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Genesis 42

Joseph’s Brothers Go to Egypt (42:1–38)

18–20 After the brothers had been in prison for three days, Joseph decided on a less severe plan: he would keep only Simeon in custody; the others could return to Canaan with the grain they had purchased. After that, they were to return with Benjamin; otherwise, Simeon would be kept in prison.

21–24 Joseph not only wanted to see Benjamin; he also wanted to see what was in the hearts of his brothers. And he found out. In Joseph’s hearing, they acknowledged to each other their sin against him more than twenty years earlier; their hearts were softened when they remembered the young Joseph’s distress as he was being sold into slavery. And they felt they were being justly punished for their crime (Galatians 6:7). Reuben reminded the others that he had tried to save Joseph (Genesis 37:21–22); now they would have to give an accounting for his blood (verse 22). Since they all believed Joseph to be dead, they no doubt feared that their punishment would be great: “an eye for an eye”; a life for a life (Exodus 21:24).

Although Joseph pretended not to understand his brothers conversation (he had been using an interpreter), he of course understood every word they were saying. And as their hearts began to soften, so too did Joseph’s heart. And he began to weep (verse 24). But he hid his feelings from his brothers; he selected Simeon to remain in prison and ordered him to be bound.

25–28 Unbeknown to the brothers, Joseph had returned the silver which each one had given in payment for the grain. One brother discovered his silver in his grain sack on the journey home (verse 27). He couldn’t understand how it got there, but all the brothers recognized that God was dealing with them in some way.

29–34 The brothers then recounted to their father what had happened to them in Egypt. Once again they had to explain to Jacob how they had lost one of his sons, Simeon. This time, at least, they told the truth.

35–36 Then they opened their grain sacks and discovered that each brother’s silver had been returned. Again they were frightened. If they returned to Egypt, might they not be accused of having stolen the silver?

But Jacob, looking at the silver, may have thought that they had sold Simeon into slavery. He immediately lamented that he was losing his children: first Joseph, now Simeon, and soon Benjamin! “Everything is against me!” he cried (verse 36). How wrong he was: all these things were working for him, not against him.

37–38 However, Jacob refused to let Benjamin go to Egypt. Benjamin had replaced Joseph in their father’s affection. If Jacob lost him, he knew he would die of sorrow. He couldn’t yet comprehend God’s plan.

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