Read Genesis 45:1-15.

But his brothers could not answer him, so dismayed were they at his presence. (Genesis 45:3)

I recently saw an episode of the TV show NCIS in which there was a woman who heard a dead man speaking, leading her to find the years-dead body. She intuited how he had been killed and sensed something of his character and the events of his life. The investigators wouldn’t take at face value that she was psychic. And indeed, in the course of the investigation, it turned out that this woman had two personalities: one was the psychic and the other was involved in the death of this man.

How did she come to have two personalities? It was through a childhood trauma. She and her high school friend had been sexually abused by a man. To teach him a lesson they lured him into the forest, tied him up, and told him they were going to teach him a lesson. He died of a heart attack. He was the dead man.

The guilt of having been responsible in part for his death and the keeping of the secret led to her psychosis. Having the whole story come out was the beginning of her healing.

In the Genesis story, ten sons of Israel had sold the eleventh into slavery and told their father he had been killed by a wild animal. They kept the secret for years afterwards. I wonder what effect this had on them? They had to wall off a part of their lives from their father and from others. They saw their father’s grief and knew they were responsible. They heard and participated in scorn for liars and murderers, yet they knew, deep down, that they were guilty. Or they blocked out that knowledge. Yet it deeply affected their personalities and the unity of the family.

When Joseph revealed himself to them, they could not speak. They knew that their hypocrisy would be revealed to the world. Joseph had power over them! Their reputations would be shattered. Their relationship with their father would be broken. Perhaps their inheritance would be lost. Or so it would have seemed to them. Although perhaps their relationship with their father could actually start on the road to healing.

There is no healing without airing and disinfecting the wound. There is no integrity without joining together the broken, soiled pieces. There is no union without breaking down walls.

It was not you who sent me here, but God; he has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt. (Genesis 45:8)

The surprising thing in this story is that it was God who sold Joseph into slavery. The astonishing thing is that Joseph became ruler over all of Egypt. The incredible thing is that Joseph saved many lives and became a father to Pharaoh himself.

Harry Plantinga

Harry Plantinga is a professor of computer science at Calvin University and the director of and