This morning we are going finally wrap up our story of Joseph! It’s been quite a journey to get here, but we’ve finally made it. Last week, we ended right at the climax of the story – with Joseph’s brothers sure that all was lost and this would be the end of them…
But just in case you missed last week, let me give you a super quick summary of how we got to where we are.
Joseph is the second youngest among 12 brothers. He was the favourite of his father – but hated by all his older half-brothers. So much so, that one day when he was 17 years old, they sold him as a slave and he was taken to Egypt. To cover their tracks, they dipped Joseph’s special coat of many colours in blood, so that their father would believe that he had been killed by wild animals. But in reality, Joseph was alive and well in Egypt. He started off as a slave to a man named Potiphar, but Potiphar’s wife falsely accused Joseph of a crime he didn’t commit and Joseph ended up in prison.
In prison, Joseph used his God-given gift of being able to interpret dreams to explain the dreams of Pharaoh’s chief cupbearer and his chief baker. This experience is what eventually got Joseph out of prison, as he was called on by Pharaoh a few years later to interpret one of his dreams.
And this really was the turning point for Joseph. The interpretation of Pharaoh’s dream was that God was sending 7 years of great prosperity to Egypt – but they would be followed by 7 years of terrible famine. In order to prepare for that famine, Joseph recommended that someone should collect massive amounts of grain for the next seven years so there would be enough to survive the upcoming 7 years of famine. Seeing Joseph’s obvious and God-given wisdom, Pharaoh decided to give Joseph that exact job – giving him authority over the entire land of Egypt.
Well, several years later, when the famine began ravaging Egypt and the surrounding area, Joseph’s older brother’s all came to Egypt to buy grain – since Egypt seemed to be the only place that still had plenty!
But unbenownst to them, Joseph was the one from whom they would have to buy that grain. Now then they arrived, they didn’t recognize him (as this was 20 years since they had last seen him) – but he recognized them and put a plan in motion to put his brothers through the wringer to find out what kind of men they had become.
After accusing them of being spies and throwing them in prison, he demanded that they prove their innocence by bringing back their youngest brother from Canaan to Egypt. Joseph’s younger, and only full-brother, Benjamin, had become his father’s new favourite since Joseph had disappear, and so Benjamin had stayed home with his father.
So with Benjamin not being with the brothers, perhaps Joseph wondered if they had sold him as a slave too, or if they had even killed him. So perhaps this was one way for Joseph to find out. We don’t really know Joseph’s full motivations, but either way, Joseph’s command was that the brothers bring Benjamin back with them to Egypt or they would not be able to buy grain from him again.
And since Joseph was pretty much the only guy in the world selling grain at that time, they really didn’t have much of a choice.
As an additional guarantee that they would return, Joseph kept one of the brothers (Simeon) as his prisoner, while the other brother’s took food home for their starving families. Now remember that Joseph has done all this as the governor of Egypt – his brothers never had clue who he really was. They just chalked all this trouble up as God punishing them for what they had done to Joseph years ago.
So they returned home with the food (but without Simeon) and under the strict instructions not show up again unless their brother Benjamin was with them. Of course, Jacob was very much opposed to sending Benjamin to Egypt. With Joseph gone, and Simeon gone, he simply didn’t want to risk losing another son – especially not his favourite son! But when their food ran out, he really had no choice.
So after much delay and much moaning and complaining by Jacob, the brothers returned to Egypt with Benjamin. And true to his word, upon seeing Benjamin, Joseph released Simeon, gave them food for their families, and even enjoyed a meal with them. (Again, doing this all as the governor of Egypt – never telling them who he really was.)
But then as one final test, as he sent them on their way home, he secretly planted his personal silver cup in Benjamin’s bag. Once they had barely left the city, he sent his household manager to run after them and stop them and accuse them of stealing Joseph’s cup. What would happen next would truly be the test of his brothers’ character.
And that’s about where we left off last week. I’ll begin today by reading the last few verses that we read last week, so there will be a tiny bit of over lap, but I think these verses are important to set the stage for today. So we’ll begin at Genesis chapter 44 – verse 6.
6 When the palace manager caught up with the men, he spoke to them as he had been instructed.
7 “What are you talking about?” the brothers responded. “We are your servants and would never do such a thing! 8 Didn’t we return the money we found in our sacks? We brought it back all the way from the land of Canaan. Why would we steal silver or gold from your master’s house? 9 If you find his cup with any one of us, let that man die. And all the rest of us, my lord, will be your slaves.”
10 “That’s fair,” the man replied. “But only the one who stole the cup will be my slave. The rest of you may go free.”
11 They all quickly took their sacks from the backs of their donkeys and opened them. 12 The palace manager searched the brothers’ sacks, from the oldest to the youngest. And the cup was found in Benjamin’s sack! 13 When the brothers saw this, they tore their clothing in despair. Then they loaded their donkeys again and returned to the city. Genesis 44:6-13
Now we didn’t really get into this last week, but I’m pretty impressed at how shrewed Joseph was in orchestrating this whole situation for his brothers. This really was a perfect way to test their character to see if anything had changed from when they faced a very similar situation some 20 years ago.