The Old Testament Lesson for this Sunday is from the first book of the Torah, Genesis. The text is Genesis 50:15-21 and while it is a short account it also contains the ONLY EXPLICIT theological statement in the Joseph Narratives (chapters 37-50). This statement in chapter 50 is a condensed version of the same statement in chapter 45 and is spoken both times by Joseph for the same reason. His brothers are convinced Joseph is going to enact his vengeance upon them for the way they have treated him in the past. All things considered, it is a well-placed fear! In chapter 45 Joseph has finally revealed his identity to his brothers, and, because they sought to kill him earlier, they thought their own demise was at hand. However, Joseph points out to them how it was God who was using all of this. It was God who sent him ahead of them to Egypt to preserve lives and preserve and sustain the chosen covenantal people.

In chapter 50, Jacob has died and been buried and Joseph’s brothers are once again fearful that he will now send them to the grave to join Jacob. After all, nothing is standing in the way! Once again, Joseph declares this great, theological truth in vs. 19-20: “Do not be afraid, for am I in the place of God? You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good…” The good referred to is not just feeding everyone as a “bread king” but the preservation of the covenantal line and the people from whom the Messiah will come.

The good referred to is not just feeding everyone as a “bread king” but the preservation of the covenantal line and the people from whom the Messiah will come.

50:15 וַיִּרְאוּ: (vai-yir-U) root: ראה (raw-aw) Qal: “to see”

לוּ (lu) “maybe; perhaps; if”

יִשְׂטְמֵנוּ (yis-te-Me-nu) root: שׂטם (saw-tam) Qal: “to be at enmity with; to be hostile toward; to have animosity toward” With the suffix: “(Joseph) will be at enmity with us”

וְהָשֵׁב יָשִׁיב> (ve-ha-Shev ya-Shiv) “to return: to cause to return” Note the doubling for emphasis and intensification: “surely return; certainly return”

גָּמַלְנוּ (ga-Mal-nu) root: גמל (gaw-mal) Qal: “to do to; to deal out; to show”

50:16 וַיְצַוּוּ: (vay-tzav-Vu) root: יצא (tsaw-vaw) Qal, with suffix: “to send; to send out; to go out”

לִפְנֵי מוֹתוֹ (lif-Nei mo-To) Literally: “Before the face of his death”

50:17 אָנָּא (an-Na) “please; now please; ah, now!”

פֶּשַׁע, (Pe-sha) “transgression; crime”

אָנָּא שָׂא נָא פֶּשַׁע (an-Na sa na Pe-sha) Literally: “now please forgive, please, the

transgression of…”

עַבְדֵי אֱלֹהֵי אָבִיךָ (av-Dei e-lo-Hei a-Vi-cha) “the servants of the God of your father”

*Note that first, the brothers send this message to Joseph. They do not deliver it in person. They did the same when they sent Joseph’s bloody tunic to Jacob to, “Please identify.” Each time, when the brothers hear of the desired reaction from Jacob and now Joseph, they show up in person. They certainly felt the need to feel things out first on both occasions. Second, note that the brothers call themselves, “The servants of the God of your father.” This is the first time they actually acknowledge their connection to God in any real way. Most likely, they are playing on the emotions and piety of Joseph.

50:18 וַיִּפְּלוּ: (vai-yip-pe-Lu) root: נפל (naw-fal) Qal: “to fall” They fell on their faces before

Joseph as a sign of submission.

50:19 תִּירָאוּi (ti-Ra-u) root: ירא (yaw-ray) Qal: “to be afraid; to fear”

כִּי הֲתַחַת אֱלֹהִים, אָנִי (ki ha-Ta-chat E-lo-Him A-ni) “for am I in the place of God?”

50:20 לְטֹבָה. (le-to-Vah) “for good”
“as for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good…” Joseph is referencing God using him to save many peoples and most certainly the people of the covenant. God uses the brothers’ evil intentions to put Joseph in a place where he can preserve the Messianic line.

50:21 אֲכַלְכֵּל] (a-chal-Kel) root: כול (kool) Pilpolel (rare form of the hollow verb): “to sustain; to support; to nourish”

Lutheran theology! God is in control of history and He can even use evil and evil ones to accomplish His purposes. For example, God uses Satan (tricks him) into strengthening the faith of Job, and, of course, God uses Satan to sacrifice His Son on a cross and thereby accomplishes salvation for all mankind. Therefore, the main point of this text is NOT: “Forgive your brothers like Joseph.” The main theme presents Joseph as a Christological figure as he saves the people and preserves the Messianic Line from death with grain (bread of life). God even uses evil and ill intentions to provide His salvation—He always has!

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Additional Resources:

Concordia Theology-Various helps from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, MO to assist you in preaching Genesis 50:15-21.

Text Week-A treasury of resources from various traditions to help you preach Genesis 50:15-21.