All the brothers of Joseph were now arrayed before him to await his will. Except for Benjamin, this was the third time they were there. The sons of Jacob originally came to Egypt at his direction to obtain food necessary to sustain the starving family. Now, however, they stood stunned before Joseph to await what they believed would be a sentence of condemnation. They had come to the end of themselves, not knowing the whole series of recent events were totally managed by their unknown brother. We fairly believe this is much the way the family of Jesus is brought before Him today. Our efforts to sustain us are all crossed, and we are brought, confused and shut up, before our Lord to hear the awful sentence upon us. And, but for the eternal love He has for His brethren, so it would be. Little do we know, like the brothers of Joseph, that all this is done by the wise direction of the Lord to bring us to Himself.
"Then Joseph could not refrain himself before all them that stood by him; and he cried, Cause every man to go out from me. And there stood no man with him, while Joseph made himself known unto his brethren (Gen. 45.1)." This was the culmination of a long trial for both Joseph and his brothers. They were at their wits end. As for Joseph, he could no longer hold back his tender feelings and growing emotions he felt towards his disconcerted family. As the text states so beautifully, "Then Joseph could no longer refrain himself." Then indicates the ordained moment had come. The reunion was at hand. The rebels were to be subdued and reconciled; fellowship, based on family ties, would be restored. All was soon to be well, though for the moment it could not possibly look like such was to be the case. The text indicate too that the pent-up emotions were reserved for his brethren only. He could not refrain himself before all them that were before him. His full heart and tender feelings of mingled love and compassion could only flow forth in the presence of those, his kindred. The others, despite whatever standing they might have had in the court of Pharaoh, must be expelled. Was it for some particular crime or shortcoming they must be put forth? No, they simply were not his kindred. Joseph was desirous to both relieve his brethren and as well make himself finally known to them, and this privileged was something the eye of the Egyptian citizens could not observe. We might well say their "communion" was to be closed. Closed to members of the family, that is.
"Cause every man to go out from me." This is a good example where the obvious governs the extent of the statement. Every man did not include the brothers. It was meant for those not embraced in Joseph's fellowship. So, none of those men (the servants) stood with him as he grandly revealed himself. This imposing moment allowed none else to stand with Joseph lest there be some erroneous notion that he somehow needed the feeble assistance of servants. Joseph needed no one else to manifest his relationship to his beloved kindred. The rich breath of deliverance was about to be breathed upon his brothers and he must stand alone as sovereign. How very true it is that when the Saviour of sinners, typified by Joseph, reveals Himself to His little chosen ones, He comes alone. "And Jesus came and touched them, and said, arise, and be not afraid. And when they had lifted up their eyes, they saw no man, save Jesus only (Matt. 17.7,8)." "And it came to pass, that, while they communed together and reasoned, Jesus himself drew near, and went with them (Luke 24.15)." Notice well, Jesus Himself. As foretold by Isaiah: "And I looked, and there was none else to help; and I wondered that there was none to uphold: therefore mine own arm brought salvation unto me; and my fury, it upheld me (Isaiah 63.5)."
Thus, as the text reads: "...And there stood no man with him, while Joseph made himself known unto his brethren." Had a servant foolishly thought to assist Joseph, what could he have done? They knew less about the relationship between Joseph and his brothers than the brothers did, and at the moment that was nothing! The great sovereign of Egypt alone could convince these pitiful pilgrims that all was well, despite their fears and apprehensions. And then blessedly he made himself known. Before, the brothers knew him as a stern master. Now they were to know him as their brother and saviour. Glorious deliverance was at hand. The sons of Jacob were to lose their burdens, their cares, and their self reliance.
The contrast of emotions here is so vivid it must be touched on briefly. Joseph was full with love and tenderness towards his kindred. His emotions must pass the bounds of containment and flow out to the sons of Jacob. Joseph was pitiful, and manifestly compassionate with his trespassing kin. To know and be known was his utmost passion. On the other hand, the brothers are in a dark brood. Horrendous guilt had steadily built up within them those past days, and their sins weighed heavily on their troubled consciences. Foreboding, dread, apprehension, and probably the agony of impending death stalked them. There was not found among them a trace of the characteristics exhibited by Joseph. Who would ever have 4 suspected these were the long lost brothers of Joseph? But they were just that, brothers with him. It would take his revelation of self to them for this to be known, but it was the truth before it was known by them. Revelation or not, this was Jacob's family.
And here we suggest again a comparison. How much are we like these brothers until Jesus is made known to us by His personal revelation. It would have done no good for one of the servants to tell these fearful ones that Joseph was their saviour, had they known. It could not have been believed without the revelation. Had they not seen Joseph carried away by the roving band of Ishmeelites many years ago? Had not father Jacob given up his darling son for dead long since too? Living substance alone could clear the confused minds of the brothers. Joseph alone could open the eyes of these beleaguered sinners. Nor can we possibly know Jesus until He opens the eyes of our understanding to show Himself before us in a joyous display of eternal life. Jesus, Whom to know is life eternal.
"...Joseph made himself known unto his brethren." All the rapture of this moment was reserved for his brethren. All others, no matter their station, must depart, for this was a sacred scene. Here is ground for stumbling for all universalists and Arminians. Where is there the least room in this narrative for "whosoever will" or "come just as you are?" Unless one had previously been born kindred to Joseph they could never be embraced in the impending revelation. So, except a man be born again he cannot see the Kingdom of our Joseph. "All that the Father giveth me shall come to me: and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out (John 6.37)." Who then are the ones that the Father gave to Jesus? "And again, I will put my trust in him. And again, Behold I and the children which God hath given me (Heb. 3.13)." God gave Him children. They did not become children later. They were children when they were given to Jesus in eternity.
"And he wept aloud: and the Egyptians and 4 the house of Pharaoh heard (Gen. 45.2)." This is the third time, according to the record, that Joseph wept over his brethren. The previous two time he concealed his feelings from them. Now, however, the appointed time had come. From all eternity there had never been another moment when this revelation might have been made. But now it could. The brothers must then know the deep, abiding tie that bound them with this leader in Egypt. It might be interesting to observe here also that while Joseph was the exalted ruler of all Egypt, that was not his home. Like Jesus in Jude a, he was only there to deliver his brethren, and then return to his home. And like Jesus again, he must die first before leaving his strange and temporary residence.
"And he wept aloud." Turning for a moment from Joseph, consider his antitype Jesus. When Jesus stood before the tomb of Lazarus it is recorded: "Jesus wept. Then said the Jews, Behold how he loved him (John 11.35,36)!" This blessed scene was witnessed by the Jews. They saw as clearly as did His disciples, yet they had no notion whatever that which was in the heart of the Saviour. There lay His dear friend Lazarus, dead four days, and stinking from corruption. The wages of both original and practiced sin had taken their toll. The Master, however, with His word, banished death for the time, so that His loved ones might be together again. So Joseph, while his brothers are gathered before him, wept over his dear ones. He vented his feelings as he prepared to clear them of their bondage, bring them to his banqueting house, and calm their troubled breasts. As the Jews had heard Jesus groan, so the Egyptians heard the sighs of Joseph. To them it could be little more than noise. The secrets of this fellowship none could know but the few travelers from the house of Jacob. And know it they surely would! Had Joseph wept for hours on end it could not have touched the hearts of his servants to love him as a brother, for they were not. Eternity past, present, and future would never span the gulf between the two distinct families.
"And Joseph said unto his brethren, I am Joseph; doth my father yet live? And his brethren could not answer him; for they were troubled at his presence (Gen.45.3)." "...I am Joseph". There can be no mistaking the comparison here. At least seven times in the New Testament Jesus described Himself as "I am". In most instances, as the Saviour took to Himself the title of "I am," the multitude had no idea of what He was saying. They went back and walked no more with Him when he said "I am the bread of life (John 6.35)." They took up stones to stone Him when He said "...Before Abraham was, I am (John 8.58)." There was a division among the Jews, and they accused Him of having a devil and being mad when He said "I am the door; by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and go in and out, and find pasture (John 10.9)." And again "I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine (John 10.14)." So it ever was. Until it was made known to those for whom it was intended, the great title of Jehovah (Exodus 3. 13, 14; 6.2; 7.5) was a troubling declaration. Little else could be expected then, when Joseph says, I am Joseph. His brethren could not answer him; for they were troubled. How did their trouble affect them? "They could not answer him." Their mouths were silent as surely as though they had no tongues. They saw him; they heard him; yet they could not answer. We are reminded of the solemn words of the poet when he said: "Keep silent all created things, and wait your maker's nod." This was no time then for rattling off all their accomplishments or credentials. Of these things, they had none. Sin lay at the door. Whatever Joseph's pleasure might be, they must wait for it in silent submission, be it good or evil. They had no time either, to rely on a hope of good things to come, for their past sins had become a present condemnation. They were troubled at his presence. How amazing that the presence of him who was to be their deliverer was the source of their trouble. Of all the places on earth they could be, there was none better than to be in his presence, yet they were troubled.
Their situation was far better, however, than their carnal fears could allow them to imagine. Joseph gently repeated his sweet salutation with a tender petition; "And Joseph said unto his brethren, Come near to me, I pray you. And they came near. And he said, I am Joseph your brother, whom ye sold into Egypt (Gen. 45.4)." This second time Joseph uses the term "I am", he bids his brothers to come near to him. This was to be as near an effectual call as a mortal could issue, for there was none that dare disobey him. Indeed, according to the tender way he conducted himself, there was little else the brothers could do. "Come near to me" was the sensitive call that would finally sweep away the tremulous feelings from them and subdue their apprehensions. Besides all this, coming to him was no doubt far better than being banished to a dungeon or possibly hearing the death sentence passed on them. Such a bidding was well calculated to cause them to view their plight in a much calmer light.
Of all the words that ever fell from the lips of our Saviour, none were sweeter than when He bid us to come near to Him. As the antitype of Joseph, His voice carries with it authority and power. All authority, and all power. Besides that, it most surely calms the troubled breast. "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest (Matt. 11.28)." Like Joseph's brothers, we labor under a heavy load of guilt and sin until such time as the dear Redeemer bids us come to Him for rest. "Jesus saith unto them, Come and dine. And none of the disciples durst ask him, Who art thou? knowing it was the Lord (John 2 1.12)." Shortly before Jesus bid them come, the disciples had been growing weary trying to catch fish to sustain themselves. Now He fills their boat with one hundred and fifty-three fish and bids them come and dine. Such grace and mercy can never be fully appreciated in this life. The Lord of the creation provides His disciples with all they need. Not a fish, however, do we learn, was fetched for any others. This was a bounty for His chosen ones. The Lord certainly had the power to feed the world's hungry at the time, had He pleased. His pleasure was to feed His chosen ones, however.
Going back then to Joseph and his brothers, we see that none but family were gathered about him; and none but family were told to come. Joseph could have summoned the whole of Egypt had he pleased, but he did not please. "And Joseph said unto his brethren, Come near to me, I pray you. And they came near." They had much to learn, and a multitude of fears to overcome, but they came, for where the word of the king reaches, responses follow.
Having then led them along to this moment Joseph recites to them their crime from many days past. "I am Joseph your brother, whom ye sold into Egypt." Their sin was now out in the open. Startling as it was after these years to be confronted with their wanton deeds, it was not intended for condemnation as much as it was for reconciliation. Had Joseph intended retribution it would have come much sooner; besides his tenderness towards them would have been absent. So it is when the Lord draws His little lambs to Him. At the same moment He 'makes Himself known. He also makes known our transgressions against Him. It has been the experience of most that when this takes place the immediate reaction is the question, "How can I be cleared of my sins against one so great?" We may suggest too that we still contend with that question for many days after.
The Lord willing we will take up the comforting story of Joseph and his brothers again in the next issue of the paper.
J. F. Poole
Volume 6, No. 5
September - October 1992