Joseph started as the pesky little brother with dreams way beyond his station in life. He was at risk of being murdered by his brothers, then sold as a slave to Ishmaelite traders (Ishmael would have been Joseph’s great uncle), he ran a household (still as a slave), went to prison for a crime he didn’t commit, and then to ran the country of Egypt because he could hear from God and interpret a night of dreams.
A normal person would not have been so forgiving towards his brothers, but Joseph was. When reunited with his brothers, the response was:
45:3-8 “I am Joseph!” he said to his brothers. “Is my father still alive?” But his brothers were speechless! They were stunned to realize that Joseph was standing there in front of them.“Please, come closer,” he said to them. So they came closer. And he said again, “I am Joseph, your brother, whom you sold into slavery in Egypt. But don’t be upset, and don’t be angry with yourselves for selling me to this place. It was God who sent me here ahead of you to preserve your lives. 6 This famine that has ravaged the land for two years will last five more years, and there will be neither plowing nor harvesting.God has sent me ahead of you to keep you and your families alive and to preserve many survivors. So it was God who sent me here, not you! And he is the one who made me an adviser to Pharaoh—the manager of his entire palace and the governor of all Egypt.”
And after his father, Jacob (or Israel) died, Jospeh’s brothers were concerned the forgiveness wasn’t quite real, but it was:
50:14-21 After burying Jacob, Joseph returned to Egypt with his brothers and all who had accompanied him to his father’s burial…. they sent this message to Joseph: “Before your father died, he instructed us to say to you: ‘Please forgive your brothers for the great wrong they did to you—for their sin in treating you so cruelly.’ So we, the servants of the God of your father, beg you to forgive our sin.”
When Joseph received the message, he broke down and wept. Then his brothers came and threw themselves down before Joseph. “Look, we are your slaves!” they said.But Joseph replied, “Don’t be afraid of me. Am I God, that I can punish you? You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people. No, don’t be afraid. I will continue to take care of you and your children.” So he reassured them by speaking kindly to them.
When we think about it, if Joseph’s brothers hadn’t sold him to slave traders when he was young, how else would God have fulfilled the dreams He gave Joseph when he was only 17?
37:7-9 “We were out in the field, tying up bundles of grain. Suddenly my bundle stood up, and your bundles all gathered around and bowed low before mine!” … “Listen, I have had another dream,” he said. “The sun, moon, and eleven stars bowed low before me!”
By the time he was leading Egypt, Joseph saw the big picture. It would have been a hard path from slave to leader, and we don’t know when it happened in his head, or what it took for Joseph to really let go of what his brothers had done to him. But somewhere it happened.