Old Testament Lesson 12 (Genesis 42–50)
THE DAY OF RECKONING FOR JOSEPH’S BROTHERS
His Brothers Come to Egypt
● Genesis 42:1–4 Joseph’s brothers also came to Egypt seeking grain.
● Genesis 42:5–13 They bowed to him in fulfillment of prophecy.
— Genesis 37:5–11 When Joseph was young, he dreamed that his brothers bowed down to him. This dream was now literally fulfilled.
● Genesis 42:8 Joseph’s brothers failed to recognize him. Joseph was a teenager when his family had last seen him. Now he was a mature, middle-aged man.
Joseph Sends Them Back for Benjamin
● Genesis 42:14–20 He wanted to see his full-brother Benjamin most.
— v. 15 By demanding that Benjamin be brought back to Egypt, Joseph could see whether or not they truly were sorry for what they had done to him.
● Genesis 42:21–24 His brothers’ guilt and Joseph’s tenderness were both manifested.
— v. 21 Even after 13 years had passed, the brothers were still tormented by guilt because of what they had done to Joseph.
— v. 24 Joseph kept Simeon as a ransom—the one who had most wronged him and sought to kill him so that he could have the birthright.
● Genesis 42:29–34 They returned and told Jacob what Joseph was demanding of them.
● Genesis 42:35–38 Jacob was reluctant to let Benjamin go to Egypt.
● Genesis 43:1–14 Judah offered to be “surety” for his brothers’ return.
— vv. 8–9 It is significant that Judah, who suggested that Joseph be sold (Genesis 37:26–27), became the one who was willing to become “surety” for him.
— vv. 11–14 Jacob finally agreed to let Benjamin go to avoid his family’s starvation.
● Genesis 43:15–25 They returned to Egypt with Benjamin and Joseph prepared a feast.
● Genesis 43:26–34 When Joseph saw Benjamin for the first time—there was another tender scene.
— v. 28 “They bowed down their heads, and made obeisance.” The phraseology in this verse is the same as in Joseph’s dream (Genesis 37:7–9).
— v. 32 It was an abomination for Egyptians to eat with Hebrews because Egyptians worshiped cattle, and Hebrews, as herdsmen, slaughtered and ate them—a great abomination to Egyptians. Joseph respected their customs.
— v. 33 He seated them according to the birthright—with Benjamin at the head and receiving a larger portion at the meal.
Joseph Makes Himself Known to Them
● Genesis 44:1–17 Joseph now executed a second test—he hid his cup in Benjamin’s sack, then caused that it should be discovered. He then demanded that Benjamin be kept in Egypt while the others could return in peace.
● Genesis 44:18, 30–34 Judah pleaded with Joseph on behalf of their father Jacob and offered himself as a ransom for his younger brother (note the symbolism).
● Genesis 45:1–8 Joseph then made himself known to them—one of the most tender scenes in the scriptures.
— vv. 1–3 Joseph’s brothers were worried that Joseph would punish them.
— vv. 4–8 There was no bitterness or anger in Joseph’s heart. He saw the purpose of the Lord in these events and forgave them.
JOSEPH SAVES ISRAEL & EGYPT FROM FAMINE
Joseph Sends His Brothers Back for Jacob
● Genesis 45:9–15 They went to retrieve Jacob and his family.
● Genesis 45:25–28 All of Israel was then preserved in Egypt.
● Genesis 46:1–47:12 Joseph established Jacob and his family (Israel) in Goshen.
Lessons Learned from Joseph About Forgiveness
● D&C 64:8-11 The world tells us to seek revenge when someone has wronged us. But the Lord counsels otherwise—requiring us to forgive others and turn the other cheek. Joseph showed an example of this, forgiving his brothers who had so brutally mistreated him.
● Genesis 45:4-11, 14-15 Joseph showed clearly that he had forgiven his brothers. This not only relieved their fears, but also lifted them spiritually and set an example for them and for us.
All Things Work Together for Our Good
● Genesis 45:4-8 Joseph’s imprisonment in Egypt, which was a trial for him, became a blessing for him, his family, and all Egypt. But this required patience and endurance and faithfulness despite the seeming hopelessness of his situation. We should follow Joseph’s example in dealing with our own challenges and trials.
● Romans 8:28 In the New Testament, the Apostle Paul told the Romans that “all things work together for good to them that love God.” This was certainly true for Joseph and his family, and it will also be the case for us and our families if we remain faithful in our trials.
The Great Latter-day Joseph
● The Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible contains prophecies made by Joseph concerning a great latter-day prophet who would also be named Joseph. These prophecies were later quoted by Lehi as well.
● JST Genesis 50:24-38; 2 Nephi 3:5–15 These prophecies state that one of Joseph’s descendants will become a “choice seer.” The descendant referred to in these prophecies is the Prophet Joseph Smith.
— JST Genesis 50:26; 2 Nephi 3:6 One of Joseph’s descendants will be a “choice seer.”
— JST Genesis 50:27; 2 Nephi 3:7 This seer will be greatly respected by the other descendants of Joseph.
— JST Genesis 50:28; 2 Nephi 3:7 This latter-day Joseph will teach Israel about the covenants that God had made with their ancestors.
— JST Genesis 50:28; 2 Nephi 3:8 He will be obedient to God.
— JST Genesis 50:29; 2 Nephi 3:9 He will be a great prophet, like unto Moses.
— JST Genesis 50:30-31; 2 Nephi 3:11–12 He will be the means for bringing forth new scripture (the Book of Mormon) that will support and work with existing scripture (the Bible) to teach the truth.
— JST Genesis 50:32; 2 Nephi 3:13 Although he will be weak, the Lord will make him strong.
— JST Genesis 50:33; 2 Nephi 3:15 Both he and his father will be named Joseph.
PROPHECIES OF MESSIAH BEN JOSEPH (JST Genesis 50; 2 Nephi 3; 2 Nephi 4:1–2
● One of the most ancient and respected traditions among Jewish scholars is a prophecy that a “Messiah ben Joseph” would be raised up in the latter days for the specific purpose of preparing the way for the coming of their Great Messiah, Messiah ben David. This astounding Jewish prophecy is discussed in the Talmud, the Midrash, and the Targum. This prophecy said that this “Joseph” of the latter days would die a martyr’s death while performing his sacred mission.
● It was also said by Jewish scholars that this Joseph would be a descendant of the original Joseph who was sold into Egypt, and he would come through the line of Ephraim. The Jews also believed that this Joseph would arise about the time Elijah returned to fulfill the promise of turning the hearts of the children to their fathers.
● The Samaritan people had a similar prophecy of a descendant of Joseph. They called him “Teal,” meaning “the restorer,” “he who returns,” or “he who causes to return.” They said he would call the people of the world to repentance and bring back better days for Israel. This Joseph of the latter days would also ‘restore every-where the true law to its former validity and convert all peoples, especially the Jews, to the Samaritan [Ephraimite] religion.
● In fact, so profound was the respect of the rabbis for this “Joseph” that they began calling him, “Messiah ben Joseph,” and called their Shilo, “Messiah ben David.” Literally translated, these appellations mean, ‘The anointed One, son of Joseph,” and “The anointed One, son of David.”
W. Cleon Skousen said: “Now that we know the Hebrew scriptures originally contained all of these prophecies concerning a latter-day seer named “Joseph,” we are able to account for a persistent tradition among the Jews which has previously puzzled scholars. From the most ancient times, Jewish tradition has proclaimed that a great servant of God from the House of Joseph would come in the latter days to prepare the way for the coming of Shilo, the Great Messiah.”1
● A comprehensive study of this mysterious “Messiah ben Joseph” was made by Dr. Joseph Klausner, Professor Emeritus of Hebrew literature and Jewish history at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Dr. Klausner did everything possible to explain away this “Joseph” but, being an honest scholar, he was compelled to put down the basic attributes which Jewish tradition variously ascribed to him. These include the following:2
1. He will rise up shortly before the coming of Shilo, the great Messiah ben David. (p. 486)
2. He will be a descendant of Joseph through Ephraim. (p. 487)
3. His mission will commence about the time the prophet Elijah comes as promised in Malachi 4:5–6. (p. 498)
4. In preparing mankind for the coming of Shilo, Messiah ben Joseph will enter into a great contest with the anti-Christ forces. (p. 496)
5. In the heat of this contest with the anti-Christ, Messiah ben Joseph will be killed. (p. 496)
● Dr. Klausner points out that the Samaritans were particularly zealous in proclaiming the coming of Messiah ben Joseph since they claimed to be remnants of Joseph who had survived the Assyrian conquest. They took great pride in the fact that the prophet who would come to prepare the way for Shilo would be from the House of Joseph.
● The Samaritan version of this latter-day Joseph is extremely interesting.
1. They said he would be a descendant of Joseph through Ephraim and they sometimes referred to him as “son of Ephraim.” (p. 484)
2. They called him Teal, meaning “a restorer,” “he who returns,” or, according to others, “he who causes to return.” (p. 484)
3. They believed he would call the people to repentance and bring back better days for Israel.
4. They said this Joseph of the latter day “will restore everywhere the true Law to its former validity and convert all peoples, especially the Jews, to the Samaritan [Ephraimite] religion.” ( 484)
● The Samaritans did not like the idea of having their prophet Joseph killed by the anti-Christ so they said he would overcome Gog and Magog and “die a natural death after fulfilling his mission in the world.” (p. 484) . . .
When Were Joseph’s Prophecies Lost?
● Dr. Klausner admits that it is historically repugnant to the Jewish scholars to think that anything good could come out of Ephraim. As Joseph’s heir, Ephraim took its place at the head of the twelve tribes. When Judah rebelled around 937 B.C. and set up a separate capital it was almost inevitable that the most bitter kind of hostility would persist between Judah and Ephraim. Even after the Northern Kingdom (under Ephraim) had been conquered by the Assyrians around 722 B.C. and carried off to an unknown destination, the hostility of Judah continued to be vented on the Samaritans who were said to have a remnant of Ephraimite blood in them.
● Since we now know that Joseph’s prophecies were once a part of the authentic text of Genesis as recorded by Moses, it is likely that the hostility of some ancient scribe resulted in the deliberate purging of this material from the official canon of scripture which was kept in the temple at Jerusalem. During the bitter days of strife between Judah and the Northern Kingdom, it would have been easy for a leading scribe to speculate that perhaps these prophecies about a latter-day Joseph were apocryphal and then persuade himself that they had been inserted by some zealous Josephite who wanted to rob Judah of her honored position in being the tribe through whom the great Messiah would come.
● It must also be remembered that this was a period of flagrant apostasy. The sanctity and prestige of holy writ were at their lowest ebb. Possibly a scribe of that period would have had little compunction in slashing from the Jewish scriptures any prediction that said a great leader would rise up out of the tribe of Joseph. Such a prophecy might have been counted as an intolerable political liability, particularly when the leaders at Jerusalem were struggling so desperately to build up an undying hostility toward the Josephites and the Northern Kingdom.
● Nevertheless, the removal of these great prophecies from the scriptural canon in Jerusalem did not remove them from the minds of the people. As Dr. Klausner points out, down through the centuries persistent references to a coming “Messiah ben Joseph” crept into the writings of the most respected rabbis. Modern Jewish scholars are still trying to explain it.
1. Adapted from “Modern Jews Expect a “Joseph” to Prepare the Way For the Coming of Their Messiah,” in Chapter 8, “The Last Days of Joseph and His Remarkable Prophecies Concerning the Future,” The Third Thousand Years, 156–158.
2. Joseph Klausner, The Messianic Idea in Israel, New York: The Macmillan Co., 1955; Chapter 9 is devoted exclusively to this subject.