Recently I was struck by the story of Joseph in the Old Testament. I had read it sometime last year, but I don’t remember noticing how highly emotional it is. In nearly 10 instances, Joseph or one of his family members is described as weeping.
Joseph had experienced trauma on a variety of levels. The pain of a youth being betrayed by one’s family, in a culture where family was extremely important. The pain of separation from that family. The terror of finding oneself in a strange land. Spending time in jail. Not knowing whether he would be executed along with inmates.
But we are given no insight into Joseph’s emotions until the reunion. When he’s sold into slavery, the impression of him is the beloved yet spoiled son who pestered his brothers. And then suddenly he’s in Egypt, doing just fine. What did he experience?
And then the brothers come and Joseph struggles to control his emotions and to hide them, upon seeing his brothers again and hearing them remembering their sin against him.
24 And he turned himself about from them, and wept; and returned to them again, and communed with them, and took from them Simeon, and bound him before their eyes.
I honestly don’t understand all of Joseph’s actions in dealing with his brothers, why he disguised himself and waited so long, why he brought Benjamin into it. It seems like he is manipulating them a bit unfairly, but when we read about his deep emotions, it makes sense that he would act strangely after having been wounded in the past.
When Joseph sees Benjamin, this is what it says in the King James Version:
30 And Joseph made haste; for his bowels did yearn upon his brother: and he sought [where] to weep; and he entered into [his] chamber, and wept there.
31 And he washed his face, and went out, and refrained himself, and said, Set on bread.
You can practically feel the tension of his struggle not to show his tears.
And here’s the NIV: 30 Deeply moved at the sight of his brother, Joseph hurried out and looked for a place to weep. He went into his private room and wept there. 31 After he had washed his face, he came out and, controlling himself, said, "Serve the food."
Here is another powerful instance in which Joseph cries:
And he wept aloud: and the Egyptians and the house of Pharaoh heard. –Ge.45:2
And he fell upon his brother Benjamin's neck, and wept; and Benjamin wept upon his neck. Ge. 45:14
Moreover he kissed all his brethren, and wept upon them: and after that his brethren talked with him. Ge.45:15
And another…tears of joy:
And Joseph made ready his chariot, and went up to meet Israel his father, to Goshen, and presented himself unto him; and he fell on his neck, and wept on his neck a good while. Ge.46:29
Tears upon the occasion of death:
And Joseph fell upon his father's face, and wept upon him, and kissed him. Ge. 50:1
16 And they sent a messenger unto Joseph, saying, Thy father did command before he died, saying, 17 So shall ye say unto Joseph, Forgive, I pray thee now, the trespass of thy brethren, and their sin; for they did unto thee evil: and now, we pray thee, forgive the trespass of the servants of the God of thy father. And Joseph wept when they spake unto him. 18 And his brethren also went and fell down before his face; and they said, Behold, we [be] thy servants. 19 And Joseph said unto them, Fear not: for [am] I in the place of God? 20 But as for you, ye thought evil against me; [but] God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as [it is] this day, to save much people alive. 21 Now therefore fear ye not: I will nourish you, and your little ones. And he comforted them, and spake kindly unto them. (Ge.50:16-21)
I find this to be a very encouraging story of redemption. The Lord redeems many lives and family ties in the Old Testament, but often he redeems them through another source and we don’t see the original offenders being forgiven within their lifetime. It is a story of hope.