(Gen 42:1 NASB) Now Jacob saw that there was grain in Egypt, and Jacob said to his sons, “Why are you staring at one another?”
(Gen 42:2 NASB) And he said, “Behold, I have heard that there is grain in Egypt; go down there and buy some for us from that place, so that we may live and not die.”
Gen 42:2: Jacob speaks as if he is put out with his sons. The famine has hit that part of the world very hard. He heard that they have grain in Egypt.
The lack of rain has been a way that Elohim has shown His control over the world. It also happened in the days of Elijah (1 Kings 17:1, 1 Kings 18:1).
(Gen 42:3 NASB) Then ten brothers of Joseph went down to buy grain from Egypt.
(Gen 42:4 NASB) But Jacob did not send Joseph’s brother Benjamin with his brothers, for he said, “I am afraid that harm may befall him.”
Gen 42:4: Ten of Joseph’s brothers went to Egypt to buy grain. Jacob did not want Benjamin to go because he is the only other son of Rachel and he has taken Joseph’s place in his father’s affection.
This is similar to what later happens to the tribes of Israel. Ten (the Northern Kingdom of Israel) are sent out into the world while two (the Southern Kingdom of Judah) stay in the land. Later all the sons of Israel were sent into the world for an extended period of time, just as all the tribes are dispersed in the world by Assyria and then Babylon for many centuries.
(Gen 42:5 NASB) So the sons of Israel came to buy grain among those who were coming, for the famine was in the land of Canaan also.
(Gen 42:6 NASB) Now Joseph 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 bowed down to him with their faces to the ground.
Gen 42:6: This was in fulfillment of the dreams of Joseph.
(Gen 42:7 NASB) When Joseph saw his brothers he recognized them, but he disguised himself to them and spoke to them harshly. And he said to them, “Where have you come from?” And they said, “From the land of Canaan, to buy food.”
Gen 42:7: Joseph was not ready to reveal himself. For all he knew, his brothers were still men who were deceitful and dangerous. When they sold him in to slavery in chapter 37, it says “they conspired against him.” Joseph is doing a little conspiring himself.
(Gen 42:8 NASB) But Joseph had recognized his brothers, although they did not recognize him.
(Gen 42:9 NASB) And Joseph remembered 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.”
Gen 42:9: They did not recognize him because they last saw him as a teenager and it was now over twenty years later.
(Gen 42:10 NASB) Then they said to him, “No, my lord, but your servants have come to buy food.
(Gen 42:11 NASB) “We are all sons of one man; we are honest men, your servants are not spies.”
(Gen 42:12 NASB) Yet he said to them, “No, but you have come to look at the undefended parts of our land!”
Gen 42:12: Joseph is devising this test to see if they will do to Simeon or Benjamin what they did to him. He wants to see if they had changed their ways.
When Joseph accuses them of coming to see the nakedness of the land, he is accusing them of examining the nation of Egypt to see what weakness might exist. Joseph is accusing them of being hostile as a people (or nation) toward the nation of Egypt.
(Gen 42:13 NASB) 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 our father today, and one is no more.”
(Gen 42:14 NASB) And Joseph said to them, “It is as I said to you, you are spies;
Gen 42:14: They avoid saying that the one brother is dead. They just say he “is no more.”
Joseph is intent on testing them. He tells them they are to be considered spies until he in convinced otherwise.
(Gen 42:15 NASB) by this you will be tested: by the life of Pharaoh, you shall not go from this place unless your youngest brother comes here!
(Gen 42:16 NASB) “Send one of you that he may get your brother, while you remain confined, that your words may be tested, whether there is truth in you. But if not, by the life of Pharaoh, surely you are spies.”
Gen 42:16: Joseph probably wanted to know for sure that they had not killed Benjamin or sold him to slavery like they had done to him. He knew that Benjamin was likely the favorite after his disappearance.
The phrase “by the life of Pharaoh” is one that was apparently used on occasion in that day. That phrase was found on an inscription from about 2000 BC.
(Gen 42:17 NASB) So he put them all together in prison for three days.
(Gen 42:18 NASB) Now Joseph said to them on the third day, “Do this and live, for I fear God:
Gen 42:18: A fear of Elohim is the greatest deterrence of evil. Fearing retribution from the Almighty Elohim keeps us from sin better than anything else (lots of references).
(Gen 42:19 NASB) 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,
(Gen 42:20 NASB) and bring your youngest brother to me, so your words may be verified, and you will not die.” And they did so.
Gen 42:20: Joseph is speaking his heart when he says, “If you are honest men…” He does not know if they really are honest.
(Gen 42:21 NASB) Then they said to one another, “Truly 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.”
(Gen 42:22 NASB) And Reuben answered them, saying, “Did I not tell you, ‘Do not sin against the boy’; and you would not listen? Now comes the reckoning for his blood.”
(Gen 42:23 NASB) They did not know, however, that Joseph understood, for there was an interpreter between them.
Gen 42:23: This confession of sin is what Joseph wanted to get from them all along. They did not know that he could understand them…
(Gen 42:24 NASB) And he turned away from them and wept. But when he returned to them and spoke to them, he took Simeon from them and bound him before their eyes.
Gen 42:24: Having heard that Reuben, the eldest, tried to save him, he detains the one second in line which was Simeon.
(Gen 42:25 NASB) Then 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.
(Gen 42:26 NASB) So they loaded their donkeys with their grain, and departed from there.
Gen 42:26: Joseph had their packs loaded and their money returned without their knowledge. We are not told if this was due to him wanting to test their integrity or to intensify the psychological pressure.
(Gen 42:27 NASB) And as one of them opened his sack to give his donkey fodder at the lodging place, he saw his money; and behold, it was in the mouth of his sack.
(Gen 42:28 NASB) 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, “What is this that God has done to us?”
Gen 42:28: They knew that they had to return in order to get their brother back. They feared that it would look as if they had stolen the money back from Egypt.
(Gen 42:29 NASB) When they came to their father Jacob in the land of Canaan, they told him all that had happened to them, saying,
(Gen 42:30 NASB) “The man, the lord of the land, spoke harshly with us, and took us for spies of the country.
(Gen 42:31 NASB) “But we said to him, ‘We are honest men; we are not spies.
(Gen 42:32 NASB) ‘We are twelve brothers, sons of our father; one is no more, and the youngest is with our father today in the land of Canaan.’
Gen 42:32: They are afraid they will look like thieves and spies.
(Gen 42:33 NASB) “And 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.
(Gen 42:34 NASB) ‘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 trade in the land.'”
(Gen 42:35 NASB) Now it came about as they were emptying their sacks, that behold, every man’s bundle of money was in his sack; and when they and their father saw their bundles of money, they were dismayed.
Gen 42:35: They saw that they all had their money back in their packs. They will definitely look guilty. They now have to face intense pressure in order to get Simeon back.
(Gen 42:36 NASB) And their father Jacob said to them, “You have bereaved me of my children: Joseph is no more, and Simeon is no more, and you would take Benjamin; all these things are against me.”
(Gen 42:37 NASB) 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.”
Gen 42:37: Reuben makes a pledge to his father that he will return with Benjamin. It is one that backfires on him.
(Gen 42:38 NASB) But Jacob said, “My son shall not go down with you; for his brother is dead, and he alone is left. If harm should befall him on the journey you are taking, then you will bring my gray hair down to Sheol in sorrow.”
Gen 42:38: Jacob says that Benjamin alone is left. He means that Benjamin is all he has left of his beloved wife Rachel, whom he greatly loved.
Jacob says “no.”
Patrick McGuireCopyright 2014 Patrick McGuire and Beit Yeshua Torah Assembly All rights reserved, no portion of this Lesson may be reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations in articles and reviews. Beit Yeshua Torah Assembly Fort Smith, Arkansas