When Jacob learned that there was food in Egypt, he said to his sons, "Why do you sit around here and look at one another?
I've heard that there is food in Egypt. Go down there and buy some so that we can survive and not starve to death."
Ten of Joseph's brothers went down to Egypt to get food.
Jacob didn't send Joseph's brother Benjamin with them; he was afraid that something bad might happen to him.
So Israel's sons joined everyone else that was going to Egypt to buy food, for Canaan, too, was hit hard by the famine.
Joseph was running the country; he was the one who gave out rations to all the people. When Joseph's brothers arrived, they treated him with honor, bowing to him.
Joseph recognized them immediately, but treated them as strangers and spoke roughly to them. He said, "Where do you come from?" "From Canaan," they said. "We've come to buy food."
Joseph knew who they were, but they didn't know who he was.
Joseph, remembering the dreams he had dreamed of them, said, "You're spies. You've come to look for our weak spots."
"No, master," they said. "We've only come to buy food.
We're all the sons of the same man; we're honest men; we'd never think of spying."
He said, "No. You're spies. You've come to look for our weak spots."
They said, "There were twelve of us brothers - sons of the same father in the country of Canaan. The youngest is with our father, and one is no more."
But Joseph said, "It's just as I said, you're spies.
This is how I'll test you. As Pharaoh lives, you're not going to leave this place until your younger brother comes here.
Send one of you to get your brother while the rest of you stay here in jail. We'll see if you're telling the truth or not. As Pharaoh lives, I say you're spies."
Then he threw them into jail for three days.
On the third day, Joseph spoke to them. "Do this and you'll live. I'm a God-fearing man.
If you're as honest as you say you are, one of your brothers will stay here in jail while the rest of you take the food back to your hungry families.
But you have to bring your youngest brother back to me, confirming the truth of your speech - and not one of you will die." They agreed.
Then they started talking among themselves. "Now we're paying for what we did to our brother - we saw how terrified he was when he was begging us for mercy. We wouldn't listen to him and now we're the ones in trouble."
Reuben broke in. "Didn't I tell you, 'Don't hurt the boy'? But no, you wouldn't listen. And now we're paying for his murder."
Joseph had been using an interpreter, so they didn't know that Joseph was understanding every word.
Joseph turned away from them and cried. When he was able to speak again, he took Simeon and had him tied up, making a prisoner of him while they all watched.
Then Joseph ordered that their sacks be filled with grain, that their money be put back in each sack, and that they be given rations for the road. That was all done for them.
They loaded their food supplies on their donkeys and set off.
When they stopped for the night, one of them opened his sack to get food for his donkey; there at the mouth of his bag was his money
He called out to his brothers, "My money has been returned; it's right here in my bag!" They were puzzled - and frightened. "What's God doing to us?"
When they got back to their father Jacob, back in the land of Canaan, they told him everything that had happened, saying,
"The man who runs the country spoke to us roughly and accused us of being spies.
We told him, 'We are honest men and in no way spies.
There were twelve of us brothers, sons of one father; one is gone and the youngest is with our father in Canaan.'
"But the master of the country said, 'Leave one of your brothers with me, take food for your starving families, and go.
Bring your youngest brother back to me, proving that you're honest men and not spies. And then I'll give your brother back to you and you'll be free to come and go in this country.'"
As they were emptying their food sacks, each man came on his purse of money. On seeing their money, they and their father were upset.
Their father said to them, "You're taking everything I've got! Joseph's gone, Simeon's gone, and now you want to take Benjamin. If you have your way, I'll be left with nothing."
Reuben spoke up: "I'll put my two sons in your hands as hostages. If I don't bring Benjamin back, you can kill them. Trust me with Benjamin; I'll bring him back."
But Jacob refused. "My son will not go down with you. His brother is dead and he is all I have left. If something bad happens to him on the road, you'll put my gray, sorrowing head in the grave."
Published by permission. Originally published by NavPress in English as THE MESSAGE: The Bible in Contemporary Language copyright 2002 by Eugene Peterson. All rights reserved. (The Message Bible Online)