Genesis 42:23 Parallel Verses [⇓ See commentary ⇓]

Genesis 42:23, NIV: They did not realize that Joseph could understand them, since he was using an interpreter.

Genesis 42:23, ESV: They did not know that Joseph understood them, for there was an interpreter between them.

Genesis 42:23, KJV: And they knew not that Joseph understood them; for he spake unto them by an interpreter.

Genesis 42:23, NASB: They did not know, however, that Joseph understood, for there was an interpreter between them.

Genesis 42:23, NLT: Of course, they didn't know that Joseph understood them, for he had been speaking to them through an interpreter.

Genesis 42:23, CSB: They did not realize that Joseph understood them, since there was an interpreter between them.

What does Genesis 42:23 mean? [⇑ See verse text ⇑]

In the prior verses, Joseph's ten older brothers are confessing their guilt for selling him into slavery twenty years earlier (Genesis 42:21–22). They speak so openly because they assume he couldn't understand a word they were saying. They have no idea the Egyptian governor who commands them is their enslaved brother, raised to a position of incredible power (Genesis 41:42–45; 42:8).

To this point, Joseph had used an interpreter to communicate with them, translating between his Egyptian language and their Canaanite or Hebrew tongue. Official business was likely conducted only in Egyptian, but even then, the interpreter was a useful part of Joseph's deception. His secret is strained, however, as he emotionally reacts to what his brothers are saying (Genesis 42:24). That reaction will happen more than once (Genesis 43:30), proving that Joseph's reasonable anger (Genesis 42:7) is tempered by a merciful sense of love.