Genesis 42:8 - 9
NKJV - 8 So Joseph recognized his brothers, but they did not recognize him. 9 Then Joseph remembered the dreams which he had dreamed about them, and said to them, "You are spies! You have come to see the nakedness of the land!
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For those who do not remember the history of Joseph, he was sold as a slave by his brothers into Egypt, because they could not stand his dreams where he saw them bowing before him. “Then Midianite traders passed by; so the brothers pulled Joseph up and lifted him out of the pit, and sold him to the Ishmaelites for twenty shekels of silver. And they took Joseph to Egypt.” (Genesis 37:28) This by the way was a picture of Judas selling Jesus for thirty pieces of silver. “He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and his own did not receive him.” (John 1:10-11) You can read the whole story in your Bibles from Genesis chapters: 37, 39-50. So I better give you a summary: While down in Egypt Joseph was falsely accused of rape by his boss’ wife. Potiphar sent him to prison. “Jesus Christ was falsely accused by the Pharisees as being demonized, a drunkard, and a heretic. For this He was executed by Rome and entered the prison of death.” (Jerusalem COUNTDOWN, John Hagee, which I highly suggest you read this book on the Iran crises.) Joseph came out of prison after he prophesied correctly what would happen to fellow prisoners. The king heard about this some time later, when he had a dream and needed someone to interpret it for him. Joseph was then made second in command of all of Egypt, the world power at that time. The dream Pharaoh had concerned a famine that was coming after seven years of plenty. Joseph wisely set aside sufficient provisions for the nation and enough for others. This is where the brothers come back into the scene. They had to go down to Egypt to get food for the family, seeing the famine was in the land of Canaan, as well, where they were living. At this point Joseph looked very much an Egyptian, and had learned the language. Some twenty years had gone by, but Joseph did not reveal himself to his brothers right away because he wanted to see if they had repented of their sin of selling Him into slavery. He also called them spies to see their reaction. “So Joseph recognized his brothers, but they did not recognize him. Then Joseph remembered the dreams which he had dreamed about them, and said to them. ‘You are spies!'” (Genesis 42:8-9) This is where your question comes in; Joseph pretended that he thought that they were spies to see if they really were repentant! He never planned to harm them; they harmed themselves by having to live with their guilt for what they had done to their brother so long ago. It is also a picture of how the Jewish Nation rejected their Messiah Jesus, but also how we as a world rejected the Lord of Glory! We cannot say that only the Jews killed Jesus, the sin of each one of us killed Jesus, because He was dying for our sins, so we would not have to. He is waiting for the nation of Israel to realize their sin and accept Him as their Messiah, but also He waits for each one of us to receive Him as our Lord and Savior! When Israel receives Jesus Christ as their Messiah they will rejoice like Joseph’s brothers did when they were united. When we receive Christ as our own personal Lord and Savior we will rejoice in the Lord. I love this part of the story of Joseph: “Then Joseph could not restrain himself before all those who stood by him, and he cried out, ‘Make everyone go out from me!’ So no one stood with him while Joseph made himself known to his brothers. “And he wept aloud, and the Egyptians and the house of Pharaoh heard it. Then Joseph said to his brothers, ‘I am Joseph; does my father still live? But his brothers could not answer him, for they were dismayed in his presence. And Joseph said to his brothers, ‘Please come near to me.’ So they came near. Then he said: ‘I am Joseph your brother, whom you sold into Egypt. But now, do not therefore be grieved or angry with yourselves because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life. This paragraph is not owned by me! It is owned by Gary.T panel
Although the way that Joseph treated his brothers might seem cruel or vindictive, I believe that it was part of a process used by God to bring them to repentance for what they had done to him, and for the pain that they had brought to Jacob (who thought Joseph was dead). Joseph himself (while still living with his brothers) had displayed a haughtiness and arrogance that had caused them to resent him, and to sell him into slavery in Egypt. God had similarly used the difficulties he experienced (including his unjust punishment while serving Potiphar) to humble him to the point where God could use him for His long-term purpose of relocating Israel's (Jacob's) descendants to Egypt, where they could live until they were strong enough to take possession of the Promised Land (Genesis 45:5-8; Genesis 46:2-3). From the same overall perspective, I believe that God used Joseph's treatment of his brothers to bring them to repentance for what they had done to him (which it succeeded in doing, in addition to fulfilling the prophetic dreams that Joseph had had years earlier (Genesis 42:9, 21-22; Genesis 50:15-20)). This allowed all of Jacob's sons to be reconciled, and to once again be a unified family, and eventually a great nation.
My answer will provide a completely different perspective on the life of Joseph and his relationship to his family. In my view, so much Christian teaching has focused on putting Joseph on this pedestal as a super saint, a model example to be followed, that we miss the key points of his story. Joseph was a sinful human being just like we are who was used by God to accomplish his purposes. In my view, the teaching that Joseph's attitude and behaviour toward his brothers was meant to bring them to repentance is a false teaching. Nowhere in the scriptures that I have read are we told to hurt other people as a means of forcing them to repent of their sins. What scripture tells me is that if someone has sinned against me I am to present the truth to them with love and respect. If they acknowledge their sin and apologise then our relationship is restored. It is the work of the Holy Spirit to convict each person of sin by bringing guilt and/or shame once they have been confronted with the truth. When a person confesses their sin and is willing in their heart to change; then God gives them a spirit of repentance, which is the capacity to actually change their behaviour for the good. When our actions try to force others to repent, then in my view, we are playing God. The verse quoted with the question is one example of Joseph's behaviour toward his brothers. I would like to paint a big picture including all of his behaviour to show his spiritual condition and his spiritual growth. The entire story of Joseph is told in Genesis 37 to 50. Jacob loved Rachel the most so Joseph became his favourite son. Joseph was spoiled by his father and he knew how to play that game for all its worth. At age 17 he was pasturing sheep with his brothers and brought back a bad report about them (he squealed on them). Jacob made a multi-coloured tunic for Joseph since he was the favourite son. In Gen 37:4 we read "His brothers saw that his father loved him more than all his brothers; and so they hated him and could not speak to him on friendly terms.” Joseph told his brothers about 2 dreams in which they all bowed down to him. They said, are you actually going to reign over us? So they hated him even more for his dreams and for his words. His brothers were also jealous of him. When Joseph finally meets his brothers he remembers the dreams; then feelings of anger, resentment and bitterness flood to the surface. What follows is Joseph taking revenge on his brothers for the pain and suffering they have caused him. He uses his position of power as second in command in Egypt to fill his brothers with anguish and fear at what he might do to them. He uses deception, concealment, bears false witness, kidnapping, trickery, false imprisonment, false accusations, interrogation, coercion, etc. To punish his brothers and have his revenge. These are all serious sins in God’s eyes and crimes in the eyes of the state. The brothers finally tell the whole story of what they have done to Joseph (while he has still concealed his identity) and he hears their confession and sees the repentance in their hearts. He weeps privately on 2 occasions and the feelings of anger, resentment and bitterness are finally purged from his heart. Then he discloses his real identity and begins the process of reconciliation with his brothers and whole family. What follows are many examples of Joseph’s love and faithfulness to his family. What sets Joseph apart in my view are the following principles: 1) Joseph knew God had a plan and purpose for his life, 2) Joseph trusted and never blamed God through terrible periods of injustice and suffering, 3) Joseph surrendered to the refiner's fire that moulded and shaped his character, 4) Joseph learned how to forgive from the heart, even close family members who had hurt him deeply, 5) Joseph remained faithful in fulfilling God's plan and purpose to the very end of his life.
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