When Joseph saw Benjamin with them, he said to the steward of the house, “Bring the men into the house, and slaughter an animal and make ready, for the men are to dine with me at noon.” (Genesis 43:16)
We saw last week that this is a story in two parts. In Part One, we followed the story of Joseph, the loved and favored son, who came in search of his brothers. He was hated and despised. Joseph was sold as a slave but God lifted him up and he became the governor of Egypt. And we saw that this points us to Jesus, who suffered and died on the cross, but now is exalted at the right hand of the Father in heaven.
Part Two of the story is about Joseph’s brothers. We saw that their sins were many and we asked the question: How can men like this enter into the blessing of God? We saw that the change in these men began when they were awakened and convicted.
God, in his kindness, uses various means to awaken the conscience: God awakens conscience by disturbing our peace, God awakens conscience by arousing memory, and God awakens conscience by speaking harshly.
But then we saw that God awakens conscience by showing kindness. We touched on this only briefly last time, and we are going to see this more clearly today. Joseph showed kindness to his brothers by putting the money they paid for their grain back in their sacks. It was a wonderfully generous, freely given, act of kindness.
When they discovered the money, the brothers did not know what to make of it. They said, “What is this that God has done to us?” (Gen. 42:28). They felt God must be against them. This is the first time in the story the brothers mention the name of God. They thought God was against them, but at least now they had some sense that God was at work in their lives.
Today, as we take up the story, we are going to see together how God’s love and kindness can awaken even the hardest of hearts.
The Reluctance of Jacob
Simeon had been detained in Egypt, and the price of his freedom was that the other brothers would return bringing their youngest brother Benjamin with them. Benjamin was of special importance to Joseph because these two were the sons of Rachel, the great love of Jacob’s life.
Joseph wanted to see Benjamin, but there’s something more here than Joseph’s natural desire to see his full brother.
Joseph knew that like him, Benjamin was a loved and favored son. Jacob loved Benjamin as he loved Joseph. The brothers hated Joseph because he was so greatly loved by the father. Did they also hate Benjamin? Or had there been some change in the brothers? Would they treat him the same way they treated Joseph? That’s what Joseph wanted to know.
God has one dearly loved and highly favored Son: “God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (Jn. 3:16). But in the Old Testament there are many figures who point to him. Isaac points to Jesus, and so does Joseph. And here Benjamin also plays the role of the loved and favored son on whom the hope of all his brothers will depend. Follow the story with me…
The brothers go back and report to their father all that’s happened: “Simeon has been detained. The price of his release is that we go back, taking Benjamin with us.” Jacob says, “No way that’s going to happen! You have bereaved me of my children: Joseph is no more, and Simeon is no more, and now you would take Benjamin… My son shall not go down with you, for his brother is dead, and he is the only one left” (Gen. 42:36, 38).
So Simeon is in Egypt, languishing in prison. His only hope is that Benjamin, the dearly loved son, should be sent. But Jacob cannot spare his dearly loved son, “My son shall not go down with you… he is the only one left!” (Gen. 43:38).
Months pass, and eventually the biting famine forces the reluctant Jacob to change his mind, “Now the famine was severe in the land. And when they had eaten the grain that they had brought from Egypt, their father said to them, ‘Go again, buy us a little food’” (Gen. 43:1-2).
It seems that Jacob doesn’t get the problem. So Judah said to him, “The man solemnly warned us, saying, ‘You shall not see my face unless your brother is with you’” ( Gen. 43:3). “Dad, you don’t get it! We can’t get food unless you let us take Benjamin!”
The brothers want to go, and Simeon is waiting in prison for their return, but they cannot go unless the father sends the dearly loved son. Jacob won’t let Benjamin go! Aren’t you glad that God is a better father than Jacob? “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? (Rom. 8:32).
It’s easy to understand Jacob’s reluctance, but let that be a window for you into what it actually meant for God the Father to send his one and only Son into this world, knowing what we would do to him when he came.
Jacob can’t come to terms with sending his dearly loved son: “Why did you treat me so badly as to tell the man that you had another brother?” (Gen. 43:6). The brothers say, “The man questioned us carefully about ourselves and our kindred, saying, ‘Is your father still alive? Do you have another brother?’ What we told him was in answer to these questions. Could we in any way know that he would say, ‘Bring your brother down’?” (Gen. 43:7).
I feel sorry for the brothers. How could they possibly have known that they would be asked to produce Benjamin? Jacob could rightly blame the brothers for many things, but at this point, the old man is being unreasonable. His age and his disappointments in life have gotten to him and he takes it out on the boys, who at this point were not to blame.
If you are caring for an aging parent, or someone else in great need, you may find that the burden of their disappointments and the frustration of their declining powers leads them to make assumptions that are not kind and to say things that are not true.
The brothers do well here. Their response is calm and direct: “Could we in any way know that he would say, ‘Bring your brother down?’” (Gen. 43:7). After this exchange, it seems that there was a stalemate, and that it lasted for a long time: “If we had not delayed, we would now have returned twice” (Gen. 43:10).
Eventually the situation for the whole family became desperate: Judah said, “Send the boy with me… that we may live and not die, both we, and you and our little ones” (Gen. 43:8).
“Jacob, your dearly loved son, is the only hope for you, the only hope for us, and the only hope for our children. If you won’t send him, all of us will die.” Finally, Jacob relents (43:11).
Off the brothers go on their second journey to Egypt: “They arose and went down to Egypt and stood before Joseph” (Gen. 43:15). When the brothers arrive, they experience nothing but love and kindness. It is a completely different experience than the one that they had in Egypt when they came without the loved and favored son.
The Experience of the Brothers
1. The welcome
When Joseph saw Benjamin with them, he said to the steward of his house, “Bring the men into the house, and slaughter an animal and make ready, for the men are to dine with me at noon” (Gen. 43:16).
Put yourself in the brothers’ shoes. They arrive in a foreign land. Why in all the world would these brothers be invited to dine with the governor of Egypt? Why would he want these strangers and foreigners in his own house?
The answer can be found in verse 16: “When Joseph saw Benjamin with them.” When the brothers came to Egypt on their own, the great ruler spoke harshly to them. But when they came in the company of the dearly loved son, the great ruler received them with kindness for his sake. He opened his home to them and showered them with kindness, because the dearly loved son was with them.
That is a beautiful picture of our position before God. If you come to him on your own, without the dearly loved Son, you will find that he speaks harshly to you. But if you come to God in the company of his dearly loved Son, you will find that you are welcomed into his house and you will be seated at his table.
This kindness takes the brothers completely by surprise. The last time they were here the great ruler spoke to then harshly. They expected more of the same: “The men were afraid because they were brought to Joseph’s house, and they said, “It is because of the money, which was replaced in our sacks the first time, that we are brought in, so that he may assault us and fall upon us to make us servants and seize our donkeys” (Gen. 43:18).
They think it’s a trap. It was exactly what the brothers did to the Shechemites. They launched an assault when these men were in no position to defend themselves (Gen. 34).
It was such an atrocity that Jacob said it had made his name stink (Gen. 34:30).
The way you expect others to treat you will often reflect the way you have treated others. The brothers assaulted the men of Shechem. They assume that this is what Joseph has in mind for them. That takes us to the second kindness which is the kindness of the steward…
2. The steward
So they went up to the steward of Joseph’s house and spoke with him at the door of the house (Gen. 43:19).
They explain to the steward that after their last visit they had found money in their sacks. They did not know how it got there, but they had brought it back. They are trying to put this whole thing right.
The steward replied, “Peace to you, do not be afraid. Your God and the God of your father has put treasure in your sacks for you. I received your money” (Gen. 43:23). The steward proclaims the goodness of God to them. When the brothers found the money in their sacks, they said, “What has God done to us” (Gen. 42:28).
It takes an Egyptian steward to tell them, “The only explanation I can think of is that your God must have done a miracle of some kind.” The steward says, “No, I received your money.
Your God has given you an amazing gift of kindness. He has done something good for you!”
3. The release
Then he brought Simeon out to them (Gen. 43:23).
Imagine the relief and joy it must have been for these men to see Simeon. They had feared that they might be overpowered and thrown into prison with Simeon, but the experience of the brother is completely different. The governor kept his word: When Benjamin came, Simeon was released.
I wonder what Simeon said to his brothers? “What took you so long? I thought you would never come.” Do you think this thought might have occurred to Simeon: “We left Joseph. I wonder if they will leave me? If they haven’t changed, they’ll leave me too.”
The brothers probably said something like: “Well, you know what the old man is like when it comes to his dearly loved son. He wouldn’t let Benjamin go! Thank God he relented in the end. With Benjamin here, everything is different!”
4. The banquet
When Joseph came home… (Gen. 43:26).
When the great man arrives there is no speaking harshly. He asks about their father (43:27). He pronounces words of blessing over Benjamin (43:29). He brings them into the most lavish banquet. They were seated at three different tables: Joseph sat at one. The brothers sat at another. Joseph’s servants sat at a third.
Reconciliation has not yet taken place. We have to wait another couple of weeks for that. It doesn’t happen until chapter 45. But a remarkable change that will lead to reconciliation has already begun. The conscience of the brothers has been awakened, and now they are experiencing love and kindness that they cannot really understand.
There’s much to learn here from Joseph about forgiveness, peacemaking, and reconciliation.
His kindness comes first; their repentance comes later. In the kindness that Joseph is showing, barriers are being lowered and hearts are being changed. God loved us while we were still sinners. And Joseph’s love and kindness is going to create the environment for the most marvelous reconciliation to occur.
Think about the many ways in which you have experienced the kindness of God: Think about your health, your work, your gifts and talents, the home you live in, the income you’ve been able to generate, the lifestyle you are able to sustain, and the fact that you live in this country where you have so many blessings and advantages.
Where did these gifts come from? Why are they yours? How are you going to respond to this kindness that God has lavished on your life, none of which is yours by right, and none of which any of us deserve? God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance (Rom. 2:4).
The Identity of Joseph
Who is Joseph?
1. The ruler who knows them, even though they don’t yet know him
Remember, we saw last time that while Joseph knew the brothers, they did not recognize him. He was speaking a different language. His head would have been shaved. He would have been wearing the cosmetics of the Egyptian aristocracy over his eyes. The brothers didn’t recognize him, because he certainly had changed.
Joseph knows all about the brothers. He knows who they are and what they have done, but they do not yet recognize him. Notice in verse 33, when they are brought into the banquet, they are seated in exactly the order of their birth from the oldest to the youngest, “and the men looked at one another in amazement” (Gen. 43:33).
They must have wondered, “How in the world does Egypt’s ruler know our birth order?” This great ruler seems to know all about them, even though, at this point, they don’t know him.
Who is Joseph?
2. The brother who loves them, even though they don’t yet love him
When the brothers spoke about Joseph, they referred to him as ‘the man.’ Five times in the story the brothers refer to him this way, and Jacob said it twice. That’s exactly the way people who don’t know or love God speak about him, isn’t it? How often have you heard people refer to God as, “The man upstairs,” or “God, whoever he, she, or it may be.”
The person the brothers refer to as ‘the man’ is not only the ruler who knows them, he is also the brother who loves them. You see that throughout the story, but especially in verse 30, when Joseph sees Benjamin, “Joseph hurried out, for his compassion grew warm for his brother, and he sought a place to weep” (Gen. 43:30).
Who is Joseph?
3. The victim who is ready to forgive them, even though they don’t yet know it’s him they’ve sinned against
The brothers’ conscience is awakened. They know that they have sinned. What they don’t know is that the person they’ve sinned against is the one at whose table they are now eating.
In all of this, Joseph is pointing us to the Lord Jesus Christ
Who is he? Jesus is the ruler who knows you, the brother who loves you, and the victim who is ready to forgive you.
Who is Jesus?
1. The ruler who knows you
He is the sovereign God who knows all things. Nothing is hidden from him. Before a thought goes through your mind, and before a word leaves your tongue, God knows it completely. He knows everything about you. How that feels depends entirely on whether the One who knows you is for you or against you, and it depends on whether you are for or against him.
David knew that God was for him, and David was for God, so he said, “You know me completely, and such knowledge is too wonderful for me. It is wonderful that you know me. How else would I ever be invited to your banquet? If you did not know me and love me, how would I ever be invited into your house?”
The woman at the well goes running to her town and says, “Come see a man who told me everything I ever did?” And she is full of joy, even though Jesus told her about a lot of stuff she should not have done. So why was she glad about it? Because she had discovered that the One who knew her also loved her, and that there was hope for her in him.
Who is Jesus?
The ruler who knows you is the brother who loves you
When you get a taste of his love for you, it will not be long before you find in your heart a love that returns to him. We love him because he has first loved us.
And this ruler, who is in nature God, who is our brother because he became man in Jesus Christ and he takes his stand alongside of you, is the victim who is ready to forgive you. What happened to him? Jesus is the victim who suffered on account of our sins. All of our sins are sins against him. That’s why our sins were laid on him at the cross. He became the sacrifice. He was the victim.
But now risen and exalted, he stands ready to forgive us, to welcome all who will be reconciled to him, to call us his brothers and sisters, to seat us at his table, where he will feed us and nourish us, even to eternal life. You are known, you are loved, and you can be forgiven, through Jesus Christ, who is the one and only Son of God.
When you see who he is, why would you not submit to him as your ruler, love him as your brother, and trust him as the Savior who gave himself as the sacrifice for your sin? When you do, you will be able to say:
Your blood has washed away my sin, Jesus, thank you!
The Father’s wrath completely satisfied, Jesus, thank you!
Once your enemy, now seated at your table, Jesus, thank you!