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JOSEPH MAKES HIMSELF KNOWN TO HIS BRETHREN.
Ver. 1-3. The close of Judah's speech must have been succeeded by a solemn pause. Every heart is full ; but every tongue is silent. The audience, if they understood the language, would be all in tears. The ten brethren, viewing the whole as the righteous judgment of God upon them, would be full of fearful amazement as to the issue. Benjamin would feel both for his dear father and his beloved brother, who had offered to give himself for him ! But what saith the judge ? How does he stand affected ? I have no doubt bu that he must have covered his face during the greater part of the time in which Judah had been pleading: and now this will not suffice. The fire burns within him, and it must have vent. Cause every man, said he, to depart from me! And then he breaks out in a loud weeping, so that the Egyptians from without heard him. Their minds no doubt must be filled with amazement, and desire to know the cause of this strange affair ; while the parties within would be still more confounded, to witness such a burst of sorrow from him, who, but awhile before, was all sternness and severity. But now the mystery is at once revealed, and that in a few words--I AM JOSEPH !!! DoTH MY FATHER YET LIVE? If they had been struck by an electrical shock, or the most tremendous peal of thunder had instantly been heard over their heads, its effect had been nothing in comparison of that which these words must have produced. They are all struck dumb, and as it were petrified with terror. If he had been actually dead, and had risen, and appeared to them, they could not have felt greatly different. The flood of thoughts which would at once rush in upon their minds is past description. No words could better express the general effect than those which are used : They could not answer him ; for they were troubled at his presence !
Ver. 4-8. A little mind, amidst all its sympathy, might have enjoyed the triumph which Joseph now had over them who once hated him, and have been willing to make them feel it : but he has made them feel sufficiently already ; and having forgiven them in his heart, he remembers their sin no more, but is full of tender solicitude to heal their wounded spirits. Come near unto me, saith be, I pray you ; and they came near : and he said, I am Joseph your brother whom ye sold into Egypt. This painful event he does not seem to have mentioned, but for the sake of convincing them that it was he himself even their brother Joseph, and not another ; and lest the mention of it should be taken as a reflection, and so add to their distress, he immediately follows it up with a dissuasive from overmuch sorrow : Now therefore be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves that ye sold me hither : for God did send me before you, to preserve life. For these two years hath the famine been in the land : and yet there are five years, in the which there shall be neither earing nor harvest. And God sent me before you, to preserve a posterity in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance. So now, it was not you that sent me hither, but God: and he hath made me a father to Pharaoh, &c.
In this soothing and tender strain did this excellent man pour balm into their wounded hearts. A less delicate mind would have talked of forgiving them; but he entreats them to forgive themselves, as though the other was out of the question. Nor did he mean that they should abuse the doctrine of providence, to the making light of sin ; but merely that they should eye the hand of God in all, so as to be reconciled to the event, though they might weep in secret for the part which they had acted. And it is his desire that they should for the present, at least, view the subject much in that point of light ; which would arm them against despondency, and a being swallowed up of overmuch sorrow. Their viewing things in this light would not abate their godly sorrow, but rather increase it : it would tend only to expel the sorrow of the world, which worketh death. The analogy between all this,
and the case of a sinner on Christ's first manifesting himself to his soul, is very striking. I cannot enlarge on particulars : suffice it to say, the more he views the doctrine of the cross, in which God hath glorified himself, and saved a lost world, by those very means which were intended for evil by his murderers, the better it will be with him. He shall not be able to think sin on this account a less, but a greater evil ; and yet he shall be so armed against despondency, as even to rejoice in what God hath wrought, while he trembles in thinking of the evils from which he has escaped.
Ver. 9-11. It is not in the power of Joseph's brethren to talk at present : be therefore talks to them. And to divert their minds from terror, and gradually remove the effects of the shock, he goes on to tell them they must make haste home to his father, and say thus and thus to him in his name ; and invite bim and all his family to come down forthwith into Egypt, where he and they shall be well provided for, during the five years' famine yet to come, and where he shall be near unto him.
Ver. 12–15. While he is thus talking with his brethren, they would be apt to suspect whether all could be true, and whether they were not in a dream, or imposed upon in some supernatural way. To obviate these misgivings of mind, he adds, And behold, your eyes see, and the eyes of my brother Benjamin, that it is my mouth which speaketh unto you. And you shall tell my father of all my glory in Egypt. The former part of this speech must needs have produced in him a fresh flood of tears. As to them, I know not whether they could weep at present. Nothing is said of the kind; and it is natural to suppose that they had too much fear as yet mingled with their sorrow to admit of its being vented in this manner. He however, having made mention of Benjamin, cannot forbear falling upon his neck and weeping over him : and Benjamin, not feeling that petrifying guilty shock, which must have confounded them, fell upon his neck, and wept with him.
Joseph had said nothing to his brethren of forgiving them; but he would now express as much, and more, by his actions; giving an affectionate kiss to every one of them, accompanied with tears of tenderness. This appears more than any thing to have removed their terror, so that now they are sufficiently composed to talk with him, if not to mingle their tears with his.
Ver. 16–24. The secret being once disclosed within doors, soon got out; and the news of Joseph's brethren being come flies through the city, and reaches the palace. Pharaoh and his court too, are well pleased with it; or if there were any who might envy Joseph's high honour, they would not dare to express it.
In other cases, Pharaoh had left every thing to Joseph ; and Joseph knowing what he had done, and the confidence which be possessed, had given orders in this case; yet to save his feelings in having to invite his own relations, as it were to another man's house, as well as to express the gratitude of the nation to so great a benefactor, the king in this instance comes forward, and gives orders bimself. His orders too were more liberal than those of Joseph: he had desired them to bring with them all the properly they had; but Pharaoh bids them to disregard their stuff, for that the good of all the land of Egypt was theirs. Joseph had said nothing about the mode of conveyance; but Pharaoh gives orders for wagons, or chariots, as the word is sometimes rendered, to be sent to fetch them.
Joseph, however, in executing these orders, gives fresh testimo. nies of affection, not only in furnishing them with provisions by the way, but to each man changes of raiment, and to Benjamin his brother three hundred pieces of silver, and five changes of raiment. And to his honoured father, though he could not, on account of business, go and fetch him, yet he sends him the richest present; namely, ten asses laden with the good things of Egypt, and ten she asses laden with corn and bread and meat for him by the way. These things might not be all necessary: Jacob would need no more for himself than any other individual of the family ; but, as we saw in the mess which was sent to Benjamin, this was the mode at that time of expressing peculiar affection. To all this kindness he added a word of counsel : See that ye fall not out by the way. Joseph had already heard from Reuben some severe reflections on his brethren (Chap. xlii. 22.); and might suppose that such things would be repeated when they were alone. One might be accused of this, and another of that, till all their minds would be grieved and wounded. But he that could find in his heart to love them, after all their unworthy conduct, gives them,
as I may say, a new commandment, that they should love one another !
Ver. 25_-28. And now the young people betake themselves to their journey, and in a little time arrive at their father's house. Jacob had doubtless been looking and longing for their return, and that with many fears and misgivings of mind. If the matter was announced as suddenly as it is here related, it is not surprising that Jacob's heart fainted, and that he believed them not! It must apear too much to be true. The suddenness of the transition would produce an effect like that of fire and water coming in contact: and though he had suspected that Joseph had not been fairly treated by his brethren, yet he never seems to have doubted that he was dead. It would appear therefore, at first, as if they meant to tantalize him. Perhaps too, we may partly account for this incredulity from the aptness there is in a dejected mind to believe what is against him, rather than what is for him. When they brought the bloody garment, he readily believed, saying, Joseph is without doubt rent in pieces! But when good news is told him, it seems too good to be true!
They went on, however, and told him of all the words of Joseph; that is, of the invitations which he sent by thein; and as a proof, pointed to the wagons which were come to take him down. The sight of these overcomes the incredulity of the patriarch, and revives his spirit. It is enough, said he : Joseph my son is yet alive. I will go and see him before I die! Yes, this was enough,
! not only to remove his doubts, but to heal his wounded heart, to set all right, to solve all mysteries, and to satisfy his soul. He had no more wishes on this side of the grave. No mention is made of how he received the gifts, or what he said of his son's glory: it was enough for him that he was alive. The less must give way to the greater. He seems to have considered death as near at hand, and as though he had nothing to do but to go and see him, and, like old Simeon by the Saviour, depart in peace. * But he must live
be a few years longer, and reflect upon the wisdom and goodness of God in all these mysterious events.