On The Back Foot

When *Judah had finished speaking*, Joseph, hardly able to keep a grip on his emotions, said in a strangled voice to his servants in the room, “Please leave us, now.” The servants did as told. Joseph then began weeping loudly, so loudly that his fellow Egyptians in the surrounding dwellings could hear him too.

It took some time for Joseph to recover his composure. After wiping his eyes and nose on his sleeve, Joseph said to his brothers, who were cowering in fear, “Forgive me, gentlemen, I don’t normally weep before strangers. But the time has now come for me to tell you: I am your supposedly dead brother, Joseph.”

The brothers stopped cowering and began hesitantly to laugh. Reuben said, “My lord, you’re not only a great man, you’re a man of great wit too….ha ha ha…….”

“Gentlemen”, said Joseph, “I’ve never been more serious in my life”.

“My lord” said Reuben, “surely you’re saying this just to put us on the back foot. For one thing, our brother Joseph was killed by a wild animal more than 20 years ago. For another thing, you look nothing like Joseph as we remember him. Joseph was young, slim, and had a head of full, thick, black hair. You, on the other hand, look quite old, are distinctly portly, and your hair is wispy and grey”.

“Well” said Joseph, “one’s appearance inevitably changes over 20 years. You, yourselves, don’t look much like you did when you *threw me down that well* and left me for dead. I only suspected who you might be when I overheard you talking among yourselves in Canaanite, a language no Egyptian – apart from me – knows. And when you told me about yourselves and your family when first I asked you, the shekel dropped.”

“You should know, my lord” said Reuben, “that we meant to retrieve you from that well. We threw you down it because we didn’t like it that our father was giving you favoured treatment. We also didn’t like it that you acted all hoity-toity towards us. We just wanted to teach you a lesson. We did come back to pull you out, but you were no longer there. That you could even think we would never come back for you, isn’t worthy of you, my lord.”

“This is now all water under the bridge” said Joseph. “Let us eschew recriminations, for you should know that I, and you all too, were mere puppets on strings that God pulled, for it was He who was the puppet-master. We had no independent will in this matter. Absent your throwing me down that well, and the Midianite merchants *pulling me out*, I wouldn’t have gone down to Egypt, where, after being made a slave, then being freed, I arose to become the de-facto prime minister of all of Egypt, and responsible only to the Pharaoh. It was I, in my de-facto prime-ministerial capacity, who drew up and successfully implemented the plan that enabled Egypt to escape the pernicious effects of the famine, so that all of you, and our father, could later come to Egypt, thus to survive and multiply.”

“This is a lot to take in, my lord” said Reuben. “What you’ve just said would appear to be yet another example of God moving in mysterious ways for our own ultimate good.”

“You could put it that way” said Joseph. “Now, let’s all just lighten up for a while and get to know one another again.” Whereupon Joseph embraced all his brothers, and they embraced him. Then they talked……..and talked into the night.

Source: Genesis 45, 1-15

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