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.
Genesis 45 is one of my favorite chapters in the Bible, for several reasons. First, in this chapter Joseph finally revealed his true identity to his brothers. I’m reminded of so many delightful movies — from You’ve Got Mail to Iron Man — in which the protagonist finally lets out the secret of his or her real identity. None of these movies offers more suspense and surprise than the story of Joseph in Genesis.
I love the Bible because it’s filled with great stories.
Like earlier chapters, Genesis 45 shows the true humanness of Joseph. Yes, he is an extraordinary hero, a leader of exceptional wisdom and power. But he is also a man of deep, raw emotions. So, when Joseph first revealed himself to his brothers, “he wept so loudly that the Egyptians heard it, and the household of Pharaoh heard it” (45:2). Now that must have been awfully loud! Genesis does not try to hide Joseph’s full humanity behind a veil of over-spiritualized indifference. No, Joseph bawled his lungs out as he gave expression to so many emotions, perhaps including: relief, joy, sadness, gratitude, and love.
I love the Bible because it consistently portrays its heroes as real human beings.
The response of Joseph’s brothers to Joseph’s revelation is also quite striking. A romanticized telling of the story would have portrayed the brothers as responding to Joseph with some fitting gesture, perhaps falling before him in subservience, or weeping with relief to know that their brother was still alive. Benjamin, at least, might have run to embrace his brother. But that’s not what the Bible says. Rather, we learn that Joseph’s brothers couldn’t even speak, “so dismayed were they at his presence” (45:3). The Hebrew verb translated here as “dismayed” could also be rendered “disturbed” or “terrified.” This makes sense, of course, given how the brothers had once treated Joseph. The one they almost killed and then sold into slavery was now a man of great power who could have them killed or enslaved instantly. No wonder they weren’t happy to see their long, lost brother. The Bible doesn’t make things up to make us feel good.
I love the Bible because it gives us the unvarnished truth.
Sometimes, of course, this truth isn’t what we’d like to hear. Which of us really wants to hear, for example, that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:23)? Or, how eager are you to learn that, apart from Christ, you are “dead through your trespasses and sins” (Eph 2:1)? But, whether telling the story of Joseph’s reunion with his brothers, or telling the story of our own life apart from God, the Bible lays out the truth before us: inspiring us, astounding us, unsettling us, convicting us, and ultimately giving us good news, the best news of all.
Yes, to be sure, there are passages of Scripture that are troublesome. If you read Life for Leaders regularly, you know that I sometimes admit my discomfort with a particular text. But, in spite of these perplexing passages, there is so much about the Bible that invites us to believe it and to love it as it helps us to believe in and to love the God who inspired it.
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
How do you respond to Genesis 45?
As you try to get inside the characters, why do you think Joseph cried so loudly? Why were the brothers dismayed? Can you relate to their feelings?
What about the Bible beckons you to believe it, even to love it?
Gracious God, thank you for Genesis 45. Such a marvelous chapter of Scripture!
Thank you for showing us Joseph’s humanness, his vulnerability and tenderness. Thank you for letting us see the true humanity of Joseph’s brothers, who were not at first glad to discover who he really was. Thank you for the multitude of ways in which your Word tells the truth. Most of all, thank you for revealing in Scripture the truth of your love and grace in Jesus Christ. Amen.