Judah and his brethren were waiting for an answer, and could not but be amazed to discover, instead of the gravity of a judge, the natural affection of a father or brother.
I. Joseph ordered all his attendants to withdraw, Gen. 45:1. The private conversations of friends are the most free. When Joseph would put on love he puts off state, and it was not fit his servants should be witnesses of this. Thus Christ graciously manifests himself and his loving-kindness to his people, out of the sight and hearing of the world.
II. Tears were the preface or introduction to his discourse, Gen. 45:2. He had dammed up this stream a great while, and with much ado: but now it swelled so high that he could no longer contain, but he wept aloud, so that those whom he had forbidden to see him could not but hear him. These were tears of tenderness and strong affection, and with these he threw off that austerity with which he had hitherto carried himself towards his brethren; for he could bear it no longer. This represents the divine compassion towards returning penitents, as much as that of the father of the prodigal, Luke 15:20; Hos. 14:8, 9.
III. He very abruptly (as one uneasy till it was out) tells them who he was: I am Joseph. They knew him only by his Egyptian name, Zaphnath-paaneah, his Hebrew name being lost and forgotten in Egypt; but now he teaches them to call him by that: I am Joseph; nay, that they might not suspect it was another of the same name, he explains himself (Gen. 45:4): I am Joseph, your brother. This would both humble them yet more for their sin in selling him, and would encourage them to hope for kind treatment. Thus when Christ would convince Paul he said, I am Jesus; and when he would comfort his disciples he said, It is I, be not afraid. This word, at first, startled Joseph’s brethren; they started back through fear, or at least stood still astonished; but Joseph called kindly and familiarly to them: Come near, 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 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 that the tide of his passion was a little over, he was able to do, whereas at first he could not but cry out.
IV. He endeavours to assuage their grief for the injuries they had done him, by showing them that whatever they designed God meant it for good, and had brought much good out of it (Gen. 45:5): Be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves. Sinners must grieve, and be angry with themselves, for their sins; yea, though God by his power brings good out of them, for no thanks are due to the sinner for this: but true penitents should be greatly affected when they see God thus bringing good out of evil, meat out of the eater. Though 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; his brethren needed not to fear that he would avenge upon them an injury which God’s providence had made to turn so much to his advantage and that of his family. Now he tells them how long the famine was likely to last—five years; yet (Gen. 45:6) what a capacity he was in of being kind to his relations and friends, which is the greatest satisfaction that wealth and power can give to a good man, Gen. 45:8. See what a favourable colour he puts upon the injury they had done him: God sent me before you, Gen. 45:5, 7. Note, 1. God’s Israel is the particular care of God’s providence. 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 becomes of others, they shall be secured. 2. Providence looks a great way forward, and has a long reach. Even long before the years of plenty, Providence was preparing for the supply of Jacob’s house in the years of famine. The psalmist praises God for this (Ps. 105:17): He sent a man before them, even Joseph. God sees his work from the beginning to the end, but we do not, Eccl. 3:11. How admirable are the projects of providence! How remote its tendencies! What wheels are there within wheels, and yet all directed by the eyes in the wheels, and the spirit of the living creature! Let us therefore judge nothing before the time. 3. God often works by contraries. The envy and contention of brethren threaten the ruin of families, yet, in this instance, they prove the occasion of preserving Jacob’s family. Joseph could never have been the shepherd and stone of Israel if his brethren had not shot at him, and hated him; even those that had wickedly sold Joseph into Egypt yet themselves reaped the benefit of the good God brought out of it; as those that put Christ to death were many of them saved by his death. 4. God must have all the glory of the seasonable preservations of his people, by what way soever they are effected. It was not you that sent me hither, but God, Gen. 45:8. As, on the one hand, they must not fret at it, because it ended so well, so on the other hand they must not be proud of it, because it was God’s doing, and not theirs. They designed, by selling him into Egypt, to defeat his dreams, but God thereby designed to accomplish them. Isa. 10:7; Howbeit he meaneth not so.
V. He promises to take care of his father and all the family during the rest of the years of famine. 1. He desires that his father may speedily be made glad with the tidings of his life and dignity. His brethren must hasten to Canaan, and must inform Jacob that his son Joseph was lord of all Egypt; (Gen. 45:9): they must tell him of all his glory there, Gen. 45:13. He knew it would be a refreshing oil to his hoary head and a sovereign cordial to his spirits. If any thing would make him young again, this would. He desires them to give themselves, and take with them to their father, all possible satisfaction of the truth of these surprising tidings: Your eyes see that it is my mouth, Gen. 45:12. If they would recollect themselves, they might remember something of his features, speech, etc., and be satisfied. 2. He is very earnest that his father and all his family should come to him to Egypt: Come down unto me, tarry not, Gen. 45:9. He allots his dwelling in Goshen, that part of Egypt which lay towards Canaan, that they might be mindful of the country from which they were to come out, Gen. 45:10. He promises to provide for him: I will nourish thee, Gen. 45:11. Note, It is the duty of children, if the necessity of their parents do at any time require it, to support and supply them to the utmost of their ability; and Corban will never excuse them, Mark 7:11. This is showing piety at home, 1 Tim. 5:4. 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, John 17:24. 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.
VI. Endearments were interchanged between him and his brethren. He began with the youngest, his own brother Benjamin, who was but about a year old when Joseph was separated from his brethren; they wept on each other’s neck (Gen. 45:14), perhaps to think of their mother Rachel, who died in travail of Benjamin. Rachel, in her husband Jacob, had been lately weeping for her children, because, in his apprehension, they were not—Joseph gone, and Benjamin going; and now they were weeping for her, because she was not. After he had embraced Benjamin, he, in like manner, caressed them all (Gen. 45:15); and then his brethren talked with him freely and familiarly of all the affairs of their father’s house. After the tokens of true reconciliation follow the instances of a sweet communion.