Pharaoh will be doing things in a reverse pattern than what Jacob did. Pharaoh is going to be telling Joseph his dreams because he thought they were serious, Jacob rebuked Joseph about his dreams (Gen 37.10). Pharaoh asks Joseph to interpret his dreams and he does. Pharaoh believes what Joseph has to say gives Joseph a new job, a new name and a new wife. Only a father would give you a job in the family business, and a new name and a wife. Joseph was the favored son and “assistant” to Jacob in the family business and was given his name. He was too young for a wife but Jacob would have arranged that, too. Joseph’s leadership in the family was a point of contention in the family, with Pharaoh it wasn’t. Joseph was in charge of Pharaoh’s house (Gen 41.40).
We know that Joseph was not the oldest in the family, that was Reuben. But, he was the oldest of Rachel, the one Jacob loved, and so in Jacob’s mind he was the first born. He was born of the woman he loved and he treated him as first born. But in reality, so did Pharaoh. He was treated as the first born of Pharaoh, making him second only to Pharaoh. So, in a way, Joseph had two fathers. The question is, when Joseph gets elevated to vizier in Egypt, will he forget the God of his fathers? Will he forget his emotional ties to his family? We have some clues to this question when we look at the names of his children. His first born was Manasseh, and it means “to forget.” What Joseph is saying is that God has set him free from the past. His second born son is named Ephraim, and it means “to be fruitful.” This means that Joseph believes that he has been fruitful “in the land of oppression” (41.52). This tells us that he still regards Egypt as a land of oppression and a land of exile.
It is at this point in the story that his brothers show up for food (Gen 42), and they appear before Joseph. Jacob saw the caravans coming back to Canaan with food, so he sent ten of the sons down to Egypt. Benjamin stayed home. Joseph knows that the famine he predicted by the hand of God has reached Canaan. So, the past is right behind him after all. It is not buried. His “past” father has now confronted him, and his “present” father. He realizes he is bound by both because of the emotions he feels. It is like his past has caught up to him. The famous pitcher Satchel Paige once said, “Don’t look behind you, something may be gaining on you.” That is certainly the case here. So, he keeps at arms length from his brothers and he doesn’t tell them who he is at first and he may never tell them for all we know at this point. Remember, Joseph has his own idea of what happened to him. He believes his brothers sold him to Midianites and never said goodbye. He also thinks his father may have had a hand in it. Joseph is gong to find out what he originally thought was far from what really happened.
The brothers say they are sons of one man, the youngest being at home with the father, and the “other is no more.” Joseph accuses them of being spies and puts them in prison for three days. This is prophetic of Israel being “in prison” or the exile and on the third day the Lord will deliver them out (Hos 6.1-3). He releases them but keeps Shimon (Simeon). He tells them to bring the younger brother back, and he will verify their story. Joseph releases them with grain and as they go back, they feed the donkeys. They find out that the money they paid the grain with was put back into their sacks. They do not know what kind of thing God is doing to them (42.28).
They tell Jacob what happened and Jacob refuses to let Benjamin go back to Egypt. He doesn’t want to lose both sons of Rachel. In time, the famine is really worse and he has no choice but to send them back to Egypt for more grain, along with Benjamin. Joseph sees Benjamin again and later they are sent back to Canaan with grain. Joseph arranges to have a certain cup of his put into the sack of Benjamin. As they leave, they are stopped and the cup is found with Benjamin. It looks like he took it, and they are brought back to Joseph. Joseph says that Benjamin will be his slave, and the others can go.
In Gen 44.18 Judah approaches Joseph and he petitions Joseph to release Benjamin. Judah really lays out the full story to Joseph and he is appealing to him as a man, a father and a son, and not just to an Egyptian ruler. Joseph, for the first time, hears how attached Jacob is to Benjamin. He hears how their father Jacob never recovered from the loss of another son of Rachel many years ago. Joseph realizes that his father did not want to lose the last link he had to Rachel. Joseph hears that his father thought he was dead, and that he had been deceived into thinking that by the other brothers. He hears that his father never threw him out of the family and that his father has been mourning for him ever since.
It is at this point Joseph breaks down and cries. What he has thought is all wrong. He tells all the non-family members to leave the room. It is then that he reveals himself to them (Gen 45.3). He does it again in Gen 45.5 and he adds “your brother” to it. Judah drew near to Joseph, now Joseph draws near to them. He tells them in Gen 45.4-7 that you sold me to Egypt, meaning they had the primary responsibility concerning it because they should have never put him into the pit in the first place. But, it was really God who sent him there and it was for a reason. Needless to say, they are shocked at what they are hearing. Even more shocking is how patient he has been with them. They are told to go back to Canaan and to bring everyone to Egypt to be taken care of. So, they go back and tell Jacob the news.
Here is an interesting twist to what Joseph saw in his dream in Gen 37.8, where the brothers say, “Are you really going to rule over us?” Now they tell their father that Joseph rules over Egypt. They are beginning to realize the significance of that dream. It wan’t over them that Joseph would rule, it was over Egypt. Joseph’s dream was not talking about the present, but of the future. The family would be desperate for grain and Joseph would have the grain they needed. As in the dream, their sheaves would bow to his. The real meaning of the dream is that Joseph would have the chance to save the family through grain, and that he would rule over Egypt where the grain was.
As we said before, Joseph tells them to rush back to Canaan and to bring his father back to him. Once in Egypt, he would be able to care for them all (Gen 45.10-11). He could have let them stay in Canaan and sent wagons of grain and provisions to them, but Joseph wants them to be close to him. They will settle in Goshen, meaning “near.” Is it a name that Joseph gave the area because he wanted his family “near” him? Did the name already exist? We don’t know, but the word Goshen is very near to the words Joseph spoke to his brothers in Gen 45.4, where he says “Geshu Na” or draw near. We know that Joseph cannot leave Egypt because the nations depends on him to administer the grain and lead during the famine. In a way, Joseph escaped prison but he is is another prison, the prisoner of what God called him to do.
Jacob must leave Canaan, but before he does he stops in Beersheva, meaning the “well of seven/oaths.” He is not sure that he should be leaving. Remember he was told years before that he would be given Canaan and that he would have many descendants. That was what he thought his destiny was, live in Canaan and have many children (Gen 37.1-2). Now he is going to Egypt when he is older, and he may never go back. God is fulfilling his promise but not in the way Jacob thought. So, at Beersheva he offers peace offerings to the Lord. These are thanksgiving offerings also and Jacob must do these with the right attitude, an elevated state of mind. They were part of a communal meal. You are bringing something into remembrance before the Lord. In this case, Gen 15 where the Lord told Abraham that the people would serve another nation and be oppressed, but would come out of there with great possessions. As a result, he has a dream from the Lord that tells him not to be afraid to go into Egypt. He will make his descendants into a great nation there, not in Canaan (46.3).
Joseph introduces his father to Pharaoh, and Jacob made quite an impression. He blessed Pharaoh, and Pharaoh asks him how old he was. Jacob replies that he is 130 years old, and small and disappointing have been the years, and he has not lived as long as his fathers (46.9). Jacob doesn’t give Pharaoh the impression that he is very happy here. Why would he tell Pharaoh all that anyway? Pharaoh is only trying to make conversation and trying to be polite. He even compliments him for having lived so long. Something else is going on in the mind of Jacob, but what is it? We know he has not lived out his dreams, or how he thought his life would go (sound familiar?) He says he is still a sojourner, like his fathers were. Wasn’t he supposed to settle in Canaan and build a nation? He may have felt like a failure because by doing that they nearly starved. He knows that the Lord wants him to be there but is this where he is going to end up? Will he lead them back to Canaan with great possessions? It must have seemed overwhelming and disappointing to him, and Pharaoh certainly would not have known all the “baggage” Jacob was carrying. All of this was on his mind as he talked with Pharaoh.
In Part 23, we will pick up here.