Genesis 42 ~ 20080622 ~ Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~

6/22 Genesis 42 Redemption for the Children of Jacob

We've seen things for Joseph go from bad to hopeful to worse; and he's an example for us all when we face difficult circumstances. I think 2 Corinthians 4:8-9 describes him well:

2 Corinthians 4:8-9 We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed;

Joseph waited for 20 years humbly serving as a slave and then in prison. And at the proper time, God placed him in the position that he had prepared for him. This is a great illustration of Ephesians 2:10:

Ephesians 2:10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

At the close of chapter 41, we saw the beginning of a fulfillment of the prophesies to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob that God would bless them and through their seed he would bless all nations.

41:57 Moreover, all the earth came to Egypt to Joseph to buy grain, because the famine was severe over all the earth.

Now the scene switches back from Egypt to Canaan, where Joseph's family is suffering under the famine.

42:1 When Jacob learned that there was grain for sale in Egypt, he said to his sons, “Why do you look at one another?” 2 And he said, “Behold, I have heard that there is grain for sale in Egypt. Go down and buy grain for us there, that we may live and not die.”

We get a pathetic hopeless picture of God's chosen family sitting around the empty dining room table in Canaan looking at each other.... 'man, I'm really hungry, are you hungry? O yeah, I haven't been this hungry in a long time. Simeon says 'curly fries with fry sauce and a double bacon cheeseburger' Everybody looks at him... 'without the bacon, of course – that's not kosher'... Reuben says 'I want a some roast beef on rye bread lightly toasted with swiss cheese and sauerkraut and some thousand island dressing'.... Levi 'I want a Philistine cheese steak sandwich with sauteed green peppers and onions. Benjamin says 'whatever you guys want, I could eat five times as much!'

About this time, Jacob, who's been surfing through the camel tv channels in the living room, lets out a woo-hoo and comes hobbling in on his waker. He's almost 130 years old now - 'I just saw on the Egyptian News Network that they have grain to spare in Egypt. Well, don't just sit there starving to death, get up and go buy us some!'

His outlook is grim. It's life or death. We either get some food, or we starve to death.

3 So ten of Joseph’s brothers went down to buy grain in Egypt. 4 But Jacob did not send Benjamin, Joseph’s brother, with his brothers, for he feared that harm might happen to him.

Jacob is characterized by partiality and fear. Rather than recognizing the destruction caused by his favoritism and repenting of it, it appears that Benjamin has taken his brother Joseph's place as the favorite son. They were the only sons of the favorite wife Rachel. Jacob refuses to trust God with his son. He feels he must protect him himself.

Now the scene follows the brothers down to Egypt:

5 Thus the sons of Israel came to buy among the others who came, for the famine was in the land of Canaan. 6 Now Joseph was governor over the land. He was the one who sold to all the people of the land. And Joseph’s brothers came and bowed themselves before him with their faces to the ground. 7 Joseph saw his brothers and recognized them, but he treated them like strangers and spoke roughly to them. “Where do you come from?” he said. They said, “From the land of Canaan, to buy food.” 8 And Joseph recognized his brothers, but they did not recognize him. 9 And Joseph remembered the dreams that he had dreamed of them.

Joseph's dreams that had won him so much favor with his half-brothers 27 years earlier now came flooding back into his memory. We were binding sheaves in the field, and behold, my sheaf arose and stood upright and behold, all your sheaves gathered around it and bowed down to my sheaf; the sun the moon, and eleven stars were bowing down to me. Now ten of his brothers have their faces in the dirt at his feet.

And he said to them, “You are spies; you have come to see the nakedness of the land.” 10 They said to him, “No, my lord, your servants have come to buy food. 11 We are all sons of one man. We are honest men. Your servants have never been spies.” 12 He said to them, “No, it is the nakedness of the land that you have come to see.”

Their argument is that they are all sons of one man. No father would jeopardize his whole family together on a dangerous spying mission. Joseph rejects their argument, so they give him more details about their family to try to prove their honesty:

13 And they said, “We, your servants, are twelve brothers, the sons of one man in the land of Canaan, and behold, the youngest is this day with our father, and one is no more.” 14 But Joseph said to them, “It is as I said to you. You are spies.

Joseph says 'aha', you admit that your father has kept one son with him to preserve the family name. It is interesting that addressing Joseph, they say that one is no more. They assume that Joseph is dead, but they don't go into details.

15 By this you shall be tested: by the life of Pharaoh, you shall not go from this place unless your youngest brother comes here. 16 Send one of you, and let him bring your brother, while you remain confined, that your words may be tested, whether there is truth in you. Or else, by the life of Pharaoh, surely you are spies.” 17 And he put them all together in custody for three days.

We might think that for Joseph it's payback time. Now he's got his 10 evil brothers that threw him in the pit and sold him right where he wants them. They are completely at his mercy. But I don't think that's what's going on here. If Joseph wanted to pay them back, he could have told them who he was and then thrown them into prison. That would have really made them sweat. There is a connection between Joseph remembering his dreams and how he treats them. 'Joseph remembered his dreams, so he said to them, you are spies'. Joseph seems to be recognizing that God has placed him in this position and brought about these events for a specific redemptive purpose, and Joseph is voluntarily and creatively cooperating with what God is doing. Joseph gives them a taste of their own medicine by throwing them into the pit, but only for three days. Joseph had spent at least three years in prison, probably longer.

18 On the third day Joseph said to them, “Do this and you will live, for I fear God:

Joseph is turning their attention toward God. These ten brothers represent God's chosen people; but it's the pagan Egyptian that introduces God into the conversation. He says that he fears God. He is showing them mercy because he has respect for the God who gives life. He is showing them grace, giving them the opportunity to live, and to bring life to their families, because he is a God-fearing man.

19 if you are honest men, let one of your brothers remain confined where you are in custody, and let the rest go and carry grain for the famine of your households, 20 and bring your youngest brother to me. So your words will be verified, and you shall not die.” And they did so. 21 Then they said to one another, “In truth we are guilty concerning our brother, in that we saw the distress of his soul, when he begged us and we did not listen. That is why this distress has come upon us.” 22 And Reuben answered them, “Did I not tell you not to sin against the boy? But you did not listen. So now there comes a reckoning for his blood.”

This is the first admission of guilt in the whole bible! The crying of their brother in the pit had not softened their hearts; the tears of their own broken-hearted father had not brought them to repentance, but three days in prison had worked wonders with their consciences! They are feeling the weight of the law of retribution.

Galatians 6:7 Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap.

Reuben takes the opportunity to say 'I told you so', but his words recall the language of Genesis 9:5-6:

Genesis 9:5-6 And for your lifeblood I will require a reckoning: from every beast I will require it and from man. From his fellow man I will require a reckoning for the life of man. “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image.

Joseph's brothers have been liars and deceivers and murderers. Joseph is seeking to justify them, to prove the truthfulness of their words so that they will live.

23 They did not know that Joseph understood them, for there was an interpreter between them. 24 Then he turned away from them and wept. And he returned to them and spoke to them. And he took Simeon from them and bound him before their eyes. 25 And Joseph gave orders to fill their bags with grain, and to replace every man’s money in his sack, and to give them provisions for the journey. This was done for them.

Here we see Joseph's heart. He is not vengeful, hoping to return evil for evil. Instead, he has a tender heart toward them, not wishing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. (2Pet.3:9). He weeps when he hears their remorse and confession of guilt. Joseph has learned from what he overheard that Reuben, the firstborn, had attempted to defend him, so he has Simeon, the second-oldest bound in front of them to demonstrate how serious the situation is.

And Joseph is generous toward his brothers. He was just to accept their money as payment for the grain; he is gracious to return their money to them and give them provisions for their journey. This is undeserved kindness.

26 Then they loaded their donkeys with their grain and departed. 27 And as one of them opened his sack to give his donkey fodder at the lodging place, he saw his money in the mouth of his sack. 28 He said to his brothers, “My money has been put back; here it is in the mouth of my sack!” At this their hearts failed them, and they turned trembling to one another, saying, “What is this that God has done to us?”

The brothers finally mention God. Joseph has succeeded in awakening in them a sense of accountability to God. They are beginning to realize that their sin was against God and God is justly angry with them. God will see that justice is done. It is interesting that it was an act of gracious kindness that stirred their guilty consciences and caused them to fear God. There's no indication in the text that Joseph had ulterior motives for returning their money. But the brothers recognized that they were suspected of being dishonest, and this appeared to be planted evidence against their integrity. Now they could be accused of theft.

29 When they came to Jacob their father in the land of Canaan, they told him all that had happened to them, saying, 30 “The man, the lord of the land, spoke roughly to us and took us to be spies of the land. 31 But we said to him, ‘We are honest men; we have never been spies. 32 We are twelve brothers, sons of our father. One is no more, and the youngest is this day with our father in the land of Canaan.’ 33 Then the man, the lord of the land, said to us, ‘By this I shall know that you are honest men: leave one of your brothers with me, and take grain for the famine of your households, and go your way. 34 Bring your youngest brother to me. Then I shall know that you are not spies but honest men, and I will deliver your brother to you, and you shall trade in the land.”’ 35 As they emptied their sacks, behold, every man’s bundle of money was in his sack. And when they and their father saw their bundles of money, they were afraid.

Now they arrive home, and they relay their story to Jacob. But when the rest of the bags of grain are emptied, they find the rest of their money, and Jacob is afraid with his sons. Again, gracious kindness causes fear in those with a guilty conscience.

36 And Jacob their father said to them, “You have bereaved me of my children: Joseph is no more, and Simeon is no more, and now you would take Benjamin. All this has come against me.”

Jacob speaks more truth than even he may realize. He tells the nine brothers that they have bereaved him of his children. Those words probably stung their now tender consciences. Did Jacob suspect that the ten jealous brothers had a hand in Joseph's demise?

Listen to Jacob. This is the same Jacob that after he had been tricked and taken advantage of for years by his crazy uncle Laban said:

Genesis 31:5 ... But the God of my father has been with me.

Genesis 35:3 Then let us arise and go up to Bethel, so that I may make there an altar to the God who answers me in the day of my distress and has been with me wherever I have gone.”

Now Jacob says Joseph is no more. He will find out shortly that this is not true. He says Simeon is no more. This is not true. Simeon is in prison in Egypt, waiting for his brothers return and release. Jacob assumes he's as good as dead. And you would take Benjamin. The implication is that if Benjamin goes he won't come back either. His summary is 'all this has come against me'. All things are working together to my hurt. It appears that Jacob in his grief has lost sight of the God 'who answers him in the day of his distress and has been with him wherever he has gone'. He has lost sight of the God who:

Ephesians 1:11 ...who works all things according to the counsel of his will,

Romans 8:28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

Jacob's bitterness and sorrow have blinded him to the sovereign God who can even bring good out of the evil intentions of wicked men. Jacob is despairing and faithless. He can't see around his own grief to the God who loves him and had promised never to leave him and to bless him. God will not abandon his promises.

Now Reuben steps in as the firstborn and makes an offer to Jacob:

37 Then Reuben said to his father, “Kill my two sons if I do not bring him back to you. Put him in my hands, and I will bring him back to you.”

This is a really well-thought out offer. Reuben is trying to boost his father's confidence, but it doesn't work. You can trust me. If they kill your favorite son Benjamin, then you can kill two of your grandkids – that would really make you feel better. This is Reuben who failed to protect Joseph when his brothers wanted to kill him. This is Reuben who slept with his father's concubine back in chapter 35. The only way that Reuben's offer makes any sense is if his two kids are so evil and awful that Jacob has already considered killing them. We know that two of Judah's boys were so evil that God himself killed them, so that is a possibility. Reuben is not coming off here as the brightest candle in the menorah.

38 But he said, “My son shall not go down with you, for his brother is dead, and he is the only one left. If harm should happen to him on the journey that you are to make, you would bring down my gray hairs with sorrow to Sheol.”

Jacob's words are very hurtful. He's talking to nine of his sons, and he's saying that since Joseph is dead, he doesn't have any kids left but Benjamin. He's virtually disowning all the sons of his other wives. He has a son in prison in Egypt, but he says 'my son will not go down with you'. I'd rather let Simeon rot in the Egyptian prison than risk any danger to my new favorite Benjamin'. He is saying 'I have no joy in any of the rest of you nine. Life would no longer be worth living if I lost Benjamin. Jacob has lost sight of who God is and what God is doing in the situation. God has proved himself faithful and trustworthy through some very painful difficult situations in the past. Now Jacob is guilty not only of gross favoritism, but of elevating his son to the place of a god and idolizing him. He is guilty of what Jesus says:

Matthew 10:37 Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.

If only Jacob could keep trusting in the awesome miracle working God that has been with him to bless him. Even in this seemingly desperate terrible situation, God is in control and God is working for Jacob's good to bless Jacob. Jacob has been called according to God's purpose. And praise God, he will accomplish his good purpose in Jacob in spite of his unbelief.

2 Timothy 2:13 if we are faithless, he remains faithful–– for he cannot deny himself.