So, Joseph forgives his brothers, establishes reconciliation among the family, and renews God’s covenantal plan. The family of the promise is back on track. This feels like a conclusion of sorts, and indeed, the book of Genesis ends here. In another sense, however, this conclusion is stunted at best. In the book’s final lines, the family, promised a new land in an extension of the garden, is still in exile. In this way, Genesis is both a self-contained narrative that begs to be carried forward.
The promise has narrowed from Abraham’s family as a whole down to a singular point in Joseph, showcasing how God works through wise and humble human beings, flawed though they are. Humans carry out God’s providence, and the grand purpose of New Creation will be fulfilled in much the same way, with Jesus as the ultimate human who accomplishes this work.
The purpose hasn’t been fulfilled at the end of Genesis yet, but the promise is right on track. Readers are encouraged by the ending to remember that odd inclusion in God’s original covenant with Abraham, that their family would indeed spend many years under foreign oppression before inheriting the land. Even in this, the promise is central. The authors of Genesis include, almost as an aside, notice that Jacob, like Sarai and Abraham, is to be buried within the boundaries of the promised land. And Joseph, likewise, is to have his bones saved for burial when they finally make their way there. These tombs are a tangible sign of hope in God’s purpose. Even if not active within the land, the quiet presence of the tombs decidedly locates their hope, just as God’s fitful presence with the people decidedly locates God’s purpose within the family.
Question: The Joseph account is an inspirational story of a wise human carrying forward the promises of God. Why do you think this takes place in Egypt and not the promised land? What have you learned about how God’s promises work?
Practice Prompt: If you have time, read and reflect on the full Joseph story (Genesis chapters 37-50). What role do confession and reconciliation play in forgiveness?