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Bible Commentaries
Genesis 45

Dr. Constable's Expository NotesConstable's Expository Notes

Verses 1-15

10. Joseph’s reconciliation with his brothers 45:1-15

Joseph emotionally revealed his identity to his brothers. He assured them of God’s sovereign control of his life and directed them to bring Jacob to Egypt. He then demonstrated his love for his brothers warmly. This is one of the most dramatic recognition scenes in all literature.

Judah so impressed Joseph with the sincerity of his repentance and the tenderness of his affection that Joseph broke down completely. He wept tears of joy uncontrollably (Genesis 45:1-2; cf. 2 Samuel 13:9). Joseph then explained his perspective on his brothers’ treatment of him. He had discerned God’s providential control of the events of his life. Four times he stated that God, not his brothers, was behind what had happened (Genesis 45:5; Genesis 45:7-9).

"This statement . . . is the theological heart of the account of Jacob’s line (see Genesis 50:19-21; Acts 7:9-10). God directs the maze of human guilt to achieve his good and set purposes (Acts 2:23; Acts 4:28). Such faith establishes the redemptive kingdom of God." [Note: Ibid., p. 563.]

"It is divine sovereignty that undergirds the optimism of Genesis. ’God sent me to preserve life,’ says Joseph." [Note: Wenham, Genesis 16-50, p. 433.]

"Happy is the man whose eye is open to see the hand of God in every-day events, for to him life always possesses a wonderful and true joy and glory." [Note: Thomas, pp. 379-80.]

Part of God’s purpose was to use Joseph to preserve the house of Israel through the famine (Genesis 45:7).

"In using terms like remnant and survivors, Joseph is employing words that elsewhere in the OT are freighted with theological significance. It may well be that in the deliverance of his brothers and his father Joseph perceives that far more is at stake than the mere physical survival of twelve human beings. What really survives is the plan of redemption announced first to his great grandfather." [Note: Hamilton, The Book . . . Chapters 18-50, p. 576.]

Joseph called God "Ha Elohim," the personal God, the God of their fathers (Genesis 45:8).

"The theme of divine providential care is put into words by Joseph himself (Genesis 45:7-8; Genesis 50:20), summing up the whole patriarchal story." [Note: Whybray, p. 5.]

Joseph had evidently been planning for his father’s family to move down to Egypt if or when his brothers would prove that their attitude had changed (Genesis 45:10). Goshen (a Semitic rather than an Egyptian name) was the most fertile part of Egypt (cf. Genesis 45:18). It lay in the delta region northeast of the Egyptian capital, Memphis.

Joseph then embraced Benjamin and all his brothers to express his love and to confirm his forgiveness (Genesis 45:14-15). The writer highlighted the genuine reconcilation between Joseph and his brothers by recording that they talked with him (Genesis 45:15). Much earlier they could not speak to him (Genesis 37:4). After a threefold expression of Joseph’s goodwill toward his siblings (weeping, explaining, and embracing), the shocked and fearful brothers gained the courage to speak. They now recognized Joseph as the one they had so cruelly abused and who was now able to crush them if he chose to do so.

Outstanding in this section is the way in which Joseph’s perception of God’s ways made him gracious, forgiving, and accepting rather than bitter and vindictive. He saw the loving hand of his God behind the cruelty of his brothers. He had accepted all that had come to him as the will of God, and therefore he experienced the blessing of God. Reconciliation is possible when there is forgiveness, and forgiveness is possible when there is recognition of God’s sovereignty.

"Some have questioned the morality of Yosef’s actions, seeing that the aged Yaakov might well have died while the test was progressing, without ever finding out that Yosef had survived. But that is not the point of the story. What it is trying to teach (among other things) is a lesson about crime and repentance. Only by recreating something of the original situation-the brothers are again in control of the life and death of a son of Rachel-can Yosef be sure that they have changed. Once the brothers pass the test, life and covenant can then continue." [Note: E. Fox, In the Beginning, p. 202.]

Though the Bible never identifies Joseph as a type of Christ, many analogies are significant. Both were special objects of their father’s love. Their brethren hated them both, rejected their superior claims, and conspired to kill them. Both became a blessing to the Gentiles. Both received a bride. Joseph reconciled with his brethren and exalted them, and so will Christ.

Verses 16-28

Israel’s decision to move to Egypt 45:16-28

Pharaoh’s invitation was as generous as it was because Pharaoh held Joseph in high regard. This is another excellent example of hospitality: giving the best that one has to a starving and needy family. Pharaoh’s invitation was an invitation, not a command. Pharaoh had no authority to command Jacob to move into Egypt. Jacob was free to accept or reject this offer. If Jacob chose to accept it, he would be free to return to Canaan whenever he chose. The fact that Jacob’s family could not leave Egypt once they settled there was due to a new Pharaoh’s new policies concerning the Israelites as residents of Egypt. It was not due to the action of this Pharaoh (Sesostris III).

". . . when Pharaoh restates Joseph’s offer and ’twice’ gives the brothers the ’good’ (Genesis 45:18; Genesis 45:20) of the land of Egypt, it is hard not to see in the purpose of this narrative a conscious allusion to the ’good’ (Genesis 1:31) land given to Adam in Genesis 1. The picture of Joseph is a picture of restoration-not just the restoration of the good fortune of Jacob, but, as a picture, the restoration of the blessing that was promised through the seed of Jacob. This picture is also a blueprint for the hope that lies for the people of Israel at the end of the Pentateuch. They are to go into the land and enjoy it as God’s good gift (e.g., Deuteronomy 30:5)." [Note: Sailhamer, The Pentateuch . . ., p. 223.]

Joseph’s admonition to his brothers not to quarrel on their journey (Genesis 45:24) is a bit unclear. Probably he meant just that: not to become involved in arguing and recriminations over the past (cf. Proverbs 29:9). Since Joseph had forgiven them, they should forgive one another (cf. Matthew 18:21-35). However the usual meaning of the Hebrew word is to fear (cf. Exodus 15:14). So part of his meaning may be that they should not be afraid of robbers as they returned to Canaan or fearful of returning to Egypt in the future. [Note: Wenham, Genesis 16-50, p. 430.]

Jacob had suffered as a victim of his sons’ deception and malice. He had also suffered because of his own failure to cling to the promises that God had given to his forefathers, himself, and Joseph in his dreams. Jacob always had difficulty believing without seeing. Nevertheless when he believed that Joseph was alive and ruling over Egypt, his spirit revived and he returned to a position of trust in God. For this reason Moses called him "Israel" again in the text (Genesis 45:28). Often in Genesis a final comment by a chief actor in the drama anticipates the next scene, as here.

"Both Abraham and Jacob figuratively receive their sons back from the dead. Both sons prefigure the death and resurrection of Christ, but Joseph even more so. Both are not only alive but rulers over all (cf. Acts 2:32-34; Philippians 2:6-11). Jacob’s response on hearing the incredibly good news prefigures the response of the disciples when the women tell them that Christ is alive, having been raised from the dead. They too greet the news at first with stunned disbelief and finally with unspeakable joy when it is proved with many infallible proofs (cf. Luke 24:9-49; John 21:1-9; John 21:24-25; Acts 1:3). Their faith, like Jacob’s, revives them, reorients their lives, and makes them pilgrims venturing from land plagued by famine to the best land imaginable." [Note: Waltke, Genesis, p. 578.]

Verses 16-30

11. Israel’s move to Egypt 45:16-46:30

Joseph’s brothers returned to Jacob with news of Joseph’s survival and prosperity. Israel (Jacob) then moved to Egypt in response to Joseph’s invitation and God’s encouragement. The survival of Jacob’s family in Egypt through the famine recalls the survival of Noah’s family in the ark through the Flood.

Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Genesis 45". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dcc/genesis-45.html. 2012.
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