Genesis 50:19

ESV But Joseph said to them, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God?
NIV But Joseph said to them, 'Don't be afraid. Am I in the place of God?
NASB But Joseph said to them, 'Do not be afraid, for am I in God’s place?
CSB But Joseph said to them, "Don't be afraid. Am I in the place of God?
NLT But Joseph replied, 'Don’t be afraid of me. Am I God, that I can punish you?
KJV And Joseph said unto them, Fear not: for am I in the place of God?

What does Genesis 50:19 mean?

When Joseph was a teenager, his brothers were enraged at his dreams, depicting them as his servants (Genesis 37:5–11). Out of jealousy, they sold him as a slave (Genesis 37:26–28). Years later, after Joseph had become governor of all Egypt (Genesis 41:44), they were unexpectedly reunited by a famine, and Joseph took them in under his care and protection (Genesis 47:11–13). Now that Jacob, their father, is dead (Genesis 50:1–14), they fear vengeance and seek to appease Joseph (Genesis 50:15–17). In doing so, they fall at his feet (Genesis 50:18), further fulfilling those dreams from many years prior.

Joseph's astounding response shows they didn't need to deliver—or, possibly to invent—a deathbed message from Jacob to secure forgiveness. He had already forgiven them. Despite all his power, Joseph clearly understands that ultimate judgment is not his to deliver. He is not "in the place of God." After seeing all that has happened—including his own rise to power, the famine, and Israel's rescue—he clearly understands there has been a divine hand at work. And so, Joseph has left it to God to judge those who have done evil to him. He has surrendered his right to take revenge.

Paul's command in Romans 12:19 will reinforce this idea: "Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, 'Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.'"

The following statement (Genesis 50:20) is a powerful, direct summary of Joseph's perspective. This clarifies that God—not man—is ultimately in control, and that even those things men do for evil reasons can be used to achieve His godly ends (Romans 3:28).
What is the Gospel?
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