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Genesis 42

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Joseph’s Brothers Go Down to Egypt
1Jacob found out that there was grain in Egypt. So he said to his sons, “Why do you just keep looking at one another?” 2He continued, “I’ve heard there’s grain in Egypt. Go down there. Buy some for us. Then we’ll live and not die.”
3So ten of Joseph’s brothers went down to Egypt to buy grain there. 4But Jacob didn’t send Joseph’s brother Benjamin with them. He was afraid Benjamin might be harmed. 5Israel’s sons were among the people who went to buy grain. There wasn’t enough food in the land of Canaan.
6Joseph was the governor of the land. He was the one who sold grain to all its people. When Joseph’s brothers arrived, they bowed down to him with their faces to the ground. 7As soon as Joseph saw his brothers, he recognized them. But he pretended to be a stranger. He spoke to them in a mean way. “Where do you come from?” he asked.
“From the land of Canaan,” they replied. “We’ve come to buy food.”
8Joseph recognized his brothers, but they didn’t recognize him. 9Then Joseph remembered his dreams about them. So he said to them, “You are spies! You have come to see the places where our land isn’t guarded very well.”
10“No, sir,” they answered. “We’ve come to buy food. 11All of us are the sons of one man. We’re honest men. We aren’t spies.”
12“No!” he said to them. “You have come to see the places where our land isn’t guarded very well.”
13But they replied, “We were 12 brothers. All of us were the sons of one man. He lives in the land of Canaan. Our youngest brother is now with our father. And one brother is gone.”
14Joseph said to them, “I still say you are spies! 15So I’m going to test you. And here’s the test. You can be sure that you won’t leave this place unless your youngest brother comes here. You can be just as sure of this as you are sure that Pharaoh lives. I give you my word that you won’t leave here unless your brother comes. 16Send one of you back to get your brother. The rest of you will be kept in prison. I’ll test your words. Then we’ll find out whether you are telling the truth. You can be sure that Pharaoh lives. And you can be just as sure that if you aren’t telling the truth, we’ll know that you are spies!” 17So Joseph kept all of them under guard for three days.
18On the third day, Joseph spoke to them again. He said, “Do what I say. Then you will live, because I have respect for God. 19If you are honest men, let one of your brothers stay here in prison. The rest of you may go and take grain back to your hungry families. 20But you must bring your youngest brother to me. That will prove that your words are true. Then you won’t die.” So they did what he said.
21They said to one another, “God is surely punishing us because of our brother. We saw how upset he was when he begged us to let him live. But we wouldn’t listen. That’s why all this trouble has come to us.”
22Reuben replied, “Didn’t I tell you not to sin against the boy? But you wouldn’t listen! Now we’re being paid back for killing him.” 23They didn’t realize that Joseph could understand what they were saying. He was using someone else to explain their words to him in the Egyptian language.
24Joseph turned away from his brothers and began to weep. Then he came back and spoke to them again. He had Simeon taken and tied up right there in front of them.
25Joseph gave orders to have their bags filled with grain. He had each man’s money put back into his sack. He also made sure they were given food for their journey. 26Then the brothers loaded their grain on their donkeys and left.
27When night came, they stopped. One of them opened his sack to get feed for his donkey. He saw his money in the top of his sack. 28“My money has been given back,” he said to his brothers. “Here it is in my sack.”
They had a sinking feeling in their hearts. They began to tremble. They turned to one another and said, “What has God done to us?”
29They came to their father Jacob in the land of Canaan. They told him everything that had happened to them. They said, 30“The man who is the governor of the land spoke to us in a mean way. He treated us as if we were spying on the land. 31But we said to him, ‘We’re honest men. We aren’t spies. 32We were 12 brothers. All of us were the sons of one father. But now one brother is gone. And our youngest brother is with our father in Canaan.’
33“Then the man who is the governor of the land spoke to us. He said, ‘Here’s how I will know whether you are honest men. Leave one of your brothers here with me. Take food for your hungry families and go. 34But bring your youngest brother to me. Then I’ll know that you are honest men and not spies. I’ll give your brother back to you. And you will be free to trade in the land.’ ”
35They began emptying their sacks. There in each man’s sack was his bag of money! When they and their father saw the money bags, they were scared to death. 36Their father Jacob said to them, “You have taken my children away from me. Joseph is gone. Simeon is gone. Now you want to take Benjamin. Everything is going against me!”
37Then Reuben spoke to his father. He said, “You can put both of my sons to death if I don’t bring Benjamin back to you. Trust me to take care of him. I’ll bring him back.”
38But Jacob said, “My son will not go down there with you. His brother is dead. He’s the only one left here with me. Suppose he’s harmed on the journey you are taking. Then I would die as a sad old man.”
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The Brothers’ First Journey to Egypt.#The first journey of the brothers to Egypt. Its cause is famine, which was also the reason Abraham and Sarah undertook their dangerous journey to Egypt. The brothers bow to Joseph in v. 6, which fulfills Joseph’s dream in 37:5–11. Endowed with wisdom, Joseph begins a process of instruction or “discipline” for his brothers that eventually forces them to recognize the enormity of their sin against him and the family. He controls their experience of the first journey with the result that the second journey in chaps. 43–44 leads to full acknowledgment and reconciliation. 1When Jacob learned that grain rations were for sale in Egypt, he said to his sons: “Why do you keep looking at one another?” 2He went on, “I hear that grain is for sale in Egypt. Go down there and buy some for us, that we may stay alive and not die.”#Acts 7:12. 3So ten of Joseph’s brothers went down to buy grain from Egypt. 4But Jacob did not send Joseph’s brother Benjamin with his brothers, for he thought some disaster might befall him. 5And so the sons of Israel were among those who came to buy grain, since there was famine in the land of Canaan.#Jdt 5:10; Acts 7:11.
6Joseph, as governor of the country, was the one who sold grain to all the people of the land. When Joseph’s brothers came, they bowed down to him with their faces to the ground.#Ps 105:21. 7He recognized them as soon as he saw them. But he concealed his own identity from them and spoke harshly to them. “Where do you come from?” he asked them. They answered, “From the land of Canaan, to buy food.”
8When Joseph recognized his brothers, although they did not recognize him, 9he was reminded of the dreams he had about them. He said to them: “You are spies.#Gn 37:5. You have come to see the weak points#42:9, 12] Weak points: lit., “the nakedness of the land”; the military weakness of the land, like human nakedness, should not be seen by strangers. of the land.” 10“No, my lord,” they replied. “On the contrary, your servants have come to buy food. 11All of us are sons of the same man. We are honest men; your servants have never been spies.” 12But he answered them: “Not so! It is the weak points of the land that you have come to see.” 13“We your servants,” they said, “are twelve brothers, sons of a certain man in Canaan; but the youngest one is at present with our father, and the other one is no more.”#Gn 44:20. 14“It is just as I said,” Joseph persisted; “you are spies. 15This is how you shall be tested: I swear by the life of Pharaoh that you shall not leave here unless your youngest brother comes here. 16So send one of your number to get your brother, while the rest of you stay here under arrest. Thus will your words be tested for their truth; if they are untrue, as Pharaoh lives, you are spies!” 17With that, he locked them up in the guardhouse for three days.
18On the third day Joseph said to them: “Do this, and you shall live; for I am a God-fearing man. 19If you are honest men, let one of your brothers be confined in this prison, while the rest of you go and take home grain for your starving families. 20But you must bring me your youngest brother. Your words will thus be verified, and you will not die.” To this they agreed.#Gn 43:5. 21To one another, however, they said: “Truly we are being punished because of our brother. We saw the anguish of his heart when he pleaded with us, yet we would not listen. That is why this anguish has now come upon us.”#Gn 37:18–27. 22Then Reuben responded, “Did I not tell you, ‘Do no wrong to the boy’? But you would not listen! Now comes the reckoning for his blood.”#Gn 37:22. 23They did not know, of course, that Joseph understood what they said, since he spoke with them through an interpreter. 24But turning away from them, he wept. When he was able to speak to them again, he took Simeon from among them and bound him before their eyes. 25Then Joseph gave orders to have their containers filled with grain, their money replaced in each one’s sack, and provisions given them for their journey. After this had been done for them, 26they loaded their donkeys with the grain and departed.
27At the night encampment, when one of them opened his bag to give his donkey some fodder, he saw his money there in the mouth of his bag. 28He cried out to his brothers, “My money has been returned! Here it is in my bag!” At that their hearts sank. Trembling, they asked one another, “What is this that God has done to us?”
29When they got back to their father Jacob in the land of Canaan, they told him all that had happened to them. 30“The man who is lord of the land,” they said, “spoke to us harshly and put us in custody on the grounds that we were spying on the land. 31But we said to him: ‘We are honest men; we have never been spies. 32We are twelve brothers, sons of the same father; but one is no more, and the youngest one is now with our father in the land of Canaan.’ 33Then the man who is lord of the land said to us: ‘This is how I will know if you are honest men: leave one of your brothers with me, then take grain for your starving families and go. 34When you bring me your youngest brother, and I know that you are not spies but honest men, I will restore your brother to you, and you may move about freely in the land.’”
35When they were emptying their sacks, there in each one’s sack was his moneybag! At the sight of their moneybags, they and their father were afraid. 36Their father Jacob said to them: “Must you make me childless? Joseph is no more, Simeon is no more, and now you would take Benjamin away! All these things have happened to me!” 37Then Reuben told his father: “You may kill my own two sons if I do not return him to you! Put him in my care, and I will bring him back to you.” 38But Jacob replied: “My son shall not go down with you. Now that his brother is dead, he is the only one left. If some disaster should befall him on the journey you must make, you would send my white head down to Sheol in grief.”#Gn 37:35.