themselves and their animals — not a bad cut for slaves.
By the way, for any of your Egyptological researchers, we find in Genesis 47:26 a marker for finding Joseph, Joseph’s Pharaoh, and ultimately the Pharaoh of the Exodus — the date of the statute of a 20% tax on Egypt. There are many specious claims that Joseph is the famous Imhotep, and there are some parallels to Imhotep’s history and biblical records; but the parallels and evidences provided are not convincing and the details of “Imhotep and Pharaoh Djoser” era don’t fit the rest of the biblical or historical records. I’ll recommend, on the other hand, Solving the Exodus Mystery by Ted Stewart. It is excellent.
Lastly, let me point out how Joseph does get the birthright of the family after all. Jacob (48:5) takes Joseph’s two sons Manasseh and Ephraim as his own sons! As you’ll remember, neither Manasseh nor Ephraim were sons of Jacob — so, how did they become tribes to inherit land in Canaan? And how come there’s not a tribe of Joseph? It all happens right here in Genesis 48. And you’ll also notice that Ephraim was given the greatest blessing (being deliberately touched by Jacob’s right hand in the blessing, even though he was on Jacob’s left-hand side). It is for that reason that the tribe of Ephraim often assumed leadership among the other tribes of Israel.
You just never know how things are going to turn out, do you? You just have to continue to do right — slog through the suffering and disappointment and heartache — and wait for God to make gold out of lead.
See you again tomorrow, Lord willing.