Thought for the Month

15 August 2020 marks 75 years since VJ (Victory over Japan) Day which is allied to the recent commemoration of VE (Victory in Europe) Day. As many have said, minds then turned to winning the peace and having a reset for society. Minds therefore, turned to reconciliation so that both sides could live in peace and this has largely been the case with Germany and Japan. However, one former prisoner of war in the East in an interview in 2015 to mark 70 years since VJ day said he was "still making his peace with Japan."

One Old Testament hero of faith, Joseph, had a very eventful life. He suffered much unfairly. He first suffered at the hands of his ten half‑brothers, who considered murdering him, placed him in a pit before selling him for 20 pieces of silver. That was not the last they were going to see him though.

Next to do Joseph wrong were the Ishmaelites, the descendants of his grandfather’s half-brother. Despite the blood ties, which they presumably should have known, they had no problem in selling him into slavery in Egypt and making money from their kinsman. Would any of them find themselves hungry 20 years later? Did they give any thought to one day being reconciled to their cousin?

Joseph was an exemplary servant of Potiphar and soon was a prominent member of his household. Regrettably, Potiphar’s wife did not treat him fairly. She made a false accusation against Joseph, which led him to be imprisoned. No record is made of how long his sentence was or if it was a life sentence. Nevertheless its recorded he was seventeen when he was sold into slavery and thirty when he was made prime minister by Pharaoh. (Gen.41:40,46) Did she, Potiphar’s wife, ever regret her false testimony? Did she ever see him at a later date and benefit from the food she received in due season when there was a famine in and around Egypt?

The whole issue of reconciliation came to the fore when Joseph’s ten brothers came to Egypt to buy food when they were hungry due to the famine. At first Joseph does not make any attempt to make himself known to his brothers. On the surface it seems he sets a test or a trap and he keeps Simeon and says he will not believe they are not spies until their tale is verified by bringing him their youngest brother (Benjamin) who was remaining with their father. He hears them say "we are verily guilty concerning our brother (Joseph), in that we saw the anguish of his soul, when he besought us and we would not hear" (Gen.42:21), an acknowledgement of guilt which to some degree helped them accept that one of them, Simeon, should remain behind as a guarantee. Furthermore he places their monies in all their sacks. Was this an act of generosity or a further test? Joseph knew what they did not know that the famine would last for seven years and they would have to come back.

The second time when they returned they had no choice but to plead with their father Jacob that they must return with Benjamin, Joseph’s brother. Jacob sends them with a double portion of money for the amount that they discovered in their sacks. This time Joseph sends them away with the food, their money, but also his own silver cup in Benjamin’s sack.

The brothers departed the city while Joseph sent his men to follow them and accuse them of stealing the cup. Benjamin may be presumed to be at risk of being punished as a thief. So they are forced to return back to Joseph a third time still unaware that he was their brother, with the allegedly stolen cup. The third time Judah kept his word and asked for him to take Benjamin’s place because he feared his father would die if Benjamin did not return with them. (Gen.44:30,31)

Then Joseph showed them he was their brother and he cried, which shows Joseph’s acceptance of their words recognising the change of heart among the ten brothers. They were no longer the cruel, heartless men they were when he was young. So Joseph was reconciled with his brothers. Who knows whether Joseph was ever reconciled to the Ishmaelites and Potiphar’s wife. That may have to wait for the Messianic age.