Joseph: Up from the Cistern‏

Genesis 44:14-45:13

The famine had taken hold all over the land, and I maintained my role of leadership in Egypt— second only to Pharaoh.  This lofty position had come through an unconventional set of circumstances, but I am getting ahead of myself here.  Let me explain. 

After many years, my brothers have returned to me, although they are unaware of my identity.  When I was only seventeen years old, they lashed out at me in anger and threw me into a cistern.  They later sold me into slavery.  I was carried off into the land of Egypt while goat’s blood stained the colorful coat that my father had made for me.  For many years, my father assumed I was dead, when in fact, I was alive and well, serving first Potiphar and then Pharaoh himself.  Then the famine took hold of the land, and food was scarce everywhere.

My father, Israel, sent my brothers to Egypt to acquire grain.  Upon their first visit to Egypt, I acted as if they were strangers to me.  I called them spies, and pressed them about their background and the wellbeing of my youngest brother and father.  Although my brothers seemed disturbed with my questions, they told me everything.  I was elated to hear of my father’s good health and Benjamin’s safety.

I tested my brothers then, having Simeon put in prison and sending my brothers back to my father with their word that they would soon bring Benjamin before me.  I felt compassion on them and returned their sliver to their sacks. 

It wasn’t until the food was gone in Canaan that my brothers returned to me, offering their silver for grain once more.  This time, I at last laid eyes on Benjamin, and it was a sweet reward for the many tears I had cried over the wrongs done to me.  I was not about to let my brothers depart Egypt without one final act.

I had my sliver cup placed in Benjamin’s sack and the sliver was returned to each man’s sack as well.  My brothers were unaware of these actions and were soon on their way home.  Then I sent my servant after them to bring them back to Egypt.  It was then that I stood before them, accusing them of their wrong. 

“What is this you have done?” I asked.

“What can we say to my lord?” my brother Judah replied. “What can we say? How can we prove our innocence? God has uncovered your servants’ guilt. We are now my lord’s slaves— we ourselves and the one who was found to have the cup.”

“Far be it from me to do such a thing!” I exclaimed.  “Only the man who was found to have the cup will become my slave. The rest of you, go back to your father in peace.”

Then Judah approached me.  “Please, my lord, let your servant speak a word to my lord,” he said.  “Do not be angry with your servant, though you are equal to Pharaoh himself… If the boy is not with us when I go back to your servant my father and if my father, whose life is closely bound up with the boy’s life, sees that the boy isn’t there, he will die. Your servants will bring the gray head of our father down to the grave in sorrow. Your servant guaranteed the boy’s safety to my father. I said, `If I do not bring him back to you, I will bear the blame before you, my father, all my life!”

Suddenly, the tears that I had been holding back spilled over and I could not contain myself any longer.  I gestured frantically for everyone to leave the room— everyone, that is, except my brothers.  With tears streaming down my face, I urged my brothers to gather close to me. 

“I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt!” I told them.  And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you. For two years now there has been famine in the land, and for the next five years there will not be plowing and reaping. But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance.

“So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God. He made me father to Pharaoh, lord of his entire household and ruler of all Egypt. Now hurry back to my father and say to him, `This is what your son Joseph says: God has made me lord of all Egypt. Come down to me; don’t delay. You shall live in the region of Goshen and be near me— you, your children and grandchildren, your flocks and herds, and all you have. I will provide for you there, because five years of famine are still to come. Otherwise you and your household and all who belong to you will become destitute.’

“You can see for yourselves, and so can my brother Benjamin, that it is really I who am speaking to you. Tell my father about all the honor accorded me in Egypt and about everything you have seen. And bring my father down here quickly.”

And so that is how my brothers and I were reunited, and later, my father joined us in Egypt as well.  God proved his faithfulness— bringing me up from the cistern at age seventeen and bringing me to this position of prominence in Egypt.  Generations to come tell of these events, knowing that one day, His people will once more see the Promised Land.   

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