Reader: “Now I am ready to die,”
Response: “since I have seen your face.”
Scripture: Genesis 46:28-47:6
As they neared their destination, Jacob sent Judah ahead to meet Joseph and get directions to the region of Goshen. And when they finally arrived there, Joseph prepared his chariot and traveled to Goshen to meet his father, Jacob. When Joseph arrived, he embraced his father and wept, holding him for a long time. Finally, Jacob said to Joseph, “Now I am ready to die, since I have seen your face again and know you are still alive.”
And Joseph said to his brothers and to his father’s entire family, “I will go to Pharaoh and tell him, ‘My brothers and my father’s entire family have come to me from the land of Canaan. These men are shepherds, and they raise livestock. They have brought with them their flocks and herds and everything they own.’” Then he said, “When Pharaoh calls for you and asks you about your occupation, you must tell him, ‘We, your servants, have raised livestock all our lives, as our ancestors have always done.’ When you tell him this, he will let you live here in the region of Goshen, for the Egyptians despise shepherds.”
Then Joseph went to see Pharaoh and told him, “My father and my brothers have arrived from the land of Canaan. They have come with all their flocks and herds and possessions, and they are now in the region of Goshen.” Joseph took five of his brothers with him and presented them to Pharaoh. And Pharaoh asked the brothers, “What is your occupation?” They replied, “We, your servants, are shepherds, just like our ancestors. We have come to live here in Egypt for a while, for there is no pasture for our flocks in Canaan. The famine is very severe there. So please, we request permission to live in the region of Goshen.”
Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Now that your father and brothers have joined you here, choose any place in the entire land of Egypt for them to live. Give them the best land of Egypt. Let them live in the region of Goshen. And if any of them have special skills, put them in charge of my livestock, too.”
Reader: “The word of the Lord.”
Response: “Thanks be to God.”
Most of us are very familiar with this story on the surface. When we look at some of the background of the family dynamics, biographical history of Joseph and the typology portrayed, we discover some of the deeper richness of this account.
You’ll recall that Joseph’s father, Jacob, had four wives, two sisters, Rachel and Leah, and two servants of the sisters, Bilhah and Zilpah. With these four women he had twelve sons. Rachel was the wife he loved the most and that deep love was not hidden from his other wives. Unfortunately, Rachel was unable to conceive which was not the case with the other women who bore him a total of ten sons.
Finally, God enabled Rachel to conceive and she bore him Joseph. Later, she tragically died giving birth to a second son, Benjamin. Known by everyone in the family, Joseph was the love of Jacob’s life. His brothers hated him, sold him at the age of seventeen into slavery, and cruelly told Jacob that he was dead. Thirteen years later, Joseph is second in command in all of Egypt.
When Joseph revealed himself to his brothers, his first question was, “Is my father alive?” The relationship between the two had been extremely close. Twenty-two years had passed since Jacob learned of Joseph’s supposed death. He now discovers this favored son is alive and well. So you can imagine the long embrace and tears when they first saw each other. Think what was going in the minds of the brothers! What did their father think of them now having told him this egregious lie? What would Joseph in his most powerful position do to them?
As they settled in, Joseph told his brothers what to say to Pharaoh and, not surprisingly, they did exactly what he told them to do! Joseph was wise in that he knew it was important that God’s people not intermingle with foreign cultures. So he asked that the Hebrew family be kept to themselves in the land of Goshen since the Egyptians despise shepherds.
Joseph is a type of Christ figure in some ways. He served as a redeemer for his family. When Jacob embraced Joseph his words were that he was now willing to die since he had seen that his son was alive. Similar words were spoken by Simeon as he held the Christ child in his arms (Lk. 2:29-30). Joseph was betrayed by his own and sold for pieces of silver as was Jesus. Jesus’ attitude toward the disciples who had all forsaken him was that of forgiveness. Joseph’s attitude toward his brothers who had sold him as a slave was that of forgiveness. Like Jesus, Joseph entrusted himself to God’s care in the midst of persecution. Both men resisted temptation. Like Jesus, Joseph did not seek power, but was given great power.
On another note, Joseph was able to deal with past injustices without harboring bitterness or revenge. Joseph and Daniel are the only two people in the First Testament about whom nothing bad is said. They acted with honor and integrity in every circumstance. In them we’ve been given marvelous examples of how to live and act in the midst of a “foreign land.” Like the family of Jacob, we all are currently living in “Egypt.” This present world is not our home. Like the words of Joseph’s brothers in the passage that follows, when asked by Pharoah about their occupation, their response was, “We have come to live here in Egypt for a while . . .” Live like Joseph today, we’re only here for a while.
PS. As it turned out, the family of Jacob did not return to the land of Canaan after the famine but assimilated the Egyption gods and culture. Jacob’s family of seventy grew to over a million over the next four hundred years. They became slaves to the Egyptians and would look to another redeemer in Moses. In the forty years of wilderness wanderings, the family became a nation and discovered the one true covenant making God.
Music: “Go Down Moses” Sam Robson Fantastic!
O God, though I am allowed to approach thee, I am not unmindful of my sin. I do not deny my guilt. I confess my wickedness, and earnestly plead forgiveness. May I with Joseph, Moses and Jesus choose affliction rather than enjoy the pleasures of sin. Help me to place myself always under thy guiding and guardian care and to take firmer hold of the sure covenant that binds me to Thee. Help me to feel more of the purifying, dignifying, softening influence of the faith I profess. Help me to have more compassion, love, pity, courtesy, and to deem it an honor to be employed by thee. Help me to be an instrument in thy hands, ready to seize every opportunity of usefulness and willing to offer all my talents to Thy service. This I pray through Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever. Amen. ―adapted Daniel Sharp from The Valley of Vision, p. 105