Joseph’s brother Judah had just had this flavor of comeuppance a few pages earlier when his daughter-in-law, Tamar, was very brave and shoved it in his face that he’d been a narcissistic hypocrite and that she wasn’t going to take it lying down.
He acknowledged his wrongdoing. He acknowledged that Tamar was telling it like it should be told. “She is more righteous than I am,” he said (Genesis 38:26).
Three pages earlier, pre-Tamar, Judah had been shoving Joseph in a well.
Sometimes people do in fact go from bad to better. Sometimes they go all the way from better to changed.
Tamar was brave, which helped Judah be brave. That takes a lot of strength.
Joseph, meanwhile, had all the strength of the strongest nation in all the world at that historic moment, and it wasn’t enough. Even if Joseph brought all his power to bear on his family, eliciting their mea culpas, what piteous human remorse could possibly compensate for the havoc they’d wrought on Joseph’s life?
Then, in true the-Bible-is-often-just-a-little-bit-different-than-we-thought-it-would-be fashion, strong boss-man Joseph started to cry (Genesis 42:24).
Over. (Genesis 43:30)
And over. (Genesis 45:2)
Avenging the situation seemed hopeless.
What was a guy like Joseph to do?
What are any of us to do?
After we cry?
Through all of Joseph’s journey, he had a relationship going with God. That relationship did not rescue him from his trials, “But the Lord was with Joseph…and showed him his faithful love” (Genesis 39:21).
It was a relationship that gave Joseph the power to see things about others (Genesis 41:39). And now it gave Joseph the power to see something about himself.
Joseph could see that God used his brothers’ betrayal to grow and groom Joseph, to ultimately save a nation through Joseph’s leadership. Joseph became stronger. More secure.
That brought tears of another kind. He told his brothers, “So it was God who sent me here, not you! And he is the one who made me an adviser to Pharaoh—the manager of his entire palace and the governor of all Egypt” (Genesis 45:8).
Then, “weeping with joy, he embraced Benjamin, and Benjamin did the same. Then Joseph kissed each of his brothers and wept over them, and after that they began talking freely with him” (Genesis 45:14-15).