Lesson for Jan. 15, 2012: God Preserves a Remnant (Genesis 42:1—46:7)

This treatment of the International Sunday School Lesson is written by Sam E. Stone, former editor of CHRISTIAN STANDARD.


God Preserves a Remnant (Genesis 42:1—46:7)

By Sam E. Stone

This month we are highlighting events from the life of Joseph under the general theme, “God’s Protection.” In last week’s lesson we saw Joseph correctly interpret the Pharaoh’s dream and placed “second in command” over the entire land of Egypt. In that capacity he supervised a program to store up the extra grain from the seven years of abundance, then ration it out during the seven years of famine.

The famine affected Joseph’s homeland (Canaan) as well, so Jacob sent his other sons to Egypt to seek food (Genesis 42). When they came before Joseph, he recognized them, but they did not know him (42:8). Pretending to be a harsh and suspicious Egyptian, he questioned them through a translator, testing them in the process (see chapters 43, 44). These chapters contain some of the most moving scenes in all of Scripture.

Joseph was especially interested to learn that his father Jacob was still living. He was deeply moved to see his younger brother Benjamin again (43:29). Joseph had his servants plant a silver cup in Benjamin’s sack before the brothers left to return home. Then his officials “discovered it.” Joseph threatened to keep Benjamin a prisoner, but allow the other brothers to return home with the grain they had purchased. It was then that Judah begged Joseph for mercy, offering to take Benjamin’s place himself (44:16-34). His appeal finally caused Joseph to reveal himself to them.


The News
Genesis 45:3-7

It had been some 20 years since the brothers sold Joseph into slavery. They had not seen each other since. Now Joseph could conceal his feelings no longer. He had to tell them who he was. Joseph saw his brothers’ love for their father, their concern for their younger brother, and their regret for what they had done to him. The normally stoic and controlled administrator let down his inhibitions and released the flood of emotion he had been holding inside. Joseph had wept before, but then he did it privately (42:24; 43:30).

He said simply, “I am Joseph! Is my father still living?” His brothers were so terrified they could not speak. Imagine their surprise when this “Egyptian man” spoke to them in their own language! Imagine the panic that filled their hearts when he told them who he was! Although they had told him about their father Jacob earlier (44:18-34), Joseph wanted to be sure this news was correct.

Bringing them closer to him, he said, “I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt!” Then he attempted to reassure them by putting everything into perspective. “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.” Although what they had done was terrible, God was able to bring great good out of intended evil (see Acts 7:9-15; Genesis 50:20).

This led him to tell them about Pharaoh’s dreams he had interpreted, and the plan he had outlined which the Egyptians were following. Five years of famine remained. Through it all, God’s hand was evident. Joseph told them, “God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance.” Not only were God’s chosen people preserved in this way, but many others in the region were also saved. The principle Paul stated in Romans 8:28 is underlined throughout this entire account: “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”


The Meaning
Genesis 45:8-15

Joseph then summed it up. “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.” God’s hand could now be seen clearly by everyone. The expression father to Pharaoh indicates that he was Pharaoh’s most confidential counselor and friend.

He then directed them to return to their home in Canaan and bring his father and all of their families back to live with him in Egypt. He had already picked out the perfect place where they could live—Goshen. It is located in the eastern part of the Nile Delta (see Genesis 47:11). This well-watered region would be ideal for their crops and herds. Five years of famine remained; it was imperative that they move quickly. Joseph’s reassuring words and actions (vv. 13-15) finally convinced them.


*Scripture quotations are from the New International Version ©1984, unless otherwise indicated.

January 9: Genesis 42:1-5
January 10: Genesis 42:6-17
January 11: Genesis 42:18-25
January 12: Genesis 43:1-14
January 13: Genesis 44:1-13
January 14: Genesis 44:24-34
January 15: Genesis 45:3-15


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