Subsequent to the appeal Judah made for Benjamin, Joseph could no longer control his emotions and had everyone besides his brothers leave his presence. He then gave way to such loud weeping that the Egyptians and members of Pharaoh’s household could hear it. Joseph identified himself to his brothers, speaking to them in their native tongue. Targum Jonathan says that he spoke to them “in the language of the house of holiness.” After telling them, “I am Joseph,” he asked, “Is my father still alive?” In an apparent state of shock, they were unable to reply. Joseph asked them to come near to him and repeated, “I am Joseph your brother whom you sold into Egypt.” He spoke reassuringly to them, telling them not to be distressed or angry with themselves because of having sold him. Joseph recognized God’s providential care and so continued, “For to preserve life, God has sent me before your faces” or ahead of you. (45:1-5)
Based on the prophetic dreams he had interpreted for Pharaoh, Joseph knew that only two of the seven years of famine had passed and that, in the remaining five years, there would be neither plowing nor harvest. Therefore, he explained that God had sent him in advance of them to assure that they would remain alive. So, as Joseph continued to tell his brothers, “It was not you who sent me here [to Egypt], but God; and he made me a father [possibly meaning principal adviser] to Pharaoh and master of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt.” With these words, Joseph indicated that, aside from Pharaoh, he occupied the highest official position in the land, attributing everything that had happened to him to God. Joseph requested that his brothers inform his father about everything that God had done for him and not to delay in making the move to Egypt. There they could then reside in “the land of Goshen [Gesem of Arabia (LXX)]” (possibly a region in the eastern part of the Nile Delta). This would make it possible for Jacob, his sons, and his grandchildren to be near Joseph and to receive essential sustenance for the remaining five years of famine so as not to experience any want. Ample provision would also be made for all his flocks and herds, including everything that belonged to his household. (45:6-11)
Joseph reminded his half brothers that their own eyes had seen and the eyes of his own brother Benjamin had seen him and his splendor and that they had heard him speak to them. Accordingly, they were in position to honor Joseph’s request that they tell his father about the high position he occupied in Egypt and everything they had personally seen. Joseph embraced his brother Benjamin (literally, “fell upon the neck of his brother Benjamin”), and he wept and so did Benjamin. After he kissed all his half brothers and wept upon them, they were able to speak to him. Apparently they recognized that he had forgiven them, and this lifted a great burden of guilt from them. (45:12-15) Josephus, in his Antiquities, (II, vi, 10), wrote, “The generous kindness of their brother seemed to leave among them no room for fear” that he would punish them for having years earlier acted against him.
When report about Joseph’s brothers reached his household, Pharaoh and his servants or officials were pleased with the news. Pharaoh requested that Joseph have his brothers load their donkeys and return to Canaan to bring their father and their entire households to Egypt. He promised to give them the best of the land of Egypt so that they might eat of the “fat of the land” or enjoy the abundance that the choice productive land would produce. Additionally, Joseph’s brothers were to receive wagons for transporting their wives and children and their father to Egypt. They were not to think about anything they might leave behind in Canaan, for they would receive the best of the land in their new home. In keeping with Pharaoh’s command, Joseph gave wagons to his brothers and supplied them with provisions for the journey. To all his half brothers, Joseph gave a change of attire, but to his brother Benjamin his gave “five” (possibly meaning “several”) changes of attire and 300 pieces of silver. For his father, Joseph sent ten male donkeys loaded with choice items and ten female donkeys loaded with grain, bread, and other provisions that would be needed for the journey to Egypt. (45:16-23)
Joseph’s parting words to his brothers were, “Do not quarrel on the way.” Targum Jonathan expanded on what he said to his brothers. “Do not contend about my having been sold, lest you quarrel in passing along the way.” When they arrived in Canaan and informed their father Jacob that Joseph was still alive and occupied a high official position in Egypt, “his heart went numb” or could not in his inmost self accept the news. He was completely stunned and could not bring himself to believe what his sons said to him. This changed as they continued to relate what Joseph had said to them and Jacob saw the wagons that Joseph had sent to transport him to Egypt. His “spirit” revived or he was enlivened anew, prompting him to say, “My son Joseph is still alive. I will go and see him before I die.” (45:24-28)