Joseph: Compassion

Joseph: Compassion Sermon Notes


Genesis 43

Pastor Paul L. Davis 


Key Goals: (Know) Understand God’s compassion.

         (Feel) Desire to express compassion to others.

         (Do) Choose to challenge ourselves.


Introduction: Betrayal, seduction, intrigue, treachery, disguise, secrets, and spies. Is this a James Bond movie? No, it is the book of Genesis. When we left off last week, nine of Joseph’s brothers returned to Canaan, while one brother, Simeon, remained in Egypt as security—security that they will return with their youngest brother Benjamin and prove they are not spies. They have no clue that they met with Joseph. We pick up the story in Genesis 42:35, as they arrive home.

35 As they emptied their sacks, behold, every man’s bundle of money was in his sack. And when they and their father saw their bundles of money, they were afraid.


Joseph had instructed his servants to fill his brothers’ bags with food, but also to replace the money they brought to pay for the food. 36 And Jacob their father said to them, “You have bereaved me of my children: Joseph is no more, and Simeon is no more, and now you would take Benjamin. All this has come against me.”


Jacob does not understand why or how this is happening, all he knows is that he is now down two sons and may lose his youngest, Benjamin.

37 Then Reuben said to his father, “Kill my two sons if I do not bring him back to you. Put him in my hands, and I will bring him back to you.” 38 But he said, “My son shall not go down with you, for his brother is dead, and he is the only one left. If harm should happen to him on the journey that you are to make, you would bring down my gray hairs with sorrow to Sheol.”


Verse 37 is our first glimpse at why Joseph is using all the intrigue. Reuben has seen what losing a son does to a father, and he is willing to put his two sons up as security so that he would not allow Benjamin to get hurt. What a huge change of heart in Reuben. Benjamin is Jacob’s new favorite—that is very clear in verse 38. Jacob declares that Joseph is dead and Benjamin is the “only one left.” The only one left? There are ten brothers and poor Simeon is in jail! Jacob’s favoritism is showing again. There were only two sons of his beloved Rachel who died in childbirth. If Joseph is gone and Benjamin is gone, there is no one left. Reuben sees the favoritism, but instead of being envious and jealous like he was 20 years ago, he is generous and sacrificial. What a difference 20 years makes.


Chapter 43—We Must Go Back

1 Now the famine was severe in the land. 2 And when they had eaten the grain that they had brought from Egypt, their father said to them, “Go again, buy us a little food.” 3 But Judah said to him, “The man solemnly warned us, saying, ‘You shall not see my face unless your brother is with you.’ 4 If you will send our brother with us, we will go down and buy you food. 5 But if you will not send him, we will not go down, for the man said to us, ‘You shall not see my face, unless your brother is with you.’ ” 6 Israel said, “Why did you treat me so badly as to tell the man that you had another brother?”

Judah is very clear with his father that no one is going back to Egypt without Benjamin; in his mind it would be suicide. Watch closely. What happens next has eternal repercussions. 8 And Judah said to Israel his father, “Send the boy with me, and we will arise and go, that we may live and not die, both we and you and also our little ones. 9 I will be a pledge of his safety. From my hand you shall require him. If I do not bring him back to you and set him before you, then let me bear the blame forever.

Talk about a change of heart! Judah one-ups Reuben! He pledges his own life on behalf of his brother. Essentially Judah is offering his life for Benjamin’s life. At this point bells ought to be going off in your head. Is this a foreshadowing of what Jesus will do on the cross? Judah is offering his father the same thing Jesus offers us: his life. We often talk about how the goal of the Christian life is to be Christlike. Judah was particularly Christlike. The same guy who once thought about killing his brother now willingly offers his life. What does John 15:13 say? Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.


This decision has eternal repercussions. For centuries Judah will be blessed:

1.          While all 12 brothers become tribes, Judah will be the largest most powerful tribe.

2.          Once the nation divides, the southern kingdom will be called Judah.

3.          People who believe in God in an OT way are called Jews. “Jew” comes from Judah. The religion that refuses to believe in a Jew that gave his life for the world is named after a man who gave his life for his brother.

4.          Judah receives the most lengthy of Jacob’s blessings. He likens Judah to a lion (Gen 49:9), states that all of Judah’s brothers will praise him and bow down to him (Gen 49:8), and reveals that kings will come from Judah (Gen 49:10).[1] Every king of the Jews except for the first one, Saul, will come from Judah’s lineage, including Jesus.

5. In Revelation 5:5, Jesus is called the “Lion of the tribe of Judah.”


This situation right here is why Joseph has put his brothers through their ordeal. Joseph was testing them. Have they changed? The answer is a resounding yes!


Hope. Judah[2] and Reuben[3] have gone from being the worst brothers in history to some of the most sacrificial—they matured, they changed, and that should give you hope. If these two rotten brothers can change, so can you and I. Judah talks Jacob into letting the sons go back to Egypt with Benjamin. They take all the money from last time, plus more, and they also bring other gifts. As they are leaving, Jacob prays this over them, 14“May God Almighty grant you mercy before the man, and may he send back your other brother and Benjamin. And as for me, if I am bereaved of my children, I am bereaved.”

Jacob asks for mercy (ra-ha-miim—mercy or compassion) from “God Almighty” (Hebrew—El Shaddai). This is the first time in the Bible mercy is asked of God. Jacob does not appeal to YHWH or ELOHIM, the two names we have seen over and over in this story. He uses the name God used for himself when he met with Jacob 40 years earlier at Beth-El. Listen to God’s promise that night. Genesis 35:11 And God said to him, “I am God Almighty (El Shaddai): be fruitful and multiply. A nation and a company of nations shall come from you, and kings shall come from your own body.” As Jacob sends his sons back to Egypt, he is trusting in the mercy of El Shaddai, God Almighty, who promised him nations.

 15 So the men took presents, and double the money with them, and Benjamin. They arose and went down to Egypt and stood before Joseph. 16 When Joseph saw Benjamin with them, he said to the steward of his house, “Bring the men into the house, and slaughter an animal and make ready, for the men are to dine with me at noon.”


Food In Egypt: This would have been quite a meal. Nobles ate well in ancient Egypt—vegetables, meat, and grains at every meal, plus wine and dairy products like butter and cheese. Tombs detail meals of honey-roasted wild gazelle, spit-roasted ducks with pomegranates, and a berry-like fruit called “jujubes” with wild honey cakes for dessert.[4] Joseph’s brothers are brought into the house…

18 …and the men were afraid because they were brought to Joseph’s house, and they said, “It is because of the money, which was replaced in our sacks the first time, that we are brought in, so that he may assault us and fall upon us to make us servants and seize our donkeys.” (Guilty conscience, perhaps?) 19 So they went up to the steward of Joseph’s house and spoke with him at the door of the house, 20 and said, “Oh, my lord, we came down the first time to buy food. 21 And when we came to the lodging place we opened our sacks, and there was each man’s money in the mouth of his sack, our money in full weight. So we have brought it again with us, 22 and we have brought other money down with us to buy food. We do not know who put our money in our sacks.” 23 He replied, “Peace to you, do not be afraid. Your God and the God of your father has put treasure in your sacks for you. I received your money.” Then he brought Simeon out to them.


That is not true. Joseph’s servant is lying to keep up the ruse. It is interesting to me that, while his servant will lie, Joseph never does. He hides himself for sure, but he never lies.

26 When Joseph came home, they brought into the house to him the present that they had with them and bowed down to him to the ground. 27 And he inquired about their welfare and said, “Is your father well, the old man of whom you spoke? Is he still alive?” 28 They said, “Your servant our father is well; he is still alive.” And they bowed their heads and prostrated themselves. 29 And he lifted up his eyes and saw his brother Benjamin, his mother’s son, and said, “Is this your youngest brother, of whom you spoke to me? God be gracious to you, my son!” 30 Then Joseph hurried out, for his compassion grew warm for his brother, and he sought a place to weep. And he entered his chamber and wept there.


Joseph’s compassion overcomes him (Hebrew—ra-ha-miimkash-mem-resh). In English we have translated this Hebrew construction as his “compassion grew warm” (ESV). The NLT says he was “overcome with emotion.” The NKJV translates this as “his heart yearned for his brother.” It is surprisingly important that we find out exactly what this phrase means, because this very phrase God uses tells us how he feels about sinners who have walked away from him. The book of Hosea (11:8) uses the same wording when God tells his people that even though they have betrayed him and sinned, he will not destroy them because he is God and his compassion grows warm and tender. This literally could be translated as his “love, mercy and compassion burns within him.”


Key Application: When we, as believers, sin and our hearts grow cold towards God, often we put off coming back to him, thinking we have disappointed God and he probably does not want us back. But he does. The emotion Joseph feels in this story—being reunited with his little brother after 20 years of prison and slavery, overcome with emotion to the point that he has to run away to weep—this is how God describes his heart. It grows warm with compassion and mercy. Why would we not come back to a God who feels this way about us?


Does God cry? Have you ever asked yourself this? Does the sovereign powerful God of the universe cry? The Bible says he does. In John 11:35, Jesus wept, and we are told before he cried that he was deeply moved in his spirit. The reason we feel anything at all is because we are made in the image of a loving, feeling God. God feels everything we do and more because we are told in Psalm 34:15 that our tears catch his attention. Not only does he feel, but he feels when we feel. How does this scene end?

31 Then he washed his face and came out. And controlling himself he said, “Serve the food.” 32 They served him by himself, and them by themselves, and the Egyptians who ate with him by themselves, because the Egyptians could not eat with the Hebrews, for that is an abomination to the Egyptians. (Literally it was repulsive—the Hebrews were unshaven, unwashed, unclean—repulsive!) 33 And they sat before him, the firstborn according to his birthright and the youngest according to his youth. And the men looked at one another in amazement. 34 Portions were taken to them from Joseph’s table, but Benjamin’s portion was five times as much as any of theirs. And they drank and were merry with him.


Jacob prayed for mercy/compassion (ra-ha-miim) and once again we see how closely Joseph walked with God. He showered his brothers with compassion. No vindictiveness, no paybacks, no hatred, no revenge. Just amazement. And they do not even know with whom they are eating yet. Wait until next week!


Application: We are most like God when we show love, mercy, and compassion to those who have mistreated us. We need to let go of the bitterness.


Challenge by Choice: Right now, in your own soul, are you bitter? Are there people in your past that you would “go off on” if they were to show up at your door? Our challenge today is personal, internal, and may be the hardest challenge of this series: Let it go. Release the hatred and bitterness. If you have nothing to take care of, pray like Jacob did for someone else.


Community Group Discussion

1.          As you begin your discussion, have one group member open their Bible to Genesis 43 and have the rest of the group try to tell the story from memory. Discuss what you missed and what stood out.

2.          Discuss mercy/compassion. Have someone Google the definition on their phone. Did God show mercy/compassion to Joseph? His brothers?

3.          Have you been hurt by someone in your past? How are you working through it? Do you need to let it go? Why or why not?

4.          Look up 2 Sam 24:14. What does David know about God that would make him want to “fall into his hands” versus falling into the hands of a person?



© Calvary Baptist Church of Holland

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[1] Jeremiah K. Garrett, “Judah, Son of Jacob,” ed. John D. Barry et al., The Lexham Bible Dictionary (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2016).

[2] Judah had many faults and family sins. He even slept with his own daughter-in-law thinking she was a prostitute. See Gen 38.

[3] Reuben had horrible issues, not the least of which we find in Gen 35:22. Reuben slept with Dan and Naphtali’s mother Bilhah.