What does Genesis 43:20 mean?
ESV: and said, “Oh, my lord, we came down the first time to buy food.
NIV: We beg your pardon, our lord,' they said, 'we came down here the first time to buy food.
NASB: and said, 'Oh, my lord, we indeed came down the first time to buy food,
CSB: They said, "My lord, we really did come down here the first time only to buy food.
NLT: Sir,' they said, 'we came to Egypt once before to buy food.
KJV: And said, O sir, we came indeed down at the first time to buy food:
Verse Commentary:
Ten of Joseph's brothers are urgently trying to explain themselves to his house steward (Genesis 43:19). After their first trip to Egypt, the men were forced to return home with one brother left as a captive (Genesis 42:24) and an ultimatum to bring back the youngest, Benjamin (Genesis 42:19–20). To their horror, on the way back, they found the money they'd used to pay for grain was back in their bags (Genesis 42:26–28). They were innocent; Joseph, who they have not yet recognized (Genesis 42:8), had the money returned in secret (Genesis 42:25).

Now, on a second trip (Genesis 43:1–2), the men have been ordered to Joseph's home (Genesis 43:16–18). They are attempting to convince the house steward they did not steal back their money. They assume they've been escorted to Joseph's home to be attacked and forced into slavery for this crime. With such high stakes, the men are profusely polite, calling Joseph's servant "lord."
Verse Context:
Genesis 43:16–34 finds Joseph's estranged brothers returning once more to Egypt and appearing before him. They still fail to recognize the person they sold into slavery some twenty years before. After he orders them taken to his home, the brothers are afraid they will be ambushed for a false charge of theft due to their prior visit (Genesis 42:25–28). Joseph's steward assures them God arranged those events, and all is well. Joseph shares a meal with them, honoring them as guests in his home and giving special attention to Benjamin. The meal turns into a time of merriment for them all.
Chapter Summary:
Jacob must send Benjamin with his brothers, back to Egypt, to buy more grain for the family. Without it, they will starve, but the Egyptian ruler will not sell them grain if they don't bring Benjamin as agreed. Speaking on behalf of his brothers, Judah finally convinces his father. Arriving in Egypt, they are honored as guests in Joseph's house. They present a gift to him—still not recognizing him as their estranged brother—and Joseph, after being overwhelmed with emotion, pays special attention to Benjamin.
Chapter Context:
In Genesis chapter 37, Jacob sends his favorite son, Joseph, to visit his brothers. Joseph does not come home. In chapter 42, Jacob sends ten of his sons on a mission, and once again the group returns short one son. The Egyptian governor keeps Simeon as collateral and commands the family to return with Benjamin. Only when forced with starvation does Jacob risk his youngest son. Joseph, still unrecognized by his brothers as the governor of Egypt, honors the men as guests in his home, paying special attention to Benjamin. After further tests in chapter 44, Joseph will finally reveal himself in chapter 45.
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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