Community Group Study “Genesis: Something Greater than Forgiveness”
Read Genesis 43-45:15
One of the questions we need to interact with throughout this section of the Joseph story is: “why does Joseph repeatedly test his brothers?”
We wonder things like:
- Does Joseph make forgiveness conditional?
- Is he trying to get back at them by putting them through this crisis?
- Is there a method to what he tests and why?
The text ends with the family of God being restored from years of brokenness, jealousy and selfishness (Genesis 45:9-11). What Joseph is moving towards is not just forgiveness, but something greater than forgiveness: reconciliation. Reconciliation is restored relationship and that takes more than one person to accomplish. Not only must Joseph forgive, but the brothers need to repent, make restitution and desire for a restored relationship as well. These chapters reveal to us that these are not the same brothers who sold Joseph into slavery. God has been at work through the hard events of Joseph’s life (Genesis 45:5-8). Likewise, God has been at work over the last 20 years in the lives of the brothers, especially Judah (Genesis 38, 44:18-34). The testing of Joseph reveals this and restores this family so that they can be together, and be a blessing to the nations like God covenanted to Abraham in Genesis 12.
Test #1 Loyalty (Genesis 43:1-15).
The brothers were forced to leave Simeon behind in Genesis 42. Their desire is to go back and get him, but to do so they’d need to bring Benjamin with them to prove to Joseph (the Egyptian Ruler) that their story was true. Joseph desires to see if they’d leave the one behind or not, this ultimately is a test of loyalty. In Genesis 37, the brothers were fractured with one trying to save Joseph and the others conspiring to kill him or sell him into slavery. They were known for their lack of love and loyalty for one another.
Read Genesis 43:6-14. How does Jacob handle their need to bring Benjamin with them when they go to Egypt for bread? Who emerges as the leader of the brothers and what does he pledge? How does Jacob’s response in verse 11 and verse 14 communicate his true feelings of the situation?
Test #2 Jealousy (Genesis 43:16-34)
Upon arriving in Egypt, the brothers are greeted warmly. Their animals were cared for and their needs were met including an opportunity to get cleaned up and an elaborate meal. This freaked them out at first since they were liable to be enslaved or killed because of having previously walked away with the money they were supposed to use as payment for grain in Genesis 42. They did not know that Joseph was the one who had their money returned; instead they presumed they’d be treated like thieves. Joseph’s steward reassures them that it was by the grace of God their money was restored and that they owed no payment (Genesis 43:23).However, during this elaborate meal Jospeh tests the brothers for jealousy in showing favor to Benjamin, piling his plate high with five times the amount of food that the other brothers received. At first glance this may not seem like a big deal, but favoritism and jealousy previously ripped this family apart (Genesis 37:11).
Read Genesis 43:24-34. What would life during a famine be like and how does that set the brothers up to react to one of them receiving greater amounts of food than them? Why would the brothers be inclined to react with jealousy to Benjamin (think back to Jacob’s actions towards Benjamin)? Finally, look at verse 32, this verse shows us that the Egyptians were not inclined to try to intermingle with other nations. How is this different than the Canaanites? What reasons does this show us for God desiring to grow his people in Egypt instead of Canaan?
Test #3 Sacrifice (Genesis 44:1-34)
The final test was around selfishness vs. sacrifice. Jospeh devised a test that would put Benjamin in harms way and show if the other brothers would try to rescue him or just let him go. Judah takes the lead here and offers to trade places with Benjamin for the sake of his father’s life. This is a very different Judah than we saw in Genesis 37-38 and the first time someone offers to trade their life for another in the Bible.
Read Genesis 44:30-34. Why would it be important for Joseph to see his brothers choose sacrifice over selfishness? How does Judah’s offer point us towards the gospel?
Reconciliation (Genesis 45:1-15)
Upon seeing Judah willing to trade places with Benjamin, Joseph breaks down and can no longer hide who he is. In dramatic fashion he reveals that he is their brother whom they had sold into slavery. Their immediate reaction is to be afraid because most people in Joseph’s position would get revenge instead of reconciliation. However, Joseph’s view of these events have been thoroughly saturated with God’s providence. Three times in Genesis 45:5-7 he mentions that even though they sold him into slavery “God sent” him there. This trust in God enables Joseph to forgive and reconcile even with the great evil that was done to him.
Main idea: Joseph uses three different tests to bring his brothers through a crisis of change. In the process we see that his brothers have moved from disloyalty, jealousy and selfishness and are ready to be restored in relationship to Joseph. God takes them through this crisis to restore this broken family. We see two great pictures of Jesus in these chapters. First in Judah who is willing to trade his life for Benjamin’s showing us the sacrificial nature of leadership and love. Second, in Joseph who moves to reconcile with his repentant brothers. God’s forgiveness for his children always leads to reconciliation with him and followers of Christ are called to forgive and seek reconciliation with others as a result.
At your community group:
Take 15-20 minutes to share about how God has been at work in your life, prayer concerns and pray for one another.
How did God speak to you through the scripture and the sermon this week?
Compare the events in Genesis 43-45 and the three tests he puts his brothers through to when Joseph was sold into slavery in Genesis 37. What comparisons and parallels do you see?
Read Genesis 45:1-15
How are forgiveness and reconciliation different? How does this help us make sense of why Joseph would test the brothers and put them through such a crisis?
Forgiveness is one-sided, meaning you don’t need someone else to ask for an apology or accept your forgiveness to do it. However, reconciliation requires two or more people. In reconciliation you experience repentance, making amends and have an opportunity to evaluate if someone has changed and relationship can safely be restored. What are some barriers to experiencing reconciliation with other people?
How does Joseph’s knowledge of God’s providence help him to forgive and reconcile with his brothers? Why is God so intent on restoring this family and bringing them down to Egypt?
The image of reconciliation is used to describe how God’s forgiveness of our sin leads to a restored relationship with him. Unlike human to human forgiveness, when God forgives it always leads to a restored relationship with God. Read 2 Corinthians 5:17-6:2. How are we reconciled to God (verse 21) and what is the calling on Christians as a result of this new relationship with God (verse 18)?