GENESIS 42 – 45
AND HIS BROTHERSGo to Facebook or Tweet to interact.
When Jacob saw that there was grain in
Jacob had a new favorite now. Baby Benjamin had taken Joseph's place in Jacob's heart. Notice the sarcasm with which he speaks to his sons as he was forced to send them all, except for Benjamin, off to Egypt. My, how we parents need to be reminded to take special care in how we speak to our children. Parents are the most important people in a child’s life and negative, angry and cutting comments can do a whole lot of damage to them. One psychologist likened such negativism to pouring acid on a child. Not only does it hurt them, but it leaves deep and abiding scars as well. Verbal abuse can be more damaging than physical abuse, beloved. Jacob's sons experienced something of this as they set out on a mission for their father to go to Egypt. How much better it would have been had he blessed them, encouraged them, told them he loved them and would be praying for them and how much he appreciated them going on this long and dangerous journey for the family.
So, driven by famine, the sons of Jacob arrived in Egypt and, unbeknownst to them, appeared before their brother, Joseph. And, the text says that they bowed down before him with their faces to the earth. Joseph's dream, which had caused so much trouble with these brothers, was beginning to be fulfilled to the letter (37:5-8). Joseph recognized them immediately, of course, but they didn’t recognize him. There were probably several reasons for this. One, they hadn’t seen him since he was teenager and they all had faded memories of him. He was much older ... in his late thirties (41:46). Two, he spoke the Egyptian language to them through an interpreter (v.23). Three, he was decked out and made up in the elaborate attire of an Egyptian ruler … no doubt complete with facial paint, braided hair, jewelry and all the accoutrements of his office. The last thing on earth that would have crossed their minds was that this was Joseph.
his brothers and recognized them, but he acted as a stranger to them and spoke roughly to them. Then
he said to them, 'Where do you come from?' And they said, 'From the
How Joseph's heart must have been moved when his brothers spoke to him of the one who is no more! He carefully began examining his brothers at this point. Had they changed? Were they sorry for what they had done? Did they ever think about him? How did they treat his little brother, Benjamin?
Quickly, Joseph devised a plan. Speaking to them roughly, he said … You are spies! Boy … that must have really caught them flat footed! Immediately, they vociferously began to object. But, to no avail. They would have to prove there was indeed another son by producing him. One of you, he said, will have to go and get him and bring him to Egypt. The rest would have to remain until the alleged youngest brother arrived. Then, Joseph promptly put them all in prison. This had to have been a first for the sons of Jacob. Suddenly, they were given a taste of what Joseph had had to endure for years on end. However, after only three days, Joseph released them and informed them that he had changed his mind about keeping them all in Egypt. Instead, he said he would just keep one of them until they returned with their little brother. By the way, did you catch that very first hint that Joseph gave them … as to who he was? It was when he said to them … I fear God.
Then they said to one another, 'We are truly guilty concerning our brother, for we saw the anguish of his soul when he pleaded with us, and we would not hear; therefore this distress has come upon us.' And Reuben answered them, saying, 'Did I not speak to you, saying, "Do not sin against the boy"; and you would not listen? Therefore behold, his blood is now required of us.' But they did not know that Joseph understood them, for he spoke to them through an interpreter. And he turned himself away from them and wept. Then he returned to them again, and talked with them. And he took Simeon from them and bound him before their eyes.
With this one dialogue between his brothers, many of Joseph's questions were answered. Understanding their language, he knew what they were saying to each other. And, since they had been speaking to him through an interpreter, they had no idea he understood their native Hebrew tongue. Clearly, Joseph's brothers were sorry for what they had done. The memory of their little brother’s pleadings was seared on their memories and had been bothering their consciences for years. Reuben told his brothers that all their present trouble had come upon them because of their sin against Joseph saying … his blood is now required of us. Reuben believed in divine retribution, you see.
At these words, Joseph was suddenly compelled to leave their presence and he went out and wept. What an emotionally charged encounter this was! After he regained his composure, he returned to his brothers and chose Simeon as the one to be left behind … as a pledge of their truthfulness and sincerity. Then, he commanded him to be bound in front of them all. You will remember that Simeon was the second of Leah’s sons ... Reuben, Simeon, Levi and Judah. So, doubtless, Simeon and Reuben were close. Judah was the one who had hatched the scheme to sell Joseph into slavery (37:26). Joseph was really testing these sons of Leah here but, more importantly, God was at work. Not only was God dealing with the hearts of these men, but he was also working out his sovereign plan to move Israel (Jacob) and all of his clan to Egypt. His will and purposes were right on track and were unstoppable.
Then Joseph gave a command to fill their sacks with grain, to restore every man's money to his sack, and to give them provisions for the journey. Thus he did for them. So they loaded their donkeys with the grain and departed from there. But as one of them opened his sack to give his donkey feed at the encampment, he saw his money; and there it was, in the mouth of his sack. So he said to his brothers, 'My money has been restored, and there it is, in my sack!' Then their hearts failed them and they were afraid, saying to one another, 'What is this that God has done to us?'
Once again, the guilt that Joseph’s brothers were carrying… combined with their haunting belief in the principle of divine retribution … came to the front. The mysterious appearance of their money in their grain bags seemed to be nothing short of supernatural and abject panic came upon them all. What has God done to us, they asked one another. Now, they concluded, they would not only be suspected of being liars and spies … but thieves as well! The furthest thing from their minds was that their money had actually been restored to them. Joseph had returned their money simply because it belonged to his father and he wanted, at long last, to be able to just bless him.
went to Jacob their father in the
When the brothers arrived home, they delivered their sad report to Jacob. And, to say that he didn’t receive it well is an understatement. However, Reuben pressed his father to allow them to take Benjamin back to Egypt. Reuben's blood brother, Simeon, was precious to him, you see. But Jacob adamantly refused. He told them that Benjamin was the last of his two sons by Rachel, and if anything were to happen to him, it would literally kill him.
Also, there may also have been more going on here than meets the eye. Jacob may have said, No, to Reuben, because of the bad blood that existed between them. Something was festering in their relationship … namely … Reuben had slept with his concubine, Bilhah (35:22). Such deep and serious breaches in relationships tend to never die and they taint almost every conversation. Perhaps Jacob felt that if Reuben lost his brother, Simeon, it would serve him right. Bad blood between fathers and sons is a very hard thing. Too bad they weren’t able to get counseling and work this out between them. Then they could have looked at what happened, and why, and might have been able to forgive one another and be reconciled. Is there something that has seriously scarred your relationship with a parent or family member, dear reader? Get help. God is able to help you overcome anything if you are willing to face the problem squarely. Anything, you ask? Yes, anything.
Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh. Is there anything too hard for Me? Jeremiah 32:27
Now the famine was severe in the land.
And it came to pass, when they had eaten up the grain which they had brought
Eventually, the Jacob family ran out of food again and found themselves between the Devil and the deep blue sea. In frustration, Jacob resorted to playing the blame game ... Why in the world did you tell him you had another brother? The man asked us point blank, they replied. How were we to know he would require us to bring Benjamin to Egypt?
Ultimately, Judah became the spokesman for all the brothers, rather than Reuben, and he offered himself to Jacob as the guarantee for Benjamin’s welfare and safety. Jacob was forced to capitulate. It was either that or they would starve. His off-hand prayer for Judah was simple … God Almighty give you mercy before the man, that he may release your other brother and Benjamin. This was exactly where Jacob needed to be, by the way. He needed to turn loose of the whole problem and put the matter in the hands of his God. Perfect. Can you do that with your impossible situations, dear believer? It’s the only place to be.
So the men took that present and
Benjamin, and they took double money in their hand, and arose and went down to
And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.
One time, a wonderful Pastor from my youth said … If we could see the fears, burdens, failures, disappointments, griefs and sorrows that any one of our brothers or sisters are carrying ... we would never judge or criticize anyone again! His admonition stuck.
When they drew near to the steward of Joseph's house, they talked with him at the door of the house, and said, ‘O sir, we indeed came down the first time to buy food; but it happened, when we came to the encampment, that we opened our sacks, and there, each man's money was in the mouth of his sack, our money in full weight; so we have brought it back in our hand. And we have brought down other money in our hands to buy food. We do not know who put our money in our sacks.’ But he said, 'Peace be with you, do not be afraid. Your God and the God of your father has given you treasure in your sacks; I had your money.’ Then he brought Simeon out to them. So the man brought the men into Joseph's house and gave them water, and they washed their feet; and he gave their donkeys feed. Then they made the present ready for Joseph's coming at noon, for they heard that they would eat bread there.
When Joseph’s brothers arrived at his house, thinking they knew what was about to happen, they stopped at the door and were afraid to go in. They thought the worst but, instead, it was the best. Immediately, they spoke to Joseph’s steward and related to him how, when they had left Egypt … mysteriously, they had found their money in the sacks of grain! But, to their amazement, the steward brushed their story off and answered that the money they had found was a gift from the God of your father. Surely, that statement must have stunned them. Furthermore, the steward said that he still had their money that they had paid to him! Technically, this was probably true. He did have the money they had handed him. But, he had replaced it with other money. Then, the steward brought Simeon out to them and they were reunited before Joseph appeared.
And when Joseph came home, they brought him the present which was in their hand into the house, and bowed down before him to the earth. Then he asked them about their well-being, and said, ‘Is your father well, the old man of whom you spoke? Is he still alive?’ And they answered, ‘Your servant our father is in good health; he is still alive.’ And they bowed their heads down and prostrated themselves. Then he lifted his eyes and saw his brother Benjamin, his mother's son, and said, ‘Is this your younger brother of whom you spoke to me?’ And he said, ‘God be gracious to you, my son.’ Now his heart yearned for his brother; so Joseph made haste and sought somewhere to weep. And he went into his chamber and wept there. Then he washed his face and came out; and he restrained himself, and said, ‘Serve the bread.’ So they set him a place by himself, and them by themselves, and the Egyptians who ate with him by themselves; because the Egyptians could not eat food with the Hebrews, for that is an abomination to the Egyptians. And they sat before him, the firstborn according to his birthright and the youngest according to his youth; and the men looked in astonishment at one another. Then he took servings to them from before him, but Benjamin's serving was five times as much as any of theirs. So they drank and were merry with him.
When Joseph first laid eyes on Benjamin, no doubt a flood of memories came to his mind. Benjamin was his only full blooded brother. All the others were his half brothers. And he, being much older than Benjamin, must have recalled Benjamin as a baby … how he had played with him as a toddler … how he had looked after him and enjoyed him. Now, here Benjamin stood before him … a full grown young man. It was just too much. And, once again, Joseph was forced to excuse himself so he could go out and weep. When he returned, he resumed his seat and according to Egyptian custom, ate his meal apart from his sheepherder brothers. Joseph was not yet ready to reveal himself to them and so he continued to play the part of an Egyptian. However, Joseph had given his brothers another clue to his identity. To their amazement, they found themselves seated around the table in the exact order of their births!
And he commanded the steward of his
house, saying, ‘Fill the men's sacks with food, as much as they can carry, and
put each man's money in the mouth of his sack. Also
put my cup, the silver cup, in the
mouth of the sack of the youngest, and his grain money.’ So he did
according to the word that Joseph had spoken. As soon as the morning dawned, the
men were sent away, they and their donkeys. When they had gone out of the city,
and were not yet far off, Joseph said to his steward, ‘Get up, follow the men; and when you overtake
them, say to them, ‘Why have you repaid evil for good?
Is not this the one from which my lord
drinks, and with which he indeed practices divination? You have done
evil in so doing.' So he overtook them, and he spoke to them these same words.
And they said to him, ‘Why does my lord say these words? Far be it from us that
your servants should do such a thing. Look, we brought back to you from the
This was a set up. Benjamin was the target. Joseph's steward had been instructed to put Joseph's cup in Benjamin's grain sack. The purpose was to see if the half brothers of Benjamin (Leah’s boys) would throw Benjamin (Rachel’s boy) to the dogs like they had so nonchalantly done with Joseph so many years before. When the caravan was intercepted by Joseph's guards, the brothers could not conceive that any of them would have stolen the cup of the ruler of all the land of Egypt, so they confidently pronounced the death penalty on anyone among them that might be found to have it. Furthermore, they said if any one of them were found to have stolen it … they all would become Joseph’s slaves. Then, the cup was found in Benjamin’s sack. What a horrifying moment that must have been. Our text says … They tore their clothes ... and returned to the city.
So Judah and his brothers came to Joseph's
house, and he was still there; and they fell before him on the ground. And Joseph said to them, ‘What deed
is this you have done? Did you not know that such a man as I can certainly
practice divination?’ Then
When Joseph’s brothers arrived back in the city, they fell down before him. God’s Word certainly had come to pass in spades. In Joseph’s dream, God had said these men would fall before him … and so they did ... not just once ... but several times. At this point, Judah, the one who had concocted the original plot against Joseph, became the spokesman. He said … God has found out the iniquity of your servants. Judah was acknowledging that all this had come upon them because of what they had done to their little brother so long ago. He then offered that they all become Joseph's slaves. However, Joseph refused, keeping Benjamin on the hot-seat. He said … only the thief shall be my slave. That was ghastly news to Judah and his brothers. They had truly changed. They, themselves, would have rather become Joseph’s slaves than to leave their little brother, Benjamin, in Egypt. This was what Joseph was trying to find out.
My, what an intercession Judah, the son of Leah, made on behalf of Benjamin, the son of Rachel. The old rivalry was gone. It is probably not possible to fully convey the passion and sincerity with which Judah presented his case. Also, Judah pled for Joseph to have compassion on their father, Jacob. Judah hadn’t cared about the feelings of his father when he and his brothers had disposed of Joseph. But, now he does. Throughout his impassioned plea, no doubt Judah made his case with tears. I can’t see how it could have been otherwise. The result was that Judah demonstrated that he was clearly not the old Judah that Joseph had known so many years before. People do change, brother. Praise God for his wonderful sanctifying work in the lives of his people, aye? Also, isn’t it a wonderful thing to have an intercessor on one’s behalf? Throughout all this, Benjamin was standing there shaking in his boots! I’m so glad you and I have someone who intercedes for us as well … before our holy and righteous Father, aren’t you? As we have it in Hebrews 7:24-25,
But He(Jesus), because He continues forever, has an unchangeable priesthood. Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them. And again, in Romans 8:26-27,
Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.
Isn’t that a wonderful truth? So, actually, we have two intercessors on our behalf within the Godhead. I really appreciate that because I really need them. How about you?
Joseph could not restrain himself before all those who stood by him, and he
cried out, ‘Make everyone go out from me!’ So no one stood with him while Joseph
made himself known to his brothers. And he wept aloud, and the Egyptians and the
house of Pharaoh heard it. Then Joseph said to his brothers, ‘I am
Joseph; does my father still live?’ But his brothers could not answer him, for they were dismayed in
his presence. And Joseph said to his brothers, ‘Please come near to me.’ So they came near. Then he said: ‘I
am Joseph your brother, whom you sold into
This was an incredibly moving scene. The broken words ... the sobs ... the volume ... the pathos … it made all of Joseph’s words to be heard by all that were in his house. His brothers were astonished. They couldn’t believe their ears. They didn’t know what to say. Then, Joseph said, Please come near to me. Some believe that at that time, Joseph revealed his circumcision to his brothers … the sure sign of a male member of the chosen people of God and participant in the Abrahamic Covenant. I know this may sound off the wall in our day, but I believe, under those circumstances and in that culture, it makes sense. If so, it was the final proof of Joseph’s identity. Personally, I believe that is what took place.Joseph told his brothers … do not … be grieved or angry with yourselves because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life. He had it right. The whole thing was orchestrated by the sovereign and good hand of God who was working out his multifaceted and perfect plan for all concerned. As you have it in Psalm 105:17
He sent a man before them; Joseph; who was sold as a slave.Truly, as you have it in Isaiah 55:8-11,
For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,' says the LORD. 'For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts. For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven, and do not return there, but water the earth, and make it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.
Let God be God, dear saint. When we do, life is sure a lot easier. And, if we can’t, God is going to be God anyway. Romans 8:28 says,
And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.
Joseph knew that what had happened to him was from God and was in accordance with God’s sovereign purposes. Therefore, he reasoned, how could he blame his brothers? Wow! That way of thinking is both deep and wonderful and completely out of the norm, is it not? Joseph told his brothers to hurry home and tell Jacob that his son, Joseph, was alive and that he wanted him to come to Egypt so that he could care for him. Then, Joseph fell on Benjamin’s neck, and the two blood- brothers wept. Again, they doubtless had distant memories of each other from when they were young. Afterwards, Joseph kissed all his brothers and wept over them, and it says … his brothers talked with him. Joseph gave them his unreserved affection. They didn’t respond in kind. They were too shocked to respond. And, I’m sure they were waiting for the other shoe to drop! It surely would have been interesting to listen to those conversations as each brother talked with him, would it not?
Now the report of it was heard in Pharaoh's
house, saying, ‘Joseph's brothers have come.’ So
it pleased Pharaoh and his servants well. And Pharaoh said to Joseph,
‘Say to your brothers, 'Do this: Load your animals and depart; go to the
Joseph was a greatly loved and highly respected man before Pharaoh and all of the Egyptians. He was honest, fair, compassionate and a great administrator. In the Egyptian’s eyes, he had saved their bacon. He could do no wrong. Therefore, they rejoiced with Joseph when his family showed up and they did everything in their power to help and to make room for them and make them welcome.
Then the sons of
What a shock it must have been, when Jacob saw his sons coming home! Their caravan was absolutely laden with food … and they were driving carts … and his sons were crying … Joseph is still alive and he is governor over all the land of Egypt! The text says that Jacob’s heart stood still. Don’t you wonder what those boys told their dad when he said … How can this be? We are not told … but you can bet that question was asked. Jacob said … It is enough. Joseph my son is still alive. I will go and see him before I die. God had said to Abraham,
Know certainly that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, and will serve them, and they will afflict them four hundred years. And also the nation whom they serve I will judge; afterward they shall come out with great possessions. Genesis 15:13-14
Once again, God’s word was being fulfilled and his plans were right on track. In Egypt, God would make a great nation from these brothers. They would be his people and he would be their God. He was placing them right where they needed to be in order to fulfill his purposes and glorify his name. This is how Israel came into the land of Egypt. Four hundred years later, the Lord would deliver them from there with a mighty hand, and through it, bring great glory to his name for all time.
By the way, God’s sovereign plans are still on track today, brother and sister. At the moment, he is calling out another people for his name’s sake. They are his sons and daughters from among the Gentiles. They make up the vast majority of the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ today. Soon, he will come for them so that where he is, they may be also (John 14:1 and following).
Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.