Genesis 45


Joseph, deeply affected with the speech of Judah, could no

longer conceal himself, but discovers himself to his brethren, 1-4.

Excuses their conduct towards him, and attributes the whole to

the providence of God, 5-8.

Orders them to hasten to Canaan, and bring up their father and

their own families, cattle, &c., because there were five years

of the famine yet to come, 9-13.

He embraces and converses with all his brethren, 14,15.

Pharaoh, hearing that Joseph's brethren were come to Egypt,

and that Joseph had desired them to return to Canaan and bring

back their families, not only confirms the order, but promises

them the best part of the land of Egypt to dwell in; and

provides them carriages to transport themselves and their

households, 16-20.

Joseph provides them with wagons according to the commandment

of Pharaoh; and having given them various presents, sends them

away with suitable advice, 21-24.

They depart, arrive in Canaan, and announce the glad tidings to

their father, who for a time believes not, but being assured of

the truth of their relation, is greatly comforted, and resolves

to visit Egypt, 25-28.


Verse 1. Joseph could not refrain himself] The word

hithappek is very emphatic; it signifies to force one's self, to

do something against nature, to do violence to one's self. Joseph

could no longer constrain himself to act a feigned part-all the

brother and the son rose up in him at once, and overpowered all

his resolutions; he felt for his father, he realized his

disappointment and agony; and he felt for his brethren, "now at

his feet submissive in distress;" and, that he' might give free

and full scope to his feelings, and the most ample play of the

workings of his affectionate heart, he ordered all his attendants

to go out, while he made himself known to his brethren. "The

beauties of this chapter," says Dr. Dodd, "are so striking, that

it would be an indignity to the reader's judgment to point them

out; all who can read and feel must be sensible of them, as there

is perhaps nothing in sacred or profane history more highly

wrought up, more interesting or affecting."

Verse 2. The Egyptians and the house of Pharaoh heard.] It

seems strange that Joseph should have wept so loud that his cries

should be heard at some considerable distance, as we may suppose

his dwelling was not very nigh to the palace! "But this," says

Sir John Chardin, "is exactly the genius of the people of

Asia-their sentiments of joy or grief are properly transports, and

their transports are ungoverned, excessive, and truly outrageous.

When any one returns from a long journey, or dies, his family

burst into cries that may be heard twenty doors off; and this is

renewed at different times, and continues many days, according to

the vigour of the passion. Sometimes they cease all at once, and

then begin as suddenly with a greater shrillness and loudness than

one could easily imagine." This circumstance Sir John brings to

illustrate the verse in question. See Harmer, vol. iii. p. 17.

But the house of Pharaoh may certainly signify Pharaoh's servants,

or any of the members of his household, such as those whom Joseph

had desired to withdraw, and who might still be within hearing of

his voice. After all, the words may only mean that the report was

brought to Pharaoh's house. See Ge 45:16.

Verse 3. I am Joseph] Mr. Pope supposed that the discovery of

Ulysses to his son Telemachus bears some resemblance to Joseph's

discovery of himself to his brethren. The passage may be seen in

Homer, Odyss. l. xvi., ver. 186-218.

A few lines from Cowper's translation will show much of the

spirit of the original, and also a considerable analogy between

the two scenes:-

"I am thy father, for whose sake thou lead'st

A life of wo by violence oppress'd.

So saying, he kiss'd his son; while from his cheeks

Tears trickled, tears till then perforce restrain'd.

����������Then threw Telemachus

His arms around his father's neck, and wept.

Pangs of soft sorrow, not to be suppress'd,

Seized both.��������

So they, their cheeks with big round drops of wo

Bedewing, stood."

Verse 5. Be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves] This

discovers a truly noble mind: he not only forgives and forgets,

but he wishes even those who had wronged him to forget the injury

they had done, that they might not suffer distress on the account;

and with deep piety he attributes the whole to the providence of

God; for, says he, God did send me before you to preserve life.

On every word here a strong emphasis may be laid. It is not you,

but God; it is not you that sold me, but God who sent me; Egypt

and Canaan must both have perished, had not a merciful provision

been made; you were to come down hither, and God sent me before

you; death must have been the consequence of this famine, had not

God sent me here to preserve life.

Verse 6. There shall neither be earing nor harvest.] EARING has

been supposed to mean collecting the ears of corn, which would

confound it with harvest: the word, however, means ploughing or

seed-time, from the Anglo-Saxon [A.S.] erian, probably borrowed

from the Latin aro, to plough, and plainly means that there should

be no seed-time, and consequently no harvest; and why? Because

there should be a total want of rain in other countries, and the

Nile should not rise above twelve cubits in Egypt;

See Clarke on Ge 41:31. But the expressions here must be

qualified a little, as we find from Ge 47:19, that the Egyptians

came to Joseph to buy seed; and it is probable that even during

this famine they sowed some of the ground, particularly on the

borders of the river, from which a crop, though not an abundant

one, might be produced. The passage, however, in the above

chapter may refer to the last year of the famine, when they came

to procure seed for the ensuing year.

Verse 8. He hath made me a father to Pharaoh] It has already

been conjectured that father was a name of office in Egypt, and

that father of Pharaoh might among them signify the same as prime

minister or the king's minister does among us. Calmet has

remarked that among the Phoenicians, Persians, Arabians, and

Romans, the title of father was given to certain officers of

state. The Roman emperors gave the name of father to the prefects

of the Praetorium, as appears by the letters of Constantine to

Ablavius. The caliphs gave the same name to their prime ministers.

In Jud 17:10, Micah says to the young Levite,

Dwell with me, and be unto me a FATHER and a priest. And

Diodorus Siculus remarks that the teachers and counsellors of the

kings of Egypt were chosen out of the priesthood.

Verse 10. Thou shalt dwell in the land of Goshen] Probably this

district had been allotted to Joseph by the king of Egypt, else we

can scarcely think he could have promised it so positively,

without first obtaining Pharaoh's consent. Goshen was the most

easterly province of Lower Egypt, not far from the Arabian Gulf,

lying next to Canaan, (for Jacob went directly thither when he

came into Egypt,) from whence it is supposed to have been about

fourscore miles distant, though Hebron was distant from the

Egyptian capital about three hundred miles. At Goshen Jacob

stayed till Joseph visited him, Ge 46:28. It is also called the

land of Rameses, Ge 47:11, from a city of that name, which was

the metropolis of the country. Josephus, Antiq., 1. ii., c. 4,

makes Heliopolis, the city of Joseph's father-in-law, the place of

the Israelites' residence. As geshem signifies rain in

Hebrew, St. Jerome and some others have supposed that Goshen

comes from the same root, and that the land in question was called

thus because it had rain, which was not the case with Egypt in

general; and as it was on the confines of the Arabian Gulf, it is

very probable that it was watered from heaven, and it might be

owing to this circumstance that it was peculiarly fertile, for it

is stated to be the best of the land of Egypt. See Ge 47:6,11.

See also Calmet and Dodd.

Verse 12. That it is my mouth that speaketh unto you.] The

Targum of Jonathan ben Uzziel renders the place thus:-"Your eyes

see, and the eyes of my brother Benjamin, that it is my own mouth

that speaketh with you, in the language of the house of the

sanctuary." Undoubtedly Joseph laid considerable stress on his

speaking with them in the Hebrew tongue, without the assistance of

an interpreter, as in the case mentioned Ge 42:23.

Verse 14. He fell upon his brother Benjamin's neck] Among the

Asiatics kissing the beard, the neck, and the shoulders, is

in use to the present day; and probably falling on the neck

signifies no more than kissing the neck or shoulders, with the

arms around.

Verse 20. Regard not your stuff] Literally, Let not your eye

spare your instruments or vessels. keleychem, a

general term, in which may be included household furniture,

agricultural utensils, or implements of any description. They

were not to delay nor encumber themselves with articles which

could be readily found in Egypt, and were not worth so long a


Verse 21. Joseph gave them wagons] agaloth, from

agal, which, though not used as a verb in the Hebrew Bible,

evidently means to turn round, roll round, be circular, &c., and

hence very properly applied to wheel carriages. It appears from

this that such vehicles were very early in use, and that the road

from Egypt to Canaan must have been very open and much frequented,

else such carriages could not have passed by it.

Verse 22. Changes of raiment] It is a common custom with all

the Asiatic sovereigns to give both garments and money to

ambassadors and persons of distinction, whom they particularly

wish to honour. Hence they keep in their wardrobes several

hundred changes of raiment, ready made up for presents of this

kind. That such were given by way of reward and honour, see

Jud 14:12,19; Re 6:11. At the close of a feast the

Hindoos, among other presents to the guests, commonly give new

garments. A Hindoo garment is merely a piece of cloth, requiring

no work of the tailor.-Ward.

Verse 23. Meat for his father by the way.] mazon, from

zan, to prepare, provide, &c. Hence prepared meat, some

made-up dish, delicacies, confectionaries, &c. As the word is

used, 2Ch 16:14, for

aromatic preparations, it may be restrained in its meaning to

something of that kind here. In Asiatic countries they have

several curious methods of preserving flesh by potting, by which

it may be kept for any reasonable length of time sweet and

wholesome. Some delicacy, similar to the savoury food which Isaac

loved, may be here intended; and this was sent to Jacob in

consideration of his age, and to testify the respect of his son.

Of other kinds of meat he could need none, as he had large herds,

and could kill a lamb, kid, sheep, or goat, whenever he pleased.

Verse 24. See that ye fall not out by the way.] This prudent

caution was given by Joseph, to prevent his brethren from accusing

each other for having sold him; and to prevent them from envying

Benjamin, for the superior favour shown him by his brother. It is

strange, but so it is, that children of the same parents are apt

to envy each other, fall out, and contend; and therefore the

exhortation in this verse must be always seasonable in a large

family. But a rational, religious education will, under God,

prevent every thing of this sort.

Verse 26. Jacob's heart fainted] Probably the good news so

overpowered him as to cast him into a swoon. He believed them

not-he thought it was too good news to be true; and though it

occasioned his swooning, yet on his recovery he could not fully

credit it. See a similar case, Lu 24:41.

Verse 27. When he saw the wagons-the spirit of Jacob-revived]

The wagons were additional evidences of the truth of what he had

heard from his sons; and the consequence was, that he was restored

to fresh vigour, he seemed as if he had gained new life,

vattechi, and he lived; revixit, says the Vulgate, he lived

afresh. The Septuagint translate the original word by ανεζωπυρησε,

which signifies the blowing and stirring up of almost extinguished

embers that had been buried under the ashes, which word St. Paul

uses, 2Ti 1:6, for

stirring up the gift of God. The passage at once shows the

debilitated state of the venerable patriarch, and the wonderful

effect the news of Joseph's preservation and glory had upon his


Verse 28. It is enough; Joseph my son is yet alive] It was not

the state of dignity to which Joseph had arisen that particularly

affected Jacob, it was the consideration that he was still alive.

It was this that caused him to exclaim rab; "much!

multiplied! my son is yet alive! I will go and see him before I

die." None can realize this scene; the words, the circumstances,

all refer to indescribable feelings.

1. IN Joseph's conduct to his brethren there are several things

for which it is difficult to account. It is strange, knowing how

much his father loved him, that he never took an opportunity, many

of which must have offered, to acquaint him that he was alive; and

that self-interest did not dictate the propriety of this to him is

at first view surprising, as his father would undoubtedly have

paid his ransom, and restored him to liberty: but a little

reflection will show that prudence dictated secrecy. His

brethren, jealous and envious in the extreme, would soon have

found out other methods of destroying his life, had they again got

him into their power. Therefore for his personal safety, he chose

rather to be a bond-slave in Egypt than to risk his life by

returning home. On this ground it is evident that he could not

with any safety have discovered the place of his residence.

2. His carriage to his brethren, previously to his making

himself known, appears inexcusably harsh, if not vindictive; but

when the men are considered, it will appear sufficiently evident

that no other means would have been adequate to awaken their

torpid consciences, and bring them to a due sense of their guilt.

A desperate disease requires a desperate remedy. The event

justified all that he did, and God appears to have been the

director of the whole.

3. His conduct in requiring Benjamin to be as it were torn away

from the bleeding heart of an aged, desolate father, in whose

affection he himself had long lived, is the most difficult to be

satisfactorily accounted for. Unless the Spirit of prophecy had

assured him that this experiment would terminate in the most

favourable manner, his conduct in making it cannot well be

vindicated. To such prophetic intimation this conduct has been

attributed by learned men; and we may say that this consideration,

if it does not untie the knot, at least cuts it. Perhaps it is

best to say that in all these things Joseph acted as he was

directed by a providence, under the influence of which he might

have been led to do many things which he had not previously

designed. The issue proves that the hand of God's wisdom and

goodness directed, regulated, and governed every circumstance, and

the result was glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace

and good will among men.

4. This chapter, which contains the unravelling of the plot, and

wonderfully illustrates the mysteries of these particular

providences, is one of the most interesting in the whole account:

the speech of Joseph to his brethren, Ge 45:1-13, is inferior

only to that of Judah in the preceding chapter. He saw that his

brethren were confounded at his presence, that they were struck

with his present power, and that they keenly remembered and deeply

deplored their own guilt. It was necessary to comfort them, lest

their hearts should have been overwhelmed with overmuch sorrow.

How delicate and finely wrought is the apology he makes for them!

The whole heart of the affectionate brother is at once seen in

it-art is confounded and swallowed up by nature-"Be not grieved,

nor angry with yourselves-it was not you that sent me hither, but

God." What he says also concerning his father shows the warmest

feelings of a benevolent and filial heart. Indeed, the whole

chapter is a master-piece of composition; and it is the more

impressive because it is evidently a simple relation of facts just

as they occurred; for no attempt is made to heighten the effect by

rhetorical colouring or philosophical refections; it is all

simple, sheer nature, from beginning to end. It is a history that

has no fellow, crowded with incidents as probable as they are

true; where every passion is called into action, where every one

acts up to his own character, and where nothing is outre in time,

or extravagant in degree. Had not the history of Joseph formed a

part of the sacred Scriptures, it would have been published in all

the living languages of man, and read throughout the universe! But

it contains the things of God, and to all such the carnal mind is


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