What does Genesis 42:19 mean?
ESV: if you are honest men, let one of your brothers remain confined where you are in custody, and let the rest go and carry grain for the famine of your households,
NIV: If you are honest men, let one of your brothers stay here in prison, while the rest of you go and take grain back for your starving households.
NASB: if you are honest men, let one of your brothers be confined in your prison; but as for the rest of you, go, carry grain for the famine of your households,
CSB: If you are honest, let one of you be confined to the guardhouse, while the rest of you go and take grain to relieve the hunger of your households.
NLT: If you really are honest men, choose one of your brothers to remain in prison. The rest of you may go home with grain for your starving families.
KJV: If 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:
NKJV: If you are honest men, let one of your brothers be confined to your prison house; but you, go and carry grain for the famine of your houses.
Verse Commentary:
Joseph (Genesis 37:28) has revealed to his ten half-brothers that he will allow them to live if they do as he says. They still don't know him as anyone other than a harsh Egyptian official (Genesis 42:1–7). Joseph now tells them to prove their honesty by leaving just one of them behind while the rest travel back to Canaan to return with their youngest brother. If they come back with the younger brother, it proves they were honest, and they will be free.

The intent here seems to be a combination of a test, a rebuke for their betrayal, and a means to bring more of the family to Egypt (Genesis 47:11–12). Still, Joseph insists the returning nine take grain with them to feed their people. Perhaps awareness that his extended family in Canaan may already be starving motivated Joseph to change his plan. Formerly, he had insisted that nine of them stay behind while one goes to fetch the youngest brother (Genesis 42:8–17). Now he reverses that and instructs most of them to leave after paying for their grain.
Verse Context:
Genesis 42:18–28 describes a powerful Egyptian governor sending nine of Jacob's sons home with purchased grain, while keeping Simeon as collateral. He commands the others to return only if they can prove their honesty by bringing along their youngest brother. The men tell each other they must be suffering for abusing another brother, Joseph (Genesis 37:28). They don't realize the governor is Joseph himself (Genesis 42:7) and that he understands their language. After leaving, the horrified brothers find the payment for the grain is still in their bags. They do not know Joseph secretly arranged to give it back to them.
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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