The Old Testament lesson for this Sunday, February 24, 2019, is from the first book of the Torah. The text is Genesis 45:3-15 and is part of the larger portion of Scripture known as the Joseph Narrative, or, Joseph Story (chapters 37-50). The Joseph Narrative is the longest narrative in Genesis and there is more verbage dedicated to Joseph than any other character in the Book of Genesis. Our pericope is focused on the moment that Joseph reveals his true identity to his brothers. Remember, his brothers earlier threw him into a pit and Joseph ended up as a slave in Egypt. Then, Joseph is thrown into prison for three years until he is finally brought up to interpret Pharaoh’s dreams and carry out the mission of saving and storing grain in order to preserve the land and people during the upcoming seven year drought. His brothers, seeking grain, come before Joseph, although his identity is a secret. But now, Joseph shows himself to them and they are terrified! Joseph is the second most important man in all the land and the last time the brothers and Joseph interacted the boys were throwing him into a pit with the intent to kill him. No doubt, the brothers should be terrified!
First, we should point out that is the only “explicit” theological statement in the Joseph story. “You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good!” This statement is repeated later in 50:20. The theology is obvious: God is in control—so much so, that He can even use evil to accomplish His purposes. So, Joseph tells his brothers that it was not them, but God who sent him to Egypt. God sent him to Egypt to accomplish His purpose and greater good. The brothers, of course, are a bit skeptical and still fear revenge.
And, what is God’s purpose? The saving of a remnant. Joseph is viewed by the Early Church Fathers as a salvific figure specifically because of this salvation of the people of Israel and the preservation of the Messianic line. (This is part of the larger Death and Resurrection Motif of this story) It was God’s plan to preserve life, to keep alive many survivors, to preserve a remnant. This is bigger than just the Israelites and Egyptians. The bigger text tells us that all the peoples of the lands came to Joseph for grain. However, the remnant of the house of Israel is the first priority. The Remnant Motif begins early in Genesis with Noah and his family and carries through all Scripture. Joseph, as noted, was called upon to play an integral role in the preservation of this remnant. His brothers deserved death, but what they received was life—and the life of others. It is also noteworthy that this is the first time the idea of God turning evil into good, or using evil to bring about good is set forth by Scripture.
45:3 נִבְהֲלוּ root: בהל Niphal: “to be dismayed; to be horrified; be disturbed; be terrified” The idea is that the brothers were scared speechless.
45:4 גְּשׁוּ…וַיִּגָּשׁוּ root: נגש Qal imperative/imperfect: “to draw near; approach”
מְכַרְתֶּם. root: מכר Qal: “to sell”
45:5 תֵּעָצְבוּ root: עצב Niphal: “to grieve; to be grieved”
יִחַר root: חרה Qal: “to be hot; to become hot; to be angry; to burn with anger”
לְמִחְיָה “preservation of life” “for the preservation of life”
45:6 חָרִישׁ וְקָצִיר “plowing and harvesting; a time of plowing and cutting (grain)”
45:7 וַיִּשְׁלָחֵנִי root: שׁלח “to send; to stretch out” “and He sent me”
שְׁאֵרִית “remnant; remainder; descendants” This is the first use of this word in Scripture.
לִפְלֵיטָה from: פליטה “escape; deliverance”
45:8 וּמֹשֵׁל root: משׁל Qal: “to rule; have dominion”
וַיְשִׂימֵנִי לְאָב לְפַרְעֹה “…made me a father to Pharaoh…” Does this mean that Joseph has become a source of life for Pharaoh and all Egypt, or, is it possibly simpler; Joseph is older than the Pharaoh? This would explain later circumstances in these chapters.
45:9 מַהֲרוּ Piel: “to make haste; to hasten; hastily” Suddenly, Joseph who has not sought after his father earlier is in a hurry to have him brought to Egypt.
45:10 גֹּשֶׁן “Goshen” By settling in the Land of Goshen God separates His people and sets them aside lest they be absorbed into the Egyptian population. This is important in order to carry out the covenantal promise of sending the Messiah from their people.
קָרוֹב “nearby; near; closest”
45:11 וְכִלְכַּלְתִּי root: כול Pilpolel: “to sustain; nourish; support; provide”
45:12 כִּי-פִי, הַמְדַבֵּר אֲלֵיכֶם “my mouth is the one speaking to you”
45:14 צַוְּארֵי; “back of neck; neck”
45:15 וַיְנַשֵּׁק root: נשּׁק Piel: “to kiss”
דִּבְּרוּ Piel: “to speak” Note that this is the first time the brothers open their mouths. They are completely dumb. Most likely fear and shock have taken their tongue. Or, perhaps, they are wondering who is going to tell dad, and how might they spin it so it does not lay blame at their feet!
Concordia Theology-Various helps from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, MO to assist you in preaching Genesis 45:3-15.
Text Week-A treasury of resources from various traditions to help you preach Genesis 45:3-15.