What does Genesis 42:15 mean?
ESV: By this you shall be tested: by the life of Pharaoh, you shall not go from this place unless your youngest brother comes here.
NIV: And this is how you will be tested: As surely as Pharaoh lives, you will not leave this place unless your youngest brother comes here.
NASB: by this you will be tested: by the life of Pharaoh, you shall not leave this place unless your youngest brother comes here!
CSB: This is how you will be tested: As surely as Pharaoh lives, you will not leave this place unless your youngest brother comes here.
NLT: This is how I will test your story. I swear by the life of Pharaoh that you will never leave Egypt unless your youngest brother comes here!
KJV: Hereby ye shall be proved: By the life of Pharaoh ye shall not go forth hence, except your youngest brother come hither.
In the eyes of his brothers, Joseph (Genesis 41:41–45) is a powerful Egyptian official. They don't recognize him as the brother they once jealously sold into slavery (Genesis 37:28). Their attempt to buy food from him (Genesis 41:1–5) has taken an absurd and threatening turn. For no reason they can see, Joseph has accused them of being spies sent to find Egypt's military weaknesses (Genesis 41:6–14). This is partly to maintain Joseph's secret, but it also serves to intimidate them into giving more information.
In attempting to show they are honest, normal men, the brothers have revealed that they have another, younger brother back home. Still speaking as an Egyptian official, Joseph has pounced on that information (Genesis 43:6) as a test of their truthfulness. Unless they can show him their brother, he will not believe them and not let them go home (Genesis 42:16–17).
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.
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.
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.
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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