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Bible Study

The Book of Genesis

Genesis 45-47: “Israel in Egypt” · January 20, 2010

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We come now to the climax of the Joseph story. Joseph can no longer contain himself (45:1) and reveals his true identity to his brothers. This is a prefiguring of the Gospel. Joseph to all intent and purpose has been raised from the dead in the sense that the brothers and father assumed he was dead. Throughout this section we have language which prefigures the response to the resurrection in the New Testament. Just as Jesus brings us into the Kingdom of God Joseph brings his family into the kingdom of Egypt. Joseph emerges in the crisis of the famine as the savior of the world. Genesis then takes us from creation to resurrection, both introducing and summarizing the theme of the whole Bible.

  1. “I am your brother, Joseph” – Genesis 45
    1. Judah’s speech breaks Joseph’s heart. Judah has expressed the theme of vicarious sacrifice, giving one’s life for the sake of another (Genesis 44:33). Joseph now foretells the reality of the resurrection.
    2. The reactions to Joseph’s revelation of his identity are shock and astonishment, very similar to the later reaction to the news that Jesus is alive after his death (Genesis 45:3, 25-26; Mark 16:8; Luke 24:12, 36-37; John 20:24-27).
    3. Joseph proceeds to tell his brothers that what they had done to him actually was part of a greater plan of God “to preserve life” (Genesis 45:4-5; Romans 8:28; Ephesians 1:11). He actually says that it was not they who had sent him to Egypt but God (Genesis 45:8; Amos 3:6; Isaiah 46:8-11). The same reality applies to Jesus’ crucifixion. Jesus’ enemies were unintentionally fulfilling God’s larger plan (Acts 2:23).
    4. He immediately tells them to go and bring their father to him, “do not delay” (Genesis 45:9)
    5. Foretelling Jesus’ promises (Matthew 6:25-30), Joseph tells his brothers that he will provide for them. They are to come to Egypt to find safety. Joseph then kisses and weeps over Benjamin and then does the same with all the brothers (Genesis 45:14-15; cf. Luke 23:34).
    6. Pharaoh hears of the family reunion and echoes the invitation of Joseph to the brothers. They will find peace and security in Egypt (Genesis 45:16-20). Joseph sends the brothers off to bring back Jacob with gifts and provisions. Once again Benjamin is signaled out for special favor (Genesis 45:21-23). Knowing the brothers and their history, Joseph adds the instruction, “Do not quarrel along the way” (Genesis 45:24).
    7. Jacob is astonished at the news, again prefiguring the response to Jesus’ resurrection. Joseph’s reaction is essentially that of the father in the parable of the prodigal son, “for this son of mine was dead and is alive again” (Luke 15:24). Jacob is eager to go to Egypt to see his son (Genesis 45:28).
  2. Joseph sees his father – Genesis 46
    1. As Jacob and the brothers begin their trip to Egypt, God again appears to him and tells him:
      1. not to be afraid to go down to Egypt (Genesis 46:3). The phrase “do not be afraid” recurs throughout the resurrection accounts (Matthew 28:5, 10; Luke 24:38).
      2. he will make a great nation of them in Egypt (Genesis 46:3)
      3. God will go with them and will bring them up again (Genesis 46:4; cf. Matthew 28:20).
    2. Jacob and all his household comes to Egypt. We have a detailed list of all the children and descendents. It is interesting that only Rachel is referred to as “Jacob’s wife” (Genesis 46:19). Perez, the son of Judah by Tamar, is mentioned. He will be the ancestor of David and Jesus (Genesis 46:12). The total entourage numbers seventy (Genesis 46:27).
    3. It is interesting that Judah is sent ahead of the group to greet Joseph in the land of Goshen (Genesis 46:28). Judah and Joseph both prefigure Jesus in different ways. When Joseph sees his father he falls on his neck and weeps (Genesis 46:29). This is the same language as the father welcoming the prodigal son (Luke 15:20). It is also the language of Esau welcoming Jacob whom he had wanted dead (Genesis 33:4).
    4. Joseph informs his father and brothers that he will next bring them before Pharaoh. They are to say that they are shepherds, a very unpopular role in Egypt. Therefore they are in effect asking for an indulgence to settle in the nearby land of Goshen (Genesis 46:33-34).
  3. Joseph the Savior – Genesis 47
    1. Pharaoh not only welcomes Joseph’s relatives but gives them the land of Goshen which is “the best part of the land” (Genesis 47:6). Pharaoh also puts them in charge of Pharaoh’s livestock.
    2. Pharaoh now actually meets Joseph’s father who is a hundred and thirty years old (again we’re not sure exactly how ages were reckoned in this period) (Genesis 47:7-9)
    3. In a striking scene Jacob blesses Pharaoh (Genesis 47:10). This is the beginning of the fulfillment of the promise to Abraham that in him all the nations of the world would be blessed (Genesis 18:18).
    4. We next read of the severity of the famine (Genesis 47:13). People both in Egypt and Canaan continue to run out of their resources (Genesis 47:15, 18). Without going into all the details, Joseph exemplifies both wisdom and judgment in dealing with the crisis. While the people in effect give everything over to Pharaoh, as Joseph arranges the situation they are not made slaves in the conventional sense (Genesis 47:21). Joseph’s plan is that they should till the land they have, giving one fifth to Pharaoh at the harvest and keeping four fifths for themselves. In so doing he provides not only for their livelihood but also for their prosperity.
    5. The people gratefully respond by saying to Joseph, “You have saved our lives” (Genesis 47:25). Joseph then has saved not only his own people but the people of Egypt as well. He is their savior. This prefigures the role of Jesus both as the savior of Israel (Acts 13:23) and the savior of the world (John 4:42). Joseph going into the pit symbolizes death. However his going into prison symbolizes Jesus’ saving ministry of the dead between his death and resurrection (I Peter 3:18-19; Ephesians 4:7-9).
    6. Jacob lives seventeen years in Egypt. He dies at the age of one hundred and forty seven (Genesis 47:28). Before he dies he makes Joseph promise that he will not be buried in Egypt but with his ancestors. Joseph agrees.
    7. Jacob (or Israel)’s bowing himself on the head of his bed is a sign of gratitude and reverence (cf. I Kings 1:47).
  4. Questions for us –
    1. What kind of grace does it take for Joseph to welcome and forgive his brothers? How are we able to see God’s hand even in tragedies?
    2. What lessons can we take from Jacob’s reaction to the news of his son being alive? Why do we assume situations are hopeless (or “dead”) when in God’s plan they may not be?
    3. What lessons can we learn from Joseph’s actions in the famine for dealing with crisis situations in our own time such as Haiti?


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