Bible Readings for February 9th
In Genesis 42, we read the first installment of how Joseph reconciles with his brothers after many years since they had sold him into slavery. Although the brothers do not recognize Joseph—how could they possibly imagine that their brother had ascended to the right hand of Pharaoh himself?—Joseph recognizes them, and he decides to test them to see if they have matured and changed since he last saw their faces.
But even though Joseph’s brothers don’t recognize him, they clearly remember what they had done to Joseph. In fact, the memory of their treachery seems to hang over them, so that at the first sign of difficulty to purchase bread, they are convinced that their problems are arising as a direct consequence of their guilt toward Joseph (Gen. 42:21–22).
It is difficult to know exactly what is going through Joseph’s mind through all of this. Does part of him want to seek revenge, and is that why he speaks to them roughly and treats them like strangers (Gen. 42:7)? Is he laughing on the inside at the humor of his huge practical joke? Is he afraid, deep down, that his brothers will still reject him if he reveals his identity to them? Is he willing to forgive, but only on the condition that his brothers are able to demonstrate that they have made significant improvements? What does his weeping (Gen. 42:24) signify?
Most likely, the Bible doesn’t provide us much insight into Joseph’s psychology during this encounter because something more important is happening. Rather than isolating the full meaning and significance of this story in the person of Joseph himself, this story is much bigger than that, providing us a picture of what it might look like for us to be reconciled to God himself.
In this story, we see ten of the tribes of Israel standing before the righteous servant of God, who had suffered even though he was innocent but is now exalted to the right hand of the king. What’s worse is that this righteous servant of God had suffered innocently because of these Israelites, so that his suffering came directly because of their sin. The million dollar question, then, is this: How will the righteous servant of God react and respond to those whose sin had caused him such suffering?
The narrator of Genesis 42 doesn’t resolve the tension just yet, but once again, we are meant to see in this story a seed of the story of Jesus Christ himself. One day, Israel will stand along with all the nations of the earth before the exalted Lord who suffered innocently because of our sin. On that day, what will you do? What will you say?
And more importantly, how will Jesus respond?
Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.