Genesis 42:38 Parallel Verses [⇓ See commentary ⇓]

Genesis 42:38, NIV: But Jacob said, 'My son will not go down there with you; his brother is dead and he is the only one left. If harm comes to him on the journey you are taking, you will bring my gray head down to the grave in sorrow.'

Genesis 42:38, ESV: But he said, “My son shall not go down with you, for his brother is dead, and he is the only one left. If harm should happen to him on the journey that you are to make, you would bring down my gray hairs with sorrow to Sheol.”

Genesis 42:38, KJV: And he said, My son shall not go down with you; for his brother is dead, and he is left alone: if mischief befall him by the way in the which ye go, then shall ye bring down my gray hairs with sorrow to the grave.

Genesis 42:38, NASB: But Jacob said, 'My son shall not go down with you; for his brother is dead, and he alone is left. If harm should happen to him on the journey you are taking, then you will bring my gray hair down to Sheol in sorrow.'

Genesis 42:38, NLT: But Jacob replied, 'My son will not go down with you. His brother Joseph is dead, and he is all I have left. If anything should happen to him on your journey, you would send this grieving, white-haired man to his grave.'

Genesis 42:38, CSB: But Jacob answered, "My son will not go down with you, for his brother is dead and he alone is left. If anything happens to him on your journey, you will bring my gray hairs down to Sheol in sorrow."

What does Genesis 42:38 mean? [⇑ See verse text ⇑]

Despite Reuben's melodramatic offer (Genesis 42:37), Jacob refuses to risk Benjamin. His response to his sons' news (Genesis 42:29–35) is already bitter and angry (Genesis 42:36). Now, Jacob becomes almost vicious in his reaction. In essence, Jacob decides it is better to count Simeon as lost rather than risk losing his youngest son. Benjamin is the last child of his most beloved wife, Rachel (Genesis 35:16–19). Her other son, Joseph, is believed lost (Genesis 37:32–33).

Jacob showed such outrageous favoritism to Joseph that the older brothers became hatefully jealous (Genesis 37:3–4). This led them to sell Joseph into slavery, lying to Jacob about his fate (Genesis 37:28–31). Now, as one of his other sons is being held in Egypt, Jacob refers to Benjamin as "the only one left." This must have been a crushing remark. At best, Jacob means Benjamin is the last of Rachel's children left. And yet, prior history makes it almost certain he means much more than that. In grief and anger, Jacob openly declares his preference for Benjamin, and Joseph, beyond any of his other sons.

For their part, the brothers likely feel more guilt than self-pity. They know they are responsible for what is happening (Genesis 42:21–22). They expressed their conviction that what happened with the Egyptian ruler is God's punishment for their action. In that sense, they are responsible for the loss of Simeon, as well.

Jacob concludes with a statement of grand despair. He felt nearly-fatal grief over the loss of Joseph (Genesis 37:34–35); he is convinced the loss of Benjamin would kill him. The drastic famine will force him to change his plans (Genesis 43:1–2).