Genesis 42:1-24

Joseph’s Brothers Go to Egypt

1 When Jacob learned that there was grain in Egypt, he said to his sons, “Why do you just keep looking at each other?”
2 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.”
3 Then ten of Joseph’s brothers went down to buy grain from Egypt.
4 But Jacob did not send Benjamin, Joseph’s brother, with the others, because he was afraid that harm might come to him.
5 So Israel’s sons were among those who went to buy grain, for there was famine in the land of Canaan also.
6 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.
7 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.”
8 Although Joseph recognized his brothers, they did not recognize him.
9 Then he remembered his dreams about them and said to them, “You are spies! You have come to see where our land is unprotected.”
10 “No, my lord,” they answered. “Your servants have come to buy food.
11 We are all the sons of one man. Your servants are honest men, not spies.”
12 “No!” he said to them. “You have come to see where our land is unprotected.”
13 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.”
14 Joseph said to them, “It is just as I told you: You are spies!
15 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.
16 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!”
17 And he put them all in custody for three days.
18 On the third day, Joseph said to them, “Do this and you will live, for I fear God:
19 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.
20 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.
21 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.”
22 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.”
23 They did not realize that Joseph could understand them, since he was using an interpreter.
24 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 42:1-24 Meaning and Commentary

INTRODUCTION TO GENESIS 42

This chapter relates how that Jacob having heard there was corn in Egypt, sent all his sons but Benjamin thither to buy corn, Ge 42:1-5; and coming before Joseph, they bowed to him, and he knowing them, though they knew not him, spoke roughly to them, and charged them with being spies, Ge 42:6-9; they in their defence urged that they were the sons of one man in Canaan, with whom their youngest brother was left, on which Joseph ordered them to send for him, to prove them true men, Ge 42:10-16; and put them all into prison for three days, and then released them, and sent them away to fetch their brother, Ge 42:17-20; this brought to mind their treatment of Joseph, and they confessed their guilt to each other, which Joseph heard, and greatly affected him, they supposing he understood them not, and before he dismissed them bound Simeon before their eyes, whom he retained till they returned, Ge 42:21-24; then he ordered his servants to fill their sacks with corn, and put each man's money in his sack, which one of them on the road found, opening his sack for provender, filled them all with great surprise and fear, Ge 42:25-28; upon their return to Jacob they related all that had befallen them, and particularly that the governor insisted on having Benjamin brought to him, Ge 42:29-34; their sacks being opened, all their money was found in them, which greatly distressed them and Jacob also, who was very unwilling to let Benjamin go, though Reuben offered his two sons as pledges for him, and himself to be a surety, Ge 42:35-38.

Genesis 42:1-24 In-Context

1 When Jacob learned that there was grain in Egypt, he said to his sons, “Why do you just keep looking at each other?”
2 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.”
3 Then ten of Joseph’s brothers went down to buy grain from Egypt.
4 But Jacob did not send Benjamin, Joseph’s brother, with the others, because he was afraid that harm might come to him.
5 So Israel’s sons were among those who went to buy grain, for there was famine in the land of Canaan also.
6 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.
7 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.”
8 Although Joseph recognized his brothers, they did not recognize him.
9 Then he remembered his dreams about them and said to them, “You are spies! You have come to see where our land is unprotected.”
10 “No, my lord,” they answered. “Your servants have come to buy food.
11 We are all the sons of one man. Your servants are honest men, not spies.”
12 “No!” he said to them. “You have come to see where our land is unprotected.”
13 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.”
14 Joseph said to them, “It is just as I told you: You are spies!
15 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.
16 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!”
17 And he put them all in custody for three days.
18 On the third day, Joseph said to them, “Do this and you will live, for I fear God:
19 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.
20 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.
21 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.”
22 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.”
23 They did not realize that Joseph could understand them, since he was using an interpreter.
24 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.
25 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,
26 they loaded their grain on their donkeys and left.
27 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.
28 “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?”

Cross References 49

  • 1. Acts 7:12
  • 2. Genesis 43:2,4; Genesis 44:25
  • 3. ver 19,33; Genesis 43:8; Genesis 47:19; Psalms 33:18-19
  • 4. ver 10; Genesis 43:20
  • 5. S Genesis 35:18
  • 6. ver 38
  • 7. S Genesis 41:57
  • 8. ver 13,29; Genesis 31:18; Genesis 45:17
  • 9. S Genesis 12:10; S Deuteronomy 32:24; Acts 7:11
  • 10. S Genesis 41:41; S Nehemiah 5:14
  • 11. S Genesis 41:36
  • 12. S Genesis 33:3; Genesis 37:7-10
  • 13. ver 30
  • 14. S Genesis 29:4
  • 15. Genesis 37:2
  • 16. S Genesis 37:7
  • 17. ver 14,16,30; Deuteronomy 1:22; Joshua 2:1; Joshua 6:22
  • 18. ver 12
  • 19. S Genesis 37:8
  • 20. S ver 3
  • 21. ver 13; Ge 44:7,9,16,19,21,31; Genesis 46:34; Genesis 47:3
  • 22. ver 15,16,19,20,34
  • 23. ver 31
  • 24. ver 9
  • 25. S ver 11
  • 26. S ver 5; Genesis 46:31; Genesis 47:1
  • 27. ver 24,32,36; S Genesis 37:30,33; Genesis 43:7,29,33; Genesis 44:8; Genesis 44:20; Jeremiah 31:15
  • 28. S ver 9
  • 29. 1 Samuel 17:55
  • 30. S ver 11; Ge 43:3,5,7; Genesis 44:21,23
  • 31. ver 15
  • 32. ver 19
  • 33. S ver 11
  • 34. S ver 9
  • 35. S Genesis 40:4
  • 36. S Genesis 20:11; S Genesis 22:12; Leviticus 19:14; Leviticus 25:43; 2 Samuel 23:3
  • 37. S ver 11
  • 38. ver 16
  • 39. S ver 2
  • 40. S ver 15; ver 15,34; Genesis 43:5; Genesis 44:23
  • 41. Genesis 37:26-28
  • 42. Genesis 45:5; Hosea 5:15
  • 43. Genesis 37:21-22
  • 44. S Genesis 9:5
  • 45. Genesis 45:24; 1 Kings 2:32; 2 Chronicles 24:22; Psalms 9:12
  • 46. Genesis 38:16
  • 47. S Genesis 11:7
  • 48. S Genesis 29:11
  • 49. S ver 13; Genesis 43:14,23; Genesis 45:14-15