Genesis 45: Joseph Reveals His Identity
Joseph—the first weeping prophet—is moved by Judah's Christ-like intervention to assume the role of a surety for Benjamin and reveals his true identity.
Have you ever struggled to forgive someone?
In Genesis 45, we see that love is a supernatural grace enabling believers to forgive even when deeply wounded.
Throughout Genesis 42–44, we learn of Joseph testing his brothers to deepen their repentance, and to see if they possessed a genuine love for their father and for Benjamin. After witnessing Judah’s impassioned appeal, Joseph is finally done with his tests.
vv. 1–15, Joseph clears the room of all Egyptians and reveals his true identity to his brothers, weeping as he does so. Joseph is the first weeping prophet. His tears are recorded in five separate chapters (42:24; 43:30; 45:15; 46:29; 50:1; 50:17). The brothers are stunned and in a state of fear and shock. For the first time, they hear this Governor of Egypt speak in Hebrew and the first words out of his mouth are, “I am Joseph.” He then compounds his brotherhood with them by asking after the well-being of his father. But his brothers are in a state of psychological shock. Joseph calls them near and seeks to put their mind at ease, stating that God has been in control of all that has happened. From v. 9, he then launches into an exhortation that expresses his desire for the family to be reunited in Egypt where he can provide for all of them, their families, and their father. Having said what was on his heart, he embraces and weeps over Benjamin and all of his brothers.
vv. 16–20 - the news of this emotional reunion spreads throughout Pharoah’s court, bringing delight to Pharaoh. This would be a reminder to Moses’ generation that their beginnings in Egypt were favorable. Pharoah formally invites Jacob to Egypt, even providing wagons for the journey. These wagons worked well in Egypt, but would have been an unusual sight in the more hilly region of Canaan.
vv. 21–28 - Although the term is used in Genesis 32 and 36, this is the first time Jacob’s sons are referred to as “the children of Israel.” To be used at such a turning point seems to be significant in relation to God’s purpose for this family. And so, the brothers return to Jacob with special garments and 20 donkeys loaded up with provisions. When they arrive, their words are almost impossible for Jacob to believe: “Joseph is yet alive.” But the wagons function as an aid to his trust, and Jacob resolves to see his long-lost son before he dies.
Forgiveness before God requires a substitute. As noted in the previous chapter, Judah stands as a substitute for Benjamin. Joseph’s response reflects the grounds of forgiveness before God. In order to have your sins forgiven, there must be a substitute, and because Judah was willing to suffer as a substitute for a crime he did not commit, everyone was forgiven for the crime they did commit. Joseph instantly pardons them for their act of wickedness towards him. This is why Jesus came and bore our sins upon his own body on the cross.
The doctrine of God’s providence gives a sure footing for the exercise of forgiveness. We live in a world where siblings will not forgive because one was left a larger inheritance, or because a vote did not go their way, or because their spouse came up short of expectations. I’m not excusing sin, but did anyone sell you as a slave? There was a distinct possibility that Joseph would be abused and worked to death. And while he survived, he had quite an ordeal for 13 years of his life. Yet, his trust in the doctrine of God’s providence allowed him to say, “God did send me before you to preserve life.” Christian, you can take the most difficult experience of your life and begin the story with the words, “God did…” It is unbelief to refuse to do so.
Christ desires fellowship with His people. As Joseph forgives his brothers, he invites them to come near to him. No grudges. No upbraiding. This is tremendous reminder that when we come penitently to God through Christ, there is no lingering animosity or generational curses. Perhaps I am speaking to someone struggling to believe God has forgiven them. Note the embrace of Joseph and see in him a picture of your precious Redeemer. Note also that when the brothers return to Jacob, their sin of selling Joseph is not mentioned. This illustrates how Christ deals with our sins so that they are never brought before our Father in heaven and will never condemn us.
Man’s greatest need is a new garment. Joseph had his coat taken from him by his jealous brothers and then by a vindictive woman. However, in due time, he was adorned with glory by Pharaoh. Now in his position of authority, he can bless his brothers with new clothing. What a picture of man’s sin requiring the humbling of the Son of God who is divested of His glory, and then mistreated and stripped by man, before resuming a place which allows Him to confer on believing sinners a garment of salvation. Praise His name!
God’s people must be aware of the constant threat of division. Despite the elevated joy of the occasion, Joseph warns his brothers, “See that ye fall not out by the way.” It’s as if he is preempting a session of finger-pointing as they make their way back to Canaan. Could blame be cast at some brothers more than others? Most likely. But what is the use? They all express regret at what happened. Dear Christian, fear division more than defending your own hurt feelings.
Good news ought to be shared with others. Joseph said, “ye shall tell my father of all my glory” and so the brothers return to Jacob to inform him that Joseph is alive and one of the most powerful men in the world. Since Jacob believed Joseph was dead, this report was like a resurrection message to Jacob. Like Thomas, Jacob struggles to believe until he sees evidence to strengthen his fainting heart. Seen in this light, Joseph, like Christ, depicts a kind of first fruits who is followed by others into a heavenly land. A land that promises endless life and provision all because of one person, the heavenly Joseph. Dear children, are you going with your family to where Jesus, the heavenly Joseph, lives? Jesus rose from the dead, and only those saved will be with Him in that land that is far fairer than Goshen.
“Do not imagine, concerning the Lord Jesus, that there is only a fanciful or sentimental brotherhood between Him and you. It is a real brotherhood—there is no such brotherhood under heaven so complete and true as that which exists between Christ and every blood-washed soul, for it is not a brotherhood according to the flesh, but an everlasting, spiritual brotherhood. An eternal union of the closest and most vital kind is established between Christ and everyone who believes in Him.” — Charles Spurgeon