Lesson 13 - The Brothers Come Begging
Hear my prayer, O HOLY ONE; let my cry come to you…Incline your ear to me; answer me speedily in the day when I call."
Bible Background(taken from Journey through the Bible, Christian Board of Publications, 1995, p. 45)
1Here is the heart of the Joseph story: the account of how Jacob and his family, almost destroyed by the long famine in Canaan, hear of grain in Egypt and find their lives spared by what they are able to purchase there. But how much more this story tells us as well! One thing that the jealous brothers have to learn is that human misdeeds will come to light and require confession. And most importantly, some among them will learn that their love for their father, whom they wronged so cruelly by selling Joseph into slavery and lying about it, demands their readiness to risk their own lives for the sake of that love.
2And Joseph too has much to learn. He will discover that it is not possible to be governed only by a desire for vengeance. His love for his father, and indeed his love for these brothers who wronged him, is much deeper than he had supposed. A further discovery is that, while we often cannot discern special meaning in what God is doing with and through us, the very events that we think to be meaningless or unjust and unfair may still be part of a larger picture that has sense and purpose.
3The story is artfully put together. There are two trips from Judah to Egypt to buy grain. On the first occasion, Joseph immediately recognizes the brothers, but he apparently is determined to make them pay for what they did to him. He accuses them of having only pretended to come to Egypt for food; actually, they are spies, out to get information that will assist an invading army. Such a charge must have seemed ridiculous to the brothers. How could they, victims of a terrible famine, possibly be representing some army poised to invade Egypt?
4Joseph requires a test of their truthfulness. The brothers have mentioned that their youngest brother is back in the homeland with their father. One of the brothers must return and bring this youngest brother to Egypt; the other brothers will stay in prison until their truthfulness is established. Then Joseph reduces the demand. If one of them is willing to be hostage for the rest, the other brothers may buy food and return to their home. But they must come back, bringing this youngest brother. We can see that the storyteller is testing the love the brothers have for one another, to underscore their lack of love for Joseph. The eldest brother, Reuben, now reminds them that their own mistreatment of Joseph makes them deserve what is happening to them. Joseph selects Simeon, has him tied-up to be held as prisoner, and orders that the brothers be given grain to take home. In addition, however, he orders that the money given to pay for the grain be put back into the sacks of grain, without the brothers' knowledge.
5The brothers return and find that all the money they paid for the grain has in fact been returned. What does that mean? Is it a good or a bad sign? They cannot decide. In any event, Jacob is firm in refusing to let Benjamin go back with the brothers so that Simeon can be released. He simply will not lose yet another son, he says. But eventually, Jacob has to yield. The famine becomes so severe that there is nothing to do but risk the possible loss of Benjamin too, for otherwise, all will die. Reuben swears to bring Benjamin back safely, and Judah does the same.
6Jacob has the brothers carry a double price for grain, plus a number of delicacies from the land of Canaan, to soften the heart of this overseer of affairs in Egypt. Benjamin does go with the brothers, while Jacob grieves at home. Joseph receives the brothers, still refusing to reveal his true identity. A dinner is arranged in Joseph's own home, Simeon is released, and all the brothers finally gather at Joseph's banquet hall, fearful for their lives. Joseph enters the hall, asks after their father, meets Benjamin, and then has to excuse himself because he is overcome with emotion on seeing his younger brother. He regains his composure, returns, and the banquet proceeds. Benjamin is given a portion of the meal five times larger than the other portions, and the brothers are amazed and even more fearful. What is going on? they must have thought.
7The brothers leave -- all of them -- with grain, and this time Joseph's special silver cup, the one used for telling the future, is put in Benjamin's bag. Before the brothers have traveled far, Joseph's steward overtakes them and accuses them of having stolen this special cup. They deny it, but when they return, the cup is found in Benjamin's sack. Judah intercedes, asking that he become a slave in place of Benjamin and pointing out that their father will die if this additional son is lost to him.
8Joseph can take no more. He breaks down, identifies himself to the brothers, is reconciled to all of them, and sends them home with rich stores and presents. Jacob receives the brothers and their gifts, hears the astonishing news that Joseph is alive and is now a prince in Egypt, and he resolves to go to Egypt to see this son.
9Joseph reminds the brothers that their evil deed has in fact worked out for good. Not only did God spare Joseph's life; God used the gifts of Joseph to save the lives of thousands.
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Genesis 42 - 45
When Jacob learned that there was grain in Egypt, he said to his sons, "Why do you keep looking at one another? I have heard," he said, "that there is grain in Egypt; go down and buy grain for us there, that we may live and not die." So ten of Joseph's brothers went down to buy grain in Egypt. But Jacob did not send Joseph's brother Benjamin with his brothers, for he feared that harm might come to him. Thus the sons of Israel were among the other people who came to buy grain, for the famine had reached the land of Canaan.
Now Joseph was governor over the land; it was he who sold to all the people of the land. And Joseph's brothers came and bowed themselves before him with their faces to the ground. When Joseph saw his brothers, he recognized them, but he treated them like strangers and spoke harshly to them.
"Where do you come from?" he said.
They said, "From the land of Canaan, to buy food."
Although Joseph had recognized his brothers, they did not recognize him. Joseph also remembered the dreams that he had dreamed about them. He said to them,
"You are spies; you have come to see the nakedness of the land!"
They said to him,
"No, my lord; your servants have come to buy food. We are all sons of one man; we are honest men; your servants have never been spies."
But he said to them,
"No, you have come to see the nakedness of the land!"
"We, your servants, are twelve brothers, the sons of a certain man in the land of Canaan; the youngest, however, is now with our father, and one is no more."
But Joseph said to them,
"It is just as I have said to you; you are spies!
Here is how you shall be tested: as Pharaoh lives, you shall not leave this place unless your youngest brother comes here! Let one of you go and bring your brother, while the rest of you remain in prison, in order that your words may be tested, whether there is truth in you; or else, as Pharaoh lives, surely you are spies. "
And he put them all together in prison for three days.
On the third day Joseph said to them,
"Do this and you will live, for I fear God: if you are honest men, let one of your brothers stay here where you are imprisoned. The rest of you shall go and carry grain for the famine of your households, and bring your youngest brother to me. Thus your words will be verified, and you shall not die."
And they agreed to do so.
They said to one another,
"Alas, we are paying the penalty for what we did to our brother; we saw his anguish when he pleaded with us, but we would not listen. That is why this anguish has come upon us."
Then Reuben answered them,
"Did I not tell you not to wrong the boy? But you would not listen. So now there comes a reckoning for his blood." They did not know that Joseph understood them, since he spoke with them through an interpreter. He turned away from them and wept; then he returned and spoke to them. And he picked out Simeon and had him bound before their eyes.
Joseph then gave orders to fill their bags with grain, to return every man's money to his sack, and to give them provisions for their journey. This was done for them. They loaded their donkeys with their grain, and departed.
When one of them opened his sack to give his donkey fodder at the lodging place, he saw his money at the top of the sack.
He said to his brothers,
"My money has been put back; here it is in my sack!"
At this they lost heart and turned trembling to one another, saying,
"What is this that God has done to us?"
When they came to their father Jacob in the land of Canaan, they told him all that had happened to them, saying,
"The man, the lord of the land, spoke harshly to us, and charged us with spying on the land.
But we said to him, 'We are honest men, we are not spies. We are twelve brothers, sons of our father; one is no more, and the youngest is now with our father in the land of Canaan.' Then the man, the lord of the land, said to us, 'By this I shall know that you are honest men: leave one of your brothers with me, take grain for the famine of your households, and go your way. Bring your youngest brother to me, and I shall know that you are not spies but honest men. Then I will release your brother to you, and you may trade in the land.'"
As they were emptying their sacks, there in each one's sack was his bag of money. When they and their father saw their bundles of money, they were dismayed. And their father Jacob said to them,
"I am the one you have bereaved of children: Joseph is no more, and Simeon is no more, and now you would take Benjamin. All this has happened to me!"
Then Reuben said to his father,
"You may kill my two sons if I do not bring him back to you. Put him in my hands, and I will bring him back to you." But he said,
"My son shall not go down with you, for his brother is dead, and he alone is left. If harm should come to him on the journey that you are to make, you would bring down my gray hairs with sorrow to Sheol."
Now the famine was severe in the land. And when they had eaten up the grain that they had brought from Egypt, their father said to them,
"Go again, buy us a little more food. "
But Judah said to him,
"The man solemnly warned us, saying, 'You shall not see my face unless your brother is with you.'
If you will send our brother with us, we will go down and buy you food; but if you will not send him, we will not go down, for the man said to us, 'You shall not see my face, unless your brother is with you.'"
"Why did you treat me so badly as to tell the man that you had another brother?"
"The man questioned us carefully about ourselves and our kindred, saying, 'Is your father still alive? Have you another brother?' What we told him was in answer to these questions. Could we in any way know that he would say, 'Bring your brother down'?"
Then Judah said to his father Israel,
"Send the boy with me, and let us be on our way, so that we may live and not die--you and we and also our little ones. I myself will be surety for him; you can hold me accountable for him. If I do not bring him back to you and set him before you, then let me bear the blame forever. If we had not delayed, we would now have returned twice."
Then their father Israel said to them,
"If it must be so, then do this: take some of the choice fruits of the land in your bags, and carry them down as a present to the man--a little balm and a little honey, gum, resin, pistachio nuts, and almonds. Take double the money with you. Carry back with you the money that was returned in the top of your sacks; perhaps it was an oversight. Take your brother also, and be on your way again to the man; may God Almighty grant you mercy before the man, so that he may send back your other brother and Benjamin. As for me, if I am bereaved of my children, I am bereaved."
So the men took the present, and they took double the money with them, as well as Benjamin. Then they went on their way down to Egypt, and stood before Joseph. When Joseph saw Benjamin with them, he said to the steward of his house,
"Bring the men into the house, and slaughter an animal and make ready, for the men are to dine with me at noon." The man did as Joseph said, and brought the men to Joseph's house. Now the men were afraid because they were brought to Joseph's house, and they said,
"It is because of the money, replaced in our sacks the first time, that we have been brought in, so that he may have an opportunity to fall upon us, to make slaves of us and take our donkeys."
So they went up to the steward of Joseph's house and spoke with him at the entrance to the house.
"Oh, my lord, we came down the first time to buy food; and when we came to the lodging place we opened our sacks, and there was each one's money in the top of his sack, our money in full weight. So we have brought it back with us. Moreover we have brought down with us additional money to buy food. We do not know who put our money in our sacks."
"Rest assured, do not be afraid; your God and the God of your father must have put treasure in your sacks for you; I received your money."
Then he brought Simeon out to them. When the steward had brought the men into Joseph's house, and given them water, and they had washed their feet, and when he had given their donkeys fodder, they made the present ready for Joseph's coming at noon, for they had heard that they would dine there.
When Joseph came home, they brought him the present that they had carried into the house, and bowed to the ground before him. He inquired about their welfare, and said,
"Is your father well, the old man of whom you spoke? Is he still alive?"
"Your servant our father is well; he is still alive. "
And they bowed their heads and did obeisance.
Then he looked up and saw his brother Benjamin, his mother's son, and said,
"Is this your youngest brother, of whom you spoke to me? God be gracious to you, my son!"
With that, Joseph hurried out, because he was overcome with affection for his brother, and he was about to weep. So he went into a private room and wept there.
Then he washed his face and came out; and controlling himself he said,
"Serve the meal."
They served him by himself, and them by themselves, and the Egyptians who ate with him by themselves, because the Egyptians could not eat with the Hebrews, for that is an abomination to the Egyptians.
When they were seated before him, the firstborn according to his birthright and the youngest according to his youth, the men looked at one another in amazement. Portions were taken to them from Joseph's table, but Benjamin's portion was five times as much as any of theirs. So they drank and were merry with him.
Then he commanded the steward of his house,
"Fill the men's sacks with food, as much as they can carry, and put each man's money in the top of his sack. Put my cup, the silver cup, in the top of the sack of the youngest, with his money for the grain." And he did as Joseph told him.
As soon as the morning was light, the men were sent away with their donkeys. When they had gone only a short distance from the city, Joseph said to his steward,
"Go, follow after the men; and when you overtake them, say to them, 'Why have you returned evil for good? Why have you stolen my silver cup? Is it not from this that my lord drinks? Does he not indeed use it for divination? You have done wrong in doing this.'"
When he overtook them, he repeated these words to them. They said to him,
"Why does my lord speak such words as these? Far be it from your servants that they should do such a thing! Look, the money that we found at the top of our sacks, we brought back to you from the land of Canaan; why then would we steal silver or gold from your lord's house? Should it be found with any one of your servants, let him die; moreover the rest of us will become my lord's slaves."
"Even so; in accordance with your words, let it be: he with whom it is found shall become my slave, but the rest of you shall go free." Then each one quickly lowered his sack to the ground, and each opened his sack. He searched, beginning with the eldest and ending with the youngest; and the cup was found in Benjamin's sack. At this they tore their clothes. Then each one loaded his donkey, and they returned to the city.
Judah and his brothers came to Joseph's house while he was still there; and they fell to the ground before him. Joseph said to them,
"What deed is this that you have done? Do you not know that one such as I can practice divination?"
And Judah said,
"What can we say to my lord? What can we speak? How can we clear ourselves? God has found out the guilt of your servants; here we are then, my lord's slaves, both we and also the one in whose possession the cup has been found."
But he said,
"Far be it from me that I should do so! Only the one in whose possession the cup was found shall be my slave; but as for you, go up in peace to your father."
Then Judah stepped up to him and said,
"O my lord, let your servant please speak a word in my lord's ears, and do not be angry with your servant; for you are like Pharaoh himself. My lord asked his servants, saying, 'Have you a father or a brother?' And we said to my lord, 'We have a father, an old man, and a young brother, the child of his old age. His brother is dead; he alone is left of his mother's children, and his father loves him.' Then you said to your servants, 'Bring him down to me, so that I may set my eyes on him.' We said to my lord, 'The boy cannot leave his father, for if he should leave his father, his father would die.' Then you said to your servants, 'Unless your youngest brother comes down with you, you shall see my face no more.' When we went back to your servant my father we told him the words of my lord. And when our father said, 'Go again, buy us a little food,' we said, 'We cannot go down. Only if our youngest brother goes with us, will we go down; for we cannot see the man's face unless our youngest brother is with us.' Then your servant my father said to us, 'You know that my wife bore me two sons; one left me, and I said, Surely he has been torn to pieces; and I have never seen him since. If you take this one also from me, and harm comes to him, you will bring down my gray hairs in sorrow to Sheol.'
Now therefore, when I come to your servant my father and the boy is not with us, then, as his life is bound up in the boy's life, when he sees that the boy is not with us, he will die; and your servants will bring down the gray hairs of your servant our father with sorrow to Sheol. For your servant became surety for the boy to my father, saying, 'If I do not bring him back to you, then I will bear the blame in the sight of my father all my life.'
Now therefore, please let your servant remain as a slave to my lord in place of the boy; and let the boy go back with his brothers. For how can I go back to my father if the boy is not with me? I fear to see the suffering that would come upon my father."
Then Joseph could no longer control himself before all those who stood by him, and he cried out,
"Send everyone away from me."
So no one stayed with him when Joseph made himself known to his brothers. And he wept so loudly that the Egyptians heard it, and the household of Pharaoh heard it.
Joseph said to his brothers,
"I am Joseph. Is my father still alive?"
But his brothers could not answer him, so dismayed were they at his presence.
Then Joseph said to his brothers,
"Come closer to me."
And they came closer. He said,
"I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. And now do not be distressed, or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life. For the famine has been in the land these two years; and there are five more years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest. God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. So it was not you who sent me here, but God; he has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt. Hurry and go up to my father and say to him, 'Thus says your son Joseph, God has made me lord of all Egypt; come down to me, do not delay. You shall settle in the land of Goshen, and you shall be near me, you and your children and your children's children, as well as your flocks, your herds, and all that you have. I will provide for you there--since there are five more years of famine to come--so that you and your household, and all that you have, will not come to poverty.' And now your eyes and the eyes of my brother Benjamin see that it is my own mouth that speaks to you. You must tell my father how greatly I am honored in Egypt, and all that you have seen. Hurry and bring my father down here."
Then he fell upon his brother Benjamin's neck and wept, while Benjamin wept upon his neck. And he kissed all his brothers and wept upon them; and after that his brothers talked with him.
When the report was heard in Pharaoh's house, "Joseph's brothers have come," Pharaoh and his servants were pleased.
Pharaoh said to Joseph,
"Say to your brothers, 'Do this: load your animals and go back to the land of Canaan. Take your father and your households and come to me, so that I may give you the best of the land of Egypt, and you may enjoy the fat of the land.' You are further charged to say, 'Do this: take wagons from the land of Egypt for your little ones and for your wives, and bring your father, and come. Give no thought to your possessions, for the best of all the land of Egypt is yours.'"
The sons of Israel did so. Joseph gave them wagons according to the instruction of Pharaoh, and he gave them provisions for the journey. To each one of them he gave a set of garments; but to Benjamin he gave three hundred pieces of silver and five sets of garments. To his father he sent the following: ten donkeys loaded with the good things of Egypt, and ten female donkeys loaded with grain, bread, and provision for his father on the journey. Then he sent his brothers on their way, and as they were leaving he said to them, "Do not quarrel along the way."
So they went up out of Egypt and came to their father Jacob in the land of Canaan. And they told him, "Joseph is still alive! He is even ruler over all the land of Egypt." He was stunned; he could not believe them. But when they told him all the words of Joseph that he had said to them, and when he saw the wagons that Joseph had sent to carry him, the spirit of their father Jacob revived.
"Enough! My son Joseph is still alive. I must go and see him before I die."
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Redemption - according to Merriam Webster Dictionary - redemption is the process of redeeming, which is:
1 a: to buy back: repurchase b: to get or win back
2: to free from what distresses or harms: as a: to free from captivity by payment of ransom b: to extricate from or help to overcome something detrimental c: to release from blame or debt: clear d: to free from the consequences of sin
3: to change for the better: reform
4: repair, restore
5 a: to free from a lien by payment of an amount secured thereby b (1): to remove the obligation of by payment <the U.S. Treasury ~s savings bonds on demand> (2): to exchange for something of value <~ trading stamps> c: to make good: fulfill
6 a: to atone for: expiate b (1): to offset the bad effect of (2): to make worthwhile: retrieve syn see rescue.
For us, it simply means to bring good out of evil.
Jesus taught that God redeems those who have sinned. Jesus actions, his teachings and acts of healing where examples of God's redemptive power. The story of Joseph, the Exodus and the resurrection of Jesus are all stories of God's redemptive power.
Over the decades and centuries following Jesus death, Jesus himself became viewed as the redeemer and that in some way his death is what causes redemption; that without it and the proper belief in it, one could not be redeemed. There are many theories about how this happens. One theory held that God had to buy us back from Satan. Another theory was that God required a sin offering to forgive our sins. Like the animal sacrifices of the ancient Hebrews but to satisfy the forgiveness of all sins it had to be a human sacrifice. But more than that, this sacrifice had to be of a sinless human; a bit like sacrificing a virgin to calm the volcano god, but for this the human had to be perfect. It is all speculation since Jesus never taught anything on it. Further, one must wonder about the necessity for such a theology of redemption, when Jesus taught that God redeems us; a teaching he gave even before his death. And one must wonder about a "loving" God who requires human sacrifice.
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