"And the children of Israel did so: and Joseph gave them wagons, according to the commandment of Pharaoh, and gave them provision for the way (Genesis 45.21)."
The eleven brothers of Joseph had just been involved in the greatest and most far-reaching event of their lives. Having come to Egypt to buy corn so that their family would not perish in the famine, they had, through a series of most unusual events, been reunited with their brother Joseph whom they had shamelessly sold into slavery while he was yet a youth. In this latest audience with Joseph they had been made fully aware that this governor of Egypt was their brother. They were forgiven their trespass, lavished with love, and given instructions for their future by their wise and compassionate brother. Without attempting to trace those incidents once again, we do point out how in all this Jesus beautifully shines forth from the many types and figures. Jesus too was offended by His brethren, yet He delivered His offenders, as did Joseph centuries earlier. Also Jesus guided the lives of His brethren after He had revealed Himself to them. Although the history of Joseph is highly interesting reading, if we see not Jesus in the whole of the narrative, we have missed the spiritual import of the story.
"And the children of Israel did so." This refers to two commandments, the first to take the Egyptian wagons for their journey home and back again, and second, to "regard not your stuff." In article No. 12 we pointed out the serious pitfalls in placing confidence in the goods of Egypt over the "stuff" the Lord had blessed them with up until that time. However, with such force behind the injunction, coming from both Joseph and Pharaoh, it is at least easy to see why the brothers acted as they did. This did not, however, spare the twelve tribes and their families much future grief, as will be seen in following articles, the Lord willing. But, before concluding that the brothers "ought to" have acted different than they did, it would be well to reflect on the matter. They were but following a course that, at that time, appeared to come from complete good-will of Pharaoh, and both leadership and benevolence from their brother Joseph. Consider also the eternal purpose of God. He would make of them a great nation while in Egypt. That was the unseen force behind all that transpired. All was falling into place. Each event would harmonize with the will of God for the tribes of Israel.
"And the children of Israel did so: and Joseph gave them wagons, according to the commandment of Pharaoh, and gave them provision for the way (Genesis 45.21)." This was the only time in the extended account of Joseph and his brethren that the eleven brothers were described as the "children of Israel." We believe it was for good reason. Was this not the sound of a certain note from the trump of God? Pharaoh had now taken an interest in the brothers. Through Joseph Pharaoh was adapting them for life in Egypt. But - we are reminded by the inspired record that they were, after all, still God's chosen children; the sons of Israel. It did not matter one bit that for about four centuries they and their families would live in Egypt, first as highly favored guests, and later as slaves. They were yet a separate people under God, and where they sojourned could never change that. At the appointed hour they would, like God's pilgrim elect today that sojourn in Babylon, hear the call, "come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues (Revelation 18.4)." Those children of Israel (Jacob) were a particular family, chosen and called of God, and the many centuries in Egypt could never make them the children of Pharaoh, nor permanent citizens of that accursed land.
When Moses was come to years he refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter. Why? Because he was not her son! He could not dare to be called what in fact he was not. He too was a child of Israel, though many generations removed from Jacob and nurtured in the court of Pharaoh. Even so today the children of the heavenly King can know but one family identification; that of being the children of promise. Not Egypt and its Pharaoh then, nor the world and its potentates now, can make those of the royal line to be other than what they are by birth. With good reason then the brothers of Joseph were called the "children of Israel."
The family of God often in this day hear the "Lo here, Lo there" and but for the grace of God would soon enough fall into bondage as terrible as that which the brothers of Joseph experienced. But, it must be remembered that there was a plan worthy of God Himself in these brothers abandoning their "stuff" and taking the wagons back home to gather up the family. Our God yet today orders our steps, often in strange-seeming paths, but nevertheless the end is always deliverance at last. It reminds us of the sweet words of the following hymn:
"How strange is the course that a Christian must steer,
How perplex'd is the path he must tread!
The hope of his happiness rises from fear,
And his life he receives from the dead."
Joseph's brethren were given the Egyptian's splendid wagons and ample provisions for the long and tiresome way. It is good to remember that from Pharaoh's court to their home and back again to Egypt was an extended and tedious journey, so every comfort and necessity for this great journey was kindly provided for them. They did not have to lift so much as their little finger to receive any of them, nor even ask. It could well be said that they were not their own, and that their will was only to do and have what Joseph and Pharaoh determined for them. While thousands of Egyptians and other hungry suppliants were spending their all to obtain corn in order to survive the famine, the brothers of Joseph were being freely given the best of Egypt's land. Again we would suggest this was the results of their family ties, and nothing else. Pharaoh was kind to them because they were the family of Joseph. No other reason could possibly be assigned to his treatment of them. Joseph and these brethren had a living bond that not even their awful sins, past or present, could dissolve. For this reason they were favored when all others fended for themselves. This clearly shows us in a figure how the love of Jesus, our brother, undertakes to preserve all His elect family in our famine existence here in this world. We see many who are attempting to buy corn (the bread of life) from our Joseph, and when the transaction is done they are no closer to Him than before. No special favors. No tender care such as He bestows on His brethren. The citizens of this world receive many benefits from God, yet none of them are drawn to His bosom in love but His chosen family. How blessed then are the saints of the Most High if given to see in this the limits of His atoning work. There are no tears for the world of sinners that are not His elect family. No kind words of encouragement; no wagons for their journey; no provisions for the way. Only corn for which they must pay dearly. And when what they have bought is gone they are just where they were before; natural citizens of a fallen race of Adam.
When Jacob sent his sons down to Egypt this last time to buy corn it was with great reluctance, and but for the severity of the famine he would, according to nature, have refused to send them again. After a dissertation of some length with Judah, he said the following: "Take also your brother, and arise, go again unto the man: And God Almighty give you mercy before the man, that he may send away your other brother, and Benjamin. If I be bereaved of my children, I am bereaved (Genesis 43.13,14)." Several matters related to the removing of Jacob's family to Egypt are evident in this text. First was the sin of the brothers that delivered Joseph to Egypt in the first place. Had they not acted in such a callous manner toward their young brother, Joseph would not be in Egypt to rescue them from their dire circumstances. Second was the famine so clearly foretold and sent by God Himself! No famine--no need to apply at Pharaoh's court for relief. Third was the wisdom and conduct of Joseph in securing Simeon with him when the other brothers returned to their father Israel. Increased panic and apprehension would well have led them to abandon all further journeys to that far land but for their imprisoned brother. Finally, we see the nature of man resigned to his lot and circumstances. "If I be bereaved of my children, I am bereaved." How clearly it reveals the hand of God in reducing those miserable beings to accept whatever might come. May He ever be praised that we, like Jacob, at the last come to accept His kind, but fearful-appearing, providences.
We see then that Jacob had, by all these circumstances, been suitably prepared for the return of his sons in the Egyptian's carriages. However, while he anxiously awaits their return at home, the brothers are also being made ready for this great transition in their lives. Joseph, under the direction of Pharaoh, gave them the wagons and "provisions for the way." Surely, they, just as we would have, considered this was all too marvelous to be chance or luck. Their brother, long thought dead, was yet alive and well. He was in fact, governor of Egypt, and moreover, fully compassionate to them in their circumstances. "This is the way, walk ye in it" was stamped on every unfolding event. Certainly no other way could for a moment be entertained by these tried pilgrims. No; this was the way, and Joseph had given them provisions for it. Not even the dullest believer could avoid seeing in this episode a figure of our Governor detailing our way. Our dear Lord and present Joseph not only fulfils this grand type, He overshadows it with care and direction for us far more than could ever be imagined by those distant brothers. Well could we then join with David in saying "The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want."
"To all of them he gave each man changes of raiment; but to Benjamin he gave three hundred pieces of silver, and five changes of raiment (Genesis 45.22)." It has long been a source of interest for Bible students why there was such a disparity in the gifts conferred on his brothers by Joseph. We could well pass the matter by with the words of our Lord, "Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? Is thine eye evil, because I am good (Matthew 20.15)?" There appears, however, to be more here than that. When Joseph was sold to the Midianite merchantmen the ten brothers received 20 pieces of silver for his price. His raiment, a coat of many colours, was dipped in a kid goat's blood, and deceptively carried to father Jacob as sure evidence his beloved son was dead. It can with some certainty be concluded that the 10 brothers did not reveal to Jacob the meager pieces of silver they had gotten for the life of Joseph, but they did display with much feigned sorrow his blood-spattered raiment. Now, however, the brothers all have changes of raiment from the Egyptian looms for father Israel to view, certifying that Joseph indeed is not dead, but yet alive! To add to this, Benjamin has 300 pieces of silver, 15 times as much as the price of Joseph's life, which was no doubt a source of much conversation, both on the trip home, and when in the presence of their father. It is not difficult to imagine that the other brothers winced considerably whenever the lavish gift to Benjamin was mentioned in conversation. Moreover, the five changes of raiment surely suggests the grace involved in Joseph's benevolence. "But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound (Romans 5.20)." Whatever the meaning of the five changes of raiment and the 300 pieces of silver Joseph gave to Benjamin, it was certainly a vivid contrast to the coat of many colours and the 20 pieces of silver. Joseph had wickedly been reduced to poverty, sold for a pittance of coins, stripped of his raiment, and hauled off to the land of Godlessness. These things all vividly portray in figure the shame, degradation, sufferings, and then final exaltation of Christ. The Bible might be searched till time is no more without finding a more resplendent type of Christ.
Father Jacob was without question a clever man, as detailed in his sojourn in Padan-aram with his uncle Laban (Genesis, chapters 28-3 1). Upon the return of his sons with all this splendor from Egypt, changes of raiment and 300 pieces of silver, and the amazing news that Joseph was yet alive, his keen mind must have reviewed that sad incident long past when the brothers came dragging in Joseph's blood-covered raiment. He surely could recall their lying account of the supposed death of his darling son Joseph. Yet there is nothing in the record to suggest that Jacob persued the matter with his sons, or that they freely confessed their crime to him. In fact we have reason to believe, based on the account of their falsifying their father's intentions after his death, (Genesis 50.15-18) that the brothers kept this crime concealed; at least from all but God. But we are running ahead of our text.
"So he sent his brethren away, and they departed: and he said unto them, See that ye fall not out by the way (Genesis 45.24)." It is worthwhile to mention here that Joseph sent his brethren away. It does not read, "So he sent them away," for that would greatly diminish the force of the whole emphasis in this story. We cannot emphasize too strongly that Joseph and the 11 suppliants from Canaan were brothers; children by the same father. They were kin; family; and were so even when in the loins of their father. It is this peculiar tie, and nothing else, which separated them from all others that were seeking refuge from the famine conditions. Now, though, for their good, along with the rest of the family, they are loaded with provisions for the journey before them and sent away. Many of the tried saints of the most High God can fondly reflect on the many times their Joseph, as did Joseph of old, sent them away on a journey in life. Not, mind you, in capriciousness or lack of affection, but rather in love. While Joseph was able to care for his brethren to the limits of his power and ability, which, we may add, was considerable, he could not personally be with them while they traveled. Here the anti-type shines much brighter than the type. Our Lord and Master, exceedingly greater in power and wisdom than His type Joseph, has promised never to leave us nor forsake us, being with us alway, even to the ends of the earth.
It may well be imagined that the feelings of affection for his brethren were stronger in Joseph than they were in them as they traveled off out of sight. The brethren were no doubt somewhat dazzled by all the swift-moving events. Off they journeyed then, with a "see that ye fall not out by the way." Egyptian wagons, changes of raiment, provisions for the way, and the ardent approval of both the governor and king of Egypt were theirs. Probably, very probably, lesser understood was the greatest of all blessings they then enjoyed; the forgiveness and affection of the brother they had sinned against. A review of our own nature, coupled with the record of the whole course of events that had fallen out to them, compels us to feel that these brothers were yet highly anxious about this whole business. Neither can it be imagined that today, we who are children of hope, can properly put into perspective our greatest of all blessings, the forgiveness of sins coupled with the restoration of our souls to Jesus, our governor and King. Joseph's final departing words to them would, however, dispel some of their trepidation. "See that ye fall not out by the way" is much more than a simple parting gesture. It strongly implied that Joseph would yet care for their welfare, though not present with them as they made their way back to father Jacob.
If the Lord may be pleased to bless, we will take up this subject again in a future issue of The Remnant. We hope to conclude the series on Joseph with two, or possibly three, more articles.
Volume 8, No. 5 - September-October, 1994