Chapter 42

  1. Joseph’s Brothers in Egypt

    • When Jacob found out that there was grain in Egypt he said to his sons, “Why are you standing around looking at each other? Go to Egypt and buy us some grain so we won’t starve to death.”

      • I’ve always thought Jacob’s choice of words here is pretty funny. The KJV says, “Why do ye look upon another?”; the NIV says, “Why do you just keep looking at each other?” When Jacob mentioned going to Egypt, even he noticed something odd about his sons’ behavior. Guzik makes this observation, “Jacob noticed a strange expression among the brothers when Egypt was mentioned, because the brothers knew it was likely Joseph was sold as a slave there. Their conscience made them feel terrible any time Egypt was mentioned… Joseph’s brothers lived with a terrible secret for 20 years. They never talked about it but it never left them. Any mention of Joseph or Egypt brought back the guilt. They needed to be set free from the power of their terrible secret.”

    • So Joseph’s ten older brothers went to Egypt to buy grain. Jacob didn’t send Benjamin because he was afraid something might happen to him.

    • Jacob’s sons came to Egypt to buy grain along with many other people because the famine was so widespread.

    • Joseph was in charge of selling grain to everyone and when his brothers came to buy food he recognized them immediately even though they did not recognize him. They bowed to him with their faces to the ground, and Joseph pretended that he didn’t know them.

      • Why didn’t they recognize him? NLT Illustrated Study Bible points out, “Joseph was a grown man, not a boy. He was not wearing a beard, was dressed in Egyptian clothes, and was in an unexpected position, speaking to them through an interpreter (42:23).”

      • Joseph’s first dream was partially fulfilled when his brothers bowed down to him without recognizing him (see also 43:26; 44:14). It was totally fulfilled in 50:18.” (NLT Illustrated Study Bible)

      • Guzik makes an excellent observation here that can be very hard to understand even though it is an important truth: God can and does use men’s evil actions to fulfill His good plan, but this fact never means that we aren’t to blame or that we get some type of “pass” for our evil acts. Guzik says, “When Joseph’s brothers plotted murder against him and sold him into slavery they did it with the specific intention 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).”

    • He spoke harshly to them asking where they were from.

    • His brothers replied that they were from Canaan and had come to buy food.

    • Joseph, remembering the dreams he had years ago, accused them of being spies who had come to see if Egypt had become weak.

    • No!”, his brothers replied, “We aren’t spies! We are honest, brothers who have only come to buy food.”

    • Joseph again insisted that they were spies.

    • His brothers replied, “Our father is in Canaan. There were twelve of us in all; our youngest brother is at home with our father and one of our brothers died.”

      • “This was a lie and the brothers knew it. They had every reason to believe Joseph was not dead, but living a horrible life of slavery. Perhaps they had repeated the lie to themselves so often they came to believe it.” (Guzik)

    • But Joseph insisted, “I say you are spies and this is how I will put your story to the test: Rest assured, you won’t leave Egypt unless your youngest brother comes here. One of you will have to go and get him, and in the meantime the rest of you will wait here in prison. If it turns out that you don’t have a brother, then I’ll know you are spies.”

    • Joseph had them put in prison and they stayed there for three days. On the third day Joseph came to them and said, “I am a God-fearing man, so if you do as I say you will live. In order to prove your honesty, one of you must stay here in prison, but I will allow the rest of you to return home to bring food for your families and to bring your youngest brother to Egypt.”

    • His brothers agreed to this.

    • Speaking among themselves the brothers said, “It’s obvious this is our punishment for what we did to Joseph. We watched him plead with us in fear, but we didn’t listen to him.” Then Reuben spoke up, “I told you all not to hurt him, but no one would listen to me; now his blood is on our hands.”

    • They didn’t realize that Joseph could understand what they were saying because up to this point they had been communicating through an interpreter. . When Joseph heard what they were saying, he had to turn away and cry.

    • When Joseph had composed himself, he gave the order for Simeon to be tied up. He then gave the order to fill his brothers’ containers with grain, but he also gave secret instructions to return the brothers’ payment at the top of their sacks. He also gave them supplies for their trip back home.

    • The brothers loaded their grain on their donkeys and set out for home.

  1. The Brothers Return Home

    • When his brothers stopped to camp for the night, one of them opened his sack to get food out for his donkey and discovered his money at the top of his sack. He told his brothers and they were terrified saying, “What has God done to us?”

      • “They were terrified because they were already suspected as spies. Now they could also be accused as thieves.” (Guzik)

    • When the brothers returned home they told Jacob everything that had happened to them in Egypt. When they opened their sacks they saw that all of their money had been returned to them, they were all terrified- Jacob included.

    • Jacob said, “You have robbed me of my children! First Joseph, then Simeon, and now you want to take Benjamin! Why does everything happen to me!”

      • Guzik makes this sobering point, “Jacob obviously lost his trust in the ability of God to do more than he could see or understand. Jacob could not rest in faith, trusting God to take care of the things that he did not know…There was a sobering contrast between Jacob and Joseph. Joseph had far worse circumstances, but he never took the attitude all these things are against me. The motto of too many Christians is all these things are against me. Instead, our motto should be Romans 8:28: And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”

    • Then Reuben said, “I’ll be responsible for Benjamin. If I don’t bring him back to you, you can kill my two sons.”

    • Jacob wouldn’t agree to this, “Benjamin will not go back with you. His brother Joseph is dead and he’s all I have left. If anything happened to him, you would send this sad, old man to Sheol.

      • “Jacob was resolute in his favoritism toward Rachel’s remaining son. Benjamin would not go to Egypt even if it meant that Leah’s son Simeon never returned. Jacob’s grief apparently weighed heavily on the brothers’ conscience (44:18-34).” (NLT Illustrated Study Bible)

      • We talked about the word “Sheol” back in chapter 37. Most Bible translations translate “Sheol” in this verse as “the grave”, although that is not really a very accurate translation. If you missed that discussion you might want to refer back to the Genesis Chapter 37 notes to check it out.