Genesis 42:12

ESV He said to them, "No, it is the nakedness of the land that you have come to see."
NIV "No!" he said to them. "You have come to see where our land is unprotected."
NASB Yet he said to them, 'No, but you have come to look at the undefended parts of our land!'
CSB "No," he said to them. "You have come to see the weakness of the land."
NLT Yes, you are!' Joseph insisted. 'You have come to see how vulnerable our land has become.'
KJV And he said unto them, Nay, but to see the nakedness of the land ye are come.
NKJV But he said to them, “No, but you have come to see the nakedness of the land.”

What does Genesis 42:12 mean?

In most circumstances, false accusations could lead to an innocent person being jailed or executed. Joseph has accused his ten older brothers of spying (Genesis 42:9–11), a crime of which they are innocent (Genesis 42:1–5). As it happens, Joseph is now the governor of all Egypt (Genesis 42:6), so there is no actual danger. Of course, his brothers do not know this, because they don't recognize him as the boy sold into slavery some twenty years in the past (Genesis 37:28).

They have flatly denied his charge, revealing a little more of their story. He refuses their defense, however, and makes the accusation again. Here, Joseph repeats his challenge: that these men have come to Egypt to find military weaknesses to report back to some foreign power.

It's difficult to know Joseph's complete motivation in this exchange. He knows, of course, that his brothers are not spies. This does not seem to be revenge on them for what they did to him all those years ago, else he would likely have revealed himself and had them punished. At least part of the motive seems to be to maintain his secret (Genesis 42:23–24; 43:30; 45:1–5). This makes it likely Joseph is simply using an interrogation technique—intimidation—to wring out more information about his family.
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