Genesis 42-43 by Robert Dean
Series:Genesis (2003)
Duration:53 mins 9 secs

Forgiveness and Restoration of Trust. Genesis 42-43

 

From Romans 8:28 we know that God is behind the scenes, pulling everything together to accomplish His sovereign will. But another thing that we see that is a significant and is important doctrinally has to do with what we call the doctrine of impersonal love specifically related to forgiveness. Often we have problems when we talk about forgiving someone who has truly hurt us or has caused pain in our life, someone who has perhaps betrayed us, that when we come to passages like Matthew 18:21, 22 we have difficulty trying to figure out how to forgive this person? Do we just let them stab us in the back all over again? Do we just continue to let this person treat us in the same manner? We know that they will come to us and will ask forgiveness, things will go well for a while and then they do it all over again. People get to the point where they ask how long they will just get abused, get walked over, and what the lines are between forgiveness and restoration of trust.

 

As we go through what is happening in Genesis 42-45 is that we see a great picture of this distinction between forgiveness and trust. Matthew 18:21 NASB "Then Peter came and said to Him, Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?" We wrestle with this whole issue and one thing we never hear about is making a distinction between forgiving somebody and then restoring them to a position of trust where we make ourselves vulnerable to that person again. There is a point in there of wisdom. In some sense forgiveness means an absence of mental attitude sins; we are not going to hold it against them in our own souls, our own mentality; we are not going to have mental attitude sins of anger, bitterness, resentment, etc. Peter approaches this and he can understand forgiving more than once, but he puts a finite box on it, up to seven times. [22] "Jesus said to him, I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven." That is 490 times, but the multiple use of sevens there means Jesus is really saying you just never stop. Turning over to a parallel passage, Luke 17:3, NASB "Be on your guard! If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him.[4] And if he sins against you seven times a day, and returns to you seven times, saying, 'I repent,' forgive him."  

 

Remember what has happened with Joseph's relationship to his brothers. Joseph loved his father Jacob dearly, he was Jacob's favourite. Benjamin was still a young child when the events of chapter 37 take place, when Joseph was sold into slavery. A lot of time has gone by and that is an element in anyone's life when they have been truly abused or mistreated that it takes time to work through the application process. If Joseph had had to confront his brothers some time earlier when he was still in prison he might not have been as gracious as he is when he gets to chapter 42. But he has worked through this and is grace oriented, and there is no indication that he bears any sort of resentment or anger or hatred or any desire for revenge on his brothers; he treats them with kindness and generosity from the very beginning of their appearance before him. That indicates that Joseph has truly forgiven them, there is no mental attitude sin there. Forgiveness isn't just an absence of mental attitude sin, it is doing well for the person. We see that in the parable of the good Samaritan. It isn't just a case of helping the person but of going the extra mile in helping as much as you can. But that doesn't mean that you do stupid things like putting yourself in the position where you are going to get abuse and mistreatment again. What we see in chapters 42-44 is that Joseph is putting the brothers through a variety of tests to see if they are still the same selfish, ornery, antagonistic brothers that they were before. Are they still so focused on what they are going to get out of the inheritance and the blessing, are they still filled with jealousy toward the favored son, or have they matured? Basically he is trying to find out whether he can trust them by revealing his identity. So he puts them through this series of tests before he gets to that position where he can trust them. So we can say that there is a clear distinction between forgiving somebody, which is a personal mental attitude, and trust.

 

We have God's righteous love. That is His righteousness and justice combined with His love as one concept. So we are able as believers, because of God's justice, if we understand it right, can relax in it. God's justice is going to handle the situation. Whatever injustice is brought our way God's justice is going to eventually deal with it. We may not see it, we may not witness it, we may not get to rub our hands together and enjoy it like our sin nature would like. God has some very interesting ways of dealing with that. What goes on in the life of Judah here is one of those interesting little dynamics and it is rather ironic how God's discipline works because Judah as the older brother is the one who callously removed the favored son from dear old Daddy and he treats that loss rather cavalierly. But what happens to Judah? God takes out his first two sons in the sin unto death. And then it is only in that episode with his daughter-in-law who is forcing him to give the third son to her to raise up a seed, that he becomes finally convicted in a biblical sense of his sin. He realizes what a failure his life has become and how he has messed everything up. That is the starting point; that is when he is truly humbled. The picture that we see of Judah in these next few chapters is of a changed man who becomes a leader in the family among the brothers, but it is a leadership that is based on humility. When he deals with his father and when he deals with Joseph it is a man who is no longer arrogant and self-serving but a man who has truly been humbled so that he can rise to that leadership.

 

In chapter 42 we saw the opening introduction to what is really a lengthy section that goes through the end of chapter 45 when we see the final reconciliation between Joseph and his brothers. But it begins with the realisation of the consequences of the famine of Jacob and the family back in Canaan in vv. 1-5 where he sends the brothers to go and buy grain in Egypt. This sets the stage for their encounter with Joseph. Then in vv. 6-26 we saw how the brothers see Joseph, Joseph realizes who they are. They don't recognize him at all because he is dressed like an Egyptian, his head is shaved, he is clean-shaven, and wearing all the clothing of an Egyptian and is 20 years older. And God begins to test them through Joseph to expose their guilt and restore them to fellowship. There is this dynamic going on here of guilt. They are so guilt-ridden, which is the remorse they were feeling. God has to deal with these brothers. Their guilt has to be exposed and there has to be an admission and recognition of it on their part before there is a full restoration of fellowship. When we sin there has to be an admission of that to God, and when we offend other people and it is known by them we need to admit that guilt for restoration of fellowship. On the other hand, when people come to us and they admit that they were wrong then it is incumbent upon us to forgive them.

 

Genesis 43:1 NASB "Now the famine was severe in the land. [2] So it came about when they had finished eating the grain which they had brought from Egypt, that their father said to them, 'Go back, buy us a little food.'" This gives us the setting for the second act in this drama. Notice in this passage that Jacob is referred to as Israel. Remember, that name was given to him because he was the one who wrestled with God and Peniel. He is wrestling with the fact that he knows that the only way that they are going to get more food is because of this condition that Joseph has set it to take their younger brother. All this time Jacob is wrestling with the fact that it is going to get to this point and he is going to be forced by circumstances to do what he really doesn't want to do. The last thing he wants to do is to lose sight of his favorite son now, Benjamin. The reason we have the name Israel used here instead of Jacob is because it is just a little textual reminder of this fact that he has been wrestling with this and there has been this ongoing argument with the brothers who want him to send Benjamin back, and he doesn't want to do it. But he now gets to that point where he recognizes he will have to. 

 

There are two basic scenes in this act in chapter 43. The first scene covers the first 124 verses when they are at home, and we see Judah stepping to the forefront and taking up the reins of leadership among the brothers. The second part picks up in verse 15 and goes down to the end of the chapter when they are back in Egypt with Joseph.

 

Genesis 43:2 NASB "…Go back, buy us a little food." Then Judah steps up, he is the one in the forefront, he is the spokesman for the brothers. [3] "Judah spoke to him, however, saying, The man solemnly warned us, 'You shall not see my face unless your brother is with you.'" This is a non-negotiable condition that the man has set up. [4] "If you send our brother with us, we will go down and buy you food." Judah has Jacob over a barrel. [6] "Then Israel said, 'Why did you treat me so badly by telling the man whether you still had {another} brother?'" This is a reaction. He is irritated and resentful. God is working behind the scenes here to get the whole family to Egypt, but Jacob doesn't know that. The brothers answer in verse 7 by simply reiterating what the man said. "But they said, The man questioned particularly about us and our relatives, saying, 'Is your father still alive? Have you {another} brother?' So we answered his questions. Could we possibly know that he would say, 'Bring your brother down'?"

 

So Judah gets up and gives his second speech in vv. 8-10, and this time he takes responsibility for Benjamin. In v. 9 he says, "I myself will be surety for him; you may hold me responsible for him. If I do not bring him {back} to you and set him before you, then let me bear the blame before you forever." Reuben had tried to make a deal like this earlier in the last chapter and he told his father that if he didn't come back to just kill his two sons. But there was an emptiness to that promise. When Judah makes this deal and says he will stand his life in surety for Benjamin Jacob is fully aware of what has gone on in the last 20 years in Judah's life, that he has lost two sons and he has seen this transformation in his son as only a parent can understand that transformation and see it in one of his children. "I myself will be surety for him; you may hold me responsible for him. If I do not bring him {back} to you and set him before you, then let me bear the blame before you forever." Judah makes an argument that is acceptable now to Jacob, who now responds in vv. 11-14. Now he has given in.

Genesis 43:11 NASB "Then their father Israel said to them, "If {it must be} so, then do this: take some of the best products of the land in your bags, and carry down to the man as a present, a little balm and a little honey, aromatic gum and myrrh, pistachio nuts and almonds. [12] "Take double {the} money in your hand, and take back in your hand the money that was returned in the mouth of your sacks; perhaps it was a mistake. [13] Take your brother also, and arise, return to the man; [14] and may God Almighty [El Shaddai] grant you compassion in the sight of the man, so that he will release to you your other brother and Benjamin. And as for me, if I am bereaved of my children, I am bereaved." Jacob is focusing on the power of God to protect them as they go back.

From verse 15 we see the story of the return and how they link up with Joseph again. [16] "When Joseph saw Benjamin with them, he said to his house steward, "Bring the men into the house, and slay an animal and make ready; for the men are to dine with me at noon." When Joseph sess Benjamin he recognizes what they have done, so they have passed this first test. [17] "So the man did as Joseph said, and brought the men to Joseph's house. [18] Now the men were afraid, because they were brought to Joseph's house; and they said, "{It is} because of the money that was returned in our sacks the first time that we are being brought in, that he may seek occasion against us and fall upon us, and take us for slaves with our donkeys." Why were they afraid? Guilt! What the word for fear indicates is, Okay, what have we done now? Why is he treating us like this? They have a guilty conscience, they know what they have done with Joseph and they are afraid that God is going to lose Benjamin, and they are fearful.

This guilt makes them think it is because of the money. They fear it will be thought that they stole the money, that now they would be in trouble and something would be done to them. So they pull the steward aside and in v.20, "and said, 'Oh, my lord, we indeed came down the first time to buy food, [21]  and it came about when we came to the lodging place, that we opened our sacks, and behold, each man's money was in the mouth of his sack, our money in full. So we have brought it back in our hand. [22] We have also brought down other money in our hand to buy food; we do not know who put our money in our sacks." Then at the end the man just calms them down. [23] "He said, 'Be at ease, do not be afraid. Your God and the God of your father has given you treasure in your sacks; I had your money.' Then he brought Simeon out to them."

Verse 26: "When Joseph came home, they brought into the house to him the present which was in their hand and bowed to the ground before him." They treat him with respect and deference. Throughout this whole scene the steward would have given Joseph a report. There is no sign that they are arrogant. They are not reacting to Joseph, there seems to be genuine contrition and remorse on their part, and humility and authority orientation, and they are not coming as if they are antagonistic or filled with their own self-importance. A reason for making that note is that there was a view that was set forth by the rabbis in some of the midrashes on this chapter. Because of the fact that Judah later becomes the progenitor of the tribe from which the Lord comes and the sceptre is not going to depart from the tribe of Judah. So there was this idea that because of that verse Judah had to be portrayed as someone who was acting kingly and with authority and that he was actually challenging Joseph's authority here. That just shows how the rabbis had really turned everything around and where leadership was lording it over everyone, which is exactly what the Lord criticized when he was on the earth; that leadership isn't lording it over everyone, leadership is being a servant of all, it is based on humility. It is the old adage, that if you don't learn to follow, to be respectful of authority and to be under authority, you can never be a good leader.

So Joseph comes back and the first thing he asks them is about his father. This is so crucial here. Joseph's concern was about how they were treating their father. How they are treating their father and their attitude to their father is going to say an awful lot about what has happened in their souls. The second thing he is going to watch is how they treat Benjamin. [27] "Then he asked them about their welfare, and said, 'Is your old father well, of whom you spoke? Is he still alive?' [28] They said, "Your servant our father is well; he is still alive." They bowed down in homage." Notice the respect and the honor in the way they are talking about their father. [29] As he lifted his eyes and saw his brother Benjamin, his mother's son, he said, 'Is this your youngest brother, of whom you spoke to me?' And he said, 'May God be gracious to you, my son.'" So he is singling out Benjamin for special attention and special favour. Then we have almost aparenthetical insert in verse 30: "Joseph hurried {out} for he was deeply stirred over his brother, and he sought {a place} to weep; and he entered his chamber and wept there." Joseph is so overwhelmed with emotion at this stage but he keeps it under control. As soon as he recognizes it he gets out of the room, gets off to a place of privacy, deals with his emotion, and then he washes his face until he can gain control of himself, and he comes back out for dinner.

He set the dinner up so that he is over on one side because Egyptians would never have anything to do with any of the Canaanites. They just despised the Canaanites. Egyptians just despised the Jews. Part of this had to do with their religion and part was just racial prejudice. So Joseph in the role of an Egyptian sets a place by himself. The Egyptians ate with him by themselves but the Hebrew ate in their own place.

Genesis 43:33 NASB "Now they were seated before him, the firstborn according to his birthright and the youngest according to his youth, and the men looked at one another in astonishment." Notice this. If you are one of the brothers and you sit down to eat, and you look around to recognize that they have all been put in birth order. This is really spooky. How does he know the precise birth order, and there is Benjamin who has a place of honor and he has five times as much food on his plate as the rest. They are just being brought to this point of genuine repentance in the sense of shame over what had happened must earlier as they have to deal with their guilt. The Hebrew word there for astonishment means fear or anxiety. It is not just a sense of wonder, it is a sense of this isn't right, this is spooky and we are in trouble now.

Notice: When Joseph sets this situation up with Benjamin and puts him in that place of honor he is testing the brothers: Are they going to become jealous of Benjamin as they became jealous of me? He is testing them to see if they have gotten past all of their self-absorption. And there is one other thing. He gives them a lot of beer. They drank and were merry. The Hebrew word means they were drunk. Joseph wanted to loosen them up and put them in a situation where they would become uninhibited and their inhibitions would drop down, and if there was any resentment or anger or anything like that towards Benjamin it would come out in their casual conversation. They passed that test and now he is going to give them one final test. 

When we come to chapter 44 we get into the final test. This is where things get really interesting and we see how Joseph. Verses 1, 2: "Then he commanded his house steward, saying, "Fill the men's sacks with food, as much as they can carry, and put each man's money in the mouth of his sack. Put my cup, the silver cup, in the mouth of the sack of the youngest, and his money for the grain." And he did as Joseph had told {him.}." They were going to frame the youngest with a crime and see how the brothers react. They could just cut and run. If they are still jealous of his position, that he is the one who is going to receive the inheritance from their father, then this is their opportunity. What a great opportunity to ditch Benjamin, and now we will get that inheritance! So he is going to frame Benjamin.

Genesis 44:11-13 NASB "Then they hurried, each man lowered his sack to the ground, and each man opened his sack. He searched, beginning with the oldest and ending with the youngest, and the cup was found in Benjamin's sack. Then they tore their clothes, and when each man loaded his donkey, they returned to the city." Notice: Verse 16, "So Judah"; verse 18, "So Judah." Then from v. 18 through v. 34 we have the longest speech in all of Genesis. This is Judah's speech, he is the one who steps forward to take the leadership position among the brothers. In Verse 16 he is confessing more. They didn't do anything wrong but he is going to confess here. They are so riddled with guilt they will confess to anything. "So Judah said, 'What can we say to my lord? What can we speak? And how can we justify ourselves? God has found out the iniquity of your servants; behold, we are my lord's slaves, both we and the one in whose possession the cup has been found.'"

Then is v. 18, "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.'" There is no arrogance here, he is going to plead a case for grace that would do anyone honor. He is not arrogant, he is not self-serving, and there is a focal point to everything that he says. He uses the word "father" fourteen times between verse 18 and verse 34. The whole focus of his argument to Joseph is what this is going to do to their father. And he demonstrates such a concern for his father that it breaks Joseph's heart, because he sees how these brothers have changed their whole mental attitude, and how they are so concerned about Jacob and not at all concerned about their own lives or position. Judah rehearses his father's bereavement over the loss of Joseph and why Benjamin is now the father's favourite. He is setting the stage for why Benjamin is so important to the father. There is such reverence and respect for Jacob here and Joseph recognizes this. He ends by saying in verse 32, "For your servant [Judah] 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.' [33] 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."

As Joseph sees this complete change that has taken place in Judah over the past 20 years he could not restrain himself. [45:1] "Then Joseph could not control himself before all those who stood by him, and he cried, 'Have everyone go out from me.' So there was no man with him when Joseph made himself known to his brothers."

In this, what we see is how Joseph has this forgiveness in the sense of an absence of mental attitude sins and a positive graciousness towards his brothers from the very beginning, but still there is an unwillingness to put himself in a position of vulnerability or to trust and reveal himself to the brothers. He has to take them through a period of testing before there is full restitution. The point that we see over and over again in Scripture is that there needs to be full forgiveness and breeched relationships need to always move forward—restitution.