Though Joseph entertained such tender feeling towards his brethren that he wept over them, he did not allow it to deflect him from the stern dealing that was necessary, if they were to be brought to a proper spirit of repentance as to the great wrong they perpetrated against him, and against their father also, many years before. Simeon was held as hostage, but the rest were sent off with full loads of corn and provision for the way, but each man with his money placed in his sack.
Only one of them discovered this while at the inn, and the effect of the discovery on their minds is recorded in verse 28. They suspected that some plot or pretext lay behind it and it filled them with fear. Their consciences were still at work and they saw in it an act of retribution on the part of God. We too can recognize that truly the hand of God was in it.
Arrived home, they related their experiences to Jacob, and their fears were increased by the discovery that each man had his money returned in his sack. Poor Jacob's reaction to it all, recorded in verse 36, is very characteristic of him. When he said, "Me have ye bereaved . . . Joseph is not . . ." he spoke more truly than he knew. His bereavement, as regards Joseph, did indeed lie at their door, so this must have been a further stab to their consciences.
His complaint was, "All these things are against me." And so indeed it appeared. He had yet to learn that all these things were a part of God's plan for his ultimate good, so that at the end of his life he might be able to refer to "The Angel which redeemed me from all evil" (Genesis 48: 16). The fact was that "all these things" were going to "work together for good," and therefore provide us with an effective illustration of the truth of Romans 8: 28.
For the moment Jacob flatly refused to part with Benjamin, but Genesis 43 shows us how his stubborn refusal had to give way before the hard logic of facts. There would be no obtaining of the needed food except Benjamin were permitted to go with his brothers down to Egypt. In the words of Judah, recorded in verses 8 and 9, we find disclosed an attitude towards him quite the opposite to his attitude towards Joseph years before. A repentant spirit was beginning to disclose its fruits.
In Hebrews 7: 22, we read of Jesus being made "a Surety of a better testament." In verse 9 of our chapter we have an excellent illustration of what surety-ship involves. If there be any breakdown the blame of it must lie for ever on the surety, and all must be required at his hand. Were there any breakdown in the new covenant, the blame of it would rest upon Christ for ever. But, No! Its stability and the security of all its blessings are ensured for eternity.
Jacob's scheming propensities come again to light in verses 11 and 12, but at the same time there was a measure of trust in the mercy of God. With his permission the brethren at last depart for Egypt, taking Benjamin with them, and arrive in the presence of Joseph. Seeing that they had complied, and brought Benjamin with them, he was prepared to bring them into his house to dine at noon. This kindly attitude only stirred up more alarm in their minds, since they remembered the episode of the money in their sacks and they still had no idea of the identity of the man who was now lord of all Egypt.
Their ignorance made all Joseph's actions seem the more remarkable and their uneasiness and suspicions increased. On his part we are permitted to see again how true were his affections, particularly for Benjamin. He was again moved to tears, as verse 30 records. But he was marked by wisdom as well as love. At the dinner the rift between Hebrew and Egyptian was manifest, but the brethren sat before Joseph, and he placed them in the exact order of their ages, with Benjamin's portion five times as much as any of the others. All this must have seemed to indicate almost superhuman discernment on the part of the great man, and increased the uneasy feeling that they had.
Their consciences had already been aroused as we saw when reading Genesis 42: 21, but the work of repentance needed to be yet deepened. Hence Joseph's further dealings with them as recorded in Genesis 44. The incident is so well known that we need only to point out a few of its salient details. Things were so ordered that the apparent guilt should fall upon Benjamin, for whom Judah had stood as surety to Jacob. This naturally brought Judah forward as the spokesman. He had taken the lead in selling Joseph to the Midianites going to Egypt, speaking with much hardness of heart. Now he has to speak as to Benjamin, and what a change is manifest! Instead of hardness great tenderness of feeling, particularly for his old father, Jacob. Then it mattered not how Jacob would feel: now it mattered everything to him. Here we see the working of a repentance not to be repented of.
Judah presented the whole case as regards his father and Benjamin with very great pathos, such pathos as could only spring from intense and genuine feeling, the reality of which was evidenced by his closing request to be allowed to stand as substitute for Benjamin. He was prepared to face life-slavery for himself rather than see his brother taken and his father's grey hairs brought down with sorrow to the grave. We saw Judah in a very unfavourable light in both Genesis 37 and Genesis 38; now we see what a complete change is produced when real repentance takes place.
In all this we see typified that national repentance of Israel, predicted in Zechariah 12: 10-14. In that chapter Jehovah speaks, and He says, "I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications; and they shall look upon Me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for Him." They will discover that the One whom they pierced is Jehovah Himself. In the same way the repentance of the brethren here reaches its climax when they discover that the great lord of Egypt is none other than Joseph whom they had pierced with so many sorrows. This discovery they make, as recorded in the opening verses of Genesis 45.
Again we see how very fittingly the history presents us with a type. The discovery was not made as the result of any discernment or sagacity on the part of the brethren but wholly by the revelation of himself on the part of Joseph. When at His second advent Christ is revealed in His glory, then Israel will recognize Him and cry, "My God, we know Thee" (Hosea 8: 2). Moreover Joseph's revelation was made as the fruit of his love for them: love so real that he could not restrain himself longer and that moved him to tears.
In Joseph we see displayed both affection and magnanimity. With the brethren the workings of their consciences reached their climax, producing fear and reducing them to silence. They found themselves wholly at the mercy of the brother whom they had so bitterly wronged, and as yet they could not believe in his magnanimous dealings with them. What must it have been to them to hear his words, "Come near to me, I pray you"?
It was as they turned to Him that the vail was taken from their eyes and they knew him. So it will be with Israel in the coming day. At the present time "when Moses is read, the vail is upon their heart. Nevertheless when it shall turn to the Lord, the vail shall be taken away" (2 Cor. 3: 15, 16). Then they will discover that Jesus, the Nazarene, whom they sold for thirty pieces of silver and crucified, is the Lord of glory, and at the same time the personification of magnanimity and love.
We might have expected that, having bidden his brethren to come near and said to them, "I am Joseph your brother, whom ye sold into Egypt," it would have been they who wept, firstly at the recognition of the great wrong they had perpetrated against him, and secondly at the grace that abounded over their evil. But, no, the tears were his and not theirs. They had had to bow down before him, but he deserved it for he towered above them in the things that are really great in the sight of God. A faint foreshadowing of the greatness of Christ.
A further thing characterized Joseph, as we see in verses 5-8. His eye rested upon God and not upon circumstances, however trying they had been. The evil actions of the brethren had faded into insignificance in his mind. He recognized that God had been behind all that they had done, and had worked it in as part of His plan for salvation and deliverance. We are reminded of that prayer of the primitive church, when they acknowledged that Herod, Pilate, Gentiles and Jews, gathered together against the Lord Jesus, had only accomplished "whatsoever Thy hand and Thy counsel determined before to be done" (Acts 4: 28). Joseph had been instrumental in bringing to pass "a great deliverance," yet it was very small when compared with the deliverance wrought by the death and resurrection of Christ.
And further, God had sent Joseph down into Egypt in order to preserve a posterity in the earth for Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He knew what Joseph can hardly have known; that many centuries after out of that posterity, as concerning the flesh, would come the Christ, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Turn where we may in Scripture, Christ is ever before the mind of God, and at this epoch Joseph was the instrument used of God to preserve that line of descent that finally would lead to Him.
Whatever Joseph may, or may not, have realized as to this, there was a touch of the prophetic about his words, and in the whole matter God was so distinctly before him that he was lifted far above any resentment as to the wrong done to him. To his brethren he said, "So now it was not you that sent me hither but God." Happy should we all be, if in regard to the perverse things of life, wrought by perverse persons, we could always say in truth, "Not you, but God." If in adversity we see man, we are irritated, if we see God, we are humbled, subdued and blessed.
Joseph acknowledged that it was God who had made him "lord of all his [Pharaoh's] house," and, "lord of all Egypt." Already we have had "lord" a number of times, but used as a title of respect, much as we might now address someone as "sir." This is the first time we read of anyone being made "lord." So that here we have a type of Jesus being made "Lord," as Peter announced in Acts 2: 36. As lord of all Egypt Joseph had all power vested in him, and that power he wielded to promote what was good. So the Lordship of Jesus involves firstly, His absolute dominion, and secondly, His benevolent rule.
A very tender and touching note runs through the message that Joseph sent by his brethren to his father. After the long years of separation he was to be near unto his beloved son, and nourished by him. Tenderness and urgency marked the message that he sent, and realizing that in old age his father might be slow to move, he instructed as an incentive, "Ye shall tell my father of all my glory in Egypt."
We have had the word "glory" once before in Genesis 31: 1, used to indicate wealth. This is the first time it is used to indicate honour and splendour, so again we can discern its typical value. It is when Christ is revealed in His glory that Israel will be gathered to Him, and bow down before Him. Then shall be fulfilled the word, "Thy people shall be willing in the day of Thy power" (Ps. 110: 3). They were by no means willing in the day of His humiliation and poverty.
Having delivered these instructions, there was again a touching scene of affection and tears. Benjamin being his full brother, it was not surprising that there was this display after so long a separation; but that he should kiss and weep upon the brethren, who once had so cruelly wronged him, was a remarkable thing. The kiss and the tears were the sign not only of affection but also of a full forgiveness. It is significant that the record is, "after that his brethren talked with him." The free conversation, which flows from communion, could only be established on the ground of forgiveness.
Thus indeed it is with us today. Until we are assured of Divine forgiveness, and thus we are in the enjoyment of peace with God, we cannot be at home in His presence nor enter into communion with Him. Until then we find it impossible to freely address Him in either thanksgiving or in prayer.