A Poem for Joseph and His Brothers

It wasn’t the colourful coat

or even Joseph’s dreams that tipped the balance.

Maybe it was the day—too hot,

or maybe just the fact that there was a pit.

If the traders hadn’t happened by

they would have all had supper together,

Reuben’s voice as eldest

would have decided the outcome.

But instead the cup of resentment,

filled drop by drop for years,

is drained in one sudden act of violence.

The deal is done, the money changes hands

and Joseph is on his way to Egypt.

The coat is the cover-up they need.

They find their story in the mind of their father,

anxious about his young son’s solitary journey.

They didn’t even technically lie, only asking,

“Is this your son’s coat?”


The one thing the brothers hadn’t counted on

was their father’s grief;

it’s expansiveness, its power to grow in their lives,

like a seedling in the crack of a rock.

In Egypt we find that Judah is a changed man.

It wasn’t being thrown in jail that did it,

or the misfortune of the mysterious stolen cup.

It’s not the trips back and forth, carrying money and grain.

The seed of remorse was rooted in him,

watered by years of Jacob’s tears,

and it blossoms suddenly as he bargains for his brother’s life,

as he tries to give his own to save his father,

who cannot survive another season of grief.


When the Egyptian ruler speaks their language

with the shocking words, ‘My brothers…”,

they see him shapeshift from bejeweled foreigner

into Joseph, their own flesh and blood.

Risen from the grave of Egypt,

his presence haunts them with forgiveness.

Even at their father’s death the brothers still fear Joseph.

Their long-done deed aches like an old wound

in the deep heart’s core,

untouched by Joseph’s healing words,

the tears he weeps.

New Book Coming Soon!

Carol Penner has written a devotional book for Lent that explores the challenges of repentance and forgiveness. Forty reflections and prayers to deepen your walk with God as you prepare for Easter.  

You can order it here!

About Carol Penner

I am a Mennonite pastor currently teaching theology at Conrad Grebel University College in Waterloo, Ontario. I’ve served congregations in Ontario and most recently, Alberta.

I love to write and to lead worship! If you are finding my writing helpful, I would love to hear from you! Feel free to use or adapt the material here, it is all written by me. If printing material, please credit “Copyright Carol Penner www.leadinginworship.com” (and say whether you modified it). If publishing, please contact me for permission. Contact me at carol@leadinginworship.com

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