It took many, many years before they knew that he had spoken truly -- all the years of his growing up from the eager little boy who had spilled his dreams without a second thought, through the agonies of his adolescence and early adulthood, through to the resting place of his amazing success while still a fairly young man. But they did not share many of those years together, he was banished from their sight to a far country, to walk his bitter road alone. And not even his father believed that those dreams were true portents of his destiny.
Ironically, it was those same dreams of future grandeur that started him on the dreadful path of alienation from his brothers, the path downward into slavery, imprisonment and ultimate exaltation. As most men do, they judged his heart by the standards of their own motivations, and mistook his starry-eyed excitement for the kind of darkly jealous pride with which they had jostled each other for position in that tumultuous and complex family. And seeing him through that prism, they noted all the other little signs of their father’s favour, favour which should have gone to them as Joseph’s seniors, and their hearts were hardened against him. And when the boy in the coat of privilege tattled primly to their father about their misdoings, their anger against him became murderous, So, when the opportunity presented, they sold him to the strangers from Midian, and his descent into Egypt began. Only his father mourned for him.
And the years in Egypt passed, and the young man passed from slave to prisoner to princely status, and his family knew nothing of it, nothing at all, until the famine drove them, desperate as beggars, to the palace of their despised brother to bargain with him for their bread. Sacks of grain he sold them, this strange distant Egyptian who seemed so stern and closed of face, and they had no idea that this man, their brother, wept behind closed doors for the wonder and the sorrow of it all, turning over and over in his mind the question that consumed him – was there any repentance in their hearts? Had they changed? Did they now know what it meant to truly be a brother? Had they learnt to care for something beyond their own immediate self-interest? It was overwhelming to know that he, the despised and ill-treated younger brother now held the power of life and death over the very men who had so terribly wronged him.
So he devised a plan to test their hearts. Sternly and officiously, he demanded that they return with his little brother Benjamin, keeping one of them hostage to ensure their good faith; and, when they did, he engineered things so that Benjamin, now in turn their father’s favourite, would be arrested as a thief. Would they take advantage of the situation to abandon him? But no, this time Judah stepped forward and offered himself in Benjamin’s place, and Joseph could no longer keep his distance. Sending all his attendants from the room, he disclosed himself to his brothers and they trembled, remembering how they had wronged him.
But Joseph, too, had been changed. There was no resentment or anger left, only wonder that God had used the whole sequence of events for the saving of many lives. And as they bowed now to their little brother, did they remember that dream, so long ago, that they had scorned, when he had seen them doing exactly that?