Brothers at Table

By Sarah Puryear

Feast of St. Joseph

A Reading from Genesis 43:16-34

16 When Joseph saw Benjamin with them, he said to the steward of his house, “Bring the men into the house, and slaughter an animal and make ready, for the men are to dine with me at noon.” 17 The man did as Joseph said, and brought the men to Joseph’s house. 18 Now the men were afraid because they were brought to Joseph’s house, and they said, “It is because of the money, replaced in our sacks the first time, that we have been brought in, so that he may have an opportunity to fall upon us, to make slaves of us and take our donkeys.” 19 So they went up to the steward of Joseph’s house and spoke with him at the entrance to the house. 20 They said, “Oh, my lord, we came down the first time to buy food; 21 and when we came to the lodging place we opened our sacks, and there was each one’s money in the top of his sack, our money in full weight. So we have brought it back with us. 22 Moreover we have brought down with us additional money to buy food. We do not know who put our money in our sacks.” 23 He replied, “Rest assured, do not be afraid; your God and the God of your father must have put treasure in your sacks for you; I received your money.” Then he brought Simeon out to them. 24 When the steward had brought the men into Joseph’s house, and given them water, and they had washed their feet, and when he had given their donkeys fodder, 25 they made the present ready for Joseph’s coming at noon, for they had heard that they would dine there.

26 When Joseph came home, they brought him the present that they had carried into the house, and bowed to the ground before him. 27 He inquired about their welfare, and said, “Is your father well, the old man of whom you spoke? Is he still alive?” 28 They said, “Your servant our father is well; he is still alive.” And they bowed their heads and did obeisance. 29 Then he looked up and saw his brother Benjamin, his mother’s son, and said, “Is this your youngest brother, of whom you spoke to me? God be gracious to you, my son!” 30 With that, Joseph hurried out, because he was overcome with affection for his brother, and he was about to weep. So he went into a private room and wept there. 31 Then he washed his face and came out; and controlling himself he said, “Serve the meal.” 32 They served him by himself, and them by themselves, and the Egyptians who ate with him by themselves, because the Egyptians could not eat with the Hebrews, for that is an abomination to the Egyptians. 33 When they were seated before him, the firstborn according to his birthright and the youngest according to his youth, the men looked at one another in amazement. 34 Portions were taken to them from Joseph’s table, but Benjamin’s portion was five times as much as any of theirs. So they drank and were merry with him.


“They feasted with him.” It is beautiful to imagine Joseph and his brothers, who were torn apart by jealousy, competition, and cruelty, sitting down at a table and feasting together. This particular feast doesn’t occur at the very end of the story of Joseph and his brothers; the revelation of his true identity and their full reconciliation hasn’t happened yet. Their meal does however bring to mind the ultimate end of God’s story. The Bible describes in multiple places how God intends to throw a great feast, where he will be our host, and we will be his guests. While this feast will be a time of great abundance and rejoicing, between the guests will lie histories of conflict and suffering, just as they existed between Joseph and his brothers when they came to the table.

When we are at God’s great feast at the end of time, we will run into people with whom we have had conflicts, from petty squabbles to major betrayals. Who is that guest whose presence at the table might give you discomfort or grief? What would it be like to picture both of you there in God’s presence? What would it be for you now, during this Lenten season, to pray for that person? Do you sense a call to take steps towards reconciling with that person? We can trust that what God did for Joseph and his brothers, he can do between us and those who have hurt us, whether that occurs now in this life or in the life of the world to come.

The Rev. Sarah Puryear lives in Nashville with her family. She is currently staying home with her young kids after having served most recently at St. George’s, Nashville. She enjoys writing for TLC’s Covenant blog.

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Daily Devotional Cycle of Prayer

Today we pray for:

The Diocese of Kita-Kanto – The Nippon Sei Ko Kai
St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, New Orleans, La.


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