Let’s read Genesis 45:24 from the NASB, “So he sent his brothers away, and as they departed, he said to them, ‘Do not quarrel on the journey.” If we had the time and space we would go over the whole story of Joseph and his brothers, for it is a very good lesson on human nature, teaching us how wicked we can be to those in our own family (as seen in the brothers’ hatred and betrayal of their brother) and yet how affectionate and forgiving one can be through God’s grace (as seen in Joseph’s willingness to forgive his brothers and to care for them after he forgave them). The verses leading up to the verse in question (verses 1-23) give us the account of Joseph revealing himself to his brothers, their heartfelt reunion, and Joseph assuring them that “God sent me before you to preserve a posterity for you in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance” (verse 7…NKJV). In other words, he teaches them that though their intention towards him was EVIL, God, in His sovereignty, allowed it to happen for GOOD. He then commissions them to return to their father (Jacob) and fetch their families (and cattle) in order to bring them down to Egypt where he would provide for their every need. Even Pharaoh (the King of Egypt) gave them a promise of security and plenty, as we see in verse 18, “Bring your father and your households and come to me; I will give you the best of the land of Egypt, and you will eat of the fat of the land.” God’s grace was going to bless them beyond their wildest dreams!

Joseph’s parting words to his brothers may seem “out of place,” for why in the world would they need to be exhorted not to quarrel on their way home? Surely their hearts were filled with joy by seeing that their brother was actually alive and willing to preserve their lives in spite of their wicked treatment of him, and thus one would think they had learned, once and for all, that brothers should treat each other with love and kindness, and to be thankful for God’s goodness to them. But Joseph knew all too well the tendency of the human heart to forget these timely lessons and to resort to conflict instead of unity.

Perhaps Joseph was also thinking of an incident that had happened earlier where Reuben had scolded his brothers and accused them of mistreating their younger brother. Let’s read about that in Genesis 42:21-22, “Then they said to one another, ‘We are truly guilty concerning our brother, for we saw that anguish of his soul when he pleaded with us, and we would not hear; therefore this distress has come upon us.’ And Reuben answered them, saying, ‘Did I not speak to you, saying, ‘Do not sin against the boy’; and you would not listen? Therefore behold, his blood is now required of us.’” We know Joseph heard Reuben’s words for verse 23 goes on to say, “But they did not know that Joseph understood them, for he spoke to them through an interpreter.” By telling them “not to quarrel” Joseph was preventing an argument where Rueben or others may have decided to play the “blame game” on each other. As another has said, “The matter had been settled once and for all and there was no need to discuss it or to try to fix the blame or measure of guilt.” He was, in essence, teaching them what King David would later be inspired to write in Psalm 133:1, “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity.” (301.3) (DO)