What does Genesis 42:11 mean?
ESV: We are all sons of one man. We are honest men. Your servants have never been spies.”
NIV: We are all the sons of one man. Your servants are honest men, not spies.'
NASB: We are all sons of one man; we are honest men, your servants are not spies.'
CSB: "We are all sons of one man. We are honest; your servants are not spies."
NLT: We are all brothers — members of the same family. We are honest men, sir! We are not spies!'
KJV: We are all one man's sons; we are true men, thy servants are no spies.
Verse Commentary:
Joseph has accused his ten older brothers of being spies. He declares that they have come to Egypt to spy for a foreign power. They are trying to defend themselves, insisting they have come only to buy food in the famine (Genesis 42:6–10). Their language is the common style of that era: politely referring to themselves as the servants of the other. The situation is unique, however, in that Joseph alone has the power to act on that accusation (Genesis 41:44). The brothers do not realize that the Egyptian governor, whom they know as Zaphenath-paneah (Genesis 41:45), is the brother they sold into slavery twenty years ago (Genesis 37:28). Joseph's intent is not revenge, but to test his family; the end goal is to bring them all safely into Egypt (Genesis 47:11–12).

Since the ten men (Genesis 41:1–5) don't know this is their brother, they reveal another detail: They are all sons of the same man (Genesis 35:23–26). Joseph knows this, of course, but it is information he can use to learn more about them. They conclude by declaring that they are honest men who have never been spies. This might have been another reason for Joseph's harsh approach: coercing his brothers to give him more longed-for information about his family.
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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