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A Journey through the book of Genesiswith Willow Creek Community Church

Read Genesis

Week 6/Day 3: Forgiveness and Family Reconciliation

Willow Creek Community Church

Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Come close to me.” When they had done so, he said, “I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt!

~ Genesis 45:4

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One of the persistent and destructive themes we see throughout Genesis is how sin causes division in families. In Genesis, sin causes spouses to blame each other (Genesis 3:12,) parents to favor one child over another (Genesis 25:28; 37:3; 42:38,) and brothers to kill, cheat, and sell one another into slavery (4:8; 27:36; 37:28.) The theme is so pervasive that we see its effect in nearly every chapter of the book. Yet, for all the stories of sin dividing families, the book draws to a close with a powerful story of how one brother’s radical offer of forgiveness brings reconciliation to his family. Upon revealing his true identity to his brothers in Genesis 45, Joseph chooses not to send his brothers away, but instead he invites them to “come close” to him. 

Joseph’s invitation to his brothers to “come close” can be surprising when we consider all that he suffered as a result of their hatred. He spent years enslaved, imprisoned, and living away from his home and family. The sight of his brothers in Egypt no doubt triggered many emotions. From his position of power, Joseph could exact whatever revenge he wanted on his brothers. However, upon seeing their remorse and repentance, he decided to forgive.

Joseph’s radical choice to forgive teaches us that forgiveness is essential for reconciling relationships. It is difficult, if not impossible, for us to be in harmony with one another if we refuse to forgive and surrender our right to retaliate. Forgiveness is rarely easy, especially when significant wrong has been done to us. However, when we choose to forgive, we are partnering with God in restoring our relationships and His creation to His intended design. Forgiving each other provides us a glimpse of God’s forgiving nature toward us (Ephesians 4:32.)


Genesis 45–46

45

Joseph Makes Himself Known

1 Then Joseph could no longer control himself before all his attendants, and he cried out, “Have everyone leave my presence!” So there was no one with Joseph when he made himself known to his brothers. 2 And he wept so loudly that the Egyptians heard him, and Pharaoh’s household heard about it.

3 Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph! Is my father still living?” But his brothers were not able to answer him, because they were terrified at his presence.

4 Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Come close to me.” When they had done so, he said, “I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt! 5 And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you. 6 For two years now there has been famine in the land, and for the next five years there will be no plowing and reaping. 7 But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance.

8 “So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God. He made me father to Pharaoh, lord of his entire household and ruler of all Egypt. 9 Now hurry back to my father and say to him, ‘This is what your son Joseph says: God has made me lord of all Egypt. Come down to me; don’t delay. 10 You shall live in the region of Goshen and be near me — ou, your children and grandchildren, your flocks and herds, and all you have. 11 I will provide for you there, because five years of famine are still to come. Otherwise you and your household and all who belong to you will become destitute.’

12 “You can see for yourselves, and so can my brother Benjamin, that it is really I who am speaking to you. 13 Tell my father about all the honor accorded me in Egypt and about everything you have seen. And bring my father down here quickly.”

14 Then he threw his arms around his brother Benjamin and wept, and Benjamin embraced him, weeping. 15 And he kissed all his brothers and wept over them. Afterward his brothers talked with him.

16 When the news reached Pharaoh’s palace that Joseph’s brothers had come, Pharaoh and all his officials were pleased. 17 Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Tell your brothers, ‘Do this: Load your animals and return to the land of Canaan, 18 and bring your father and your families back to me. I will give you the best of the land of Egypt and you can enjoy the fat of the land.’

19 “You are also directed to tell them, ‘Do this: Take some carts from Egypt for your children and your wives, and get your father and come. 20 Never mind about your belongings, because the best of all Egypt will be yours.’ ”

21 So the sons of Israel did this. Joseph gave them carts, as Pharaoh had commanded, and he also gave them provisions for their journey. 22 To each of them he gave new clothing, but to Benjamin he gave three hundred shekels of silver and five sets of clothes. 23 And this is what he sent to his father: ten donkeys loaded with the best things of Egypt, and ten female donkeys loaded with grain and bread and other provisions for his journey. 24 Then he sent his brothers away, and as they were leaving he said to them, “Don’t quarrel on the way!”

25 So they went up out of Egypt and came to their father Jacob in the land of Canaan. 26 They told him, “Joseph is still alive! In fact, he is ruler of all Egypt.” Jacob was stunned; he did not believe them. 27 But when they told him everything Joseph had said to them, and when he saw the carts Joseph had sent to carry him back, the spirit of their father Jacob revived. 28 And Israel said, “I’m convinced! My son Joseph is still alive. I will go and see him before I die.”

46

Jacob Goes to Egypt

1 So Israel set out with all that was his, and when he reached Beersheba, he offered sacrifices to the God of his father Isaac.

2 And God spoke to Israel in a vision at night and said, “Jacob! Jacob!”

“Here I am,” he replied.

3 “I am God, the God of your father,” he said. “Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for I will make you into a great nation there. 4 I will go down to Egypt with you, and I will surely bring you back again. And Joseph’s own hand will close your eyes.”

5 Then Jacob left Beersheba, and Israel’s sons took their father Jacob and their children and their wives in the carts that Pharaoh had sent to transport him. 6 So Jacob and all his offspring went to Egypt, taking with them their livestock and the possessions they had acquired in Canaan. 7 Jacob brought with him to Egypt his sons and grandsons and his daughters and granddaughters — ll his offspring.

8 These are the names of the sons of Israel (Jacob and his descendants) who went to Egypt:

Reuben the firstborn of Jacob.

9 The sons of Reuben:

Hanok, Pallu, Hezron and Karmi.

10 The sons of Simeon:

Jemuel, Jamin, Ohad, Jakin, Zohar and Shaul the son of a Canaanite woman.

11 The sons of Levi:

Gershon, Kohath and Merari.

12 The sons of Judah:

Er, Onan, Shelah, Perez and Zerah (but Er and Onan had died in the land of Canaan).

The sons of Perez:

Hezron and Hamul.

13 The sons of Issachar:

Tola, Puah, Jashub and Shimron.

14 The sons of Zebulun:

Sered, Elon and Jahleel.

15 These were the sons Leah bore to Jacob in Paddan Aram, besides his daughter Dinah. These sons and daughters of his were thirty-three in all.

 

16 The sons of Gad:

Zephon, Haggi, Shuni, Ezbon, Eri, Arodi and Areli.

17 The sons of Asher:

Imnah, Ishvah, Ishvi and Beriah.

Their sister was Serah.

The sons of Beriah:

Heber and Malkiel.

18 These were the children born to Jacob by Zilpah, whom Laban had given to his daughter Leah — ixteen in all.

19 The sons of Jacob’s wife Rachel:

Joseph and Benjamin. 20 In Egypt, Manasseh and Ephraim were born to Joseph by Asenath daughter of Potiphera, priest of On.

21 The sons of Benjamin:

Bela, Beker, Ashbel, Gera, Naaman, Ehi, Rosh, Muppim, Huppim and Ard.

22 These were the sons of Rachel who were born to Jacob — ourteen in all.

 

23 The son of Dan:

Hushim.

24 The sons of Naphtali:

Jahziel, Guni, Jezer and Shillem.

25 These were the sons born to Jacob by Bilhah, whom Laban had given to his daughter Rachel — even in all.

 

26 All those who went to Egypt with Jacob — hose who were his direct descendants, not counting his sons’ wives — umbered sixty-six persons. 27 With the two sons who had been born to Joseph in Egypt, the members of Jacob’s family, which went to Egypt, were seventy in all.

28 Now Jacob sent Judah ahead of him to Joseph to get directions to Goshen. When they arrived in the region of Goshen, 29 Joseph had his chariot made ready and went to Goshen to meet his father Israel. As soon as Joseph appeared before him, he threw his arms around his father and wept for a long time.

30 Israel said to Joseph, “Now I am ready to die, since I have seen for myself that you are still alive.”

31 Then Joseph said to his brothers and to his father’s household, “I will go up and speak to Pharaoh and will say to him, ‘My brothers and my father’s household, who were living in the land of Canaan, have come to me. 32 The men are shepherds; they tend livestock, and they have brought along their flocks and herds and everything they own.’ 33 When Pharaoh calls you in and asks, ‘What is your occupation?’ 34 you should answer, ‘Your servants have tended livestock from our boyhood on, just as our fathers did.’ Then you will be allowed to settle in the region of Goshen, for all shepherds are detestable to the Egyptians.”


Exploring the Text

1. In Genesis 42, 43, and 45, we see Joseph getting emotional in response to his brothers. What does this outward display of emotion tell us about the character and heart of Joseph? What emotions are represented in these three passages?

Reflection Question

2. The Bible doesn’t tell us that Joseph’s brothers came forward with an apology for their actions 20 years prior, but we do see proof of their changed hearts when they exhibit remorse for what they did. Despite the fact that they did not apologize, Joseph forgives them. When someone wrongs us, we frequently don’t receive an apology. Do you believe that forgiveness can only come after an apology? How can you forgive someone when they don’t show remorse? Who might you need to forgive today even if they haven’t or won’t apologize?

3. Genesis 45:5-8 is one of the most profound examples of God’s sovereignty. Joseph is able to see how all of the bad things that happened in his life were actually a part of God’s plan. This doesn’t mean that God causes bad things to happen, but it does mean that God can bring good things out of bad situations. When we wonder why bad things happen to us, we must remember God’s sovereignty. How have you seen God use something bad for good in your life? What can you do to remain faithful and hopeful in hard seasons?