In order to compare where his brothers are currently with where they were 22 years ago, Joseph has masterminded the recreation of several situations. Now he will construct the grand finale of examination—the final exam. The results of this test are remarkable, specifically in the lives of Judah and Jacob.
Passing the Test (44:1-13)
Everything seems promising as the brothers begin their return. Benjamin is preserved, Simeon is rescued, and food has been obtained. But then they are chased down from behind and accused of stealing. The brothers are extremely confident of their innocence, and they offer a unified, collective acceptance of the punishment should any of them be found guilty. Joseph, however, says that only the guilty should be punished, and with slavery rather than death. When Benjamin is found to have the cup, they tear their clothes. Importantly, “each man” (i.e. all of them) accompanied Benjamin back to the city.
Proving the Change (44:14-34)
Judah pleads, for the sake of his father, that no harm be done to Benjamin. Many years ago, Judah was the one to suggest that Joseph be sold into slavery rather than killed in order to make a little profit (Gen 37:26-27). Now a changed man, Judah is offering himself as Benjamin’s surety and speaks to Joseph on behalf of his brothers. Judah confesses their guilt, which is not on the basis of stealing a cup but on the basis of their mistreatment of Joseph. Their sin had found them out.
Providence of God (45:1-15)
When Joseph sees the love displayed by Judah and the other brothers, he can no longer keep the emotions contained. The brothers stand dismayed in his presence in a state of panic and terror. This is a complete reversal of the events in chapter 37 where the brothers stood over Joseph, throwing him into the pit and selling him into slavery. Joseph forgives them and encourages them to forgive themselves. The twelve brothers have been reconciled—from selfishness to sacrifice!
Joseph points out the divine sovereignty that has been at work through it all. It was God who had sent him there in order to preserve life and it was God who had made him lord of all Egypt. The events of the world are not haphazard or mere chance. Rather, they are sovereignly orchestrated by God (Eph 1:22). Of course, the overruling of God to accomplish good in spite of their sin does not lessen the guilt of the brothers—nor does it lessen ours! The sins of the brothers, the hands who crucified Christ, the betrayal of Judas, and your sin—they are not excused by divine sovereignty. They can certainly be forgiven if you repent, but God’s ability to use even your sin to bring about good does not exonerate your guilt.
Provision for God’s People (45:16-28)
Pharaoh gives the command that a royal invitation be extended to Joseph’s family to come to Egypt and find all that they need (c.f. Matt 11:28-30). As they leave for home, Joseph’s brothers are given new garments, a reversal of their act of stripping Joseph of his when they sold him into slavery. Joseph orders them not to quarrel on the journey—there is to be no accusation among them, no retaliation for anything that has been done. When Jacob receives the news that Joseph is alive, he is stunned. Better than all the new stuff—better than the land or the wagons or the donkeys or the produce—is the news that his son Joseph lives! Jacob (i.e. Israel) is determined to go and see him before he dies.
- Are you in need of forgiveness from anyone? Have you pursued that forgiveness from them? It’s important that you not only see your need to be forgiven by others but also that you understand your need to repent and confess that sin to the people you’ve sinned against.
- In the life of Judah, there is a wonderful picture of the work of our great Savior. Jesus is the Lion from the tribe of Judah, who offered Himself on behalf of His people, shouldering all of the responsibility of our sin. Just as Judah offered to be the substitute for his brothers, so also Christ became the substitute for sinners on the cross. He took on flesh and blood and was made like us, and through death, He has freed us from the slavery of both sin and death. Apart from the work of Christ who became sin for us on the cross, we would spend the entirety of our lives in subjection to the slavery of sin and would have no hope of avoiding the just penalty we deserve. But the Lord Jesus lived and died for sinners who would repent and trust in Him. If you are not yet in Christ, turn from your sin and trust in the One who can forgive you and free you from all your guilt before God.