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Bible Commentaries

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible

Genesis 45

 

 

Introduction

CHAP. XLV.

Joseph discovers himself to his brethren; and, with Pharaoh's approbation, sends for his father into AEgypt: the brethren return to Jacob, who, hearing that Joseph was yet alive, revives at the news.

Before Christ 1706.


Verse 1

Genesis 45:1. Then Joseph could not The beauties of this chapter 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, perhaps, there is nothing in sacred or prophane history more highly wrought up, more interesting or affecting.


Verse 3

Genesis 45:3. Doth my father yet live There is great beauty in this interrogation: it is highly expressive of anxious affection; and the transition is finely wrought: I am Joseph; doth my father yet live? Is the pleasing intelligence still which you have before given me? Mr. Pope, in a note on Homer's Odyssey, b. xvi. v. 490. observes. observes, "That the discovery of Ulysses to Telemachus, has some resemblance with that of Joseph's discovery of himself to his brethren; and it may not be disagreeable," says he, "to see how two such authors describe the same passion. I am JOSEPH, I am your brother JOSEPH."

"I am ULYSSES I, my son! am he! And wept aloud; and he fell on his brother's neck, and wept. He wept abundant, and he wept aloud."

"But it must be owned, that Homer falls infinitely short of Moses. He must be a very wicked man, who can read the history of Joseph without the keenest touches of compassion, and transport. There is a majestic simplicity in the whole relation, and such an affecting portrait of human nature, that it overwhelms us with vicissitudes of joy and sorrow. This is a pregnant instance, how much the best of heathen writers is inferior to the Divine historian upon a parallel subject, where the two authors endeavour to move the softer passions." But, above all, the one account is true, and the other feigned.


Verse 5

Genesis 45:5. Now therefore be not grieved, &c.— See Genesis 45:8 and ch. Genesis 50:20. These passages discover to us the very noble and just ideas which Joseph entertained concerning the Providence of God, whose peculiar prerogative it is to bring good out of evil: but, besides this, we may observe a singular generosity and tenderness of temper in this apology to his brethren; in which he endeavours to remove every uneasy apprehension from their minds. Gracious and benevolent hearts are always unwilling to give pain: the same kindness of disposition, which makes them zealous to diffuse happiness, makes them tender of inflicting even a momentary smart. Joseph was unwilling that his brethren should feel any allay to the satisfaction which the present event afforded them; and therefore he turned, as it were, from their view, the very thought and remembrance of their former unnatural and most wicked behaviour to him, and directed their attention to reflections, which were equally comfortable and important; be not, &c. It was the suffering Providence of God, "You indeed thought evil against me," as he says in another place; but God, who can cause the worst intentions to produce the best consequences to the world in general, and to his church in particular, suffered it for good, to bring about, by that means, the preservation of many people's lives.

To the same purpose Virgil:

"Nor beauteous Helena nor Paris blame, Her guilty charms, or his unhappy flame: The gods, my son, th' immortal gods destroy This glorious empire, and the tow'rs of Troy." AEN. ii. ver. 620.

But it must never be forgotten, that however the Supreme Ruler, of all events may bring good out of any evil, this will be neither excuse nor palliation for the transgressor himself.


Verse 6

Genesis 45:6. Earing i.e.. Ploughing, an old word, from aro, to plough. See Deuteronomy 21:4. Isaiah 30:24.


Verse 7

Genesis 45:7. To preserve you a posterity Heb. To put you for a remainder. See 2 Samuel 14:7.


Verse 8

Genesis 45:8. Hath made me a father to Pharaoh i.e.. God has given me as much authority in the court of Pharaoh, as if I were really the king's father; so that he undertakes nothing without my advice, and executes nothing without my orders. And what wonder? since the wisdom of Joseph was so great and experienced, that "the words of his mouth were generally received, not as coming from man, but from God," says Justin, in book 36: chap. 2. of his history. Princes usually conferred this title of father upon their favourite counsellors. He had so far obtained our favour, that he was called our FATHER, says Artaxerxes of Haman, Apoc. Esth. xvi. 11. Hence the Hebrews. Hence the Hebrews (and it was the same among the Greeks) gave this title to old men in their salutations, 2 Kings 2:12 and hence too the Roman senators were styled fathers. Calmet says, that the quality of father of the king; was a name of dignity in the court of AEgypt; and that among the Phoenicians, Persians, and Arabians, this name was given to certain grand officers. The Caliphs give the same name to their first ministers.


Verse 10

Genesis 45:10. Thou shalt dwell in the land of Goshen Goshen was the most easterly province of Lower AEgypt, not far from the Arabian gulph, lying next to Canaan; for Jacob went directly thither, when he came into AEgypt, and stayed there till Joseph came to him, ch. Genesis 46:28. It is called also the land of Rameses, ch. Genesis 47:11. See the note on that verse. Josephus, in his Antiquties, b. ii. c. 4. makes Heliopolis, the city of Joseph's father-in-law, the place of the Israelites' residence: and so it might be, for geographers place it within, or very near, the same country. Wells's Geog. vol. i. p. 369. St. Jerome derives the name of Goshen from a word which signifies rain, because it was oftener refreshed with showers than the other provinces of AEgypt.

And thou shalt be near unto me The province of Goshen could not therefore be far from the royal city, where Joseph resided at Pharaoh's court, which was at this time in the Lower AEgypt at Zoan, Psalms 78:43 called by other authors, Tanis. To have an idea of the situation of the Lower AEgypt, where Goshen was situated, consult the Universal History, vol. 1: p. 392, &c.


Verse 12

Genesis 45:12. It is my mouth that speaketh unto you The Chaldee adds, in our own language, without an interpreter, as before.


Verse 13

Genesis 45:13. Tell my father of all my glory He enjoins them to do this out of filial love, and in order to give satisfaction to his good old father, not with any vain or ostentatious views. In John 17:24 our Saviour says, that they may behold my glory.

REFLECTIONS.—An address so affecting as that of Judah's, could not fail of moving any heart, not a stranger to the feelings of humanity; and how much more Joseph's, so deeply interested in every argument, and pierced with every word of Judah's expressive anguish. The servants instantly dismissed, a burst of tears, no longer to be restrained, gives vent to the overflowing tenderness of his soul. His brethren, who stood in tremulous expectation of instant doom, are astonished at the sight; but beyond all imagination surprised, when words begin to find a passage, and he cries, I am Joseph—Is my father yet alive? Confounded, they are dumb; guilt troubles them: but oh! how far is Joseph's heart from anger or revenge! He draws them near; comforts, instead of reflecting on them; bids them see God's hand bringing good out of their evil; and hastens them to carry his dear and aged father the strange tidings, and bring him down, to spend in plenty, in the land of Goshen, the remaining years of famine. With mutual kisses and embraces he seals the happy meeting, while tears of joy bedew each other's neck, and testify firm reconciliation. Reader, thy heart is unfeeling, if thy tears mingle not with theirs. Note; 1. We have here a beautiful emblem of God's compassions toward the sinful sons of men. 2. An astonishing display of his providence! how glorious and how merciful the dispensation! Blessed are they that trust in him. 3. It is not only the duty, but should be the delight of children to support their parents in their old age. 4. As Joseph says, Come down to me, Jesus says, Come up to me: and Pharaoh's kingdom could not provide such a dwelling, as those mansions which he has prepared for us in our Father's house in heaven.


Verse 20

Genesis 45:20. Regard not your stuff The word, which we render stuff, כלי keli, signifies furniture of any kind; whatever is prepared and finished for the use of man. And the expression, which is peculiar in the Hebrew, as the margins of our Bibles shew, seems only to signify, that they should pay no regard to their possessions or moveables in the land of Canaan. Chais translates it, ne regrettez point vos meubles, don't regret or grudge your moveables. The rendering of the Vulgate, leave nothing of your furniture behind, nec dimittatis quidquam de supellectili vestra, is wrong, as the reason given in the next clause manifestly shews; for the good of all the land of AEgypt is yours.


Verse 22

Genesis 45:22. To—each man changes of raiment St. Jerome renders it, two robes, binas stolas; and the Syriac, a pair of garments, which seems the true interpretation. Great part of the riches of the ancients consisted in changes of raiment, as well as in money; whence it became a custom to present changes of raiment either for honour or reward, Judges 14:13. 2 Kings 5:5. Luke 15:22. Horace mentions no less than five thousand robes in the possession of one Roman, lib. i. epis. vi. ver. 43. The guests at weddings usually were presented with, and appeared in, these garments; which explains Matthew 22:11. And the custom of keeping so many of these garments is referred to by St. James, your riches are corrupted, and your garments, preserved in your wardrobes, are moth-eaten, James 5:2.


Verse 23

Genesis 45:23. Bread and meat for his father The flesh which travellers in the east frequently carry with their other provisions, is usually potted, in order to preserve it fit for use. Dr. Shaw* mentions it as part of the provision he made for his journey to Mount Sinai, which commonly is not completed under two months; nor does he speak of any other sort of meat which he carried with him. In some such way, doubtless, was the meat prepared, which Joseph sent to his father for his viaticum when he was to come into AEgypt, ten asses laden with the good things of AEgypt, and ten she-asses laden with corn, and bread and meat, for his father by the way. But meat is by no means necessary for an eastern traveller; and especially for so short a journey as Jacob had to take; and still less for one who was to travel with considerable quantities of cattle, as we know Jacob did; see ch. Genesis 46:6; Genesis 46:32. who consequently could kill a goat or a kid, a sheep or a lamb for himself and his company, whenever he pleased. It was therefore, no doubt, sent rather as a mark of respect, and as a delicacy. And St. Jerome, in a letter of his, speaks of potted flesh in this light.

* Pref. p. 11.

There are other ways, however, in these hot countries of potting flesh for keeping, besides that of contusion mentioned by St. Jerome, and practised in our country. Jones, in the Misc. Curiosa, vol. 3: p. 388, 389. gives us this description of the Moorish elcholle, which is made of beef, mutton, or camel's flesh, but chiefly beef; and which "they cut into long slices, salt it well, and let it lie twenty-four hours in the pickle. They then remove it out of the tubs or jars, into others filled with water, and when it has lain a night, take it out, and hang it on ropes in the sun and air to dry. When it is thoroughly dried and hard, they cut it into a pan or cauldron, which is ready with boiling oil and suet sufficient to cover it, where it boils till it be very clear and red, if one eat it; which, taken out, they set to drain. When all is thus done, it stands till cool, and jars are prepared to put it up in, pouring the liquor they fried it in upon it; and as soon as it is thoroughly cold, they stop it up close. It will keep two years, it will be hard, and they look upon the hardest to be best done. This they dish up cold, sometimes fried with eggs and garlic, sometimes stewed, and lemon squeezed on it. It is very good any way, either hot or cold."


Verse 24

Genesis 45:24. See that ye fall not out by the way The word, rendered fall not out, is very strong in the original; it signifies, to quarrel with passion and fury, Proverbs 29:9. 2 Kings 19:27. Joseph, thinking that his brethren, reflecting upon all that had passed, might probably reproach each other; or, possibly, that their envy might be inflamed through the preference given to Benjamin, admonishes them to maintain that union which they once so unkindly had broken: thus, in the most delicate manner, intermixing admonition and reproof. Note; 1. In our way to heaven, we should carefully avoid disputes; we are brethren. 2. To forgive, becomes those who are forgiven. 3. We shall give the AEgyptians, the men of this world, a bad opinion of our religion, if we quarrel among ourselves.


Verse 26

Genesis 45:26. Jacob's heart fainted The Vulgate, and some others, render this passage, Jacob awoke, as it were, out of a dead sleep, yet he believed them not. The particle כי ki, rendered for in our version of the Bible, often signifies but, but yet, or although: and thus the meaning of the passage is, that though Jacob did not perfectly believe, or had not heard enough to be sufficiently confirmed in the belief of their words; yet the very hearing of Joseph's being yet alive, whom he thought so long dead, gave such a sudden shock to his blood and animal spirits, and poured in such a tide of joy upon his heart, as quite overpowered the venerable patriarch, and made him fall into a swoon. That sudden transports of joy, as well as other passions, will produce this effect, is well known from experience. Le Clerc quotes a remarkable instance out of Aulus Gellius. "After the battle of Cannae, in which the Roman army was cut to pieces, an ancient mother, hearing that her son was slain, pined with grief and melancholy; but the report proved false, and the youth returned not long after to Rome. The mother, struck with the sudden sight of him, was so overpowered with the fulness of unexpected joy which rushed in upon her, that she swooned away and died."


Verse 27

Genesis 45:27. When he saw the waggons The intelligence of his son Joseph was so unexpected, yet so important to the good old father, that he could scarcely be persuaded to believe the truth of it; nor could he be satisfied, without the convincing evidence of the magnificent presents which Joseph had sent him: then his spirit revived; i.e.. he not only recovered perfectly from his fainting fit, but was now raised to greater life and vigour than he had felt since the loss of Joseph. Pristino vigori restitutus est, says Bochart; he was restored to his ancient vigour. Joy revived his heart, says St. Chrysostom, just as fresh oil poured upon a lamp, which was ready to die, makes it rekindle, and shed a new and more vigorous light.


Verse 28

Genesis 45:28. Israel said, it is enough Two things his sons told him, says Bishop Kidder, viz. that Joseph was alive, and that he was governor of AEgypt; and the latter of the two Joseph required them to tell his father, Genesis 45:9 but, for Joseph's glory and dominion, Jacob does not rejoice as one greatly affected with it. It was his life gave him the joy: he said, It is enough; Joseph, my son, is yet alive! Nothing can more beautifully and nobly express the sentiments of a tender parent, than this exclamation.

The Authors of the Universal History remark, that "the whole conduct of Joseph, from his being first brought into AEgypt to his discovering of himself to his brethren, having been much canvassed and disapproved, it will not be amiss to inquire how far it may be justified even abstracting from the hand of Providence being concerned in it: 1st, then, he is blamed for not having sent word to his father of his condition, who would have redeemed him at any rate; the city of Memphis, where he was sold, not being above eighty miles at most from Hebron, where Jacob dwelt. To this it may be answered, 1. That if he had returned home, his brethren would, in all likelihood, have taken a more effectual way to be rid of him, and, upon the first opportunity, have put their former bloody project in execution; and, 2. That AEgypt being the place where he probably expected the preferment which his dreams had fore-signified to him, it was by no means advisable for him to leave it, but to wait patiently there for the event. 2nd, Again, he is blamed for his rough and unjust usage towards his brethren, which, it is pretended, favours of revenge: but if revenge had been the chief motive of his behaviour, he could have indulged it in a more effectual manner, without any danger of being called to an account for it: whereas it is plain, he had a much better design in it, namely, either to bring their heinous cruelty towards him into their remembrance, as it actually did; see ch. Genesis 42:21-22. or in order to inform himself of the state of his family, especially of his father, and of his brother Benjamin; or, lastly, to make them relish his future kindness the better for the rough usage they had met with before. The last, and indeed the most considerable thing he is blamed for, is, his sending for his brother Benjamin, which he knew, his former behaviour considered, would cause an infinite deal of grief to his aged father, if not break his heart: and if he refused to send him, the whole family must starve at home, and Simeon remain in bonds. As for the latter part of the charge, Joseph had it still in his power to have remedied it, since, if he had found that his other brethren stayed longer than ordinary, he could but have sent Simeon home with what message and supply he pleased. But as for the other part of his behaviour, his causing Jacob to pass so many days, if not weeks, in all the fear and anxiety, which so dear a son's absence and danger could cause, it cannot easily be justified any other way, than by supposing that Joseph did certainly foresee [by information from Heaven,] what would happen, and that his father's grieving some time for Benjamin, would be so far from endangering his health, that it would only increase his joy when he saw him again, and give a greater relish to the news of his own advancement and success in AEgypt. Without this supposition, it is plain, such a sudden transition from, an excess of sorrow to one of joy, was of itself sufficient to have endangered his life or his senses."

REFLECTIONS.—With eager haste the sons of Jacob fly to their father with this transporting message—Joseph is yet alive. Overcome with the tidings, Jacob's heart faints, and, trembling in hope, he suspects it too good news to be true. But when the evidence is undoubted, and the waggons come in view, his spirit revives, exultation and joy burst from his aged heart, and since Joseph is alive, it is enough: this is the summit of his worldly bliss—he will go and see him before he dies. Note; 1. The waggons of death are coming to remove us to Jesus; let not our trembling hearts faint, but revive at their approach. 2. A sight of their gracious children is among the greatest comforts which aged parents know. 3. To keep death in our view is always useful; for old men it is doubly needful, for it cannot be long before they die.

 


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Bibliography Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Genesis 45:4". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/tcc/genesis-45.html. 1801-1803.

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