What does Genesis 45 mean?
Genesis 45 is a chapter filled with revelations. It begins with Joseph revealing his identity to his terrified brothers. It ends with those brothers revealing that their father's beloved son Joseph is not dead; he is living as a ruler in Egypt. While the events of Genesis are factual, this passage also serves as an example of excellent storytelling. Genesis 45 provides the emotional "payoff" that has been building over the last several chapters. Joseph, unrecognized by his ten older brothers when they arrive in Egypt to buy grain (Genesis 42:7–8), has chosen not to reveal himself to them. Instead, Joseph has tested them by both providing generously and treating them harshly as well (Genesis 43—44).
Joseph's ultimate goals have not yet been stated. In this passage, and later, we'll learn that his intent was to provide for his extended family (Genesis 47:11–13). All we have seen in the text so far is Joseph's struggle to keep his emotions in check (Genesis 42:24). That was especially true when seeing his younger brother Benjamin (Genesis 43:29–30). When Judah makes an impassioned plea, begging to sacrifice himself to save Benjamin, Joseph's emotions spill over (Genesis 44:33–34).
At this point, Joseph is a powerful Egyptian official, so he struggles to maintain a level of public dignity. He sends all his servants out of the room. Left alone with his brothers, he begins to sob loudly and uncontrollably. This weeping is loud enough that the men he sent out of the room hear it, anyway. Finally, he blurts out his identity. The brothers are dumbstruck. To convince them, Joseph tells them he is the one they sold into slavery all those years ago (Genesis 45:1–3).
Already guilt-ridden over their crime (Genesis 42:21–23), Joseph's brothers would have been astounded and terrified. In this situation, they naturally would have expected to suffer Joseph's vengeance. Instead, Joseph rushes to assure them that God was ultimately in control of sending him to Egypt as a teenager. What they did with evil motives, God allowed for the good of their family and the world. Joseph had clearly spent many years processing his many struggles. He had reached the remarkable conclusion that God's intent was to make him a ruler in Egypt to save them all from famine (Genesis 45:4–8).
Joseph is urgent to see their father, Jacob. He immediately begins to urge his brothers to return to Canaan, pack up their father and all they own, and move to resettle in Egypt. When Pharaoh learns about the situation, he seems joyful. He also commands Joseph to provide for his family. He seeks to reassure them they will be given the best of the land of Egypt. In addition, he commands wagons to be sent back to Canaan to carry back the family and all they own (Genesis 45:9–20).
Jacob's sons are then loaded up with gifts, money, and donkeys. These are all meant to serve as evidence that the story the brothers will tell is true: Joseph is alive. Jacob will be asked to move the family into Egypt to survive the famine (Genesis 45:21–24).
As one might expect, Jacob nearly doesn't survive this good news. The son he thought was twenty years dead is not only alive, but he's also an immensely powerful man. Through some medical episode, or simple shock, Jacob's initial reaction is a kind of stunned silence. Finally, though, Jacob is convinced. God has blessed him with the return of his long-lost son and agrees to the plan to move to Egypt. He is determined to see Joseph before he dies (Genesis 45:25–28).
Genesis 45:1–15 records Joseph's emotional revelation of his identity. Still unrecognized by his estranged brothers, Joseph had tested them, leading to Judah's passionate, sacrificial offer (Genesis 44:18–34). Overcome with emotion, Joseph identifies himself to his dumbfounded brothers. He states with confidence that all this has happened as part of God's plan to preserve the people of Israel.
Genesis 45:16–28 describes Pharaoh's enthusiastic response to learning about Joseph's reunion with his estranged family. With Pharaoh's blessing, Joseph urges his brothers to return to Canaan, pack all they own, and come back to resettle the family in Egypt. Their father Jacob agrees after eventually being convinced the story is true.
Genesis 45 is a series of revelations. Following an emotional breakdown, Joseph finally reveals his identity to his baffled brothers. After they realize the governor of Egypt is the one they sold into slavery two decades earlier, he rushes to tell them he does not hold them responsible. In His own way, God had arranged for Joseph's enslavement, for the purpose of saving many people from famine. With Pharaoh's enthusiastic support, Joseph arranged for his brothers to return to Canaan, pack up Jacob and all they own, and come back to resettle in Egypt. Jacob, finally convinced all this is true, agrees to the move.
Genesis 44 concluded with an impassioned speech from Judah, offering to sacrifice himself for his younger brother. Overwhelmed with emotion, Joseph breaks down and finally reveals his identity to his brothers. He urges them to move Jacob's entire family to Egypt to survive the famine. Jacob agrees, leading to the migration and resettlement depicted in Genesis 46. The remainder of Genesis describes the happy results of this relocation.
The book of Genesis establishes fundamental truths about God. Among these are His role as the Creator, His holiness, His hatred of sin, His love for mankind, and His willingness to provide for our redemption. We learn not only where mankind has come from, but why the world is in its present form. The book also presents the establishment of Israel, God's chosen people. Many of the principles given in other parts of Scripture depend on the basic ideas presented here in the book of Genesis. Within the framework of the Bible, Genesis explains the bare-bones history of the universe leading up to the captivity of Israel in Egypt, setting the stage for the book of Exodus.
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