Genesis 42 Redemption for the Children of Jacob
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:
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;
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.
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.
all the earth came to Egypt to Joseph to buy grain, because the
famine was severe over all the earth.
the scene switches back from Egypt to Canaan, where Joseph's family
is suffering under the famine.
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
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!'
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!'
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.
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
the scene follows the brothers down to Egypt:
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.
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
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.”
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:
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.
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.
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
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.
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.”
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.
takes the opportunity to say 'I told you so', but his words recall
the language of Genesis 9:5-6:
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.
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
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
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
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?”
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.
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.
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.”
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?
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.”
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 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.
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.
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.”
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.”
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
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:
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.
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.
Timothy 2:13 if we are faithless, he remains faithful––
cannot deny himself.