Genesis 42: Joseph’s Brothers Go to Egypt

1 When Jacob learned that there was grain for sale in Egypt, he said to his sons, “Why do you look at one another?” 2 And he said, “Behold, I have heard that there is grain for sale in Egypt. Go down and buy grain for us there, that we may live and not die.” 3 So ten of Joseph’s brothers went down to buy grain in Egypt. 4 But Jacob did not send Benjamin, Joseph’s brother, with his brothers, for he feared that harm might happen to him. 5 Thus the sons of Israel came to buy among the others who came, for the famine was in the land of Canaan. 6 Now Joseph was governor over the land. He was the one who sold to all the people of the land. And Joseph’s brothers came and bowed themselves before him with their faces to the ground. 7 Joseph saw his brothers and recognized them, but he treated them like strangers and spoke roughly to them. “Where do you come from?” he said. They said, “From the land of Canaan, to buy food.” 8 And Joseph recognized his brothers, but they did not recognize him. 9 And Joseph remembered the dreams that he had dreamed of them. And he said to them, “You are spies; you have come to see the nakedness of the land.” 10 They said to him, “No, my lord, your servants have come to buy food. 11 We are all sons of one man. We are honest men. Your servants have never been spies.” 12 He said to them, “No, it is the nakedness of the land that you have come to see.” 13 And they said, “We, your servants, are twelve brothers, the sons of one man in the land of Canaan, and behold, the youngest is this day with our father, and one is no more.” 14 But Joseph said to them, “It is as I said to you. You are spies. 15 By this you shall be tested: by the life of Pharaoh, you shall not go from this place unless your youngest brother comes here. 16 Send one of you, and let him bring your brother, while you remain confined, that your words may be tested, whether there is truth in you. Or else, by the life of Pharaoh, surely you are spies.” 17 And he put them all together in custody for three days. 18 On the third day Joseph said to them, “Do this and you will live, for I fear God: 19 if you are honest men, let one of your brothers remain confined where you are in custody, and let the rest go and carry grain for the famine of your households, 20 and bring your youngest brother to me. So your words will be verified, and you shall not die.” And they did so.

-Joseph was sold into slavery before Benjamin was born and before his mother died. This must have come as quite a revelation to learn that he had another brother. He knows that because of his position, he cannot return home to see his brother but he can have his brother sent there. It does not say that Benjamin is his true brother rather than a half brother like the others so it may not be that he just wanted to meet his brother. For all Joseph knew, Benjamin could have been another of Leah’s sons, or the servants, or from some other woman for that matter. It says here that Joseph remembered his dream about the twelve stars, the son, and the moon all bowing. But here, only ten sons or stars were bowing and no moon and sun. Joseph has learned to trust in God and in visions and so he is seeking to fulfill this vision by bringing his whole family there the only way he can. Even though Benjamin comes without Jacob and Leah, Joseph might have assumed Jacob would want to come as well and so when he doesn’t, this might be why he chooses later to seize Benjamin to force his father and the rest of the household there to fulfill the vision. The fact that he saw this and knows its from God means that God has a great purpose in it and that it is His will.

21 Then they said to one another, “In truth we are guilty concerning our brother, in that we saw the distress of his soul, when he begged us and we did not listen. That is why this distress has come upon us.” 22 And Reuben answered them, “Did I not tell you not to sin against the boy? But you did not listen. So now there comes a reckoning for his blood.” 23 They did not know that Joseph understood them, for there was an interpreter between them. 24 Then he turned away from them and wept. And he returned to them and spoke to them. And he took Simeon from them and bound him before their eyes.

-It says Joseph turned away and wept. Why did he do this? They were talking about realizing their sin and after thirteen years, still feeling guilty for it and believing God was punishing them for it. This is what God seeks, repentance. God knows our nature and that we commit sin, even great sin. Joseph is a man filled with the Spirit and wisdom. I believe his weeping in this moment was because he was seeing repentance in his brothers. They honestly felt sorry for what they did. This sort of admission of guilt is beautiful in the eyes of the Lord. This was beautiful to Joseph as well. He decided to bound Simeon, the oldest of the brothers who betrayed him since Reuben intended to rescue him later, in front of their eyes to give them further incentive to return should they decide to cut their losses.

25 And Joseph gave orders to fill their bags with grain, and to replace every man’s money in his sack, and to give them provisions for the journey. This was done for them. 26 Then they loaded their donkeys with their grain and departed. 27 And as one of them opened his sack to give his donkey fodder at the lodging place, he saw his money in the mouth of his sack. 28 He said to his brothers, “My money has been put back; here it is in the mouth of my sack!” At this their hearts failed them, and they turned trembling to one another, saying, “What is this that God has done to us?”

-From their perspective, they were already being accused of as spies and if they show back up with the money, they could all be accused of stealing and put to death. They are stuck and very afraid but they recognize their need to turn to God for this. It may be that as wicked as Jacob’s sons had become, selling Joseph off and the guilt afterwards may have served to them back towards the ways of their grandfather Isaac and great-grandfather Abraham. They fear for their own lives of course, but at least now they are acknowledging God and their past sin.

29 When they came to Jacob their father in the land of Canaan, they told him all that had happened to them, saying, 30 “The man, the lord of the land, spoke roughly to us and took us to be spies of the land. 31 But we said to him, ‘We are honest men; we have never been spies. 32 We are twelve brothers, sons of our father. One is no more, and the youngest is this day with our father in the land of Canaan.’ 33 Then the man, the lord of the land, said to us, ‘By this I shall know that you are honest men: leave one of your brothers with me, and take grain for the famine of your households, and go your way. 34 Bring your youngest brother to me. Then I shall know that you are not spies but honest men, and I will deliver your brother to you, and you shall trade in the land.’” 35 As they emptied their sacks, behold, every man’s bundle of money was in his sack. And when they and their father saw their bundles of money, they were afraid. 36 And Jacob their father said to them, “You have bereaved me of my children: Joseph is no more, and Simeon is no more, and now you would take Benjamin. All this has come against me.” 37 Then Reuben said to his father, “Kill my two sons if I do not bring him back to you. Put him in my hands, and I will bring him back to you.” 38 But he said, “My son shall not go down with you, for his brother is dead, and he is the only one left. If harm should happen to him on the journey that you are to make, you would bring down my gray hairs with sorrow to Sheol.”

-We see Benjamin was placed in the role Joseph had previously had of being the favored son. Jacob says that the sorrow of losing Benjamin as well after Joseph, Rachel, and now Simeon will kill him. Reuben is willing to give up his own sons to ensure Benjamin comes back to him. This was a man who slept with his father’s concubine and hated Joseph just like all the other brothers. Now, he seems to have found some righteous as he has gotten older. By now, Reuben may be as old as 50 if not older and so his age and experience had seemed to bring about wisdom.


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