Genesis chapter 42

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7And Joseph saw his brethren, and he knew them, but made himself strange unto them, and spake roughly unto them; and he said unto them, Whence come ye? And they said, From the land of Canaan to buy food. 8And Joseph knew his brethren, but they knew not him. 9And Joseph remembered the dreams which he dreamed of them, and said unto them, Ye are spies; to see the nakedness of the land ye are come. 10And they said unto him, Nay, my lord, but to buy food are thy servants come. 11We are all one man's sons; we are true men, thy servants are no spies. 12And he said unto them, Nay, but to see the nakedness of the land ye are come. 13And they said, Thy servants are twelve brethren, the sons of one man in the land of Canaan; and, behold, the youngest is this day with our father, and one is not. 14And Joseph said unto them, That is it that I spake unto you, saying, Ye are spies: 15Hereby ye shall be proved: By the life of Pharaoh ye shall not go forth hence, except your youngest brother come hither. 16Send one of you, and let him fetch your brother, and ye shall be kept in prison, that your words may be proved, whether there be any truth in you: or else by the life of Pharaoh surely ye are spies. 17And he put them all together into ward three days. 18And Joseph said unto them the third day, This do, and live; for I fear God: 19If ye be true men, let one of your brethren be bound in the house of your prison: go ye, carry corn for the famine of your houses: 20But bring your youngest brother unto me; so shall your words be verified, and ye shall not die. And they did so.
29And they came unto Jacob their father unto the land of Canaan, and told him all that befell unto them; saying, 30The man, who is the lord of the land, spake roughly to us, and took us for spies of the country. 31And we said unto him, We are true men; we are no spies: 32We be twelve brethren, sons of our father; one is not, and the youngest is this day with our father in the land of Canaan. 33And the man, the lord of the country, said unto us, Hereby shall I know that ye are true men; leave one of your brethren here with me, and take food for the famine of your households, and be gone: 34And bring your youngest brother unto me: then shall I know that ye are no spies, but that ye are true men: so will I deliver you your brother, and ye shall traffick in the land. 35And it came to pass as they emptied their sacks, that, behold, every man's bundle of money was in his sack: and when both they and their father saw the bundles of money, they were afraid. 36And Jacob their father said unto them, Me have ye bereaved of my children: Joseph is not, and Simeon is not, and ye will take Benjamin away: all these things are against me. 37And Reuben spake unto his father, saying, Slay my two sons, if I bring him not to thee: deliver him into my hand, and I will bring him to thee again. 38And 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.

What does Genesis chapter 42 mean?

Genesis 42 begins with Jacob sending his ten oldest sons to Egypt to buy grain for the family. It ends with him refusing to send his youngest son back as part of a second trip.

Severe famine has gripped the region, just as Joseph had predicted (Genesis 41:53–56). Due to his preparations in Egypt under the authority of Pharaoh (Genesis 41:46–49), Egypt alone has grain for its people and surplus to sell to those in danger of starving after two years of no crops. Jacob's family is in exactly that position—near starvation—so he sends his ten oldest sons to Egypt with money. Jacob does not send his beloved youngest son Benjamin with them, however. He fears some harm might come to the boy, and he could not bear to lose him (Genesis 42:1–5).

Arriving in Egypt, the brothers unknowingly experience an emotional but one-sided reunion. They come to stand before Joseph himself, bowing low (Genesis 37:5–10), hoping to purchase their grain. Even twenty years after being sold as a seventeen-year-old (Genesis 37:28), Joseph quickly recognizes them. They don't recognize him, however. Now nearly 40, Joseph had become fully Egyptian in his manner and appearance. The brothers are baffled by this Egyptian ruler's harsh response to them. After pointedly questioning them about where they are from and why they have come, Joseph flatly accuses them of being spies. He says they have come to discover Egypt's military weaknesses for some foreign power (Genesis 42:6–12).

Joseph's brothers understood this accusation could lead to imprisonment or death. They don't realize the only authority capable of punishing them—Joseph—is not planning to harm them. They quickly protest. They are honest men, normal people, mutual brothers and sons of the same man. They even have one more brother back in Canaan with their father and another brother who is "no more," meaning Joseph himself. Pressing them further, Joseph again accuses them of being spies. He offers one chance to earn his trust. One of them must return to Canaan and come back with their youngest brother. If they refuse, he will conclude "by the life of Pharaoh" that they have been lying and are truly spies (Genesis 42:13–16).

Then Joseph puts them all in prison for three days to think about it. Perhaps Joseph also needed that time to cool off, as well. After all, it's likely he never expected to see his family again. It's entirely reasonable for him to be angry, but later verses show that revenge is not something on his mind (Genesis 47:11–12). Three days later, he presents them with a new plan. If they follow it, he says they will live. Instead of holding nine of them and sending one back, he will instead hold just one of them in prison and send the rest back with full sacks of grain. However, they must return with their youngest brother to save Simeon and buy grain again (Genesis 42:17–20).

The brothers agree, but they are still terrified. Joseph had been speaking to them through an interpreter, who apparently leaves. Assuming Joseph cannot understand them, they speak openly. In remorse, they connect what is happening to their crime of selling Joseph into slavery over twenty years earlier. With genuine remorse, they acknowledge their guilt, expressing that they deserve this suffering. Joseph, still unrecognized, hears it all and weeps, disguising his reaction to preserve his secret. Emotion or not, Joseph sticks to the plan. He selects Simeon to remain behind and binds him in front of them (Genesis 42:21–24).

In another twist, Joseph also orders the brothers' money be secretly returned to their sacks, along with the grain. This might be a combination of charity and a further way of rebuking and testing them. Since they do not know Joseph has arranged this, the revelation will terrify them when they discover it along the road home. They would be afraid the Egyptians would assume they'd stolen the money, or the grain, or both (Genesis 42:25–28).

As expected, Jacob does not take the news well. He lashes out at the nine of them for losing first Joseph, then Simeon, and now expecting him to risk Benjamin, as well. To lose Benjamin would kill him, Jacob claims. He will not send him to Egypt. In an especially crushing moment of favoritism, he claims Benjamin is the only one he has left—in front of nine other sons (Genesis 42:29–38).

The famine will not be over any time soon, however. Jacob will soon be forced to reconsider his stance (Genesis 43:1–2).
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