Genesis 42

Go To Egypt

The famine has reached Canaan and the story shifts back to Joseph's family where Jacob had never recovered from the loss of his beloved Joseph. Jacob complains to his sons that they need to stop looking at one another and go to Egypt because heard that they had grain. Jacob has not changed, and he has now shifted his attention to his new favorite son, Benjamin. As far as he is aware, Benjamin is the only surviving son of his favorite wife Rachel, and so he keeps him close while sending the others away. Jacob does not seem to care if harm comes to the ten sons that he is sending to Egypt, but he does not want anything to happen to Benjamin. This family's dysfunction will plague them to the very end.

A Reckoning

It's been twenty years since Joseph has seen his brothers and their last encounter was less than harmonious. There was no expectation of a reunion of sorts, but that is exactly what God provides. Joseph recognizes his brothers but they do not recognize him and why should they? Joseph was probably clean shaven, dressed as royalty, and perhaps speaking a different language. Dreams have been a regular part of God's work in Joseph's life, and now an early dream comes to partial fulfillment as ten of his brothers bow before him. Joseph is harsh with his brothers and accuses them of spying. The brothers plead their innocence and begin to give a brief and truthful summary of their situation. They declare that they are all sons of one man in Canaan and they still count Joseph in their numbers when they tell him that there are twelve brothers. They disclose that one of the brothers is at home and that one is no more. Joseph continues to press them hard and puts them to the test by demanding they produce the youngest brother or suffer as spies. The brothers were arrested and held for three days. One cannot help but wonder if it was the place where Joseph was imprisoned for years. On the third day, perhaps Joseph was stung by his conscience as he announces that he fears God and changes the test. One brother is to remain in custody, and the rest are to return and bring their youngest brother back. The brothers are reminded of their guilt concerning Joseph and remember their hardness of heart as he pleaded with them to release him. Reuben recounts how they would not listen to him and determines that these circumstances are a reckoning for his blood. They did not know that Joseph understood what they were saying because of the interpreter and when all the memories of the past hit him like a tidal wave, and he retreated and wept. Joseph composed himself, returned, and spoke with them about the arrangements. Simeon was bound before them, and Joseph had their bags filled with grain, their money replaced, and provisions were given them for the journey. 

It Did Not Go As Planned

The brothers load their donkeys and depart. At some distance, the brothers stopped for lodging, and to their surprise, they found their money in their sacks as they foddered the donkeys. Their hearts failed, they were filled with fear, and they wondered what God was doing to them. When they return home, they recite the events that had occurred. They explain to Jacob that the Lord of the land took them for spies and gave them a test to prove their innocence. They also gave an account as to why Simeon was not with them and told Jacob that they were expected to bring Benjamin back in order to trade in the land. Jacob saw their bundles of money, and he chastises his sons blaming them for the loss of Joseph, Simeon, and now Benjamin. In self-pity, Jacob exclaims, "All this has come against me!" Reuben seeks to rally his father and offers his sons as a guarantee that he will make things right. The next words out of Jacob's mouth must have been too painful to bear. He speaks to the nine sons before him as if they do not even exist as he declares that Benjamin will not go back and he is the only son left. Jacob gives into despair and cannot bear the thought of anything happening to Benjamin with no regard for the other sons or Simeon who is in prison. 

Things To Consider:

  • How does God use suffering for his good purpose?
  • What do you think Joseph might have been tempted to do when he saw his brothers?
  • Why does revenge belong to the Lord?
  • Was Joseph right in the way he treated his brothers? Why?
  • Why do you think Joseph tested his brothers?
  • Why is it difficult to release the pain of the past?
  • How do you think Joseph treated Simeon after the brothers left? Why?
  • Why do we blame God for trouble?
  • How painful were Jacob's words to his sons?
  • How do you cope with a "father wound"? 
  • How do selfishness and fear effect faith?