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Genesis 42

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Joseph’s Brothers Sent to Egypt
1Now when Jacob (Israel) learned that there was grain in Egypt, he said to his sons, “Why are you staring at one another [in bewilderment and not taking action]?” 2He said, “I have heard that there is grain in Egypt; go down there and buy [some] grain for us, so that we may live and not die [of starvation].” 3So ten of Joseph’s brothers went down to buy grain in Egypt. 4But Jacob did not send Benjamin, Joseph’s [younger] brother, with his brothers, for he said, “I am afraid that some harm or injury may come to him.” 5So the sons of Israel came [to Egypt] to buy grain along with the others who were coming, for famine was in the land of Canaan also.
6Now Joseph was the ruler over the land, and he was the one who sold [grain] to all the people of the land; and Joseph’s [half] brothers came and bowed down before him with their faces to the ground. 7When Joseph saw his brothers he recognized them, but [hiding his identity] he treated them as strangers and #Joseph was conversing with his brothers through an interpreter (v 23).spoke harshly to them. He said to them, “Where have you come from?” And they said, “From the land of Canaan, to buy food.”
8Joseph recognized his brothers, but #Perhaps as many as twenty years had passed since his brothers last saw Joseph. They never would have suspected that the powerful Egyptian ruler standing before them was their brother.they did not recognize him. 9Joseph remembered the dreams he had dreamed about them, and said to them, “You are spies; you have come [with a malicious purpose] to observe the #Lit nakedness.undefended parts of our land.” 10But they said to him, “No, my lord, for your servants have [only] come to buy food. 11We are all the sons of one man; we are honest men, your servants are not spies.” 12Yet he said to them, “No, you have come to see the undefended parts of our land.” 13But they said, “Your servants are twelve brothers [in all], the sons of one man in the land of Canaan; please listen: the youngest is with our father today, and one is no longer alive.” 14Joseph said to them, “It is as I said to you, you are spies. 15In this way you shall be tested: by the life of Pharaoh, you shall not leave this place unless your youngest brother comes here! 16Send one of you [back home], and let him bring your brother [here], while [the rest of] you remain confined, so that your words may be tested, [to see] whether there is any truth in you [and your story]; or else, by the life of Pharaoh, certainly you are spies.” 17Then Joseph put them all in prison for three days.
18Now Joseph said to them on the third day, “Do this and [you may] live, for I fear God: 19if you are honest men, let one of your brothers be confined in your [place here in] prison; but as for the rest of you, go, carry grain for the famine in your households, 20but bring your youngest brother to me, so your words will be verified and you will not die.” And they did so. 21And they said to one another, “Truly we are guilty regarding our brother [Joseph], because we saw the distress and anguish of his soul when he pleaded with us [to let him go], yet we would not listen [to his cry]; so this distress and anguish has come on us.” 22Reuben answered them, “Did I not tell you, ‘Do not sin against the boy’; and you would not listen? Now the accounting for his blood is required [of us for we are guilty of his death].” 23They did not know that Joseph understood [their conversation], because he spoke to them through an interpreter. 24He turned away from his brothers and [left the room and] wept; then he returned and talked with them, and took Simeon from them and bound him in front of them [to be kept as a hostage in Egypt]. 25Then Joseph gave orders [privately] that their bags be filled with grain, and that every man’s money [used to pay for the grain] be put back in his sack, and that provisions be given to them for the journey. And so this was done for them.
26They loaded their donkeys with grain and left from there. 27And at the lodging place, as one of them opened his sack to feed his donkey, he saw his money in the opening of his sack. 28And he said to his brothers, “My money has been returned! Here it is in my sack!” And their hearts sank, and they were afraid and turned trembling to one another, saying, “What is this that God has done to us?”
The Return to Canaan
29When they came to Jacob their father in the land of Canaan, they told him everything that had happened to them, saying, 30“The man who is the lord of the land spoke harshly to us, and took us for spies of the land. 31But we told him, ‘We are honest men; we are not spies. 32We are twelve brothers, sons of our father; one is no longer alive, and the youngest is with our father today in the land of Canaan.’ 33And the man, the lord of the country, said to us, ‘By this [test] I will know that you are honest men: leave one of your brothers here with me and take grain for your starving households and go. 34Bring your youngest brother to me; then I will know that you are not spies, but that you are honest men. Then I will return your [imprisoned] brother [back] to you, and you may trade and do business in the land.’ ”
35Now when they emptied their sacks, every man’s bundle of money [paid to buy grain] was in his sack. When they and their father saw the bundles of money, they were afraid. 36Jacob their father said to them, “You have bereaved me [by causing the loss] of my children. Joseph is no more, and Simeon is no more, and you would take Benjamin [from me]. All these things are [working] against me.” 37Then Reuben spoke to his father, “You may put my two sons to death if I do not bring Benjamin back to you; put him in my care, and I will return him to you.” 38But Jacob said, “My son shall not go down [to Egypt] with you; for his brother is dead, and he alone is left [of Rachel’s children]. If any harm or accident should happen to him on the journey you are taking, then you will bring my gray hair down to Sheol (the place of the dead) in sorrow.”
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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.