And he turned himself about from them, and wept; and returned to them again, and communed with them, and took from them Simeon…
After the lapse of twenty years, Joseph on seeing his brethren wept. Why, he might have been vengeful! It is easy for us glibly to read the words, "Joseph turned himself about and wept." But consider what the words might have been! We oftentimes see results, not processes. We do not see how men have had to bind themselves down, crucify themselves — hands, feet, head, and side — and undergo death in the presence of God, before they could look society in the face with anything like benignity and gentleness and forgiveness. What the words might have been! Joseph, when he saw his brethren, might have said, "Now I have you! Once you put me in a pit — I shall shake you over hell; once you sold me — I will imprison you and torture you day and night; you smote me with whips — I shall scourge you with scorpions! It shall be easier to go through a circle of fire than to escape my just and indignant vengeance to-day!" He might have said, "I shall operate upon the law, 'A tooth for a tooth and an eye for an eye.'" That is the law of nature; that is elementary morality. It is not vengeance, it is not resentment; it is alphabetic justice — justice at its lowest point — incipient righteousness. It is not two eyes for an eye, two teeth for a tooth; but an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, a blow for a blow, a pit for a pit, selling for selling, and so on. A great many men are perfectly content with elementary morality and alphabetic justice. People don't educate themselves from this kind of righteousness into Christian nobility of disposition. It is not a question of education; it is a question of sanctification. Few men can rise beyond mere justice. Many men find in mere justice all the moral satisfaction which their shallow natures require; they cannot see that mercy is the very highest point in justice, and that when a man stoops to forgive be becomes a prince and a king and a crowned ruler in the house and kingdom of God. It requires all that God can do to teach men this: That there is something higher than the law of retaliation, that forgiveness is better than resentment, and that to release men is oftentimes-if done from moral consideration and not from moral neglect — the highest form of Christian justice. But revenge is sweet! I am afraid that some of us like just a little revenge; not that we would ourselves personally and directly inflict it, but if our enemies could, somehow or another, be tripped up, and tumble half way at least into a pit, we should not feel that compunction and sorrow and distress of soul which, sentimentally, appears to be so very fine and beautiful. Nothing but God the Holy Ghost can train a man to this greatness of answering the memory of injury with tears, and accepting processes in which men only appear to have a part, as if God, after all, had been over-ruling and directing the whole scheme..
(J. Parker, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And he turned himself about from them, and wept; and returned to them again, and communed with them, and took from them Simeon, and bound him before their eyes.