Genesis Chapter Forty-Two


Read Genesis 42:1-6 – Food in Egypt


v.1 “Now when Jacob saw that there was corn in Egypt, Jacob said unto his sons, Why do ye look one upon another?”


            Judah, who had left the presence of his father to live among the Canaanites, has apparently returned and the family of Israel is united again.  Jacob is serving as their patriarch, overseeing them as was God’s purpose under that covenant.  As Joseph had devised from Pharaoh’s dream the great famine has come and is not only effecting Egypt but all of the surrounding regions as well.  But due to the work of Joseph, there is plenty in the land of Egypt.  With the great caravans of merchants traveling through Canaan it would not take long for that information to become known to anyone that lived there.

            It is not uncommon for those who are experiencing adversity to wring their hands in despair and lament their fate is it?  To stand debating, disputing or procrastinating when decisions must be made and something obviously must be done will only bring destruction to the timid and fearful.  So Jacob says don’t just stand around and look at each other, and Jacob’s sons are apparently doing just that, not doing what they could or should to relieve their trouble.  Just as Stephen relates in his sermon in Jerusalem so many years later:


v.2And he said, Behold, I have heard that there is corn in Egypt: get you down thither, and buy for us from thence; that we may live, and not die.”


            Jacob has heard that there is corn in Egypt.  The means to remove their want is available to them so Jacob commands his sons to go there and buy the food that is required to sustain them.  The Holy Spirit uses this same occurrence in the sermon that Stephen preaches years later.


Acts 7:1212But when Jacob heard that there was corn in Egypt, he sent out our fathers first.”


v.3-4And Joseph’s ten brethren went down to buy corn in Egypt. 4But Benjamin, Joseph’s brother, Jacob sent not with his brethren; for he said, Lest peradventure mischief befall him.”


            Ten of Jacob’s sons went to Egypt to procure what was needed for their families.  Jacob did not allow Benjamin to go because of his fear for his safety and welfare.  We remember that Benjamin is the son of Rachel, brother to Joseph and Jacob was not about to be put in the position of losing the only remaining son of the wife that he loved.


v.5-65And the sons of Israel came to buy corn among those that came: for the famine was in the land of Canaan. 6And Joseph was the governor over the land, and he it was that sold to all the people of the land: and Joseph’s brethren came, and bowed down themselves before him with their faces to the earth.


            Apparently as part of his responsibilities to Pharaoh, Joseph has the ultimate decision regarding sale of the surplus grain that Egypt now has stored against the famine.  In addition we might surmise that Joseph would be especially interested in the men from Canaan because they are his brothers.

            Just as we saw the dreams of butler and baker and Pharaoh come true we now also see the dreams of Joseph that caused so much strife with his brothers come true as well.  Just as the sheaves of grain bowed before Joseph’s sheaf, Joseph’s brothers now pay the proper honor and homage of that day to the governor of all Egypt; the one next of Pharaoh himself in authority.


Read Genesis 42:7-20Israel’s Sons in Egypt


v.7-8And Joseph saw his brethren, and he knew them, but made himself strange unto them, and spake roughly unto them; and he said unto them, Whence come ye? And they said, From the land of Canaan to buy food. 8And Joseph knew his brethren, but they knew not him.


            Joseph’s brothers do not know him.  In order to prevent them from finding him out sooner than he wants he pretends not to know them and treats them much like an Egyptian ruler would treat people who had entered his country without invitation.  Who are they?  Where are they from?  What do they want?  They try to explain but he gives them no peace nor does he accept their explanation.


v.9And Joseph remembered the dreams which he dreamed of them, and said unto them, Ye are spies; to see the nakedness of the land ye are come.”


            Joseph remembers his dreams and knows that the hand of God is involved in his brothers prostrating themselves before him just as he predicted:


Genesis 37:6-7And he said unto them, Hear, I pray you, this dream which I have dreamed: 7For, behold, we were binding sheaves in the field, and, lo, my sheaf arose, and also stood upright; and, behold, your sheaves stood round about, and made obeisance to my sheaf.”


Perhaps he wants to punish them somewhat for what they did to him, the scripture doesn’t tell us specifically, so he accuses them of being spies.  Spies that have come to seek a weakness in Egypt that they might find a way to overcome them and take their land, their food or take over their country.


v.10-11And they said unto him, Nay, my lord, but to buy food are thy servants come. 11We are all one man’s sons; we are true men, thy servants are no spies.”


            They, of course, continue to deny his charges, explaining that they are all the sons of one man.  They have only come, as have many others, to buy food.  They declare that they are “TRUE” men, honest men who have no ulterior motive or purpose in coming to Egypt.


v.12-13And he said unto them, Nay, but to see the nakedness of the land ye are come. 13And they said, Thy servants are twelve brethren, the sons of one man in the land of Canaan; and, behold, the youngest is this day with our father, and one is not.”


            Joseph continues to turn a deaf ear to their explanations and continues to charge them with spying.  They continue to try to explain, this time telling him that they are ten of twelve brothers.  Their youngest brother is still at home with his father but one of their brothers “is NOT”.  They do not give an explanation of what they mean by being his being “NOT” because they do not know.  In their minds, at best, he is a slave somewhere and may even be dead.


v.14-15And Joseph said unto them, That is it that I spake unto you, saying, Ye are spies: 15Hereby ye shall be proved: By the life of Pharaoh ye shall not go forth hence, except your youngest brother come hither.”


            Joseph continues to accuse them of being spies and now devises a means of proving or testing them.  First of all he swears by the life of Pharaoh, an oath that in Egypt given by an Egyptian could not have been any stronger.  It is suggested by some that he does this for the same reason that Peter cursed and swore when confronted at Jesus trial; so that he wouldn’t be recognized as a Hebrew or a man of God.


Matthew 26:73-74  And after a while came unto him they that stood by, and said to Peter, Surely thou also art one of them; for thy speech betrayeth thee. 74Then began he to curse and to swear, saying, I know not the man; And immediately the cock crew.”


Now Joseph demands that their youngest brother also be brought to Egypt and has a plan to help make that happen.


v.16-17Send one of you, and let him fetch your brother, and ye shall be kept in prison, that your words may be proved, whether there be any truth in you: or else by the life of Pharaoh surely ye are spies.  And he put them all together into ward three days.”


            So Joseph makes them a proposal.  Send one of you to Canaan to return with Benjamin and he will keep the rest in prison.  This will then prove their truthfulness and convince him that they are not spies.  Perhaps to give them some time to think about his offer he puts them in prison for three days, perhaps even the same prison that Potiphar had put him into several years previously.


v.18And Joseph said unto them the third day, This do, and live; for I fear God:”


            After allowing his brothers to spend three days in prison he calls them out to make an alternate proposal.  He now declares to them that he fears God, the same God that they worship.  Consequently they can be assured that he will do them no harm and that they can be assured that those who fear the higher powers of God will be fair and reasonable.  Another example in scripture is Nehemiah:


Nehemiah 5:15But the former governors that had been before me were chargeable unto the people, and had taken of them bread and wine, beside forty shekels of silver; yea, even their servants bare rule over the people: but so did not I, because of the fear of God.”


Those who had ruled the region of Israel before Nehemiah was “CHARGEABLE UNTO THE PEOPLE”, took their living from those they ruled, Nehemiah did not.  Not only that but the scriptures tells us that he worked alongside the people in rebuilding the city wall and fed upwards of 150 people at his own table at his own expense.


v.19-20If ye be true men, let one of your brethren be bound in the house of your prison: go ye, carry corn for the famine of your houses: 20But bring your youngest brother unto me; so shall your words be verified, and ye shall not die. And they did so.


            Joseph now tells them his alternate proposal.  He will keep only one of them in prison and send the rest back to Canaan to return with their younger brother.  This way they would be able to return to Israel with the provisions that they had come to Egypt to buy and their families could be sustained during the famine.


Read Genesis 42:21-28 – Joseph’s Brothers Accept


v.21And they said one to another, We are verily guilty concerning our brother, in that we saw the anguish of his soul, when he besought us, and we would not hear; therefore is this distress come upon us.”


            Joseph’s brothers now begin to understand that God is visiting these trials and troubles upon them because of the way that they treated Joseph.  This is the reason that this distress has come upon them.  Just as we are told by the Hebrew writer:


Hebrews 2:2For if the word spoken by angels was stedfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense of reward;”


The words spoken by God’s messengers are steadfast and our reward, whether good or bad, will not be kept from us in God’s eternity.


v.22-23And Reuben answered them, saying, Spake I not unto you, saying, Do not sin against the child; and ye would not hear? therefore, behold, also his blood is required. 23And they knew not that Joseph understood them; for he spake unto them by an interpreter.”


            Now Joseph begins to see a different mindset among his brethren than he saw when they sold him into slavery.  They understand the source of their trouble and it is them.  Reuben also reminds them that he did not want them to do any harm to Joseph, nor did he want them to sell him into slavery.  When he caused Joseph to be put into the pit it was for the purpose of trying to save him and return him to his father.  They are discussing all this among themselves and Joseph is listening because he has not allowed them to know that he speaks their language.


v.24  And he turned himself about from them, and wept; and returned to them again, and communed with them, and took from them Simeon, and bound him before their eyes.”


            Joseph is so affected by their conversation that he turns away from them so that they would not see and weeps.  But in keeping with his proposal he takes his brother Simeon, binds him personally and sends him back to the prison.


v.2525Then Joseph commanded to fill their sacks with corn, and to restore every man’s money into his sack, and to give them provision for the way: and thus did he unto them.”


            Then Joseph does something very strange; strange to his brothers and strange in the view of the world in general.  When he has their sacks filled with grain he also has the money that they have used to pay for the grain returned to them by placing it in their sacks.  He also commands that enough food be given them to provide for what they would need on their journey home.


v.26-27And they laded their asses with the corn, and departed thence. 27And as one of them opened his sack to give his ass provender in the inn, he espied his money; for, behold, it was in his sack’s mouth.”


            Joseph’s brothers take their grain and their animals and start on their journey back to their homeland.  At their first stop along the way they also discover that their grain sacks contain more than just grain.  When one of the brothers goes to get grain to feed his pack animal he finds the money that he used to pay for his grain is in his sack also.


v.28And he said unto his brethren, My money is restored; and, lo, it is even in my sack: and their heart failed them, and they were afraid, saying one to another, What is this that God hath done unto us?”


            When our conscience is troubling us how doe we view every circumstance that is strange or unusual?  Even an act that would normally be considered a kindness is interpreted with fear.  When this brother’s money is found in his sack, they suspect no good to come from it, expect it to bring trouble.  At this point they are seeing the hand of God behind their trials and are now wondering what else God has in store for them.


Read Genesis 42:29-38 – The Return Home


v.29-30And they came unto Jacob their father unto the land of Canaan, and told him all that befell unto them; saying, 30The man, who is the lord of the land, spake roughly to us, and took us for spies of the country.”


            Upon their return to Canaan the brothers relate their experiences to their father and patriarch.  They identify Joseph as “THE MAN”, “THE LORD OF THE LAND” as they still have no thoughts that this might be their brother, Joseph.  They also relate that he has accused them of being spies, to spy out the weakness of Egypt for the benefit of their enemies.


v.31-32And we said unto him, We are true men; we are no spies:

32We be twelve brethren, sons of our father; one is not, and the youngest is this day with our father in the land of Canaan.”


            The brothers relate all that they told “THE MAN” who ruled Egypt.  They were not spies, they were honest men, twelve brothers, sons of their father, ten were present in Egypt, one was home and one “is NOT”.


v.33-34And the man, the lord of the country, said unto us, Hereby shall I know that ye are true men; leave one of your brethren here with me, and take food for the famine of your households, and be gone: And bring your youngest brother unto me: then shall I know that ye are no spies, but that ye are true men: so will I deliver you your brother, and ye shall traffic in the land.”


            Then they relate as well Joseph’s instructions.  In order to prove their contention that they are honest men and not spies, they are to leave one of their brothers in Egypt (Simeon, as you remember), take food for the famine in their land and then return to Canaan.   After taking care of their families, they are to return to Egypt with their younger brother.  This will prove their claims and they will be allowed to “TRAFFIC”, or in effect do business freely with Egypt.


v.35And it came to pass as they emptied their sacks, that, behold, every man’s bundle of money was in his sack: and when both they and their father saw the bundles of money, they were afraid.”


            So not only was the money in the grain sack of one brother but in the grain sacks of all of the brothers, just as Joseph has instructed.  When Jacob and his sons saw this there were afraid, this is something totally out of the ordinary.  They just knew that this was something that would be turned against them.  Jacob, or Israel and he has now been named, is especially upset.


v.36And Jacob their father said unto them, Me have ye bereaved of my children: Joseph is not, and Simeon is not, and ye will take Benjamin away: all these things are against me.”


            Israel’s response is that his sons have already cost him two of his sons, Joseph and Simeon.  Now they want to take Benjamin away as well.  He feels as if the entire world has turned against him.  He is not thinking properly.  Joseph and Simeon are both gone but they know where Simeon is and they have been told how to retrieve him from his Egyptian prison.


v.37And Reuben spake unto his father, saying, Slay my two sons, if I bring him not to thee: deliver him into my hand, and I will bring him to thee again.”


            Reuben, the elder brother, seemingly always ready to try something, as he planned to rescue Joseph, not allowing his brothers to kill him, now makes a rash promise.  He will give Israel his two sons, Israel’s grandsons, if any harm comes to Benjamin Israel can punish Reuben by killing his sons.  But Israel has his mind made up, no one will be taking Benjamin to Egypt.


v.38And he said, My son shall not go down with you; for his brother is dead, and he is left alone: if mischief befall him by the way in the which ye go, then shall ye bring down my gray hairs with sorrow to the grave.”


            Benjamin will not be allowed to go to Egypt.  He alone is left of the children of Rachel.  In fact, Jacob’s attitude toward his other sons and his doting love for the sons of Rachel has been the basic problem from the beginning..  He will not take a chance on something happening to Benjamin.