Summary: Joseph's testing of his brothers in Genesis 43:1-45:28 teaches us that in his providence God can use evil human deeds to accomplish salvation.


We are currently in a series of sermons that I am calling “Jacob’s Descendants,” based on Genesis 37-50.

Previously, we read about young, seventeen-year old Joseph sold by his brothers to Midianite traders on their way to Egypt. The brothers then deceived their father Jacob into thinking that a fierce animal had devoured Joseph. Meanwhile, the Midianites sold Joseph in Egypt to Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, the captain of the guard.

Because the Lord was with Joseph and caused him to be successful in all that he did, he became the chief overseer in Potiphar’s house. After a while, however, Potiphar’s wife wanted Joseph to lie with her. He refused, and Potiphar’s wife falsely accused him of wanting to molest her. When Potiphar learned of this he had Joseph put in the prison where the king’s prisoners were confined. While Joseph was in prison the Lord was still with him, and Joseph was placed in charge of all the prisoners in the prison.

Some time after this, Pharaoh’s chief cupbearer and chief baker committed offenses against Pharaoh. They were put in the same prison with Joseph. One night they each had a dream, which God enabled Joseph to interpret for them. The cupbearer was restored to his position in the palace of Pharaoh, and the baker was executed. Unfortunately for Joseph, the chief cupbearer did not remember Joseph, but forgot him.

After two whole years, Pharaoh had two dreams. None of his magicians and wise men could interpret his dreams. It was then that the chief cupbearer remembered Joseph and told Pharaoh about him. Pharaoh summoned Joseph, who interpreted his dreams. Egypt and the surrounding region was to receive seven years of plenty, followed by seven years of famine. Joseph suggested that Pharaoh save twenty percent of the grain each year for the next seven years to provide food for the coming famine. Pharaoh immediately promoted Joseph to Prime Minister so that he could implement that plan.

After the seven years of plenty, the famine came. Probably sometime during the first year of the famine Jacob sent ten of his sons to Egypt to buy grain. Joseph learned that Jacob was still alive, and that Benjamin had stayed in Canaan with their father. Joseph said that they would not get grain again unless Benjamin came down to Egypt. He imprisoned Simeon as a security that they would bring Benjamin with them the next time they came to buy grain. On their way back home to Canaan the brothers discovered that the money they had used to buy grain had been replaced in their sacks. Later, when the first supply of grain had run out, they had to return to Egypt. This is where we pick up the narrative for today’s lesson.

Let’s read about Joseph’s testing of his brothers in Genesis 43:1-45:28. However, for the sake of time, I am going to read only Genesis 43:1-14, and invite you to keep your Bibles open so that you can follow the rest of the story in this sermon:

1 Now the famine was severe in the land. 2 And when they had eaten the grain that they had brought from Egypt, their father said to them, “Go again, buy us a little food.” 3 But Judah said to him, “The man solemnly warned us, saying, ‘You shall not see my face unless your brother is with you.’ 4 If you will send our brother with us, we will go down and buy you food. 5 But if you will not send him, we will not go down, for the man said to us, ‘You shall not see my face, unless your brother is with you.’ ” 6 Israel said, “Why did you treat me so badly as to tell the man that you had another brother?” 7 They replied, “The man questioned us carefully about ourselves and our kindred, saying, ‘Is your father still alive? Do you have another brother?’ What we told him was in answer to these questions. Could we in any way know that he would say, ‘Bring your brother down’?” 8 And Judah said to Israel his father, “Send the boy with me, and we will arise and go, that we may live and not die, both we and you and also our little ones. 9 I will be a pledge of his safety. From my hand you shall require him. If I do not bring him back to you and set him before you, then let me bear the blame forever. 10 If we had not delayed, we would now have returned twice.”

11 Then their father Israel said to them, “If it must be so, then do this: take some of the choice fruits of the land in your bags, and carry a present down to the man, a little balm and a little honey, gum, myrrh, pistachio nuts, and almonds. 12 Take double the money with you. Carry back with you the money that was returned in the mouth of your sacks. Perhaps it was an oversight. 13 Take also your brother, and arise, go again to the man. 14 May God Almighty grant you mercy before the man, and may he send back your other brother and Benjamin. And as for me, if I am bereaved of my children, I am bereaved.” (Genesis 43:1-45:28)

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