Gleanings In Genesis

45. Joseph And His Brethren Dispensationally Considered


Since we left Genesis 37-38 nothing more has been heard of the family of Jacob. Joseph is the one upon whom the Holy Spirit has concentrated attention. In Genesis 37 we saw how Joseph was sent by his father on an errand of mercy to his brethren, inquiring after their welfare; that Joseph came unto them and they received him not; that, instead, they envied and hated him, and sold him into the hands of the Gentiles. Then, we have followed his career in Egypt, and have seen how that the Egyptians, too, treated him badly, casting him into the place of shame and humiliation. Also, we have seen how God vindicated His faithful servant, bringing him out of prison-house and making him governor of all Egypt. Finally, we have learned how that Joseph's exaltation was followed by a season of plenty, when the earth brought forth abundantly, and how this in turn, was followed by a grievous famine, when Joseph came before us as the dispenser of bread to a perishing humanity. But during all this time the brethren of Joseph faded from view, but now, in the time of famine they come to the front again.

All of this is deeply significant, and perfect in its typical application. Joseph foreshadowed the Beloved of the Father, sent to His brethren according to the flesh, seeking their welfare. But they despised and rejected Him. They sold Him, and delivered Him up to the Gentiles. The Gentiles unjustly condemned Him to death, and following the crucifixion, His body was placed in the prison of the tomb. In due time God delivered Him, and exalted Him to His own right hand. Following the ascension, Christ has been presented as the Savior of the world, the Bread of Life for a perishing humanity. During this dispensation the Jew is set aside: it is out from the Gentiles God is now taking a people for His name. But soon this dispensation shall have run its appointed course and then shall come the tribulation period when, following the removal of the Holy Spirit from the earth, there shall be a grievous time of spiritual famine. It is during this tribulation period that God shall resume His dealings with the Jews—the brethren of Christ according to the flesh. Hence, true to the and-type, Joseph's brethren figure prominently in the closing chapters of Genesis. Continuing our previous enumeration we shall now follow the experiences of the brethren from the time they rejected Joseph.

66. Joseph's brethren are driven out of their own land. In Genesis 37 the sons of Jacob are seen delivering up Joseph into the hands of the Gentiles, and nothing more is heard of them till we come to Genesis 42. And what do we read concerning them there! This: "Now when Jacob saw that there was corn in Egypt, Jacob said unto his sons, Why do ye look one upon another? And he said, Behold, I have heard that there is corn in Egypt: get you down thither, and buy for us from thence; that we may live, and not die. And Joseph's ten brethren went down to buy corn in Egypt. And the sons of Israel came to buy corn among those that came: for the famine was in the land of Canaan" (Gen. 42:1-3, 5). Canaan was smitten by the scourge of God. It was eaten up by a famine. Jacob and his family were in danger of dying, and the pangs of hunger drove the brethren of Joseph out of their land, and compelled them to journey down to Egypt—symbol of the world. This was a prophecy in action, a prophecy that received its tragic fulfillment two thousand years later. Just as a few years after his brethren had rejected Joseph, they were forced by a famine (sent from God) to leave their land and go down to Egypt, so a few years after the Jews had rejected Christ and delivered Him up to the Gentiles, God's judgment descended upon them, and the Romans drove them from their land, and dispersed them throughout the world.

67. Joseph was unknown and unrecognized by his brethren. "And Joseph was the governor over the land, and he it was that sold to all the people of the land. And Joseph's brethren came, and bowed down themselves before him with their faces to the earth. And Joseph knew his brethren, but they knew not him" (Gen. 42:6, 8). Joseph had been exalted over all the house of Pharaoh, but Jacob knew it not. All these years he thought that Joseph was dead. And now his family is suffering from the famine, the scourge of God, and his sons, driven out of Canaan by the pangs of hunger, and going down to Egypt, they know not the one who was now governor of the land. So it has been with Jacob's descendants ever since the time they rejected their Messiah. They received not the love of the truth, and for this cause God has sent them strong delusion that they should believe a lie. They know not that God raised the Lord Jesus: they believe He is dead, and through all the long centuries of the Christian era a veil has been over their hearts, and the beginning of the tribulation period will find them still ignorant of the exaltation and glory of the Lord Jesus Christ.

68. Joseph, however, saw and knew his brethren. "And Joseph saw his brethren, and he knew them" (Gen. 42:7). Yes, Joseph "saw" his brethren, his eye was upon them, even though they knew him not. So the eye of the Lord Jesus has been upon the Jews all through the long night of their rejection. Hear His words (as Jehovah) through Jeremiah the prophet, "For mine eyes are upon all their ways: they are not hid from My face, neither is their iniquity hid from Mine ‘Eyes'" (Gen. 16:17). So, too, through Hosea, He said, "I know Ephraim, and Israel is not hid from Me" (Gen. 5:3).

69. Joseph punished his brethren. "And Joseph saw his brethren, and he knew them, but made himself strange unto them, and spake roughly unto them . . . and he put them all together into ward three days" (Gen. 42:7, 17). We quote here from the impressive words of Dr. Haldeman: "Joseph was the cause of their troubles now. Joseph was punishing them for their past dealing with himself. The secret of all Judah's suffering during the past centuries is to be found in the fact that the rejected Messiah has been dealing ‘roughly' with them. He has been punishing them, making use of their willfulness and the cupidity of the nations, but, all the same, punishing them. ‘My God will cast them away, because they do not hearken unto Him: and they shall be wanderers among the nations' (Hos. 9:17). ‘For I say unto you, Ye shall not see Me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord.' (Matthew 23:38, 39) ‘That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zecharias, son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar. Verily I say unto you, All these things shall come upon this generation (nation)' (Matthew 23:35, 36). Nothing can account for the unparalleled suffering of this people, but the judgment and discipline of the Lord."

70. Joseph made known to them a way of deliverance through Substitution. "And he put them all together into ward three days. And Joseph said unto them the third day, this do, and live, for I fear God. If ye be true men, let one of your brethren be bound in the house of your prison; go ye, carry corn for the famine of your houses . . . And he took from them Simeon, and bound him before their eyes" (Gen. 42:17-19, 24). Once more we quote from Dr. Haldeman's splendid article on Joseph:

"On the third day he caused Simeon to be bound in the place of his brethren, and declared that by this means they might all be delivered, in the third day era, that is to say, on the resurrection side of the grave. On the day of Pentecost, the apostle Peter presented our Lord Jesus Christ as the risen one whom God had exalted to be a Prince and a Savior unto Israel, declaring that if the latter should repent of their evil and sin toward Him whom He had sent to be Messiah and King, He would accept His death as the substitution for the judgment due them; that He would save them and send His Son again to be both Messiah and Savior."

71. Joseph made provision for his brethren while they were in a strange land. "Then Joseph commanded to fill their sacks with corn, and to restore every man's money into his sack, and to give them provision for the way; and thus did he unto them" (Gen. 42:25). Although they knew not Joseph, and although he spoke roughly unto his brethren and punished them by casting them into prison, nevertheless, his judgments were tempered with mercy. Joseph would not suffer his brethren to perish by the way. They were here in a strange land, and he ministered unto their need. So it has been throughout this dispensation. Side by side with the fact that the Jews have been severely punished by God, so that they have suffered as no other nation, has been their miraculous preservation. God has sustained them during all the long centuries that they have been absent from their own land. God has provided for them by the way, as Joseph did for his erring brethren. Thus has God fulfilled His promises of old. "For I am with thee, saith the Lord, to save thee: though I make a full end of all nations whither I have scattered thee, yet will I not make a full end of thee; but I will correct thee in measure, and I will not leave thee altogether unpunished" (Jer. 30:11). And again; "Thus saith the Lord God; although I have cast them far off among the heathen, and although I have scattered them among the countries, yet will I be to them as a little sanctuary in the countries where they shall come" (Ezek. 11:16).

72. Joseph was made known to his brethren at the second time. This was emphasized by Stephen in his parting message to Israel; "And at the second time Joseph was made known to his brethren" (Acts 7:13). At their first visit, though Joseph knew his brethren, they knew not him. It was on the occasion of their second visit to Egypt that Joseph revealed himself to them. How marvelously accurate the type! The first time the Lord Jesus was seen by His brethren after the flesh, they knew Him not, but when they see Him the second time He shall be known by them.

It is significant that the Holy Spirit has singled out this highly important point, and has repeated it, again and again, in other types. It was thus with Moses and Israel. "And it came to pass in those days, when Moses was grown, that he went out unto his brethren, and looked on their burdens; and he spied an Egyptian smiting a Hebrew, one of his brethren. And he looked this way and that way, and when he saw that, there was no man, he slew the Egyptian, and hid him in the sand" (Ex. 2:11, 12). And how did his brethren appreciate his intervention on their behalf? They despised him; they said, "Who made thee a prince and a judge over us" (Ex. 2:14). They said, in effect, as Israel said of Christ, "We will not have this Man to reign over us" (Luke 19:14). But the second time (after a long interval, during which Moses was hid from them) that he appeared unto them, they accepted him as their Leader.

It was thus with Joshua and Israel. The first time that Joshua appeared before the Nation was as one of the two "spies" who brought to them a favorable report of the land, and counselled his brethren to go up and possess it. But Israel rejected his message (Num. 13). It was not until long after when Joshua came before the people, publicly, for the second time, that they accepted him as their Leader, and were conducted by him into their inheritance.

The same principle is illustrated, again, in the history of David. David was sent by his father seeking the welfare of his brethren; "And Jesse said unto David his son, take now for thy brethren an ephah of this parched corn, and these ten loaves, and run to the camp to thy brethren. And carry these ten cheeses unto the captain of their thousand, and look how thy brethren fare, and take their pledge" (1 Sam. 17:17-18). But when he reached them, they resented his kindness, and their "anger was kindled against David" (See 1 Samuel 17:28), and it was not until years later that they, together with all Israel, owned him as their King.

Each of these was a type of the Lord Jesus. The first time He appeared to Israel they received Him not; but at His second advent they shall accept Him as their Leader and King.

73. Joseph's brethren confess their Guilt in the sight of God. "And Judah said, What shall we say unto my lord? What shall we speak? or how shall we clear ourselves! God hath found out the iniquity of thy servants" (Gen. 44:16). There are several striking verses in the prophets which throw light upon the antitypical significance of this point. "And ye shall know that I am the Lord, when I shall bring you into the land of Israel, into the country for the which I lifted up Mine hand to give it to your fathers. And there shall ye remember your ways, and all your doings, wherein ye have been defiled; and ye shall loathe yourselves in your own sight for all your evils that ye have committed" (Ezek. 20:42, 43). And again, "I will go and return to My place, till they acknowledge their offense, and seek My face; in their affliction they will seek me early" (Hosea 5:15). So it was with Joseph; he did not reveal himself to his brethren until they had acknowledged their "iniquity." And so will Israel have to turn to God in real and deep penitence before He sends His Son back to them (see Acts 3:19, 20).

74. Joseph's brethren were also, at first, troubled in his presence. "And Joseph said unto his brethren, I am Joseph; doth my father yet live? And his brethren could not answer him, for they were troubled at his presence" (Gen. 45:3). How perfectly does antitype correspond with type! When Israel shall first gaze upon their rejected Messiah, we are told, "And they shall look upon Me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for Him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him as one that is in bitterness for his first born" (Zech. 12:10). As Israel shall learn then the awfulness of their sin in rejecting and crucifying their Messiah, they shall be "troubled" indeed.

75. Joseph acted toward his brethren in marvelous grace. "And Joseph said unto his brethren, Come near to me, I pray you. And they came near, And he said, I am Joseph your brother, whom ye sold into Egypt. Now therefore be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves, that ye sold me hither; for God did send me before you to preserve life . . . Moreover he kissed all his brethren, and wept upon them, and after that his brethren talked with him" (Gen. 45:4, 5, 15). So shall it be when Israel is reconciled to Christ; "In that day there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and for uncleanness" (Zech. 13:1). Then shall Christ say to Israel, "For a small moment have I forsaken thee, but with great mercies will I gather thee. In a little wrath I hid My face from thee for a moment; but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee, saith the Lord thy Redeemer" (Isa. 54:7, 8).

76. Joseph was revealed as a Man of Compassion. "And there stood no man with him, while Joseph made himself known unto his brethren, And he wept aloud" (Gen. 45:1-2). Seven times over we read of Joseph weeping. He wept when he listened to his brethren confessing their guilt (Gen. 42:24). He wept when he beheld Benjamin (Gen. 43:30). He wept when he made himself known to his brethren (Gen. 45:1-2).. He wept when his brethren were reconciled to him (Gen. 45:15). He wept over his father Jacob Genesis (Gen. 46:29). He wept at the death of his father (Gen. 50:1). And he wept when, later, his brethren questioned his love for them (Gen. 50:15-17). How all this reminds us of the tenderheartedness of the Lord Jesus Christ, of whom we read so often, He was "moved with compassion," and twice that He "wept"—once at the graveside of Lazarus, and later over Jerusalem. 1 Joseph revealed himself to Judah and his brethren, before he was made known to the rest of Jacob's household. So, too, we are told in Zechariah 12:7, "The Lord also shall save the tents of Judah first."

78. Joseph then sends for Jacob. "In Scripture, Judah stands for Judah and Benjamin considered together. You will note that it is Judah and Benjamin who are made prominent in the revelation of Joseph. Jacob in prophetic language signifies the Ten Tribes. Sending for Jacob and his household, in typical language, is sending for the Ten Tribes of Israel. Precisely as the type brings Judah before the self-disclosed Joseph, and then Jacob is brought into the land in the presence of Joseph, so the scriptures clearly teach us that after the Lord comes to repentant Judah and is received by them at Jerusalem, He will send for the remaining household of Jacob, for the lost and wandering tribes of Israel, to come into the land to own and greet him. ‘And they shall bring all your brethren for an offering unto the Lord, out of all nations' (Isa. 66:20)"—Dr. Haldeman.

79. Joseph's brethren go forth to proclaim his glory. "Haste ye, and go up to my father, and say unto him, thus saith thy son Joseph, God hath made me lord of all Egypt; come down unto me, tarry not . . . And ye shall tell my father of all my glory in Egypt" (Gen. 45:9, 13). In like manner, after Israel has been reconciles to Christ, they shall go forth to tell of the glories of their King: "And I will send those that escape of them unto the nations, to Tarshish, Pul and Lud, that draw the bow, to Tubal and Javan, to the isles afar off, that have not heard My fame, neither have seen My glory, and they shall declare My glory among the Gentiles" (Isa. 66:19). And again: "And the remnant of Jacob shall be in the midst of many people as a dew from the Lord, as the showers upon the grass, that tarrieth not for man" (Micah 5:7).

80. Joseph makes ready his chariot and goes forth to meet Jacob. "And Joseph made ready his chariot, and went up to meet Jacob his father" (Gen. 46:29). Says Dr. Haldeman, "This is really the epiphany of Joseph. He reveals himself in splendor and Kingliness to his people. He meets Judah in Goshen first and then meets his father, the household of Jacob. This is a representation of the truth as we have already seen it. It is the coming of Christ in His glory to meet Judah first, and then all Israel. Our attention is specially drawn to his appearing to the people in chariots of glory. So of the greater Joseph we read, ‘For, behold, the Lord will come with fire, and with His chariots like a whirlwind' (Isa. 66:15)."

81. Joseph settles his brethren in a land of their own. "And Israel dwelt in the land of Egypt, in the country of Goshen; and they had possessions therein, and grew, and multiplied exceedingly" (Gen. 47:27). Goshen was the best part of the land of Egypt (symbol of the world). As Pharaoh had said, "The land of Egypt is before thee, in the best of the land make thy father and brethren to dwell; in the land of Goshen let them dwell" (Gen. 47:6). So Palestine, when restored to its pristine beauty and fertility, shall be "the best land" in all the earth; and there, in the Millennium, shall Israel have "possessions" and "multiply exceedingly."

82. Joseph's brethren prostrate themselves before him as the Representative of God. "And his brethren also went and fell before his face; and they said, Behold we be thy servants. And Joseph said unto them, Fear not; for (am) I in the place of God?" (Gen. 50:18, 19). The prophetic dream of Joseph is realized. The brethren own Joseph's supremacy, and take the place of servants before him. So in the coming Day, all Israel shall fall down before the Lord Jesus Christ, and say, "Lo, this is our God; we have waited for Him, and He will save us; this is the Lord; we have waited for Him, we will be glad and rejoice in His salvation" (Isa. 25:9).

We close at the point from which we started. Joseph signifies "Addition," and Addition is Increase, and "increase" is the very word used by the Holy Spirit to describe the dominant characteristic of the Kingdom of Him whom Joseph so wondrously foreshadowed. "Of the increase of His government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon His Kingdom, to order it and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever" (Isa. 9:7).


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