‘So Joseph’s ten brothers went down to buy grain in Egypt.’ Gen 42: 3
There was another brother, Benjamin, son of his own mother. whom Joseph did not know about, but Jacob didn’t send him in case something happened to him.
As it happened, Joseph was the one who sold to all the people… and the ten brothers were coming to him to ask to buy grain. Those brothers bowed down to him. A dream fulfilled? Years before, the young Joseph had told them of the dream, ‘There we were, binding sheaves in the field; and indeed your sheaves stood all around and bowed down to my sheaf.’ Gen 37: 7 This made them even more jealous and angry!
Joseph recognised his brothers and remembered the dream. They, of course, did not recognise their younger brother… looking like the high-ranking Egyptian official that he was. Additionally they had sold him into slavery; the man they were dealing with here was second only to Pharaoh in the land.
So what were Joseph’s thoughts? Using an interpreter, he accused them of being spies! Was he dealing with his own feelings – or testing them to see if they had changed? He certainly wasn’t making it easy for them.
The brothers protested that they were innocent of the accusation and had only come to buy food. Then they unwittingly gave him information about his father and that he had another brother. ‘Your servants are twelve brothers, the son of one man in the land of Canaan; and in fact, the youngest is with our father today, and one is no more.’ Gen 42: 13
Joseph continued to accuse them of being spies and devised a ‘test’. He put them in prison for three days… time for them to worry about what would happen to them. Did they ever wonder about the young brother they threw in a pit and sold into slavery during that time?
On the third day Joseph came with his condition… ‘If you are honest men, let one of your brothers be confined to your prison house; but you, go and carry grain for the famine of your houses. And bring your youngest brother to me; so your words will be verified, and you shall not die…’ Gen 42: 19,20
They talked among themselves, seeing this as the consequences of what they had done to their brother. The others had never told Reuben that they had sold Joseph and he believed Joseph dead. He told his brothers that his blood was required of them.
Unbeknown to them, Joseph understood. He hadn’t forgotten his native tongue, and they didn’t know who he was.
He turned away and wept.
When he recovered himself, again through the interpreter, he talked with them.’ He took Simeon and bound him before their eyes.’ Gen 42: 24 He gave them their sacks of grain, ordered provisions for them and that their money be restored to their sacks. They didn’t know about the money, it was something they discovered later. (You will find this in Gen 42: 25 – 27, 35)
This, and the terms Joseph had set caused consternation at home. Jacob refused to let Benjamin go, even though Reuben promised to keep him safe, offering that if he didn’t bring Benjamin back Jacob could kill his two sons.
Probably thinking that killing Reuben’s two sons would not bring Benjamin back to life if Benjamin, was killed, Jacob refused.
The famine lasted longer than the sacks of grain and Jacob told them to go back and buy more grain. Judah reminded his father of the terms that Joseph had set.
Not a good place for Jacob to be!
To be continued
In the meantime, tread softly, you may be treading on someone’s dreams.