B'resheet/Genesis 45:1 And [Yosef] cried, "Take out every man from before me."
From a grammatical point of view, this phrase is straightforward. The verb is a Qal prefix 3ms form from the root - to call, cry out or shout - with a vav-conversive, making it a sequential action verb. The following word, is a Hif'il imperative, mp form from the root - to go out, so literally, "cause to go out" - the command "take out". The word , most often translated 'all', but here used with a singular object - , man - could be 'any' or 'every' but 'every' clearly makes sense in this context. Finally, the last word is a compound word: , from + , to + , me = "from before me".
Yosef has just been hearing a plea from his older brother Judah on behalf of his younger brother Benjamin, although the brothers do not know that they are addressing Yosef. Benjamin has been caught in Yosef's trap; supposedly stealing Yosef's silver goblet, although Yosef has deliberately framed the whole incident to test the character of the brothers and to see if they have changed from when they sold Yosef into slavery twenty years ago. Nahum Sarna comments that Yosef has nothing more to gain at this stage: "the brothers have repeatedly proved their integrity and family loyalty. Yosef can gain nothing more from his stratagems. By now the emotional tension is overwhelming ... no outside may share the intensely intimate, climactic moment of self-revelation and reconciliation."
TheRamban suggests that "there were many people of Pharaoh's house and other Egyptians, pleading with Yosef to pardon Benjamin, for their compassions were deeply stirred by Judah's pleas, and Yosef could not overcome them all." The Ramban goes on to add that Yosef had all the "foreign" people removed so that "he might speak with his brothers alone" and that "he raised his voice in anger because they would not leave him alone".
Rashi and Ramban both agree on a different reason for the removal. Rashi's typically terse comment reads: "Yosef could not bear that there should be Egyptians standing before him and hearing that his brothers are shamed when he makes himself known to them." The brothers could not but be shamed in the eyes of all who heard when the explanation - which would inevitably follow Yosef's revelation of his identity - came out of how they had sold Yosef to the Midianite traders because they hated him so much. So desiring to protect his brothers from that shame and maintain their new-found reputation for honesty and compassion after speaking so strongly for Benjamin, Yosef has everyone else put out while the somewhat grubby family laundry is aired. The Jewish tradition emphasises not shaming people, not disclosing the failings or shortcomings of others in public so as to cause them to be ridiculed or to lose their reputation.
The Ramban and Sarna both address another practical issue that flows from the disclosure of the family conflict and behaviour in the past. Sarna sums it up by saying, "Besides, Yosef would not want the Egyptians to know that his own brothers had sold him into slavery". The Ramban provides the reasoning for that summary: "it would be a source of distress to them and also to himself, for the servants of Pharaoh and the Egyptians will say, 'These are treacherous people who must not live in our land, nor tread in our palaces. They have acted treacherously against their brothers and also dealt treacherously with their father. What will they do to the king and his people?' They would also no longer believe in Joseph." The work that G-d was doing in Egypt at this time, with Yosef raised to the position of second-in-command to Pharaoh himself, only two years into the seven years of famine and the future of the Jewish people still to emerge from the family of Ya'akov, might all be jeopardised if the Egyptians lost confidence in Yosef because of his family. "If one set of brothers could do that, can we trust this one?" might well not be an unreasonable question to ask in the highest places. As an outsider yet given extraordinary privilege and favour, Yosef would be only too well aware of the prejudice against foreigners and those holding to faith in the G-d of Israel.
We too have a message that excites prejudice or possible shame. As Rav Sha'ul bluntly said: "we preach Messiah crucified, to Jews a stumbling block, and to Gentiles foolishness" (1 Corinthians 1:23, NASB). He was aware of the feelings that were aroused in his audiences as he shared Messiah in the synagogue communities in Greece and across Asia Minor, and with the ever-expanding groups of Gentiles who were coming to faith. He had experienced first-hand beatings, stonings, jail and personal abuse and rejection. At the same time, he had experienced the joy of seeing many people come to faith in Messiah, find forgiveness for sin and healing from multiple diseases and afflictions; he knew that the message he had been called to share was "to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of G-d and the wisdom of G-d" (v. 24, NASB). He didn't shrink back from possible personal risk, but pushed ahead on all occasions and in every circumstance to proclaim the truth that Yeshua had entrusted to him. His affirmation was that, "G-d has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and G-d has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong (v. 27, NASB). That necessarily meant conflict with some and rejoicing with others.
Yeshua said, "Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword" (Matthew 10:34, NASB). That sword is, of course, the word of G-d - in its fullness and reality - "the word of G-d is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart" (Hebrews 4:12, NASB). When we share Yeshua and His words, people judge themselves and anticipate the judgement of G-d; sins is disclosed - even if only to them - and they will make a decision: either to accept that judgement and as a corollary, to do something about, or to reject that judgement. In the latter case, the process of rejecting the word will often include rejecting the one who brings the word, occasionally (these days) accompanied with a measure of violence in word or physical form.
Yosef attempted to conceal the possible shaming of his brothers and the public revelation of their previous conduct, both for their sakes and for the sake of his position and the work that he knew G-d had called him to do. While we too must be careful to avoid shaming others, in our day we cannot hold back from speaking the truth and sharing the Good News about Yeshua with all those whom G-d places in our path. There are times and seasons, moments and occasions, when although we would love to share, we feel the Spirit checking us; that is His responsibility. There are other times when we are reluctant in spite of a clear prompting from G-d; that is our responsibility. Unlike Yosef, we do not have the luxury of being able to mitigate our risk by sending most of the people away or hand-picking our audiences; it may be the person two or three seats away that actually needs to hear, rather than the immediately obvious target. We must speak when told - "The lion has roared; who will not fear? The L-rd G-D has spoken; who can but prophesy?" (Amos 3:8, ESV).
Further Study: 1 Peter 2:7-8; Isaiah 49:2-3
Application: Are you a hesitant speaker for G-d, preferring to close down a situation rather than risk exposure or ridicule as a believer, perhaps being afraid that you won't do justice to the message you have been given? Moshe tried to excuse himself from G-d's call to speak: "Oh, my L-rd, I am not eloquent, either in the past or since you have spoken to your servant, but I am slow of speech and of tongue" (Shemot 4:10, ESV), but G-d became angry with him. Resolve today to speak out next time and commit that to G-d, then trust Him to provide the opportunity.
© Jonathan Allen, 2011
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