For years Joseph lived with the hurt of being rejected by his family. It took a long time to get over it, and though he named his son “forgotten” (Manasseh), because he had come to forget the hurt of his father’s house, the fact that he brings it up in naming his son indicates he never really forgot. He’d just gotten on with his life.
But deep in his heart, he was tired of the grudge-bearing, and when he learned that his brothers regretted their treatment of him, forgiveness poured out. You see how effusive it was in his statements to the family that come quickly and randomly:
* Don’t be stressed or angry with yourselves for selling me here
* This was God’s plan to save your lives
* Bring the family and live near me
* I will give you the best land in Egypt
* Leave your belongings behind – I’ll replace all your stuff with better stuff
All is forgiven. What Joseph wants is restoration and normalcy – the way things “ought” to be.
But while Joseph has been able to forgive, his suggestions will bring trouble and he knows it. How will his brothers explain that he is alive? Will they confess their conspiracy, or will they lie to Jacob? Might it not be easier just to “not return”? Might they entertain options along their way home? Might they blame one another for their predicament (they’d already done that)?
So as he bids them goodby, he says: “Don’t quarrel along the way.”
Yes, there are some confessions to be made, probably some “licks” to be taken, but “let it go,” everything is going to be ok.
Interestingly, the word for “quarrel” only occurs here in Genesis, but 41 more times in the Old Testament. It carries with it the notion of unrest, shaking (as in an earthquake), fear (again, as in an earthquake). What Joseph is calling for is peace.
Perhaps it is inevitable that discord disrupt peace occasionally, but God intends that in His family, there will be peace. When family members decide that will be their goal, the details become small matters to be overlooked, forgiven and forgotten. But that only works if peace is the goal. Far better to side with Joseph and let hurt and anger go rather than nourish it. Someone has to be the bigger person. Is that not, after all, the example of God?
[Note: essays on every chapter of the Bible may be accessed at www.amazinggraceinternational.com/blog.]