The Nile had failed to give the fields their water. Wheat stalks bent their heads in shame, and much of the cattle have a thin skeletal frame about them. The lotus flowers and the plumy papyrus were almost obsolete, and the hot southeast wind had blown such a dust-filled wind the corn shriveled upon the stalks.
Joseph knows the Egyptian sun god Ra has no power over the dry, cracked earth, nor does he look to Neir, the god of wisdom from which his wife, Asenath, is named–a wife given to him after years of loneliness and grief. Asenath is lovely to behold and interested in the God of His Father, Jacob, but at times still clings to the many gods of Egypt.
Joseph slips on his leather sandals and paces past terracotta pots and serving tables surrounded by guards. Back and forth, he paces, replaying the words he’s rehearsing in his head. It’s a dialogue of what he will say and do next concerning his brothers.
The long corridor where he paces holds a host of guardsmen, an interpreter, servants, and those in command under him. Joseph is walking brisker now, past oil lamps on pedestals, and praying under his breath. Exhausted from turmoil, he sighs, unsure of what to do, he slows his gait and returns to his seat, an ornate golden seat of authority.
“Bring him!” He says to the assistant.
Suddenly, Judah is ushered in. His lips quiver as he looks up at Joseph. He seems smaller in stature.
“Sir, if I may speak concerning a personal matter, my lord. Please do not be angry with your servant, for you are equal to Pharaoh himself.
Let’s pause right here in the story for a bit.
Joseph is looking in the eyes of his brother, the one that was there when he was thrown in a pit and sold as a slave. He is not aware of the extent of deception and injustice that has occurred concerning his person. He is unaware that the man (Judah) standing before him has buried a wife and two sons and has experienced much grief. Years have passed, and time had mainly stood still in prison.
Joseph probably had reminisced about how it could have been, how he would have perhaps married a woman like his mother. He would have had children years ago. He had missed out on laughter and joy with his father and brother Benjamin. Joseph probably recounted his dreams at 17 when he was young and green and shared them with his family.
More than likely, Joseph remembers how alive and intense the dreams that are now playing out in front of him were. Each dream was filled with vivid colors and scenes no Broadway reproduction could imitate. At 17, He needed to share them with someone. Joseph had chosen his family. He did not realize at 17 that a prophet is without honor among his hometown and family.
At this moment in our story, Yoseph is looking into his brother Judah’s eyes, and his brother does not recognize him.
One night I received a call from someone attending a costume party. Someone very close to me. They had disguised their face using costume paint and mask at the party, and they were pretty unrecognizable. The person had called to tell me their sibling that had left home a couple of years before, disappearing over heartache and trauma to who knows where, had just walked into the room, sat across from them, and had a conversation without realizing it was their brother they were speaking with.
I said, “It’s like Joseph and his brothers!” I asked my caller if they had revealed their identity. In which they replied, “No, it was strange– too awkward, too uncertain. I wanted to but wondered how it would be?”
Two brothers stand facing one another and one has no idea who the other is.
Joseph tells Judah to continue after a pause:
“My Lord, We have an elderly father. Our younger brother is the child of his old age. As I told you, the boy’s brother is dead. This son is the only child left of his mother. My father loves him.”
Judah grimaces, thinking about the last time he saw Joseph. The Ishmaelites had chained him up on the back of their caravan, riding off until his brother Joseph was entirely out of view. Flashes of the blood-stained coat and years of his father’s grief. What had become of Joseph? Judah did not know, but he felt sure that all the troubles he had seen, and all he was dealing with was the Holy One repaying him for the wrong he had done, and it frightened him. Hadn’t he paid enough? Years of torment had haunted him, and he had lost so much already, including two sons. And how could he face his father if he did not save Benjamin?
Judah clears his throat and continues.
“My Lord, we told you the young man could not leave his father. If he were to go, his father would die. But you warned us that you would no longer give us bread unless we brought our brother. My father asked us to come back and get bread because the famine had become so fierce. We told our father we could not come to Egypt unless our younger brother went with us. Our father responded, “You know that my wife Rachel bore me two sons. Surely his brother has been torn to pieces by a wild beast, and I have not seen him since. And if I lose his brother or harm comes to him, you will bring my gray hair down to Sheol in torment!”
“OH, My Lord, I plead for MERCY!!”
Joseph lowers his head. He remembers a moment lost in time where he, too, pled for mercy, but no one heard his cries. Joseph searches Judah’s eyes for sincerity and feels a touch of fear mixed with humility coming from them.
Judah speaks faster now and with more anguish.
“My Lord, if the boy is not with us, my father will die.
I told my father that ‘If I do not personally return him to you, I will bear the guilt before you, my father, all my life.'”
Joseph sees the fear in his brother Judah’s face, and his heart pains as his emotions are stirring in his chest. As his brother Judah continues speaking, Yoseph forgets to breathe. He is standing before Judah, unaware of anyone around him or the gilded chair of authority he has just risen from. From the large signet ring on his finger to his royal robes and black-lined eyes, he is unaware of his surroundings.
Joseph has seen the dungeon of the prison and the bottom of the pit, but today he is seeing something more frightening. What will he do with this POWER he has been given? How long can he keep up this charade? The memories that he had thought to have healed from now seemed forefront and center. He ached. His heart ached. He is torn between his own longing for personal justice and mercy.
Suddenly, Judah looks up at him and, in a quivering voice grasping for control, pleads for loving-kindness.
“Now, please let me, your servant, stay here as my lord’s slave in place of my brother!!”
“LET ME STAY AS A SLAVE, I BEG OF YOU, MY LORD!!”
With Judah’s pleas ringing in his ears, Joseph realizes he has years of bitterness and heartache mixed with an undying love for his family regardless of what they have done to him. Joseph is silently crying out in his spirit to the Holy One.
“Beloved Father, remember what they have done to me. You know the years I have missed! Oh, Father, You have seen and heard, and You alone know how they have cruelly taken my life. Now, my brother Judah is willing to surrender his life to rescue Benjamin. Perhaps he has remorse? Oh, Father, speak to your servant, for I am vexed in spirit and do not know what to do.
Unlike the hot east wind, suddenly a gentle whisper blows across Joseph’s soul, and he hears a word from the Father spoken in his prophetic ear,
“Joseph, the unrighteous acts of selling you to the Ishmaelites were meant to harm you, but I spared your life so you, Joseph, could spare lives. Joseph, you have stored up much grain and saved the nations from death. What was meant for the destruction of your person has given you the position of honor and the wisdom and knowledge to preserve the lives of many. Now, forgive your brothers who have harmed you and bring your father to this land, for you shall be with him when he takes his last breath, and he will bless your seed.”
Suddenly, the years of emotions pent up inside Joseph’s soul were stirred with love and compassion, revelation, and a burning desire to see his father’s face and kiss him. After years of trying to forget the pain, and his own trickery to invoke fear and anguish into the ones who had hurt him the worst, he is ready to expose his identity to Judah and his siblings.
With Judah standing before him waiting for an answer, Joseph can no longer control himself. He spoke to the servants and the guards in a loud voice,
“Make everyone go out from me!”
A Part 2 HERE.