Acknowledging Broken Relationships
Explore the Bible Series
May 4, 2008
Lesson Passage: Genesis
42:6-7, 9, 13-24
Introduction: Genesis Forty-Two recounts the story of
Joseph’s most difficult trial, his broken relationship with his brothers. Approximately twenty years had passed since
Jacob’s sons sold their brother into slavery.
Joseph, in the ensuing years, faced severe trials of his faith; yet, in
time, God had honored his faithful servant.
Our present study, however, reveals that the wrongs of the past still
stung Joseph. Time had not completely
dulled the agony of betrayal at the hands of his siblings.
This narrative, though set in the ancient Middle
East, has a familiar ring for all of God’s people. At one time or another, all believers face
the rejection, disappointment, and betrayal of those who should love us
most. The Bible clearly acknowledges
these heart-wrenching experiences and does not leave us without counsel and
example about handling these circumstances.
The Joseph narrative gives Christians invaluable resources for
responding, in a Christ-honoring way, to the abuse of others. Note these wise actions and attitudes of
seemed to recognize the possibility of change in his brothers. He did not allow the hurts of the past
to engender a bitter cynicism that would poison his heart. Instead, he adopted a “wait-and-see”
posture toward his brothers. God
still changes lives, and Joseph apparently recognized that the Lord might
have softened the hearts of his cruel siblings.
evidenced a wise discernment in dealing with his brothers. He recognized the ten immediately, but
he did not disclose his own identity until sometime later. Christians should have a forgiving
spirit (this, it seems to me, is beyond dispute), but God has not called
his people to silly gullibility. Forgiveness does not require naïve
indulgence and empowerment of chronic sinful behavior. Joseph was a forgiving man, but he was
not a fool. He took time to discern
the intent and content of his brothers’ character. The apparent harshness
of Joseph’s initial response to his brothers served a test of their
character, a test that preceded Joseph’s openness to these men that had
treated him so cruelly.
showed kindness to his brothers.
Despite the prime minister’s rough treatment, the brothers
discovered that he had returned the money they had paid for the
grain. Certainly, Joseph’s
generosity confused the men, but they must have known, in some sense, that
the prime minister had shown them a great kindness. In the New Testament, Jesus and Paul
remind believers to show kindness to those who wrong them, and Joseph
exemplifies this principle wonderfully (See Matthew 5:43-48 and Romans
showed great patience in rebuilding his relationship with his
brothers. Relationships, when
deeply injured, seldom heal over night.
The events recorded in Genesis Forty-Two through Forty-Five took
place over a lengthy period of time.
Reconciliation is a journey, and both parties must allow time for
the ruptured relationship to recover.
Joseph kept an open but guarded heart. In time, the relationship, so violently
injured by his brothers, began to heal.
Jacob’s Commission for his Sons (42:1-5)
severe famine (See 41:56a): The text tells us that the famine affected the
entire region. If this famine was caused
by drought, this was an unusual experience.
The Egyptian Delta received its water supply from the Nile. The headwaters of this great river come from
the mountainous region of Central Africa, and,
therefore, droughts are fairly rare.
Antiquity does record some severe droughts, so severe, in fact, that the
inhabitants of this region apparently engaged in cannibalism. Canaan, on
the other hand, depends on rainfall for most of its water supply; so,
drought-induced famine occurred often. Derek
Kidner concludes that region-wide drought, like Joseph encountered, did not
happen very often.
sons sent to Egypt
(vv. 1-5): Jacob seemed distrustful of his sons. The desperate situation forced the patriarch
to seek provision in Egypt,
but he refused to allow Benjamin to accompany the other sons on the
journey. Perhaps Jacob feared, with some
justification, that the older sons might harm Benjamin.
Joseph’s First Encounter with his Brothers (42:6-24)
initial harshness toward his brothers (vv. 6-14): The brothers appeared before
Joseph, but they did not recognize their sibling. In fulfillment of the first dream of his
youth, Joseph watched his brothers bow before him as they requested bread from
the Egyptian governor. He chose to test
the men by speaking roughly to them and accusing them of being spies. They, of course, assured Joseph that they
were all brothers, the sons of one man.
test of his brothers (vv. 15-24): Joseph imprisoned his brothers for three
days, and then he told them to return to their father, on one condition. One sibling would remain behind, and the
other brothers must return to Egypt
with Benjamin. The distressed sons of
Jacob concluded, among themselves, that the present circumstances had occurred
because of their blood-guilt in selling their brother, twenty years
before. Joseph overheard their
conversation, and, as he turned away, he wept.
The Brothers’ Return to Canaan
secret refund of the brothers’ money (vv. 25-28): As the brothers prepared to
return home, Joseph ordered servants to give extra provisions to the ten and
return the money the men paid for the grain.
On the return journey, one of the siblings discovered the money, and all
the brothers recognized the hand of God in all the recent occurrences.
sons’ report to Jacob (vv. 29-38): Jacob’s sons reported their experiences to
their father, and each of the men discovered the refunded money in the
containers of grain. They reported that
the governor spoke harshly to them, and they recalled the demand that Benjamin
return to Egypt
with them. Jacob, deeply grieved about
the plight of Simeon, refused to allow Benjamin to accompany his brothers to Egypt.