Please refer to the Bible version of your choice to read this section. For your convenience, links are provided below that take you directly to these chapters in multiple versions on BibleGateway.com:
Genesis 44-46 (New Revised Standard Version - NRSV)
Genesis 44-46 (King James Version - KJV)
Genesis 44-46 (New International Version - NIV)
Genesis 44-46 (The Message - MSG)
Genesis 44-46 (New American Bible Revised Edition - NABRE)
Summary of Chapters
This group of chapters tells the story of an unlikely reunion that could only have happened with the intervention of a loving God. You may recall that back in chapter 37 Joseph's brothers had sold him to a group of passing traders for a fistful of silver coins because they were jealous, envious, and spiteful. But through a miraculous turn of events over the subsequent chapters, those same brothers find themselves bowing down to Joseph (just as he had dreamed) to ask for the privilege of buying food. Joseph had become a high-ranking official in Egypt and was responsible for the distribution of food during a relentless drought. The brothers have returned for their second visit, and Joseph has not yet revealed himself.
In chapter 44, where our study begins today, Joseph decided to give his brothers one last test: He did the Dreamcoat Hustle by putting his silver cup in Benjamin’s bag, which would have brought upon Benjamin the penalty of slavery for stealing such a valuable item. But when the cup was discovered, Judah stepped up and offered to take Benjamin’s place for the sake of their father and to fulfill his commitment, even though he knew that none of the brothers had actually taken the cup.
At last, Joseph revealed himself in chapter 45. He embraces them, forgives them, and explains that it was not they who had sent Joseph to Egypt, but it was God. “ ‘God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance’ (Genesis 45:7 - NIV).”
Then Joseph sent his brothers back to Canaan, loaded with gifts so that they would bring their father Jacob and the entire family of wives and children to Egypt where they could survive the famine period. Jacob heard from God one more time on the way to Egypt:
God spoke to Israel in a vision that night: "Jacob! Jacob!"
"Yes?" he said. "I'm listening."
God said, "I am the God of your father. Don't be afraid of going down to Egypt. I'm going to make you a great nation there. I'll go with you down to Egypt; I'll also bring you back here. And when you die, Joseph will be with you; with his own hand he'll close your eyes."
- Genesis 46:2-4 (MSG)
The entire family of Jacob settled in Goshen. They had seventy members altogether, including Joseph and his wife and children from Egypt.
Reflection and Application
How do you imagine the scene when Judah begged Joseph to take him in place of Benjamin? The 17th century painter, Arent de Gelder (1645 – 1727) used his imagination to depict the two brothers, one in a truly contrite position, the other standing tall, well-fed and dressed royally. You can see an image at the artbible website by clicking the following link:
"Judah and Joseph"
Note that God had changed Judah from a selfish man to one who was willing to sacrifice himself for his brother and put himself in servitude to a stern Egyptian official. Remember that in chapter 37 we read that Judah was the one who had the idea of selling Joseph to the Ishmaelites. God can change us also, if we trust in him.
Jacob and his sons were overjoyed due to the family reunion, but when would they be able to return to Canaan? God did not give a timetable. For the generations that followed Jacob’s family, it may have seemed that the day would never come. However, God sent another unlikely servant to help fulfill his promise, as we shall read in the book of Exodus.
In our life stories there may be times when we wonder if our day of rescue would ever come. Maybe that is our current story. God wants us to trust that he will save us at the right time. Therefore, if we believe in him, we should never give up hope that he indeed has a plan for us, despite what may seem like hopeless circumstances.
There may be situations where God rescues us before danger arises, and he may even warn us directly. There are many instances of God calling to an individual in the quiet of the night, sometimes in a dream, including a well-known Gospel account in which a later Joseph, the husband of Mary, is also instructed to go to Egypt in a dream. Like Jacob, he was not given a timetable for return either:
When they (The Magi) had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.”
So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son (Hosea 11:1)."
- Matthew 2:13-15 (NIV)
Has God called you in the night the way he called Jacob, Joseph and others? This may be one of the best times for him to reach us because there are minimal distractions and our mind may be at rest. We may not recognize his voice because we have so many noises and distractions in our world. Or perhaps, like Samuel, who we will read about later, we don't recognize his voice because we are not expecting it. But if we are focused on him in study and prayer then we are more likely to hear him and recognize him. How should we respond if we hear the call? Jacob and Samuel both give us an easy answer: “Here I am.” If he gives us specific instructions, as he did with Jacob and Joseph, then we ought to follow; and if he gives us reassurance, then we should trust in him, as Jacob and Joseph did.
For additional reflection on this group of chapters and the story of Joseph, we recommend a series of sermons by Rev. Samuel Schreiner. In this series Schreiner provides a thorough context for the story of Joseph that transverses chapters 37 to 45. Among other topics, Schreiner explains the cultural significance of weeping that is observed in many parts of Joseph’s story and the impact of a famine during those times.
Questions and Prayers for Further Reflection
Father, please help use our blessings in the way you intended.
Suggested Prayer Concerns
People of Haiti who are still hungry and homeless three years after the earthquake
Tomorrow's reading: Genesis 47-50 (End of the Beginning)
Comments and Questions
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