Genesis 42

Joseph's Brothers Sent to Egypt

1 Now 1Jacob saw that there was grain in Egypt, and Jacob said to his sons, "Why are you staring at one another?"
2 He said, "Behold, 2I have heard that there is grain in Egypt; go down there and buy some for us from that place, 3so that we may live and not die."
3 Then ten brothers of Joseph went down to buy grain from Egypt.
4 But Jacob did not send Joseph's brother 4Benjamin with his brothers, for he said, "5I am afraid that harm may befall him."
5 So the sons of Israel came to buy grain among those who were coming, 6for the famine was in the land of Canaan also.
6 Now 7Joseph was the ruler over the land; he was the one who sold to all the people of the land. And Joseph's brothers came and 8bowed down to him with their faces to the ground.
7 When Joseph saw his brothers he recognized them, but he disguised himself to them and 9spoke to them harshly. And he said to them, "Where have you come from?" And they said, "From the land of Canaan, to buy food."
8 But Joseph had recognized his brothers, although 10they did not recognize him.
9 Joseph 11remembered the dreams which he had about them, and said to them, "You are spies; you have come to look at the undefended parts of our land."
10 Then they said to him, "No, 12my lord, but your servants have come to buy food.
11 "We are all sons of one man; we are 13honest men, your servants are not spies."
12 Yet he said to them, "No, but you have come to look at the undefended parts of our land!"
13 But they said, "Your servants are twelve * brothers in all, the sons of one man in the land of Canaan; and behold, the youngest is with 14our father today, and 15one is no longer alive."
14 Joseph said to them, "It is as I said to you, you are spies;
15 by this you will be tested: 16by the life of Pharaoh, you shall not go from this place unless * your youngest brother comes here!
16 "Send one of you that he may get your brother, while you remain confined, that your words may be tested, whether there is 17truth in you. But if not, by the life of Pharaoh, surely you are spies."
17 So he put them all together in 18prison for three days.
18 Now Joseph said to them on the third day, "Do this and live, for 19I fear God:
19 if you are honest men, let one of your brothers be confined in your prison *; but as for the rest of you, go, carry grain for the famine of your households,
20 and 20bring your youngest brother to me, so your words may be verified, and you will not die." And they did so.
21 Then they said to one another, "21Truly we are guilty concerning our brother, because we saw the distress of his soul when he pleaded with us, yet we would not listen; therefore * this distress has come upon us."
22 Reuben answered them, saying, "22Did I not tell you, 'Do not sin against the boy '; and you would not listen? 23Now * comes the reckoning for his blood."
23 They did not know, however, that Joseph understood, for there was an interpreter between them.
24 He turned away from them and 24wept. But when he returned to them and spoke to them, he 25took Simeon from them and bound him before their eyes.
25 26Then Joseph gave orders to fill their bags with grain and to restore every man's money in his sack, and to give them provisions for the journey. And thus it was done for them.
26 So they loaded their donkeys with their grain and departed from there.
27 As one of them opened his sack to give his donkey fodder at the lodging place, he saw his 27money; and behold, it was in the mouth of his sack.
28 Then he said to his brothers, "My money has been returned, and behold, it is even in my sack." And their hearts sank, and they turned trembling to one another, saying, "28What is this that God has done to us?"

Simeon Is Held Hostage

29 When they came to their father Jacob in the land of Canaan, they told him all that had happened to them, saying,
30 "The man, the lord of the land, 29spoke harshly with us, and took us for spies of the country.
31 "But we said to him, 'We are 30honest men; we are not spies.
32 'We are twelve * brothers, sons of our father; one is no longer alive, and the youngest is with our father today in the land of Canaan.'
33 "The man, the lord of the land, said to us, '31By this I will know that you are honest men: leave one of your brothers with me and take grain for the famine of your households, and go.
34 'But bring your youngest brother to me that I may know that you are not spies, but honest men. I will give your brother to you, and you may 32trade in the land.' "
35 Now it came about as they were emptying their sacks, that behold, 33every man's bundle of money was in his sack; and when they and their father saw their bundles of money, they were dismayed.
36 Their father Jacob said to them, "You have 34bereaved me of my children: Joseph is no more, and Simeon is no more, and you would take Benjamin; all these things are against me."
37 Then Reuben spoke to his father, saying, "You may put my two sons to death if I do not bring him back to you; put him in my care, and I will return him to you."
38 But Jacob said, "My son shall not go down with you; for his 35brother is dead, and he alone is left. 36If harm should befall him on the journey you are taking, then you will 37bring my gray hair down to Sheol in sorrow."

Genesis 42 Commentary

Chapter 42

Jacob sends ten sons to buy corn. (1-6) Joseph's treatment of his brethren. (7-20) Their remorse, Simeon detained. (21-24) The rest return with corn. (25-28) Jacob refuses to send Benjamin to Egypt. (29-38)

Verses 1-6 Jacob saw the corn his neighbours had bought in Egypt, and brought home. It is a spur to exertion to see others supplied. Shall others get food for their souls, and shall we starve while it is to be had? Having discovered where help is to be had, we should apply for it without delay, without shrinking from labour, or grudging expense, especially as regards our never-dying souls. There is provision in Christ; but we must come to him, and seek it from him.

Verses 7-20 Joseph was hard upon his brethren, not from a spirit of revenge, but to bring them to repentance. Not seeing his brother Benjamin, he suspected that they had made away with him, and he gave them occasion to speak of their father and brother. God, in his providence, sometimes seems harsh with those he loves, and speaks roughly to those for whom yet he has great mercy in store. Joseph settled at last, that one of them should be left, and the rest go home and fetch Benjamin. It was a very encouraging word he said to them, "I fear God;" as if he had said, You may be assured I will do you no wrong; I dare not, for I know there is one higher than I. With those that fear God, we may expect fair dealing.

Verses 21-24 The office of conscience is to bring to mind things long since said and done. When the guilt of this sin of Joseph's brethren was fresh, they made light of it, and sat down to eat bread; but now, long afterward, their consciences accused them of it. See the good of afflictions; they often prove the happy means of awakening conscience, and bringing sin to our remembrance. Also, the evil of guilt as to our brethren. Conscience now reproached them for it. Whenever we think we have wrong done us, we ought to remember the wrong we have done to others. Reuben alone remembered with comfort, that he had done what he could to prevent the mischief. When we share with others in their sufferings, it will be a comfort if we have the testimony of our consciences for us, that we did not share in their evil deeds, but in our places witnessed against them. Joseph retired to weep. Though his reason directed that he should still carry himself as a stranger, because they were not as yet humbled enough, yet natural affection could not but work.

Verses 25-28 The brethren came for corn, and corn they had: not only so, but every man had his money given back. Thus Christ, like Joseph, gives out supplies without money and without price. The poorest are invited to buy. But guilty consciences are apt to take good providences in a bad sense; to put wrong meanings even upon things that make for them.

Verses 29-38 Here is the report Jacob's sons made to their father. It troubled the good man. Even the bundles of money Joseph returned, in kindness, to his father, frightened him. He laid the fault upon his sons; knowing them, he feared they had provoked the Egyptians, and wrongfully brought home their money. Jacob plainly distrusted his sons, remembering that he never saw Joseph since he had been with them. It is bad with a family, when children behave so ill that their parents know not how to trust them. Jacob gives up Joseph for gone, and Simeon and Benjamin as in danger; and concludes, All these things are against me. It proved otherwise, that all these things were for him, were working together for his good, and the good of his family. We often think that to be against us, which is really for us. We are afflicted in body, estate, name, and in our relations; and think all these things are against us, whereas they are really working for us a weight of glory. Thus does the Lord Jesus conceal himself and his favour, thus he rebukes and chastens those for whom he has purposes of love. By sharp corrections and humbling convictions he will break the stoutness and mar the pride of the heart, and bring to true repentance. Yet before sinners fully know him, or taste that he is gracious, he consults their good, and sustains their souls, to wait for him. May we do thus, never yielding to discouragement, determining to seek no other refuge, and humbling ourselves more and more under his mighty hand. In due time he will answer our petitions, and do for us more than we can expect.

Cross References 37

  • 1. Acts 7:12
  • 2. Acts 7:12
  • 3. Genesis 43:8; Psalms 33:18, 19
  • 4. Genesis 35:24
  • 5. Genesis 42:38
  • 6. Genesis 12:10; Genesis 26:1; Genesis 41:57; Acts 7:11
  • 7. Genesis 41:41, 55
  • 8. Genesis 37:7-10; Genesis 41:43; Isaiah 60:14
  • 9. Genesis 42:30
  • 10. Genesis 37:2; Genesis 41:46
  • 11. Genesis 37:6-9
  • 12. Genesis 37:8
  • 13. Gen 42:16, 19, 31, 34
  • 14. Genesis 43:7
  • 15. Genesis 37:30; Genesis 42:32; Genesis 44:20
  • 16. 1 Samuel 17:55
  • 17. Genesis 42:11
  • 18. Genesis 40:4, 7
  • 19. Genesis 39:9; Leviticus 25:43; Nehemiah 5:15
  • 20. Genesis 42:34; Genesis 43:5; Genesis 44:23
  • 21. Genesis 37:26-28; Genesis 45:3; Hosea 5:15
  • 22. Genesis 37:21, 22
  • 23. Genesis 9:5, 6; 1 Kings 2:32; 2 Chronicles 24:22; Psalms 9:12
  • 24. Genesis 43:30; Genesis 45:14, 15
  • 25. Genesis 43:14, 23
  • 26. Genesis 44:1; Rom 12:17, 20, 21; 1 Peter 3:9
  • 27. Genesis 43:21, 22
  • 28. Genesis 43:23
  • 29. Genesis 42:7
  • 30. Genesis 42:11
  • 31. Genesis 42:19, 20
  • 32. Genesis 34:10
  • 33. Gen 43:12, 15, 21
  • 34. Genesis 43:14
  • 35. Genesis 37:33, 34; Genesis 42:13; Genesis 44:27, 28
  • 36. Genesis 42:4
  • 37. Genesis 37:35; Genesis 44:29, 31

Footnotes 14

Chapter Summary


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 Commentaries

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