Genesis 45:1-15 - link to the NRSV text
"I am Joseph."
With those three words, everything that the sons of Jacob thought was true was overturned, and the moment the reader has been anticipating since chapter 42 has come: Joseph is revealed to his brothers as alive and well and as the Egyptian official they had been dealing with in trying to procure grain for their family.
dream they had tried to squash, that one day they would bow to Joseph, was
revealed has having come to pass. But
more than just a revelation of Joseph being alive and having great power,
Joseph's revelation to the brothers is also a divine revelation. The statement "I am Joseph"
harkens back to the revelations of God to the covenantal revelations of the
"I am the God of your father Abraham; do not be afraid, for I am with you and will bless you and make your offspring numerous for my servant Abraham's sake" (Genesis 26:24).
And the LORD stood beside [Jacob] and said, "I am the LORD, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring" (Genesis 28:13).
There is no direct revelation of the covenant in the Joseph cycle, at least not to Joseph. Nowhere does God appear to Joseph and definitely declare that he was the person through whom the promise would continue. God instead had been working behind the scenes and on the down low, working through and among human plans and manipulations.
maybe Joseph doesn't need the direct revelation, because Joseph seems to get it
instinctively in a way that his precursors didn't.
"God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors" (45:7).
"So it was not you who sent me here, but God; he has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt" (45:8).
Instead, Joseph is the agent of revelation to the brothers. "I am Joseph. God sent me before you to be the bearer of the promise in order that we all might live." We don't know how Joseph felt about his brothers' betrayal all those years ago while he was shuffled around and sold and taken off to prison. But at some point during his rise from lowly slave to Pharaoh's right hand, Joseph has come to terms with his brothers' evil actions and has extended them forgiveness and compassion.
Instead of focusing on the bitterness that could have arisen from old hurts, Joseph decided to move to a new place for he had seen his brothers' care for Benjamin, his full-blood brother. The old family animosity that had characterized their past was no longer. Both Joseph and the brothers had changed by the time they met each other again.
All things look different on the other side of grace. Joseph had experienced God's presence over his years in Egypt and saw how God had worked in his circumstances, and thus Joseph was able to look beyond his brothers' actions to see a larger picture. All the years of toil and trouble have come to this point, where grace and love can be extended and can heal over the wounds of the past. Now, all Joseph wanted was his family to be reunited.
In some ways, it is a miraculous end to the Jacob narrative, whose family relationships had for so long been defined by conflict and trickery. But now that family is at peace, and the dream of God for God's people has been upheld even in the midst of human efforts to derail it. Joseph puts it well later in the book, a thought that Paul would later echo in his own writings: "Even though you intended to do harm to me, God intended it for good, in order to preserve a numerous people, as he is doing today" (Genesis 50:20; cf. Romans 8:28).
At the center of the Joseph story is the dream, which is God's way of continuing the covenant promises laid out to the generations before. The dream would still take time to come to fruition, and it would still have its bumps in the road (see Exodus through Joshua), but God is at work in the midst of it all. And for this present world with so many broken dreams and shattered hopes, that is good news that we can find hope in.