Gleanings In Genesis
46. Joseph and His Brethren Evangelically Considered
We have grouped together again the last nine chapters of Genesis, which treat principally of Joseph and his brethren, and have singled out from them the most prominent and significant of their typical teachings. In our last article, we contemplated the dispensational bearings of the type, and this is, no doubt, its primary application. But there is also a secondary one, one which we may term the evangelical, and it is this we shall now consider. Joseph here strikingly prefigures Christ as the Savior of sinners, while his brethren accurately portray the natural condition of the ungodly, and in the experiences through which they passed as their reconciliation with Joseph was finally effected, we have a lovely Gospel representation of the unsaved being brought from death unto life. Continuing our previous enumeration, note.
83. Joseph’s brethren dwelt in a land wherein was no corn. They dwelt in Canaan, and we are told, "the famine was in the land of Canaan" (Gen. 42:5). There was nothing there to sustain them. To continue where they were meant death, therefore did Jacob bid his sons go down to Egypt and buy from there "that we may live, and not die" (Gen. 42:2). Such is the condition which obtains in the place where the ungodly dwell. Alienated from the life of God, they are living in a world which is smitten with a Spiritual famine, in a world which furnishes no food for the Soul. The experience of every unregenerate person is that of the Prodigal Son—there is nothing for him but the husks which the swine feed upon.
84. Joseph’s brethren wished to pay for what they received. "And Joseph’s ten brethren went down to buy corn in Egypt" (Gen. 42:3). It is striking to observe the prominence of this feature here. The word "buy" occurs no less than five times in the first ten verses of this chapter. Clearly, they had no other thought of securing the needed food than by purchasing it. Such is ever the conception of the natural man. His own mind never rises to the level of receiving a gift from God. He supposes that he must earn God’s approval, win God’s favor, and merit God’s acceptance of him. It was thus with Naaman, when he went to the prophet of God, to be healed of his leprosy. This was the Prodigal’s conception—"make me as one of thy hired servants," that is, as one who worked for what he received. So it was here with Joseph’s brethren. And so it is still with every natural man.
85. Joseph’s brethren assume a self-righteous attitude as they come before the lord of Egypt. When they appeared before Joseph he tested them. He "spoke roughly unto them" (Gen. 42:7). He said, "Ye are spies; to see the nakedness of the land ye are come" (Gen. 42:9). And what was their response? They answered him, "Nay, my lord, but to buy food are thy servants come. We are all one man’s sons; we are true men; thy servants are no spies" (Gen. 42:10, 11). It is thus when God begins His work with the sinner. He wounds before He heals, He wounds in order that He may heal. By His Spirit He speaks "roughly." He sends forth the arrow of conviction. He speaks that which condemns the natural man. And what is the sinner’s first response? He resents this "rough" speaking. He repudiates the accusations brought against him. He denies that he is totally depraved and "dead in trespasses and sins." He attempts to vindicate himself. He is self-righteous. He boasts that he is a "true man"!
86. Joseph’s brethren were cast into prison for three days. "And he put them all together into ward three days" (Gen. 42:17). This was not unjust, nor was it harsh treatment. It was exactly what they deserved. Joseph was putting these men into their proper place, the place of shame and condemnation. It is thus God deals with the lost. The sinner must be made to realize what is his just due. He must be taught that he deserves nothing but punishment. He must be shown that the place of condemnation and shame is where he, by right, belongs. He must be abased before he can be exalted.
87. Joseph’s brethren were now smitten in their Conscience. "And they said one to another, We are verily guilty concerning our brother, in that we saw the anguish of his soul, when he besought us, and we would not hear; therefore is this distress come upon us" (Gen. 42:21). Notice they said this "one to another," not yet were their consciences active in the presence of God! The analogy holds good in the experience of the unregenerate. As God’s work goes forward in the soul, conscience becomes active, there is deep "distress," and there is an acknowledgment of sin, but at this stage the awakened and troubled one has not yet come to the point where he will take the place of a lost sinner before God.
88. Joseph makes it known that deliverance is by Grace. "Then Joseph commanded to fill their sacks with corn, and to restore every man’s money into his sack, and to give them provision for the way: and thus did he unto them" (Gen. 42:25). What a lovely touch to the picture is this! The Bread of Life cannot be purchased. It must be accepted as a free gift, if it is received at all. The terms of the Gospel are "without money, and without price." And how beautifully was this shown forth here, when Joseph, as the type of Christ, orders the money to be restored to those who came to "buy the corn." Clearly, this was a foreshadowing of the blessed truth, "By grace are ye saved, through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast" (Eph. 2:8, 9).
89. Joseph’s brethren now enjoy a brief respite. "And they laded their asses with the corn, and departed thence" (Gen. 42:26). They had been brought out of prison, the desired corn was obtained, and they were returning home. Their minds were now at rest, and we may well conclude that their recently disturbed consciences were quiet again. But not yet had they been brought into their true rest. Not yet had they been reconciled to Joseph. Only temporary relief had been obtained after all. Deeper exercises lie before them. And how strikingly this prefigures the experiences of the awakened sinner! After the first season of conviction is over, after one has first learned that salvation is by grace and not by works, there generally follows a season of relief, a temporary and false peace is enjoyed, before the sinner is truly and savingly brought into the presence of Christ.
90. Joseph’s brethren soon had their superficial peace disturbed. "And as one of them opened his sack to give his ass provender in the inn, he espied his money; for, behold, it was in his sack’s mouth. And he said unto his brethren, My money is restored, and lo, it is even in my sack: and their heart faded them, and they were afraid, saying one to another, What is this that God hath done unto us!" (Gen. 42:27, 28). How true to life again! The type is easily interpreted. God will not allow the awakened soul to rest until it rests upon Christ alone. And, so, He causes the experiences of the way to dispel the false peace. What do we read of next! "And the famine was sore in the land. And it came to pass, when they had eaten up the corn which they had brought out of Egypt, their father said unto them, Go again, buy us a little food" (Gen. 43:1, 2). And again, the analogy is easily traced. The hunger of the Soul becomes more acute in the one with whom the Spirit of God is dealing; the sense of need is deepened; the "famine" conditions of this poor world are felt more keenly. And there is no relief to be obtained until, once more, he comes into the presence of the true Governor of Egypt.
91. Joseph’s brethren continued to manifest a legal spirit. "And their father Israel said unto them, If it must be so now, do this; take of the best fruits in the land in your vessels, and carry down the man a present, a little balm, and a little honey, spices and myrrh, nuts and almonds . . . And the men took that present, and they took double money in their hand, and Benjamin, and rose up, and went down to Egypt, and stood before Joseph" (Gen. 43:11, 15). How like the soul that has begun to be exercised before God! Uneasy in conscience, and discerning more and more the vanity of the world, the sinner redoubles his efforts to please God. He turns over a new leaf and seeks harder than ever to win God’s approval. How little these men knew Joseph—what did he, as Governor over all Egypt, want with their presents! And how little, as yet, the newly awakened soul, knows Christ! Joseph said, "These men shall dine with me at noon" (Gen. 43:16). So, too, Christ is the One who has spread the feast. The word of the Gospel is, "Come for all things are now ready" (Luke 14:17). Christ is the Provider; the poor sinner is but the receiver.
92. Joseph’s brethren are now made happy again. "And they sat before him, the firstborn according to his birthright, and the youngest according to his youth: and the men marveled one at another. And he took and sent messes unto them from before him: but Benjamin’s mess was five times so much as any of theirs. And they drank, and were merry with him" (Gen. 43:33, 34). Ah, what is man! Not yet had sin been told out. Not yet had a right relationship been established. Nevertheless, they could be "merry." A superficial observer would have concluded that all was now well. It reminds us of the stony ground in the parable of the Sower—he "heareth the Word, and anon with joy receiveth it; yet hath he not root in himself" (Matthew 13:20, 21). It is greatly to be feared that there are many such to-day. God’s saving work goes much deeper than producing evanescent emotions.
93. Joseph is determined to bring his brethren out into the fight. "And he commanded the steward of his house, saying, Fill the men’s sacks with food as much as they can carry, and put every man’s money in his sack’s mouth. And put my cup in the sack’s mouth of the youngest, and his corn money. And he did according to the word that Joseph had spoken" (Gen. 44:1, 2). There could be no settled or real fellowship between Joseph and his brethren until the wrong had been righted. There could be no communion of heart until full confession of guilt had been made. And this is the goal God has in view. He desires to bring us into fellowship with Himself. But He is holy, and sin must be confessed and put away, before we can be reconciled to Him.
94. Joseph’s brethren, at last, take their true place before God. They had been in the presence of Joseph, though they knew him not; they had been "merry" before him, and they were now going on their way light-heartedly. Joseph, then, sent his "steward" after them, saying, "Up, follow after the men; and when thou dost overtake them, say unto them, Wherefore have ye rewarded evil for good?" (Gen. 44:4). In like manner, the Lord sends His Holy Spirit to follow up His work in the heart of the awakened soul. The "steward" brought back the brethren into the presence of Joseph once more. Thus, too, does the Holy Spirit bring the convicted sinner back into the presence of God. And mark the sequel here: "And Judah said, What shall we say unto my lord! what shall we speak! or how shall we clear ourselves! GOD hath found out the iniquity of thy servants" (Gen. 44:16). How blessed is this! What a change from their earlier attitude before him, when they affirmed they were "true men"! Now, they give up all attempt to clear themselves, and take the place of guilty ones before Joseph, acknowledging that God had "found out" their "iniquity." This is the goal Joseph has had before him all the way through. And this is the design of the Spirit’s work in the sinner. Not till he ceases to vindicate himself, not till he comes out into the light, not till he owns he is guilty, and unable to "clear himself," can he be blest. Once the sinner acknowledges before God that he is undone, lost, it will not be long till Christ is revealed to him as the One who can fully meet his deep, deep need. So it was with Joseph and his brethren.
95. Joseph made himself known to his brethren. "Then Joseph could not refrain himself before all them that stood by him, and he cried, Cause every man to go out from me. And there stood no man with him, while Joseph made himself known unto his brethren" (Gen. 45:1). How blessed to note the opening word here—"Then." Now that his brethren had acknowledged their guilt, there was no delay. That which had hindered Joseph from revealing himself sooner was now gone.
Notice, particularly, that as Joseph made himself known unto his brethren he cried, "Cause every man to go out from me." Thus it is when Christ reveals Himself to the self-confessed and needy sinner. None must come between the needy soul and the Redeemer. Away, then, ye priests, who pose as mediators. Away, ye ritualists who would interpose your ordinances as conditions of salvation. Away, all ye human interferers, who would get the poor sinner occupied with any but Christ alone. Let "every man go out."
96. Joseph invites his brethren to come near to him. "And Joseph said unto his brethren, Come near to me, I pray you. And they came near" (Gen. 45:4). Unspeakably blessed is this. There is no aloofness here. All distance is (lone away with. So, too, in marvelous grace, the Savior bids the poor trembling sinner "Come near" unto Himself. Joseph did more. He proclaimed in their ears a wondrous message; he said, "God hath sent me before you to preserve you a posterity in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance"(Gen. 45:7).
"It is a great salvation, mark. It is not the limited, partial, mean salvation that some men would make it out to be saving only those who help to save themselves, or saving them for a time, and allowing them to lapse and be lost again. Oh no, thank God, it is a salvation worthy of Himself, and such a salvation as only could result from that finished, faultless work of Christ on the Cross. And what but a great salvation could avail for sinners such as we? We are all of us great sinners; our guilt was great, our need was great, and nothing but a great salvation could be of any use to us. I hope you have it, friend. Don’t neglect it. ‘How shall we escape,’ the Spirit asks, ‘if we neglect so great salvation?’ (Heb. 2:3)" (Mr. Knapp).
97. Joseph tells his brethren of full provision made for them. He said, "And thou shalt dwell in the land of Goshen, and thou shalt be near unto me, thou, and thy children, and thy children’s children, and thy flocks, and thy herds, and all that thou hast. And there will I nourish thee; for yet there are five years of famine; lest thou, and thy household, and all that thou hast come to poverty" (Gen. 45:10, 11). How this tells out, in type, what is in the heart of our blessed Savior! He desires His redeemed to be near to Himself! He is to be no Stranger to them now. Moreover, He promises to sustain them—"there will I nourish thee" said Joseph, and the promise to all who believe is, "My God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus" (Phil. 4:19).
98. Joseph gives proof that he is fully reconciled to his brethren. "Moreover, he kissed all his brethren, and wept upon them, and after that his brethren talked with him" (Gen. 45:15). The "kiss" betokened the fact they were forgiven. It speaks, too, of love. Thus was the Prodigal greeted after he returned from the far country and owned himself as a sinner. Notice, it was Joseph who kissed them, and not the brethren who kissed Joseph. So, also, it was the Father who kissed the Prodigal. God always takes the initiative, at every point. How blessed, too, the words which follow, "and after that his brethren talked with him." Their fears were all gone now. Reconciled to Joseph, they could now enjoy his fellowship and converse with him. So it is with the saved sinner and his Savior.
99. Joseph’s joy was shared by others. "And the fame thereof, was heard in Pharaoh’s house, saying, Joseph’s brethren are come, and it pleased Pharaoh well, and his servants" (Gen. 45:16). "This is the Old Testament fifteenth of Luke. Sinners are received and reconciled; the lost is found; it is, as it were, ‘life from the dead’ with souls. ‘And there is joy in the presence of God.’ God and the angels, like Pharaoh and his servants, rejoice when sinners are brought to repentance. There is joy all around. Joseph rejoices; his brethren rejoice; Pharaoh rejoices; his servants rejoice" (Mr. Knapp).
100. Joseph’s brethren now go forth seeking others. Joseph gave to his brethren an honorable commission. He had said to them, "Haste ye, and go up to my father, and say unto him, Thus saith thy son Joseph, God hath made me lord of all Egypt: come down unto me, tarry not . . . And ye shall tell my father of all my glory in Egypt, and of all that ye have seen; and ye shall haste and bring down my father hither" (Gen. 45:9, 13). So, too, in marvelous grace, the Lord commissions those whom He saves. He bids them go forth seeking others who know Him not. Joseph bade his brethren tell Jacob that he was alive, that God had made him "lord of all Egypt," and they were to tell of his "glory." In like manner, believers are sent forth to tell of a Savior that is alive for evermore; of a Savior whom God hath made "both Lord and Christ"; of a Savior, who has been crowned with "glory and honor." Notice that twice over Joseph bade his brethren to make "haste" in their going forth (verses 9, 13). So with us: there is to be no tardiness. The King’s business "requireth haste." The time is short, and precious souls are perishing all around.
101. Joseph gives his brethren a word of admonition they go forth. "So he sent his brethren away, and they departed and he said unto them, See that ye fall not out by the way" (Gen. 45:24). And how much we need this word of exhortation. The flesh is still in us. The Devil seeks to stir up a spirit of rivalry and jealousy. But says the apostle, "The servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all" (2 Tim. 2:24). If each of us were to heed this, there would be no "falling out by the way"!
We leave the reader to trace out for himself the typical application of the sequel. Joseph’s brethren were faithful to the commission given them. They did not invent a message of their own as they approached Jacob. They had no need to do so. Joseph had told them what to say; their business was to repeat the words of Egypt’s "governor." And God owned their message. The end for which it was designed was achieved. Jacob and his household—seventy souls in all—went down to Egypt and were royally received by Joseph. So, too, we do not have to invent our message. We are sent forth to "preach the Word," and as we are faithful to our calling, God will reward us, for He has promised that His Word" shall not return unto Him void." Let us be encouraged then by this example of the first Old Testament evangelists, and go forth into a famine-stricken world telling of One who is mighty to save, leaving the measure of our success to the sovereign will of Him who alone giveth the increase. Thus shall we have a share in discharging our honorable commission of giving the Gospel to every creature, thus shall we glorify God, and thus shall we be bringing nearer that glad Day when the One whom Joseph foreshadowed shall return to this earth, and, taking the government upon His shoulder, shall reign in righteousness and peace.