Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

Genesis 45

By Joseph Benson


Verse 1
Genesis 45:1. Then Joseph could not refrain himself — Several times before he had found great difficulty to refrain himself, but now, being overcome by Judah’s most affecting speech, he was constrained to yield to the emotions of his mind, even before all them that stood before him. He therefore cried, Cause every man to go out from me — That is, all the Egyptians, for he would not have them to be acquainted with the guilt of his brethren, whose reputation he wished to preserve: nor would he have any restraint on those affections and tears which he could no longer repress. How must it have amazed Judah and his brethren, who were waiting for an answer, to discover in him, instead of the gravity of a judge, the natural affection of a father or brother!

Verse 2
Genesis 45:2. He wept aloud — His tears and his voice, which had hitherto been repressed by main force, now burst forth with the greater violence, and he threw off that austerity with which he had hitherto carried himself, for he could bear it no longer. This represents the divine compassion toward returning penitents, illustrated by that of the father of the prodigal, Luke 15:20; Hosea 11:8-9.

Verse 3
Genesis 45:3. I am Joseph — Doubtless he had all along been addressed and spoken of by his Egyptian name, Zaphnath-paaneah, or by his titles of office: so that, although in the narrative he is named Joseph, it is probable his brethren had never heard him called by that name by any person in Egypt. Doth my father yet live? — A most natural inquiry this, after he had informed them who he was, and evidently suggested by his love to his father, respecting whose welfare he was anxious to have full information; and it comes in here with great beauty, and by a most easy transition. But who can describe what his brethren now felt? The historian does not attempt to describe it: he only informs us, They could not answer him: for they were troubled at his presence — From a sudden and deep sense of their guilt, and their just fear of some dreadful punishment. Therefore, to encourage them and alleviate their sorrow, he calls them kindly and familiarly to him: Come near to me, I pray you — Thus, when Christ manifests himself to his people, he encourages them to draw near to him with a true heart — Perhaps being about to speak of their selling of him, he would not speak aloud, lest the Egyptians should overhear, and it should make the Hebrews to be yet more an abomination to them; therefore he would have them come near, that he might whisper with them, which, now the tide of his passion was a little over, he was able to do, whereas, at first, he could not but cry out.

Verse 5
Genesis 45:5. Be not grieved nor angry with yourselves — Namely, immoderately, for the injury you did to me; or for the danger you have brought upon yourselves. Otherwise, he does not mean to dissuade them from a godly sorrow and displeasure at themselves for their offence against God, their father, and himself, to produce which sorrow and displeasure was the principal end he had in view in his strange and rough conduct toward them. Sinners must grieve and be angry with themselves for their sins; yea, though God, by his power, bring good out of them: for no thanks are due to them on that account. And true penitents should be greatly affected when they see God bring good out of evil. But, although we must not with this consideration extenuate our own sins, and so take off the edge of our repentance; yet it may be well thus to extenuate the sins of others, and so take off the edge of our angry resentments. Thus Joseph does here. God, says he, did send me before you to preserve life — Not only your lives, but the lives of all the people in this and the neighbouring countries. And now, his brethren did not need to fear lest he should revenge upon them an injury which God’s providence had made to turn so much to his advantage and that of his family, as well as thousands and myriads of others.

Verse 6-7
Genesis 45:6-7. Five years there shall be neither earing (an old English word for ploughing, which is the meaning of the Hebrew) nor harvest — That is, except in a few places near the river Nile; for, understanding from Joseph that the famine would be of long continuance, and that their labour and seed, which they could ill spare, would be lost, people would neither plough nor sow, and, of course, could not reap. To preserve you a posterity in the earth — That you and your children might be sustained in this time of famine, and afterward abundantly multiplied as God hath promised. To save your lives by a great deliverance — Or, according to the Hebrew, for a great escaping, or, a great remnant; — that is, that you, who are now but a handful, escaping this danger, might grow into a vast multitude; the word evasion, or escaping, being put for the persons that escape, as 2 Chronicles 30:6, and Isaiah 10:20. Joseph reckoned that his advancement was not so much designed to save a whole kingdom of Egyptians, as to preserve a small family of Israelites; for the Lord’s portion is his people: whatever goes with others, they shall be secured. How admirable are the projects of Providence! How remote their tendencies! What wheels are there within wheels; and yet all directed by the eyes in the wheels, and the spirit of the living creature!

Verse 8
Genesis 45:8. It was not you that sent me hither, but God — That I came to this place and pitch of honour and power is not to be imputed to your design, which was of another nature, but to God’s overruling providence, which ordered the circumstances of your action, so as that I should be brought to this place and state; compare Genesis 50:20. He hath made me a father to Pharaoh — His principal counsellor of state, to guide his affairs with a fatherly care, and to have the authority, respect, and power of a father with him; Genesis 41:40-44; 17:10.

Verse 9
Genesis 45:9. Haste you, and go to my father — He desires that his father might speedily be made glad with the tidings of his life and honour. He knew it would be a refreshing oil to his hoary head, and a sovereign cordial to his spirits. He desires them to give themselves, and take with them to their father, all possible satisfaction of these surprising tidings.

Verse 10
Genesis 45:10. Thou shalt dwell in the land of Goshen — A part of Egypt bordering upon Canaan, well watered and fit for cattle, and therefore most proper for the Israelites, not only for present use, and to keep them at some distance from the inward parts of Egypt and from the court; but also that they might have Canaan always in their eye and mind, and, in God’s time, might, with least disadvantage march thither.

Verse 12-13
Genesis 45:12-13. Your eyes see that it is my mouth — If they could recollect themselves, they might remember something of his features and speech, and be satisfied: or rather he means, You see, I speak to you not by an interpreter, as hitherto I have done, but immediately, and in the Hebrew language. Ye shall tell my father of all my glory — He enjoins this not out of pride and ostentation, but from love to his aged father, knowing what pleasure it would give him. And ye shall haste, and bring down my father hither — He is very earnest that his father and all his family (Genesis 45:18) should come to him without delay, promising to provide for them: I will nourish thee, Genesis 45:11. Thus our Lord Jesus being, like Joseph, exalted to the highest honours and powers of the upper world, it is his will that all that are his should be with him where he is. This is his commandment, that we be with him now in faith and hope, and a heavenly conversation; and this is his promise, that we shall be for ever with him.

Verse 24
Genesis 45:24. See that ye fall not out by the way — He knew that they were but too apt to be quarrelsome; and that what had lately passed, as it revived the remembrance of what they had done formerly against their brother, might give them occasion to quarrel. Now Joseph, having forgiven them all, lays this obligation upon them, not to upbraid one another. This charge our Lord Jesus has given to us, that we love one another, that we live in peace, that whatever occurs, or whatever former occurrences are remembered, we fall not out. For, 1st, We are brethren; we have all one Father. 2d, We are his brethren; and we shame our relation to him, who is our peace, if we fall out. 3d, We are all guilty, verily guilty, and, instead of quarrelling with one another, have a great deal of reason to fall out with ourselves. 4th, We are forgiven of God, whom we have all offended, and therefore should be ready to forgive one another. 5th, We are by the way, a way that lies through the land of Egypt, where we have many eyes upon us, that seek occasion and advantage against us; a way that leads to Canaan, where we hope to be for ever in perfect peace.

Verse 26
Genesis 45:26. They told him — Probably without any preamble; Joseph is yet alive — The very mention of Joseph’s name revived his sorrow, so that his heart fainted, and it was a good while before he came to himself. He was in such care and fear about the rest of them, that at this time it would have been joy enough to him to hear that Simeon was released, and Benjamin come safe home; for he had been ready to despair concerning them both; but to hear that Joseph was alive was too good news to be true; he faints, for he believes it not.

Verse 27
Genesis 45:27. When he saw the wagons, his spirit revived — Now Jacob is called Israel, for he begins to recover his wonted vigour. It pleases him to think that Joseph is alive. He says nothing of Joseph’s glory, which they had told him of; it was enough to him that Joseph was alive: it pleases him to think of going to see him. Though he was old, and the journey long, yet he would go to see Joseph, because Joseph’s business would not permit him to come to him. Observe he will go see him, not, I will go live with him; Jacob was old, and did not expect to live long: but I will go see him before I die, and then let me depart in peace; let my eyes be refreshed with this sight before they are closed, and then it is enough; I need no more to make me happy in this world.