2.34 Joseph Reconciled to His Family
Even in dealing with problems of national and regional importance, the Bible keeps its primary focus. The subject at hand is not really the national economy of Egypt or the global food supply. Like a good novel, several subplots go on simultaneously. But the Bible reminds us that its main concern is Joseph's estrangement from his family.
Earlier, Jacob spent 20 years and 4 chapters of the Bible in exile in Haran, an exile that transformed him. It was a struggle with God, with man, and with his own character. It was a purposeful exile because it was temporary, it was preparatory for his return to his homeland. The man who fled Esau was not the same man who returned to make peace with him. It was only in the meeting with Esau and his subsequent taking residence in Canaan that Jacob truly became Israel, the possessor of the Promise.
With Joseph, we have the same process going on. There was the violent separation from the family home, there was exile and transformation. There was promotion. But these were not ends in themselves, they too were only an interim. What gave them meaning was Joseph's re-connection with his source, with the very brothers who rejected him and nearly killed him, and with the still-grieving father who thought him dead. We can gauge the importance of this theme in the Bible from the amount of text devoted to it. It takes 4 chapters for Joseph to unveil himself to his brothers, and another one to be reunited with his father! In the Bible's view, this is the main story, whereas the regional famine is important primarily as the trigger event for this personal drama.
And how elaborate the staging was! This was no simple denouement: "Hi guys, it's me!" Joseph took great delight in making his brothers sweat! He accused them of being spies, put them in jail, held Simeon as hostage till Benjamin came, forced them to make a second trip to and from Canaan, hid a silver cup in Benjamin's sack, accused them of theft. All these events were accompanied by frequent bouts of weeping in private. Yet this was not all show. In the weeks that passed, he was working through his own intense emotions. It all came back to him -- the betrayal, the desperate fear, the years of labor and imprisonment. And there was the Choice -- "what am I going to do to them? How shall I repay them?" For now they were all within his power.