In our last article on the life of Joseph we related the events of the second trip to Egypt by the brothers of Joseph. They were sadly as ignorant of him, and who he was, on their second trip as they were the first, and so it would remain until it pleased Joseph to reveal himself. Until he drew the veil from their eyes, they may as well have been stone blind as to find him out. There is not even a hint in the Divine Record that any of the brothers had so much as a fleeting suspicion that they had known him before. All they knew of him was such as the natural eye could behold. It was with them as with the disciples on the road to Emmaus: "But their eyes were holden that they should not know him (Luke 24.16)."
Joseph's brothers seemed to grow more and more apprehensive, rather than feeling comfortable with their majestic, yet unknown brother. Is it not a truth as well then, that poor sinners saved by grace are generally the same with their relationship to Jesus? Though He knows them, and is ever guiding their course, they have no knowledge of what is really transpiring, except He make it known. Consider the twelve disciples that walked with Jesus during His earthly ministry. They were with Him constantly for over three years, yet all they knew was such as He revealed to them from time to time. On the occasion when He asked them who men said that He was, only Peter could answer properly, and even then Christ expressed that Peter's knowledge was of divine origin. "And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven (Matthew 16.17)." And what was it that the Father in heaven had revealed to Simon? That Jesus was the Christ (verse 16)! This then is the lesson of Genesis 43, and it compares very closely to the experience of the disciples as recorded in the New Testament.
In Genesis 44 we find Joseph totally in command of the lives of his brothers, and giving instructions for the events that would ultimately bring them before him again. It would again be a time of consternation and considerable perplexity when they were apprehended once more, but for the moment they were making preparations to leave his presence, seemingly having obtained their original purpose in going to Egypt. To that moment the brothers preferred being gone from the company of Joseph, for knowing nothing of their relationship, or their fleshly ties, they had nothing in common; or so it seemed.
Joseph gave his servant instructions to fill the brothers sacks with all the food they could carry. (They had limits to what they could sustain, as well as we do.) He further required that once again their money should be returned. How clearly this should teach us that our material possessions cannot buy food or favor from the Lord, any more than they could appropriate sustenance with their currency at that time. Notice too, the departing brothers had all their worldly possessions in a simple sack. They were little better than vagabonds. Their poverty was real, and were it not for the mercy of Joseph they had scarcely anything at all, and yet what he gave them they could not appreciate.
The silver cup from which Joseph drank was, by his instruction, placed in the sack of Benjamin. This would prove to be the undoing of the brothers, and bring them to the end of themselves. It might be thought by some that Joseph was not "playing by the rules" in doing his brothers that way, but we are compelled to feel that he not only had the "right" to do so, but he was doing it for their ultimate good. Could we dare reply against the ways of the Lord today? Neither could they reply against their Lord then, even had they known what was transpiring.
"As soon as the morning was light, the men were sent away, they and their asses (Gen. 44.3)." Though Joseph sent them away, it was to be for only a short period of time. No doubt but their minds were for the moment relieved as they headed for home, but their relief was to be brief. After they were but a short way off Joseph gave instructions to his steward to overtake them, and ask them, "Wherefore have ye rewarded evil for good (Gen. 44.4)?" It would be difficult to imagine a worse situation for the brothers to be in, according to nature, and according to how they must have interpreted each succeeding occurrence. However dreadful they must have felt at being once again detained, their hopes of going home to Jacob being blasted, this was a golden link in the design of Joseph to convey them safely under his authority and benevolent care. We solemnly doubt that was the way, however, they observed it at the time. All their hopes of going back to the safety of their father's house were once again interrupted.
Had someone suggested to the meandering brothers that this was one of the "all things that work together for good" they would have replied that exactly the opposite seemed clearly to be the case. "How can it be good to be buffeted about this way?" "This all looks very bad for us, and as far as good coming from it, that appears to be impossible." Well we might ask ourselves, if we have not felt the same way in our trials and sad encounters in life.
The brothers of Joseph put up a good verbal fight with the steward,(verses 7-10) and concluded by every man taking their sack down and opening it up. We are made to wonder that they had not learned their lesson yet, since they had once before gone through this same dilemma (Gen.42.27,28), but like us in our encounters with the mysterious dealings of the Lord, they were yet dull of understanding.
Now the worst of all their fears was realized. There, for all them to see, and the servant of Joseph as well, was the cup of Joseph in Benjamin's sack! Surely, matters could not have been darker, and off they went, back again, to face the stern master, Joseph. If they had eyes to see, they would have rejoiced; but this assuredly was like a death sentence to them; sudden vengeance had finally overtaken them, and almost any circumstance would have been preferable to this. Yet, what looked for all the world to be their gloomiest moment would prove to be a reunion with the benevolent one they had sinned against so grievously years before. What a mercy it is that in like circumstance neither shall we get far from our Lord with His property until He graciously draws us again to His presence, to make Himself known.
"And Judah and his brethren came to Joseph's house; for he was yet there: and they fell before him on the ground (Gen. 44.14)." Joseph was waiting for them, for they would as surely return as the sun would rise in the east every morning. Joseph was in complete command of the matters, and the brethren were m complete consternation. Many years before, Joseph, when just a lad, had recited to them his dream, and they hated him for it. "And Joseph dreamed a dream, and he told it his brethren: and they hated him yet the more (Gen.37.5)." When he had given them the substance of the dream they responded: "Shalt thou indeed reign over us? or shalt thou indeed have dominion over us? And they hated him yet the more for his dreams, and for his words (Gen. 37.8)." So now, at the exact moment God had decreed, the brethren, though unknowing, fulfill the dream to a man. Could any poor sinner, blessed to fear the Lord, fail to see how our God brings to pass all His purposes, even in our most trying circumstances? While the brothers all dwelt at home together, they could never have imagined such an event taking place. They hated Joseph. They could not speak peaceably to him; and yet God worked all the details together to bring them down at the feet of their brother. Every event, large or small, since the brothers had thrown Joseph in the pit until that moment, had been unfolding with Divine exactness to bring them to this place. "Surely the wrath of man shall praise thee: the remainder of wrath shalt thou restrain (Psalm 76.10)." Where now was all their bitter feelings of years past? Their very being was in such supposed danger that all their arrogant spite of years past dissolved. At the appointed hour God shall bring all His chosen rebels down to worship at His feet, as He did with Joseph's brothers.
"And Judah said, What shall we say unto my lord? what shall we speak? or how shall we clear ourselves? God hath found out the iniquity of thy servants: behold, we are my lord's servants, both we, and he also with whom the cup is found (Gen.44. 16)." Ah, yes! it seemed to be all over in their minds, as was stated by Judah. They now confess their iniquity; not the particular crime against Joseph, but their whole condition. Is not this the very way in which our great God brings us also? We come to the end of ourselves. At the same time we are brought, just as surely as was Joseph's brothers, to the Lord's feet to confess our iniquity. The best we can describe ourselves is servants (and totally unprofitable ones at that) much like the prodigal did when the famine forced him to return home with his head bowed low. Yet in all the confession of Judah, it is sobering to see that they felt like God had just now learned what they were guilty of. "God hath found out the iniquity of thy servants." How blessed it is to be shown at some later point in our experience that God sees all, and knows all, and that from eternity, and that this wisdom of God is established in His will, rather than in foresight.
From verse 18 to the end of the chapter, Judah recites the events as he knew them before Joseph. In all he said there was still not a trace of indication that the poor brothers knew as yet who Joseph was, or that this matter would resolve in their good, and not evil. Why? The Lord willing we shall discover in the next article on the subject as Joseph, like Jesus, makes himself known.
J. F. Poole
Volume 6, No. 4
July - August 1992