Genesis 45 COMMENTARY (Ellicott)

Genesis 45
Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
Then Joseph could not refrain himself before all them that stood by him; and he cried, Cause every man to go out from me. And there stood no man with him, while Joseph made himself known unto his brethren.


(1) Joseph could not refrain himself.—The picture which Judah had drawn of his father’s love for Benjamin, the thought that by separating them he might have made his father die of grief, and the sight of his brethren, and especially of Judah offering to endure a life of slavery in order that Benjamin might go free, overpowered Joseph’s feelings, and he commanded all his attendants to quit the apartment in order that there might be no restraint upon himself or his brethren when he made known to them that he was the brother whom they had so cruelly years ago condemned to be a slave.

And he wept aloud: and the Egyptians and the house of Pharaoh heard.
(2) And the Egyptians and the house of Pharaoh heard.—Not the sound of Joseph’s weeping, but the news that his brethren had come, as in Genesis 45:16.

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.
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.
(4) I am Joseph your brother.—There is much force in the assurance that he was still their brother. For they stood speechless in terrified surprise at finding that the hated dreamer, upon the anguish of whose soul they had looked unmoved, was now the ruler of a mighty empire. But with magnanimous gentleness he bids them neither to grieve nor be angry with themselves; for behind their acts there had been a watchful Providence guiding all things for good.

Now therefore be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves, that ye sold me hither: for God did send me before you to preserve life.
For these two years hath the famine been in the land: and yet there are five years, in the which there shall neither be earing nor harvest.
(6) Earing.—An old English word for ploughing, derived from the Latin arare, Anglo-Saxon erian, to plough.

And God sent me before you to preserve you a posterity in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance.
(7) To preserve you a posterity in the earth.—Heb., To put for you a remnant in the land, that is, to preserve a remainder for you, as the word is translated in 2 Samuel 14:7. During the seven years’ famine many races probably dwindled away, and the Hebrews, as mere sojourners in Canaan, would have been in danger of total extinction.

By a great deliverance.—That is, by a signal interference on your behalf. But the word rendered “deliverance,” more exactly signifies that which escapes (see 2 Kings 19:31, where, as here, it is joined with the word remnant, and 2 Kings 19:30, where it is itself rendered remnant). The two nouns really signify the same thing; but whereas in the first clause the words seem to forebode that only few would escape, in the second there is the assurance of their surviving in such numbers as to be able to grow into a great nation.

So now it was not you that sent me hither, but God: and he hath made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house, and a ruler throughout all the land of Egypt.
(8) But God.—Heb., but the God. The article is. rarely found with Elohim in the history of Joseph, but wherever it is added it is a sign of deep feeling on the speaker’s part. (Comp. Genesis 48:15.) It was the Elohim, who had been the object of the worship of their race, that had now interposed to save them.

A father.—This was a not uncommon title of the chief minister or vizier of Oriental kings.

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 thou shalt dwell in the land of Goshen, and thou shalt be near unto me, thou, and thy children, and thy children's children, and thy flocks, and thy herds, and all that thou hast:
(10) The land of Goshen.—This land, also called “the laud of Rameses” (Genesis 47:11), probably from the city “Raamses,” which the Israelites were compelled to build there (Exodus 1:11), was situated on the eastern bank of the Nile, and apparently commencing a little to the north of Memphis extended to the Mediterranean, and to the borders of the Philistines’ land (Exodus 13:17). In Psalm 78:12; Psalm 78:43, it is called the “field of Zoan,” or Tanis. It probably was an unsettled district, but rich in pastures, and belonged in a very loose way to Egypt. In the LXX. it is called “Gesem of Arabia,” to which country both Herodotus and Strabo reckoned all the district on the east of the Nile towards the Isthmus of Suez as belonging. And here the Israelites were constantly joined by large numbers of Semitic immigrants, who were enrolled in their “tafs,” and swelled the rapidly increasing number of their dependants. For, as we have seen before, not merely the lineal descendants of Abraham were circumcised, but all his household and his slaves; and being thus admitted into the covenant became members of the Jewish church and nation (Genesis 17:23).

And there will I nourish thee; for yet there are five years of famine; lest thou, and thy household, and all that thou hast, come to poverty.
(11) Thy household.—As the famine had lasted only two years, and as Jacob had preserved his flocks and herds, so probably he had lost few or none of the large number of men-servants and women-servants who belonged to him. He would thus go down to Egypt as head of a large tribe, who would be called Israelites after him, just as the Ishmaelites, to whom Joseph was sold (Genesis 37:25), bore Ishmael’s name, not because they were lineally descended from him, but because he had made them subject to his authority and that of his race. In Genesis 45:18 Joseph speaks of “their households,” showing that each of the patriarchs had now his own body of dependants, besides the still larger clan which belonged to Jacob.

And, behold, your eyes see, and the eyes of my brother Benjamin, that it is my mouth that speaketh unto you.
And ye shall tell my father of all my glory in Egypt, and of all that ye have seen; and ye shall haste and bring down my father hither.
And he fell upon his brother Benjamin's neck, and wept; and Benjamin wept upon his neck.
Moreover he kissed all his brethren, and wept upon them: and after that his brethren talked with him.
And the fame thereof was heard in Pharaoh's house, saying, Joseph's brethren are come: and it pleased Pharaoh well, and his servants.
(16) It pleased Pharaoh . . . —It was of great importance, as regards the future position of the Israelites in Egypt, that they should go thither, not as men who had forced themselves on the country. but as invited guests. Hence the information that the arrival of Joseph’s brethren was a thing pleasing to Pharaoh, and hence also the fulness with which his commands are recorded.

And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, Say unto thy brethren, This do ye; lade your beasts, and go, get you unto the land of Canaan;
And take your father and your households, and come unto me: and I will give you the good of the land of Egypt, and ye shall eat the fat of the land.
Now thou art commanded, this do ye; take you wagons out of the land of Egypt for your little ones, and for your wives, and bring your father, and come.
(19) Wagons.—Egypt being a flat country and carefully cultivated was adapted for the use of vehicles, and consequently they were brought into use there at an early period. Those depicted on the monuments had two wheels, and were drawn by oxen. The chariots of Pharaoh and Joseph were probably drawn by horses, which had about this time been introduced into Egypt.

Your little ones.—Heb., your “taf.” (See Note on Genesis 34:29.) The “taf” included the whole mass of dependants; and while “the household” (Genesis 45:18) would have reference chiefly to the men, the “taf,” in opposition to it, would consist of the female slaves and the children.

Also regard not your stuff; for the good of all the land of Egypt is yours.
(20) Regard not your stuff.—Heb., and let not your eye have pity (Jonah 4:10) upon your vessels, that is, upon your implements and household furniture.

And the children of Israel did so: and Joseph gave them wagons, according to the commandment of Pharaoh, and gave them provision for the way.
To all of them he gave each man changes of raiment; but to Benjamin he gave three hundred pieces of silver, and five changes of raiment.
(22) Changes of raiment.—Gifts of clothing were marks of special favour in the East (Genesis 41:42). Joseph’s brethren would thus show by their very apparel how honourable had been their treatment.

And to his father he sent after this manner; ten asses laden with the good things of Egypt, and ten she asses laden with corn and bread and meat for his father by the way.
(23) Meat.—Heb., food, victual, the usual meaning of meat in our version.

So he sent his brethren away, and they departed: and he said unto them, See that ye fall not out by the way.
(24) See that ye fall not out by the way.—Heb., do not get angry on the journey. Joseph feared that they might reproach one another for their treatment of him, and try to throw the blame on the one or two chiefly guilty, and that so quarrels might ensue. This is the meaning given to the passage in all the versions, and agrees with Joseph’s efforts to quiet their fears, and convince them of his good intentions. Several modern commentators, however, translate “Be not afraid of the journey,” but on insufficient grounds.

And they went up out of Egypt, and came into the land of Canaan unto Jacob their father,
And told him, saying, Joseph is yet alive, and he is governor over all the land of Egypt. And Jacob's heart fainted, for he believed them not.
(26) Jacob’s heart fainted.—Heb., grew cold. This was not the effect of incredulity or suspicion, but of surprise. Jacob, crushed by the loss of the child who had taken the place of his beloved Rachel in his heart, had nothing left to interest him except Benjamin. When, therefore, the news come that Joseph still lives, his mind cannot open itself to receive the joyful tidings, and their first effect is to chill him with a renewed sense of his loss. It is only when he sees the wagons, and other clear proofs of the fact, that life returns to his benumbed faculties, and he becomes capable of joy.

And they told him all the words of Joseph, which he had said unto them: and when he saw the wagons which Joseph had sent to carry him, the spirit of Jacob their father revived:
And Israel said, It is enough; Joseph my son is yet alive: I will go and see him before I die.
(28) And Israel said.—We must not lay too much stress upon this change of name, as though it were a title appropriate to the patriarch only in his happier and triumphant hours; for in Genesis 45:6 it-is given him in the midst of his distress. It rather shows that the names were long both in use as regards the patriarch personally, but as the title of Israel was alone given to Jacob’s family, it is plain that a high significance was attached to it, and that the inheritance of the Abrahamic promises was at an early date connected therewith.

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