And Joseph made haste; for his heart yearned over his brother: and he sought where to weep; and he entered into his chamber, and wept there.Genesis 43:30
When Joseph had become ruler of Egypt, he had not seen his brothers for approximately twenty years. Although they were sons of different mothers, his affinity over Benjamin was immensely magnified due to the fact that he and Benjamin had the same mother. He felt a deep kinship with Benjamin due to this bond.
The word used here to describe this deep connection is the Hebrew word racham, which has its root in the concept of the womb. The close kindred feeling that Joseph and Benjamin felt for each other was because they were from the same womb of one mother.
Throughout the Bible, this word is used as a way of conveying a deep, shared connection with another, and is many times translated as compassion.
When Solomon is faced with deciding a case between two women who are both claiming the same baby as being theirs, the real mother expresses racham over her child.
1 Kings 3:26 Then the woman whose son was alive said to the king, because her heart yearned for her son, “Oh, my lord, give her the living child, and by no means put him to death.” But the other said, “He shall be neither mine nor yours; divide him.”
The deep connection of the womb caused the real mother to try to preserve her son’s life, even if she had to give him up to another.
In like fashion, and quite often, this word is used of God’s care and concern for men.
2 Kings 13:23 but the LORD was gracious to them, had compassion on them, and turned toward them because of his covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He was not willing to destroy them. Even now he has not banished them from his presence.
Psalm 103:13 As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him.
Psalm 116:5 The LORD is gracious and righteous; our God is compassionate.
Isaiah 30:18 Therefore the LORD is waiting to show you mercy, and is rising up to show you compassion, for the LORD is a just God. All who wait patiently for him are happy.
Isaiah goes so far as to attribute this characteristic to God so strongly, he names him the Compassionate One.
Isaiah 49:10 They will not hunger or thirst, the scorching heat or sun will not strike them; for their Compassionate One will guide them, and lead them to springs.
As we have seen, one of the deepest relational connections is one of racham. The blessing for all believers is that the God of the Bible is compassionate toward them. In like fashion, God inspires us to have racham towards others, as exemplified among his own ancient people:
Zechariah 7:8-10 The word of the LORD came to Zechariah: “The LORD of hosts says this: ‘Make fair decisions. Show faithful love and compassion to one another. “Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the resident alien or the poor, and do not plot evil in your hearts against one another.’
It is only when we recognize our bond with others as being of the same hand of a loving Creator that we can truly express racham towards them. The “womb of God,” figuratively speaking, is that shared connection. At a very basic level, all existence is the result of one Creator. Psalm 116:5 reminds us that, “The LORD is gracious and righteous; our God is compassionate.” This should encourage us to be truly mindful of our larger familial relationships with others, and to mimic our Father’s characteristic of compassion as we seek to represent him faithfully in this world.
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