The seven years of plenty that occurred in the land of Egypt came to an end, and the seven years of famine began to come, as Joseph had said. There was famine in all lands, but in all the land of Egypt there was bread.
Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass, and taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and said a blessing. Then he broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up twelve baskets full of the broken pieces left over.
Genesis 42 begins with an abrupt change of scene. After four chapters devoted to Joseph’s life in Egypt, we suddenly are back in Canaan, and guess what? There is no food. Jacob sends all of his sons to Egypt to buy grain, but he keeps Benjamin at home – for fear that he should lose him just as he lost Joseph. Joseph and Benjamin were Rachel’s only sons. Jacob’s love for Rachel extends beyond her grave to her sons…
The dreams that Joseph had as a young boy in Canaan (Genesis 37:5-11) begin to come to pass. As his brothers come to Joseph, the governor of Egypt, to buy grain, they bow before him with their faces to the ground. The text says, “And Joseph recognized his brothers, but they did not recognize him. And Joseph remembered the dreams that he had dreamed of them” (Genesis 42:8).
These two chapters begin the dramatic story of reconciliation. Joseph cautiously conceals his identity from his brothers, and he chooses to speak with them through an interpreter. He understands them when they talk of remorse over what they had done to him years earlier, and he must turn away so they do not see him weeping. Moved with compassion he sends his brothers away with grain but devises a plan for them to return with his younger brother, Benjamin. And much to Jacob’s distress, the brothers return to Egypt a 2nd time with Benjamin in tow.
This story is tense with emotion as it builds to Joseph revealing himself to his brothers in Chapter 45. Today’s reading in Matthew is also wrought with emotion. Jesus, having just learned that John the Baptist was beheaded, seeks to grieve and pray alone… But the crowds won’t let him, and continue to follow him. The familiar story of Jesus feeding the 5,000 takes on a new light when you read it in the context of Jesus’ grief over John the Baptist. The time that Jesus spends with the crowds amid his difficult circumstances only serves to magnify His compassion.
Both readings end in the middle of a story… So, until tomorrow… :-)