Joseph and the Brothers

I. Jacob sends the ten brothers to Egypt (Genesis 42:1-5).

A. The famine had spread to “all lands” (Genesis 41:57).

1. This is likely 1+ year after the start of the famine.

a. The time of plenty would have allowed some storage.
b. The need had become severe enough to be critical.

2. Enough time had elapsed for word to spread.

a. The flow of caravans to and from Egypt (3-4 weeks journey)
b. Agricultural wealth required feed and seed stock storage.

B. The setting is at least 20 years after the selling of Joseph by the Brothers.

1. Joseph had been in Egypt for 20+ years.

a. Thirteen years as a slave and prisoner
1)   He was 17 when sold (Genesis 37:2)
2)   He was 30 when made Governor (Genesis 41:46)
b. Seven years of plenty (Genesis 41:47)

2. The Brothers had been hiding the secret for 20+ years.

a. They (the 10) had been telling the lie to everyone.
b. The youngest (Benjamin) was just a child then (3-4 years old).

3. Jacob was perplexed at their reticence (Genesis 42:1).

a. “Why look ye upon another?”
b. Jacob did not know what they were worried about.
c. Jacob issues a command as family head (42:2).
1)   “Get ye down thither”
2)   “Buy for us from thence”

4. The Brothers have lived with this guilt for 20 years.

a. They have no assurance that Joseph is alive.
b. They have relived the awful “anguish of his soul” (42:21-22).
c. They may have heard rumors of his enslavement.
d. They have hardened their hearts against repentance.
e. They would have known the punishment for such deeds.

C. The ten Brothers go down to Egypt to buy corn (Genesis 42:3-5).

1. Jacob could not migrate to Egypt as Abraham had done (12:10).

2. Benjamin was thought to be the only remaining son of Rachel.

3. Jacob’s agricultural wealth was vast (30:43).

4. Caravan to secure critical feed and seed would have been enormous

a. Pack animals were “asses” (42:26).
b. Similar to, but not the same as “donkey”
c. Each brother had “asses” (plural) to oversee.
d. Note 3rd caravan – 10 asses just for food for the trip (45:23).

II. Joseph meets his brothers (Genesis 42:6-25).

A. The Brothers come before Joseph.

1. Joseph is the “governor over the land”.

2. Joseph “sold to all the people”.

3. Joseph would be in an “official” building and dress.

B. The Brothers all bow down before Joseph.

1. They bow “with their faces to the earth”.

2. They fulfill the earlier dream (Genesis 37:7).

a. Joseph’s 1st dream was about his 10 brothers.
b. Joseph’s dream used the “sheaf” as the symbol.
c. God was even prophesying the occasion for the obeisance.

3. They call themselves “servants” 29 times in these chapters.

C. Joseph immediately recognizes his brothers (42:8).

1. He “remembered” the dreams about his brothers (42:9).

2. He is not focused on vengeance (Manasseh = “forgetting”).

3. He does not know their spiritual or mental state.

4. He must devise a way to test their intent to bring about reconciliation.

III. Joseph tests his brothers.

A. He accuses them of being spies.

1. This would have been a real possibility in the political and economic situation.

2. This would be the quickest way to verify their awareness.

B. He probes for certainty on the state of his father and younger brother.

1. They verify the current status.

a. Joseph would have had no word at all for 20 years.
b. Joseph would need some indication of their truthfulness.

2. They tell of the 12 brothers – one “is not” and one is at home.

3. They verify that their father is still living.

C. He repeats his accusation and demands proof of their truthfulness.

1. They are to send one of the ten to fetch Benjamin.

2. They are put into prison for three days (time to think and wonder).

D. He acknowledges that he “fears God” (Elohim) and releases them.

1. They are to leave one brother as hostage.

2. They can return only if Benjamin is with them.

E. He hears their confession of the earlier evil done to him.

1. They discuss their guilt among themselves.

2. They acknowledge the justice of their troubles.

a. Reuben reminds the brothers (and Joseph) of his attempt to intervene.
b. Simeon is selected to remain behind as a hostage.
1)   Simeon was chiefly responsible for instigating the sale of Joseph.
2)   Simeon had long manifested a cruel nature (Dinah and Shechem).
3)   Simeon needed the time for reflection and repentance more than any of them.
4)   Simeon’s imprisonment does not appear to bother the brothers very much – or even Jacob.  They appear in no hurry to return to Egypt later.

3. They do not know that Joseph understands their speech, and have not acknowledged their sin to the brother they wronged – yet.

F. Joseph’s heart is heavy as he knows he must wait for restoration.

1. The brothers have not yet repented.

2. The family is still not together.

a. Joseph is certainly aware of the promises to Abraham.
b. Joseph may now see his role in preserving Israel.

G. Joseph fills their need for grain and restores their purchase price.

1. Joseph “commanded” to supply the grain (42:25).

2. Joseph included extra food for the trip back.

3. Joseph’s authority is vast, discretionary, and generous.

IV. The Brothers return home to Jacob (Genesis 42: 26-38).

A. The discovery of their money is startling.

1. This is part of the test to determine their integrity.

2. This renders them dumbfounded and very afraid.

3. This would further awaken their consciences.

B. The debriefing to Jacob is difficult.

1. They, again, recognize Joseph as “the lord of the land.”

2. They insist that Joseph spoke “roughly” to them (42:30).

3. They insist, later, that Joseph “straightly” asked them to reveal information about their family (43:7).

4. They admitted that they were helpless and were made to be afraid.

C. The word choices are very telling.

1. “Roughly” (42:30) = QASHEH, has an interesting connotation.

a. It emphasizes the effect exerted by an overly heavy yoke.
b. It implies the rebellious resistance of oxen to the yoke.
c. It is frequently used of the stubborn (stiff-necked) subjects of the Lord.
1)   Like rebellious oxen, calf-worshiping Israel quickly turned aside from the Lord's service (Exodus 32:9).
2)   The spirit of Israel remained (for the most part) stubborn, intractable, and non-responsive to the guiding of their God (Deuteronomy 10:16; Judges 2:19; 2 Kings 17:14; Nehemiah 9:16).
3)   Pharaoh stubbornly refused divine leading (Exodus 13:15).

2. “Afraid” (42:35) = YARE, the basic term for emotional fear, sometimes the anticipation of evil results without the emotional reaction.

a. Jews' fear of the fires on Mount Sinai (Deuteronomy 5:5)
b. Jews’ fear at Mizpeh when they heard of the Philistine mobilization (1 Samuel 7:7)
c. David's recognition while in Achish's court that his reputation was a danger to him (1 Samuel 21:12-13)
d. Jacob's anticipation that his family might be taken from him (Genesis 31:31)

D. The family is still in ignorance and disarray (Genesis 42:35-38).

1. The brothers are self-defensive and shift the blame to Joseph.

a. Joseph was unfair and unreasonable.
b. We were truthful and badly used.
c. Joseph was cruel and unjust.
d. We were “lucky” to get away.
1)   There is no genuine repentance.
2)   There is only remorse and fear of retribution.

2. Reuben (“unstable as water” – Genesis 49:4) erupts in emotion.

a. I will bring Benjamin back – trust me.
b. Kill my two sons if I fail.
c. Reuben loses leadership role from this point onward.

3. Jacob is self-pitying and unwilling to deal with the problem.

a. He bemoans his bereavement (no mention of Simeon).
b. He hardens his heart against the obvious need and solution.

4. The family has no plan or recourse to prevent further disaster.

a. The famine is still ongoing and has years to run.
b. The purchased supplies will last only a few months.
c. The command of Joseph is still in force.
d. The imminent pall of starvation and bereavement still stands.

V. Un-confessed and un-repented sin will bring torment.

A. Continued sin dominates and controls a life.

1. John 8:34 – sin demands service

2. Romans 6:16 – sin produces death

3. Romans 6:20 – sin eliminates righteousness

4. James 1:15 – sin’s lust will always lead to physical death

5. 1 John 5:17 – all unrighteousness is sin

6. Proverbs 14:14 -- sin dominates the backslider’s heart

B. Repentance and remorse are not the same thing.

1. 2 Corinthians 7:9-10 – worldly sorrow is not repentance

2. Hebrews 12:16-17 – continued sin will impede repentance

3. Jeremiah 31:19 -- repentance brings personal shame

4. Job 42:6 -- repentance brings intense conviction

5. Psalm 51:3-4, 17 – confession is personal and deeply felt

The Patriarchs
ch. 42


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