Genesis 42 (NRSV)
Joseph’s Brothers Go to Egypt
When Jacob learned that there was grain in Egypt, he said to his sons, “Why do you keep looking at one another?
Why indeed? Once Dad starts talking about Egypt, the sons start remembering Joseph’s cries as they sent him off as a slave to Egypt years ago. Assaulted by guilt and fear, they are in bondage to their sin.
2I have heard,” he said, “that there is grain in Egypt; go down and buy grain for us there, that we may live and not die.”
3So ten of Joseph’s brothers went down to buy grain in Egypt. 4But Jacob did not send Joseph’s brother Benjamin with his brothers, for he feared that harm might come to him. 5Thus the sons of Israel were among the other people who came to buy grain, for the famine had reached the land of Canaan.
What a difference a day makes! Certainly the brothers, and Joseph, and Jacob, could hardly have envisioned the upcoming events of the next few days and weeks! And what a wonderful promise the Lord gives us in Matthew 28:20 — “I am with you always.” We have nothing to fear, since the Lord will lead us into and through each new day. HERE is “Lead Me, Lord” sung by Gary Valenciano.
6Now Joseph was governor over the land; it was he 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.
Obviously, this reminded Joseph of the dream he had some 20 years before, that his brothers would bow down to him (Genesis 37:5-8).
When Joseph’s brothers plotted murder against him and sold him into slavery, they did it specifically attempting to defeat his dreams (Genesis 37:19-20). Instead, by sending Joseph to Egypt, they provided the way the dreams would be fulfilled.
The great and glorious truth of God’s providence is He can and does use the evil actions of man towards us to further His good plan. This never excuses man’s evil, but it means God’s wisdom and goodness are greater than man’s evil. Surely the wrath of man shall praise You (Psalm 76:10).
7When Joseph saw his brothers, he recognized them, but he treated them like strangers and spoke harshly to them. “Where do you come from?” he said.
They said, “From the land of Canaan, to buy food.”
8Although Joseph had recognized his brothers, they did not recognize him. 9Joseph also remembered the dreams that he had dreamed about them.
He said to them, “You are spies; you have come to see the nakedness of the land!”
Meaning, you are spying to see if Egypt is vulnerable to attack.
10They said to him, “No, my lord; your servants have come to buy food. 11We are all sons of one man; we are honest men; your servants have never been spies.”
12But he said to them, “No, you have come to see the nakedness of the land!” 13They said, “We, your servants, are twelve brothers, the sons of a certain man in the land of Canaan; the youngest, however, is now with our father, and one is no more.”
“We are honest men.”
“One brother is no more.”
They have told these lies to themselves so often that now they almost believe them.
14But Joseph said to them, “It is just as I have said to you; you are spies! 15Here is how you shall be tested: as Pharaoh lives, you shall not leave this place unless your youngest brother comes here! 16Let one of you go and bring your brother, while the rest of you remain in prison, in order that your words may be tested, whether there is truth in you; or else, as Pharaoh lives, surely you are spies.” 17And he put them all together in prison for three days.
18On the third day Joseph said to them, “Do this and you will live, for I fear God: 19if you are honest men, let one of your brothers stay here where you are imprisoned. The rest of you shall go and carry grain for the famine of your households, 20and bring your youngest brother to me. Thus your words will be verified, and you shall not die.” And they agreed to do so.
Yes, three days in prison in Egypt did the trick for the brothers!
21They said to one another, “Alas, we are paying the penalty for what we did to our brother; we saw his anguish when he pleaded with us, but we would not listen. That is why this anguish has come upon us.”
The power of a guilty conscience! The United States government has something called the Conscience Fund (created in 1811), which collects money people send in because they know they cheated the government in some way. People have sent in money because they took army blankets for souvenirs or cheated on income tax. But our consciences are notoriously weak or corrupt. One man wrote the IRS and said, “I cheated on my taxes and can’t sleep at night. Here is a check for $100. If I still can’t sleep, I’ll send the rest I owe.”
22Then Reuben answered them, “Did I not tell you not to wrong the boy? But you would not listen. So now there comes a reckoning for his blood.”
23They did not know that Joseph understood them, since he spoke with them through an interpreter. 24He turned away from them and wept; then he returned and spoke to them. And he picked out Simeon and had him bound before their eyes.
25Joseph then gave orders to fill their bags with grain, to return every man’s money to his sack, and to give them provisions for their journey. This was done for them.
Joseph’s Brothers Return to Canaan
26They loaded their donkeys with their grain, and departed. 27When one of them opened his sack to give his donkey fodder at the lodging place, he saw his money at the top of the sack. 28He said to his brothers, “My money has been put back; here it is in my sack!” At this they lost heart and turned trembling to one another, saying, “What is this that God has done to us?”
29When they came to their father Jacob in the land of Canaan, they told him all that had happened to them, saying, 30“The man, the lord of the land, spoke harshly to us, and charged us with spying on the land. 31But we said to him, ‘We are honest men,
Well, I guess that depends on how one defines “honest”!
we are not spies. 32We are twelve brothers, sons of our father; one is no more, and the youngest is now 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, take grain for the famine of your households, and go your way. 34Bring your youngest brother to me, and I shall know that you are not spies but honest men. Then I will release your brother to you, and you may trade in the land.’“
35As they were emptying their sacks, there in each one’s sack was his bag of money. When they and their father saw their bundles of money, they were dismayed. 36And their father Jacob said to them, “I am the one you have bereaved of children: Joseph is no more, and Simeon is no more, and now you would take Benjamin. All this has happened to me!”
Genesis 42:36 (New International Version)
Their father Jacob said to them, “You have deprived me of my children. Joseph is no more and Simeon is no more, and now you want to take Benjamin. Everything is against me!”
William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Act 4, Scene 4.
Hamlet: “How all occasions do inform against me . . .”
Romans 8:31-32 (New International Version)
What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us?
He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?
37Then Reuben said to his father, “You may 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.”
38But he said, “My son shall not go down with you, for his brother is dead, and he alone is left. If harm should come to him on the journey that you are to make, you would bring down my gray hairs with sorrow to Sheol.”