Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
Ch. 45 (E (J).) Joseph reveals himself
1–15. Joseph makes himself known to his brethren.
16–28. Joseph’s brethren bring the news to Jacob.
The chapter, except for harmonizing insertions, e.g. in Genesis 45:4-5, is from E.
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.1–15. Joseph makes himself known to his Brethren
1. refrain himself] As in Genesis 43:31. The vehemence of Joseph’s emotion forms a trait in his character and a feature in the narrative. Cf. Genesis 45:2; Genesis 45:14-15; Genesis 42:24; Genesis 43:30; Genesis 46:29.
And he wept aloud: and the Egyptians and the house of Pharaoh heard.2. wept aloud] Heb. gave forth his voice in weeping.
heard] We must make allowance for an Oriental hyperbole of speech, by which it is intended to convey the rapidity with which the sound of Joseph’s broken exclamations, and the news of the recognition of his brethren, were heard and reported.
And Joseph said unto his brethren, I am Joseph; doth my father yet live? And his brethren could not answer him; for they were troubled at his presence.3. doth my father yet live?] This question has seemed to some a strange one after the interviews which Joseph has already had (Genesis 43:27-28). But the thought of his father is uppermost in his mind, and in the agitation of the moment the turn which he gives to this first question seems to imply a desire to forget the last occasion on which they had met as brothers. He does not wait for an answer, or expect one.
they were troubled, &c.] Cf. Genesis 50:15-21. No wonder that confusion and consternation made them speechless.
And Joseph said unto his brethren, Come near to me, I pray you. And they came near. And he said, I am Joseph your brother, whom ye sold into Egypt.4. whom ye sold] The narrative of J is here, as in Genesis 45:5, followed, according to which Joseph was sold by his brethren.
Now therefore be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves, that ye sold me hither: for God did send me before you to preserve life.5. nor angry with yourselves] The Heb. is “let there not be burning in your eyes,” “do not look angry, or vexed,” i.e. with yourselves.
to preserve life] i.e. to preserve the life both of his brethren and father, and also of the people of Egypt. The word is rendered “reviving” in Ezra 9:8-9. LXX εἰς ζωήν; Lat. Proverbs salute vestra. Joseph, with warm-hearted impetuosity, urges them not to take to heart their share in the past. God had overruled it all for good. Cf. Psalm 105:17, “he sent a man before them.”
For these two years hath the famine been in the land: and yet there are five years, in the which there shall neither be earing nor harvest.6. yet five years] Cf. Genesis 41:30.
neither plowing nor harvest] A general phrase for agricultural operations, as in Exodus 34:21; Deuteronomy 21:4; 1 Samuel 8:12. There was not even corn enough for sowing purposes. The drought made the ground too hard for ploughing. A.V. has the Old English “earing” = “plowing.” Cf. A.V. Exodus 34:21, “in earing time and in harvest.” “Let them go to ear the land,” Shakespeare, Rich. II, iii. 2.
And God sent me before you to preserve you a posterity in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance.7. to preserve you a remnant] Lit. “to set for you a remnant,” i.e. descendants; cf. Jeremiah 44:7.
by a great deliverance] R.V. marg. to be a great company that escape. The two clauses are very nearly identical. In the first the emphasis is on the fact of survival; in the second, on the act of preservation.
So now it was not you that sent me hither, but God: and he hath made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house, and a ruler throughout all the land of Egypt.8. not you … but God] Notice how Joseph here for the third time ascribes his presence in Egypt to the act of God; cf. Genesis 45:5; Genesis 45:7.
a father to Pharaoh] According to some scholars, the word “father” was in use among Egyptians as a technical title of honour and position; cf. the use of the word in a more general sense, 2 Kings 2:12; 1Ma 11:32; and Add. Esth. 16:11. Observe the three phrases, “father,” “lord,” and “ruler,” corresponding to Joseph’s position, personal, social, and national, i.e. towards Pharaoh, towards the people, towards the kingdom.
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 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:10. the land of Goshen] Goshen mentioned only in J, Genesis 46:28-29; Genesis 46:34; Genesis 47:1; Genesis 47:4; Genesis 47:6; Genesis 47:27; Genesis 50:8; Exodus 8:22; Exodus 9:26. By this term seems to be understood a district corresponding to the present Wady-el-Tumilat, a stretch of low ground extending from the eastern arm of the Delta to the Valley of Suez and the Salt Lakes. To the north and south of this district the country was barren and desert. Its identification with “Goshen” was the result of the researches carried out by M. Naville. The region has become more familiar in modern times as the country of the brief campaign terminated by the battle of Tel el-Kebir (1882). LXX here and Genesis 46:34 translates Goshen, Γέσεμ Ἀραβίας = “Gesem of Arabia.” “Arabia” was one of the 23 “nomes” into which the Delta was divided; and the capital of the “nome” Arabia, called Phakussa, has been conjecturally identified with the ancient locality, Kes, with the article pa prefixed.
near unto me] If Joseph lived at On (Genesis 41:45) or at Memphis, Goshen would be near at hand.
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.
And, behold, your eyes see, and the eyes of my brother Benjamin, that it is my mouth that speaketh unto you.
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.
And he fell upon his brother Benjamin's neck, and wept; and Benjamin wept upon his neck.
Moreover he kissed all his brethren, and wept upon them: and after that his brethren talked with him.15. kissed] See note on Genesis 45:2.
after that] Joseph’s brethren were evidently slow to believe that they might rely upon his sincerity.
And the fame thereof was heard in Pharaoh's house, saying, Joseph's brethren are come: and it pleased Pharaoh well, and his servants.16–28. Joseph’s Brethren bring the News to Jacob
16. the fame] Lit. “the voice.” It is not the sound of Joseph’s weeping, but the news of the discovery of his brethren.
And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, Say unto thy brethren, This do ye; lade your beasts, and go, get you unto the land of Canaan;
And take your father and your households, and come unto me: and I will give you the good of the land of Egypt, and ye shall eat the fat of the land.18. the good of the land] Cf. Genesis 45:20; Genesis 45:23; 2 Kings 8:9, with the meaning of “the best produce.” The second clause repeats the same thought, in different imagery. Joseph promises the best that Egypt can give. Cf. Numbers 18:12; Numbers 18:30; Numbers 18:32, “best,” Heb. “fat.”
Now thou art commanded, this do ye; take you wagons out of the land of Egypt for your little ones, and for your wives, and bring your father, and come.19. thou art commanded] The versions render “Command thou them”; and this rendering avoids the awkwardness of the sudden transition from sing. to plural, “Thou art commanded, this do ye.” As it stands, Pharaoh turns from Joseph to Joseph’s brethren; but they would hardly be present at such an interview.
wagons] Wheeled conveyances for carrying baggage: a different word from that which is rendered “chariots.” The wagon is for transport, the chariot for purposes of war or state. The Egyptian wagon ‘agolt’e is called by a Semitic name, possibly derived from the same form as the Hebrew ‘agâlah. See 1 Samuel 6:7 ff.; 2 Samuel 6:3.
Also regard not your stuff; for the good of all the land of Egypt is yours.20. regard not] Lit. “let not your eye be sparing,” i.e. have no compunction at leaving things behind
your stuff] Lit. “your vessels.” LXX σκεύη; Lat. supellex. For the word “stuff,” cf. 1 Samuel 10:22. It is Old English for “baggage”; cf. Shakespeare, Com. of Errors, iv. 4: “Therefore away, to get our stuff on board.”
And the children of Israel did so: and Joseph gave them wagons, according to the commandment of Pharaoh, and gave them provision for the way.
To all of them he gave each man changes of raiment; but to Benjamin he gave three hundred pieces of silver, and five changes of raiment.22. changes of raiment] i.e. costly robes which would be worn instead of workday apparel on special occasions. Cf. Genesis 27:15; Jdg 14:12-13; Jdg 14:19; 2 Kings 5:5; 2 Kings 5:22-23. The versions LXX δισσὰς στολάς = “double robes,” and Lat. binas stolas, have misunderstood the meaning.
three hundred pieces of silver] i.e. 300 shekels. See notes on Genesis 20:16, and Genesis 23:16.
five changes] See note on Genesis 43:34.
And to his father he sent after this manner; ten asses laden with the good things of Egypt, and ten she asses laden with corn and bread and meat for his father by the way.
So he sent his brethren away, and they departed: and he said unto them, See that ye fall not out by the way.24. See that ye fall not out] The precise meaning of Joseph’s parting words has sometimes been misunderstood. The Heb. word which he uses is not common. It occurs in Psalm 4:4, “Stand in awe” (R.V. marg. be ye angry). So here LXX μὴ ὀργίζεσθε; Lat. ne irascamini. The meaning then will be, “do not get excited, quarrel not, and dispute not” with one another about the degree of your guilt in your treatment of me. Cf. Reuben’s reproaches in Genesis 42:22. The suggestion that he warns them against being indignant at the especial favours and gifts lavished upon Benjamin is not probable. A different rendering, “be not alarmed,” in the sense of “do not give way to the fear that I am nursing my revenge and am meditating an outbreak of wrath against you at a later time,” is hardly warranted, either by the use of the verb or by the context. But see Genesis 50:15-21.
And they went up out of Egypt, and came into the land of Canaan unto Jacob their father,
And told him, saying, Joseph is yet alive, and he is governor over all the land of Egypt. And Jacob's heart fainted, for he believed them not.26. his heart fainted] Lit. “became numb or cold”; as we should say, “his heart stood still’ at the news. It was too good to be true.
And they told him all the words of Joseph, which he had said unto them: and when he saw the wagons which Joseph had sent to carry him, the spirit of Jacob their father revived:27. and when he saw the wagons] He did not believe, until he had some ocular proof of the truth of the statement.
the spirit of Jacob … revived] “The spirit” (ruaḥ) here, as in Isaiah 57:15, “to revive the spirit of the humble,” simply denotes the vital powers. Cf. 1 Kings 10:5, “there was no more spirit in her,” i.e. the Queen of Sheba, on seeing the glory of Solomon.
And Israel said, It is enough; Joseph my son is yet alive: I will go and see him before I die.28. It is enough] Lat. sufficit mihi. Jacob’s conviction is expressed in brief simple words.
It is left to our imagination to consider how his sons succeeded in satisfactorily explaining to Jacob Joseph’s return to life. Did they confess all? or did they keep back part of the truth?