Genesis 42 - Joseph’s Brothers Went Down to Egypt to Buy Grain
Then Ten of Joseph’s Brothers Went Down to Egypt to Buy Grain
Ten of Joseph’s brothers went down to buy grain from Egypt but Benjamin did not go. Though Joseph recognized his brothers, they did not recognize him.
When Jacob learned that there was grain in Egypt, he said to his sons, “Why do you just keep looking at each other?” He continued, “I have heard that there is grain in Egypt. Go down there and buy some for us, so that we may live and not die.” Genesis 42:1-2
God had revealed the interpretation of Pharaoh’s two dreams to Joseph. Joseph had explained that the good cows and heads of grain represented an abundance of herds and produce for seven years throughout the land of Egypt. While the lean cows and worthless heads of grain foretold of seven years of a severe famine that would follow the good years. The seven years of abundance had passed and according to Genesis 45:11, it was now in the second year of the famine that Jacob commanded his sons to go down to Egypt to buy some grain.
Then ten of Joseph’s brothers went down to buy grain from Egypt. But Jacob did not send Benjamin, Joseph’s brother, with the others, because he was afraid that harm might come to him. So Israel’s sons were among those who went to buy grain, for there was famine in the land of Canaan also. Genesis 42:3-5
Because of their jealousy, Jacob was deceived by Joseph’s half-brothers into believing that Joseph had been torn to death by a wild beast. At that time, Joseph was not only the son of Jacob’s old age but also the son of Rachel who Jacob had loved. Rachel had died in childbirth and Benjamin was their son. Jacob did not send Benjamin, Joseph’s brother, with the others because he was afraid that harm might come to him as well.
Now Joseph was the governor of the land, the person who sold grain to all its people. So when Joseph’s brothers arrived, they bowed down to him with their faces to the ground. As soon as Joseph saw his brothers, he recognized them, but he pretended to be a stranger and spoke harshly to them. “Where do you come from?” he asked.
“From the land of Canaan,” they replied, “to buy food.” Genesis 42:6-7
The first of Joseph’s two dreams that provoked his half-brothers to such hot anger that they wanted to kill him was literally being fulfilled at this time.
He said to them, "Please listen to this dream which I have had; for behold, we were binding sheaves in the field, and lo, my sheaf rose up and also stood erect; and behold, your sheaves gathered around and bowed down to my sheaf."
Then his brothers said to him, "Are you actually going to reign over us? Or are you really going to rule over us?" So they hated him even more for his dreams and for his words. Genesis 37:6-8
How ironic is this demonstration of the sovereignty of God. Because Joseph’s brothers wanted to get rid of this dreamer, they sold Joseph into slavery to the Ishmaelites. The Ishmaelites took him down to Egypt where Joseph was purchased by Potiphar, the captain of Pharaoh’s guard. Joseph was falsely accused by Potiphar’s wife. Then Joseph’s master took him and put him in prison, the place where the Pharaoh’s prisoners were confined. Joseph correctly interpreted the dreams of Pharaoh’s chief wine steward and baker and was eventually summonsed by Pharaoh to interpret his dreams. Pharaoh then elevated Joseph to the second-in-command position of governor over Egypt. Because of the widespread famine, Jacob’s sons needed to buy grain. They travelled to Egypt and now were bowing down with their faces to the ground in front of Joseph.
Although Joseph recognized his brothers, they did not recognize him. Then he remembered his dreams about them and said to them, “You are spies! You have come to see where our land is unprotected.” Genesis 42:8-9
When Joseph was sold into slavery, he was seventeen years of age. Joseph was thirty years old when he became vice-regent of Egypt. It is now about nine years later and Joseph is in his late thirties. His brothers have not seen him for more than twenty years. He is dressed like an Egyptian and was in is a position of great authority. His brothers dared not look him in the eyes but bowed down with their faces on the ground. His brothers did not recognize him.
He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. John 1:10-11
Joseph, who had been rejected by his jealous brothers who wanted to kill him, was not recognized by them. Like Jesus, who was not recognized by the world and rejected by His own people, Joseph had suffered although he had not done anything wrong to deserve punishment.
These fellow children of Israel did not recognize that Joseph was a Hebrew, but assumed he was a gentile authority. In much the same way, most Jews today view Jesus as a Greek or Roman god and do not recognize Him as a fellow Hebrew. The use of Greek Orthodox icons and Roman Catholic statues in religious ceremony is viewed as a form of idolatry by observant Jews. It is difficult for an Orthodox Jew to understand that festivals commanded in the Torah like, Passover and the Feast of Tabernacles are not observed by Christians, but pagan festivals such as Easter and Passover are.
God has a purpose and plan as to why so few Jews have come to recognize Jesus as the Messiah over the past 2,000 years.
Again I ask: Did they stumble so as to fall beyond recovery? Not at all! Rather, because of their transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel envious. Romans 11:11
For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in., Romans 11:25
Except for a remnant, Jesus not being recognized as Messiah by Israel has meant that salvation has come to the Gentiles to provoke Israel to jealousy. Most of Israel will remain blind and will not recognize Yeshua as Messiah until the rapture of the church after the Great Tribulation.
“Look, he is coming with the clouds,” and “every eye will see him, even those who pierced him”; and all peoples on earth “will mourn because of him.” So shall it be! Amen. Revelation 1:7
On the Feast of Trumpets, when Jesus comes at the rapture, blindness will be taken from Israel and they will see Him for who He is.
And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: “The Deliverer will come out of Zion, and He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob; for this is My covenant with them, when I take away their sins.” Romans 11:26-27
All of Israel refers to those who survive through the times of Jacob’s trouble.
“No, my lord,” they answered. “Your servants have come to buy food. We are all the sons of one man. Your servants are honest men, not spies.”
“No!” he said to them. “You have come to see where our land is unprotected.” Genesis 42:10-12
Joseph’s harsh tone and accusations were a means of pressuring his brothers and keeping them on the defensive in order to extract more information from them; such as the whereabouts of Benjamin.
But they replied, “Your servants were twelve brothers, the sons of one man, who lives in the land of Canaan. The youngest is now with our father, and one is no more.”
Joseph said to them, “It is just as I told you: You are spies! And this is how you will be tested: As surely as Pharaoh lives, you will not leave this place unless your youngest brother comes here. Send one of your number to get your brother; the rest of you will be kept in prison, so that your words may be tested to see if you are telling the truth. If you are not, then as surely as Pharaoh lives, you are spies!” And he put them all in custody for three days. Genesis 42:13-17
Joseph wasn’t being harsh to his brothers in order to extract revenge on them, but he was being used as an instrument of God to bring them to repentance.
On the third day, Joseph said to them, “Do this and you will live, for I fear God: If you are honest men, let one of your brothers stay here in prison, while the rest of you go and take grain back for your starving households. But you must bring your youngest brother to me, so that your words may be verified and that you may not die.” This they proceeded to do. Genesis 42:18-20
Joseph wanted to be assured that Benjamin was being treated well, so he devised a plan that forced his brothers to bring Benjamin down to Egypt.
They said to one another, “Surely we are being punished because of our brother. We saw how distressed he was when he pleaded with us for his life, but we would not listen; that’s why this distress has come on us.”
Reuben replied, “Didn’t I tell you not to sin against the boy? But you wouldn’t listen! Now we must give an accounting for his blood.” Genesis 42:21-22
Except for Reuben, all of Joseph’s other half-brothers wanted to kill him and throw him into a cistern. When Reuben heard his brothers plotting to kill Joseph, he tried to rescue him from their hands. “Let’s not take his life,” he said. “Don’t shed any blood.” Reuben told them to throw Joseph into a cistern but not to lay a hand on him. Reuben had said this to rescue Joseph from them and take him back to his father. Later on when Reuben returned, he was truly shocked and distressed when he saw that Joseph was missing. Joseph’s brothers had sold Joseph into slavery.
During the three days spent in an Egyptian prison, Joseph’s brothers had started to come under conviction of their sin against him.
They did not realize that Joseph could understand them, since he was using an interpreter. Genesis 42:23
Joseph chose to keep his identity hidden by using an interpreter and speaking in Egyptian. This enabled him to listen in on his brothers’ conversation without raising their suspicions. They felt free to communicate with one another openly and honestly.
He turned away from them and began to weep, but then came back and spoke to them again. He had Simeon taken from them and bound before their eyes. Genesis 42:24
He turned from them so that they could not see him weeping. Joseph must have been emotionally conflicted. Although he had just cause to be angry and unforgiving towards his brothers, he was compassionate and sensitive concerning the guilt they carried and was moved to tears.
Since his brothers hadn’t selected which one was to remain behind in prison, Joseph picked Simeon. Although Reuben was the firstborn, he was guiltless towards Joseph. So Joseph selected Simeon who was second eldest.
Joseph gave orders to fill their bags with grain, to put each man’s silver back in his sack, and to give them provisions for their journey. After this was done for them, they loaded their grain on their donkeys and left. Genesis 42:25-26
Unaware that Joseph had given orders to put each man’s silver back in his sack, the brothers loaded their grain on their donkeys and left.
At the place where they stopped for the night one of them opened his sack to get feed for his donkey, and he saw his silver in the mouth of his sack.“My silver has been returned,” he said to his brothers. “Here it is in my sack.”
Their hearts sank and they turned to each other trembling and said, “What is this that God has done to us?” Genesis 42:27-28
The governor of Egypt had spoken harshly to them. He was suspicious of their motives and had accused them of being spies. They had been imprisoned by him for three days. Discovering that the silver, which was the payment for their brother’s grain, was in his sack – their hearts sank. Would they now also be accused of being thieves? What would happen to Simeon who was still imprisoned?
When they came to their father Jacob in the land of Canaan, they told him all that had happened to them. They said, “The man who is lord over the land spoke harshly to us and treated us as though we were spying on the land. But we said to him, ‘We are honest men; we are not spies. We were twelve brothers, sons of one father. One is no more, and the youngest is now with our father in Canaan.’
“Then the man who is lord over the land said to us, ‘This is how I will know whether you are honest men: Leave one of your brothers here with me, and take food for your starving households and go. But bring your youngest brother to me so I will know that you are not spies but honest men. Then I will give your brother back to you, and you can trade in the land.’” Genesis 42:29-34
Arriving back in the land of Canaan, the brothers explain all that had happened to them and why Simeon did not return with them.
As they were emptying their sacks, there in each man’s sack was his pouch of silver! When they and their father saw the money pouches, they were frightened. Genesis 42:35
Perhaps it could just be considered a mistake that one brother had discovered his silver in his sack along with his grain. But how would they be able to account for the fact that none of the brothers had paid for their grain? They had every reason to be frightened.
Their father Jacob said to them, “You have deprived me of my children. Joseph is no more and Simeon is no more, and now you want to take Benjamin. Everything is against me!” Genesis 42:36
Jacob plainly distrusted his sons, remembering that he never saw Joseph again since Joseph had been with them. Jacob believes that Joseph had been killed, and now Simeon and Benjamin are in danger. He concludes that all these things are against me. It will certainly prove otherwise.
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28
All born-again believers will face trials at one time or another in their life. Sometimes the circumstances seem overwhelming and the outcome bleak. Jacob had no idea that God was working out His sovereign plan. Joseph was not only alive, but the second most influential man in the most powerful nation at that time.
Then Reuben said to his father, “You may put both of my sons to death if I do not bring him back to you. Entrust him to my care, and I will bring him back.”
But Jacob said, “My son will not go down there with you; his brother is dead and he is the only one left. If harm comes to him on the journey you are taking, you will bring my gray head down to the grave in sorrow.” Genesis 42:37-38
Jacob refuses to accept Reuben’s noble gesture. Jacob insists that his Benjamin will not go down to Egypt with Reuben. Jacob bemoans the fact that Benjamin’s brother Joseph is dead and Benjamin is the only one left. Benjamin is the only one of Rachel’s sons who is still living with Jacob. Jacob had first been in mourning for Rachel; then he mourned for Joseph for more than twenty years. Jacob could not face the prospect of any harm coming to Benjamin.
The great love that Jacob had for his son Benjamin pales in comparison to the love that the Father has for us.
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8