Genesis 42


‘When Jacob learned that there was grain in Egypt, he said to his sons, ‘Why do you just keep looking at each other?’ He continued, ‘I have heard that there is grain in Egypt. Go down there and buy some for us, so that we may live and not die.’ Then ten of Joseph’s brothers went down to buy grain from Egypt. But Jacob did not send Benjamin, Joseph’s brother, with the others, because he was afraid that harm might come to him. So, Israel’s sons were among those who went to buy grain, for there was famine in the land of Canaan also.’ Genesis 42:1-5

Joseph’s Brothers’ First Trip To Egypt

God’s plan of using a famine to get Jacob’s family out of Palestine and into Egypt is now coming into action because the only place to get grain is in Egypt.

It’s interesting that Jacob learned this but appears to ask his sons why they didn’t think of preparing for the famine. I guess Egypt was the last place on their minds, because the last time they saw their brother, Joseph, was when the merchants bought him from them to take him there, Genesis 37:28.

I’m sure their consciences must have been full of guilt, all that hatred and jealousy of their brother, all the deceitfulness and lies they told their father was probably playing on their minds. They probably don’t want to go to Egypt because they knew Joseph was there somewhere.

Why didn’t Jacob send Benjamin?

It’s highly possible that Benjamin has now become Jacob’s favourite son, Genesis 37:3, but Jacob does say that he’s afraid that something terrible would happen to him, just as it did with Joseph. It’s also possible that he was afraid that his sons would treat Benjamin like they did Joseph.

‘Now Joseph was the governor of the land, the person who sold grain to all its people. So, when Joseph’s brothers arrived, they bowed down to him with their faces to the ground. As soon as Joseph saw his brothers, he recognized them, but he pretended to be a stranger and spoke harshly to them. ‘Where do you come from?’ he asked. ‘From the land of Canaan,’ they replied, ‘to buy food.’ Although Joseph recognized his brothers, they did not recognise him. Then he remembered his dreams about them and said to them, ‘You are spies! You have come to see where our land is unprotected.’ ‘No, my lord,’ they answered. ‘Your servants have come to buy food. We are all the sons of one man. Your servants are honest men, not spies.’ ‘No!’ he said to them. ‘You have come to see where our land is unprotected.’ But they replied, ‘Your servants were twelve brothers, the sons of one man, who lives in the land of Canaan. The youngest is now with our father, and one is no more.’ Joseph said to them, ‘It is just as I told you: You are spies! And this is how you will be tested: As surely as Pharaoh lives, you will not leave this place unless your youngest brother comes here. Send one of your number to get your brother; the rest of you will be kept in prison, so that your words may be tested to see if you are telling the truth. If you are not, then as surely as Pharaoh lives, you are spies!’ And he put them all in custody for three days. On the third day, Joseph said to them, ‘Do this and you will live, for I fear God: If you are honest men, let one of your brothers stay here in prison, while the rest of you go and take grain back for your starving households. But you must bring your youngest brother to me, so that your words may be verified and that you may not die.’ This they proceeded to do. They said to one another, ‘Surely we are being punished because of our brother. We saw how distressed he was when he pleaded with us for his life, but we would not listen; that’s why this distress has come on us.’ Reuben replied, ‘Didn’t I tell you not to sin against the boy? But you wouldn’t listen! Now we must give an accounting for his blood.’ They did not realise that Joseph could understand them, since he was using an interpreter. He turned away from them and began to weep, but then came back and spoke to them again. He had Simeon taken from them and bound before their eyes.’ Genesis 42:6-24

We can only imagine what’s going through Joseph’s mind at this moment, I’m sure it must have been a moment of mixed emotions, Genesis 42:24.

Although Joseph’s brothers didn’t recognise their brother, Joseph recognised them and uses an interpreter to stop his brothers from knowing who he was, Genesis 42:23. Joseph’s dreams concerning his brothers have come full circle and are being fulfilled, Genesis 37:5-9.

Joseph ‘spoke harshly to them’ doesn’t mean that he was being vengeful towards them, he was simply hiding his true identity from them. Imagine what’s going through Joseph’s mind when his brothers tell him they are ‘honest men’.

Joseph accuses them of being spies and places them in custody, they had to prove their innocence. Remember Pharaoh was considered a god and notice that Joseph says, ‘As surely as Pharaoh lives’, this was a common oath, corresponding to an expression found in 2 Kings 2:4. Joseph didn’t believe Pharaoh was a god, he believed in the One true God, but he seems to use the phrase to hide his identity from his brothers. He later says to his brothers, ‘I fear God.’

In order for them to prove their innocence, they must bring Benjamin to him. Maybe all those memories of how he was treated by his older brothers came flooding back to him and he didn’t want Benjamin treated like he was treated.

We can only imagine the guilt the brothers were feeling as they remember the way they treated Joseph, Reuben more or less says, it’s time to reap what we sowed, we put Joseph in a prison in Egypt and now it’s our turn to be imprisoned in Egypt. Joseph loves his brothers but is overcome with his emotions, but God is going to guide all these events.

Why Simeon was chosen to be bound isn’t clear, maybe he thought Simeon was more responsible for him ending up in Egypt than his other brothers were. They spent three days in prison and were then freed to go back home to get Benjamin.

‘Joseph gave orders to fill their bags with grain, to put each man’s silver back in his sack, and to give them provisions for their journey. After this was done for them, they loaded their grain on their donkeys and left. At the place where they stopped for the night one of them opened his sack to get feed for his donkey, and he saw his silver in the mouth of his sack. ‘My silver has been returned,’ he said to his brothers. ‘Here it is in my sack.’ Their hearts sank and they turned to each other trembling and said, ‘What is this that God has done to us?’ When they came to their father Jacob in the land of Canaan, they told him all that had happened to them. They said, ‘The man who is lord over the land spoke harshly to us and treated us as though we were spying on the land. But we said to him, ‘We are honest men; we are not spies. We were twelve brothers, sons of one father. One is no more, and the youngest is now with our father in Canaan.’ ‘Then the man who is lord over the land said to us, ‘This is how I will know whether you are honest men: Leave one of your brothers here with me and take food for your starving households and go. But bring your youngest brother to me so I will know that you are not spies but honest men. Then I will give your brother back to you, and you can trade in the land.’ Genesis 42:25-34

We must remember that the brothers would have brought ‘many’ sacks with them, enough to keep their family well-fed with grain for many months. They obviously came with a lot of silver to buy the grain which gives us an idea of the amount of silver Joseph must have given his brothers, probably as an act of benevolence. His brothers don’t see this as an act of benevolence though, they see it as God’s judgment upon them and didn’t know what to do about it.

After explaining everything that happened whilst in Egypt, Jacob and his sons now know that they have no choice but to go home and return to Egypt since Simeon is being kept in prison.

‘As they were emptying their sacks, there in each man’s sack was his pouch of silver! When they and their father saw the money pouches, they were frightened. 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!’ Then Reuben said to his father, ‘You may put both of my sons to death if I do not bring him back to you. Entrust him to my care, and I will bring him back.’ But Jacob said, ‘My son will not go down there with you; his brother is dead, and he is the only one left. If harm comes to him on the journey you are taking, you will bring my grey head down to the grave in sorrow.’ Genesis 42:35-38

Jacob is being crippled emotionally and accuses his sons of being responsible, not only for the loss of his favourite son, Joseph, and for Simeon’s life, but also because they now want to put Benjamin’s life on the line.

Reuben offered his two sons as hostages, Genesis 49:4, but Jacob clearly doesn’t trust them to take care of Benjamin and refuses to let him go, Romans 8:28.

Go To Genesis 43



"But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me"