What does Genesis 42:1 mean?
ESV: When Jacob learned that there was grain for sale in Egypt, he said to his sons, "Why do you look at one another?"
NIV: When Jacob learned that there was grain in Egypt, he said to his sons, "Why do you just keep looking at each other?"
NASB: Now Jacob saw that there was grain in Egypt, and Jacob said to his sons, 'Why are you staring at one another?'
CSB: When Jacob learned that there was grain in Egypt, he said to his sons, "Why do you keep looking at each other?
NLT: When Jacob heard that grain was available in Egypt, he said to his sons, 'Why are you standing around looking at one another?
KJV: Now when Jacob saw that there was corn in Egypt, Jacob said unto his sons, Why do ye look one upon another?
NKJV: When Jacob saw that there was grain in Egypt, Jacob said to his sons, “Why do you look at one another?”
Verse Commentary:
After focusing on Joseph's experiences in chapters 39, 40, and 41, the spotlight of Genesis swings back to his family in Canaan. The final verses of Genesis 41 described a worldwide famine, drawing people from all over the region to buy food from Egypt. There, the brother sold into slavery (Genesis 37:28) has now become governor of the entire nation.

In Canaan, Joseph's father Jacob and his family were facing a food shortage, along with everyone else. Jacob would have been quite old by this time. More than twenty years have passed since Joseph's brothers sold him to passing slave traders to be rid of him. He was seventeen when he was sold into slavery (Genesis 37:28), and it has been more than seven years since he rose to power at the age of thirty (Genesis 41:46, 53–54). For all these years, Jacob has believed his son dead, killed by a wild animal (Genesis 37:31–34).

Now news reaches Jacob and his sons that there is food in Egypt and that it's for sale. Jacob, still the leader of his clan, becomes unusually impatient. His question is somewhat like the expression "what are you waiting for?" This is not so much a question as a statement: they need to act. They must obtain food before it's too late.
Verse Context:
Genesis 42:1–17 contains the unlikeliest of reunions: that between Joseph and his ten oldest brothers (Genesis 37:28). They have been sent by Jacob to Egypt to buy grain during a terrible famine (Genesis 41:53–54). They don't recognize their brother, now an Egyptian ruler. Joseph knows them but keeps the secret; he responds harshly to avoid breaking the illusion. He then puts them in prison for three days, saying they might be spies. All the while, he has a plan in mind.
Chapter Summary:
Genesis 42 describes the moment Joseph sees his brothers for the first time since they sold him into slavery over 20 years earlier. They have come to Egypt to buy grain, and they do not recognize him. He keeps his secret, speaking roughly to them and hinting they may be spies. He allows them to leave only if they promise to return with their youngest brother Benjamin. He keeps Simeon as collateral but sends them off with full sacks of grain for their family. He also secretly returns their money, something they are terrified to discover on the way home. Back in Canaan, Jacob responds to this terrible news with bitterness and vindictive blame.
Chapter Context:
Twenty years prior to the events of this chapter, Joseph's brothers sold him into slavery (Genesis 37:28). Miraculously, Joseph is now the governor of the nation of Egypt (Genesis 41:44). His brothers, who know nothing of Joseph's fate, have come to buy food during a terrible famine (Genesis 41:56–57). Joseph, probably and justifiably angry at his brothers, keeps his identity a secret, at first. Over the next several chapters, he will test, challenge, and chasten them. Yet there is no revenge involved; everything Joseph does furthers a long-term goal of rescuing the family from starvation.
Book Summary:
The book of Genesis establishes fundamental truths about God. Among these are His role as the Creator, His holiness, His hatred of sin, His love for mankind, and His willingness to provide for our redemption. We learn not only where mankind has come from, but why the world is in its present form. The book also presents the establishment of Israel, God's chosen people. Many of the principles given in other parts of Scripture depend on the basic ideas presented here in the book of Genesis. Within the framework of the Bible, Genesis explains the bare-bones history of the universe leading up to the captivity of Israel in Egypt, setting the stage for the book of Exodus.
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