Genesis 42:22

ESV And Reuben answered them, "Did I not tell you not to sin against the boy? But you did not listen. So now there comes a reckoning for his blood."
NIV Reuben replied, "Didn’t I tell you not to sin against the boy? But you wouldn’t listen! Now we must give an accounting for his blood."
NASB Reuben answered them, saying, 'Did I not tell you, ‘Do not sin against the boy’; and you would not listen? Now justice for his blood is required.'
CSB But Reuben replied: "Didn’t I tell you not to harm the boy? But you wouldn’t listen. Now we must account for his blood!"
NLT Didn’t I tell you not to sin against the boy?' Reuben asked. 'But you wouldn’t listen. And now we have to answer for his blood!'
KJV And Reuben answered them, saying, Spoke I not unto you, saying, Do not sin against the child; and ye would not hear? therefore, behold, also his blood is required.
NKJV And Reuben answered them, saying, “Did I not speak to you, saying, ‘Do not sin against the boy’; and you would not listen? Therefore behold, his blood is now required of us.”

What does Genesis 42:22 mean?

Ten men are standing before a powerful Egyptian official, who has accused them of being spies (Genesis 42:12). They have only come to buy food, however (Genesis 42:1–5). The men have spent three days in jail, awaiting the governor's decision (Genesis 42:17). He tells them they must leave one brother behind, while the other nine retrieve their youngest brother. This will prove their honesty (Genesis 42:19–20). The men immediately connect these events to a collective sin from their past (Genesis 42:21).

Twenty years prior to the events of this verse, these ten sons of Jacob (Genesis 35:23–26) jealously sold their brother, Joseph, into slavery (Genesis 37:28). They then lied to their father, convincing him the boy was dead (Genesis 37:31–33). Their initial plan was to kill him outright, but were held back by Reuben, who had hoped to rescue him later (Genesis 37:21–22).

Though they know their current state is connected to that crime, they don't realize the Egyptian official is Joseph, himself (Genesis 41:42–45). They don't guess he can understand their language without an interpreter (Genesis 42:23). He has heard them clearly express their regret for the suffering they caused to him. In addition, this is likely the first time Joseph learns one of his brothers tried to protect him. This likely factors into his emotional reaction (Genesis 42:24).

Reuben describes the situation by evoking the idea that God holds people accountable for violence against others (Genesis 9:5; Psalm 9:12). He likely assumes Joseph has died in captivity. Or, that by being falsely imprisoned and harassed, they are receiving a share of the harm they did to Joseph. In any case, all the brothers agree they deserve this unexpected imprisonment in Egypt and apparent threat to their lives.
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