Monday, July 18, 2011

The Brothers Tell Joseph Their Whole History - Genesis 44:18-34

Then Judah approached him, and said, “Oh my lord, may your servant please speak a word in my lord’s ears, and do not be angry with your servant; for you are equal to Pharaoh.  My lord asked his servants, saying, ‘Have you a father or a brother?’  We said to my lord, ‘We have an old father and a little child of his old age. Now his brother is dead, so he alone is left of his mother, and his father loves him.’  Then you said to your servants, ‘Bring him down to me that I may set my eyes on him.’  But we said to my lord, ‘The lad cannot leave his father, for if he should leave his father, his father would die.’  You said to your servants, however, ‘Unless your youngest brother comes down with you, you will not see my face again.’  Thus it came about when we went up to your servant my father, we told him the words of my lord.  Our father said, ‘Go back, buy us a little food.’  But we said, ‘We cannot go down. If our youngest brother is with us, then we will go down; for we cannot see the man’s face unless our youngest brother is with us.’  Your servant my father said to us, ‘You know that my wife bore me two sons; and the one went out from me, and I said, “Surely he is torn in pieces,” and I have not seen him since.  If you take this one also from me, and harm befalls him, you will bring my gray hair down to Sheol in sorrow.’  Now, therefore, when I come to your servant my father, and the lad is not with us, since his life is bound up in the lad’s life, when he sees that the lad is not with us, he will die. Thus your servants will bring the gray hair of your servant our father down to Sheol in sorrow. For your servant became surety for the lad to my father, saying, ‘If I do not bring him back to you, then let me bear the blame before my father forever.’  Now, therefore, please let your servant remain instead of the lad a slave to my lord, and let the lad go up with his brothers. For how shall I go up to my father if the lad is not with me—for fear that I see the evil that would overtake my father?”

Perhaps on behalf of the brothers or perhaps on his own, Judah approaches Joseph for some plea-bargaining it seems.  If the former, perhaps he was trying to keep certain details of his family history from reaching the ears of the rest of Joseph’s household.  If the latter, perhaps for some reason known only to himself, he did not want the rest of his brothers to hear what he was telling Joseph as indeed his plea also concerned his own life because of the promise he had made to his father, Jacob.

Imagine though being in an Egyptian leader’s court or home and asking to speak to him privately when you are an alien and being accused of a crime against him.  He first uses a phrase we all have either used or heard in our lifetime and that is, “now, don’t be angry with me.”  I have a heard that many times from my children or sensed it in viewing the faces of my grandchildren as they approach me after committing a misdemeanor.  Those being the receivers of such messages for some reason seem to be somehow more receptive of the arguments and pleas they are about to hear.  So it was with Joseph.  His heart was being prepared for the response he would ultimately give.

And then as if to add the cherry on top of the sundae, Judah pays him the highest of compliments when he says, “for you are equal to Pharaoh.”  Not only does this serve to show Joseph that the brothers recognize his power and authority, but I believe it is also a reminder to him of how far he has come from his humble beginnings and a caution that he needs to utilize his power in a Godly manner, worthy of the office God has allowed him to occupy.

Judah then proceeds to tell Joseph all that has occurred with respect to the famine from the perspective of Jacob’s family.  What he repeats here is a summary of the story from Genesis 43:1 forward to this point in the text.  He also makes sure that Joseph is aware of the personal guarantee Joseph made to Jacob with his own life and reputation, not to mention the risk of how the shock of not taking Benjamin back may indeed impact on the life of their old father.  All these things were intended to weigh heavily on both Joseph’s mind and his heart.

Through this discourse Joseph hears once again things that have been on his mind for many years – how his brothers treated him, how he missed his father, and how he longed for his whole family.  Judah eloquently reminds Joseph that indeed more recently the brothers did do exactly as he had asked them to do and they should not be faulted for that.  Finally, Joseph is made aware of Judah’s own risk in this whole affair and he realizes there is an opportunity to show how he can help bring the situation to a climatic and happy end.

Are you and I prepared to listen when people come to plea bargain with us?  Are we able to allow God to use us to bring peace and joy to others?  Or are we still going to insist on our ‘pound of flesh’?  Will we forget God’s grace towards us when we get an opportunity to extend grace to others?

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