DIG: How did Joseph’s boyhood dreams come true when his brothers came to Egypt to buy food? Why do you think Joseph reacts as he does in verse 24? Why doesn’t he reveal himself then? By forcing his brothers to endure all the things they had forced him to endure, is Joseph primarily seeking revenge, repentance, or what?
REFLECT: Define repentance. Should true repentance be judged on its intention, its emotion, or on its result? Why do you think so? Honestly, when someone has deeply wronged you, are you most likely to seek revenge or reconciliation? What does that tell you about your trust in God and His ways? Like Jacob’s sons in verses 21-22, where are you still paying the price or reaping the effects of a mistake you made? Is God speaking to you in this?
Now Joseph was the governor of the land, the one who sold grain to all its people. Evidently anyone wanting to buy grain had to deal with him directly. So when Joseph’s starving brothers arrived, they, like everyone else who came into his presence, bowed down to him with their faces to the ground (42:6). Joseph knew they would have to come sooner or later and he was watching for them.
If you don’t think God can bring you to the end of yourself, look at this picture. Those who laughed at the teenager in the pit now have their faces to the ground before him. We need to be humble before the Lord. Humble comes from the Greek word humas, which means ground. Meaning, when you pray to God put your face on the ground. If angels do it, why can’t you? The Bible says to humble yourself before God (Daniel 10:12) because if you do not humble yourself, He will humble you, for every knee will eventually bow before Him (Philippians 2:10-11). It’s not if you’re going to bow, it’s when you’re going to bow. You can bow today, or you can bow on Judgment Day, but you will bow. Your choice how.
64. Both Joseph and Jesus saw and knew their brothers. As soon as Joseph saw his brothers, he recognized them (42:7a). His eyes were on his brothers even though they didn’t recognize him. So the eye of the Lord Jesus has been upon the children of Israel all through the long night of their rejection. The Lord said: My eyes are on all their ways; they are not hidden from Me, nor is their sin concealed from My eyes (Jeremiah 16:17). So, too, when the Lord would speak through His prophet: I know all about Ephraim; Israel is not hidden from Me (Hosea 5:3).
But had they changed? He didn’t know, but over the years he had decided that if his brothers ever came before him, he would first test them before revealing himself to them. Finally they stood there. There is a play on words in the Hebrew. They were recognized, but he made himself unrecognizable and pretended to be a stranger and spoke harshly to them through an interpreter. He asked: Where do you come from? They replied: From the land of Canaan to buy food (42:7b).
Although Joseph recognized his brothers, they did not recognize him (42:8). 65. Neither Joseph nor Jesus was recognized by their own brothers. Joseph had been exalted over all Egypt, but Israel didn’t know it. All those years he thought Joseph was dead, and then, because of the worldwide famine, the children of Israel went down to Egypt, but they did not recognize him. So it has been with Israel’s descendants ever since the time they rejected their Messiah. He came to that which was His own, but His own did not recognize Him (John 1:11). The children of Israel didn’t know that God the Father had raised Jesus. They believed He was dead, and all through the Dispensation of Grace a veil has been placed over their hearts and minds. Even the beginning of the Great Tribulation will find them still ignorant of the exaltation and glory of the Lord Jesus Christ (Second Thessalonians 2:14).
Then he remembered his dreams about them and realized that they were fulfilled. He then said to them through the interpreter: You are spies. You have come to see where our land is unprotected (42:9). He really put them on the defensive. They answered: No my lord, your servants have come to buy food. We are all the sons of one man. Your servants are honest men, not spies (42:10-11). As logical as their argument was, Joseph kept insisting that they were spies. He said to them: No! You have come to see where our land is unprotected (42:12). He really keeps the heat on.
But they replied: Your servants were twelve brothers, the sons of one man, who lives in Canaan. The youngest is now with our father, and one is no more (42:13). While the interpreter was talking to them, Joseph noticed that Benjamin was not with them. Did they resent him like they had Joseph because Rachel was their mother? By this time Joseph wanted reconciliation with his brothers more than he wanted vengence. But he didn’t know if they could be trusted. So he said to them: It is just as I told you: You are spies! And this is how you will be tested: As surely as Pharaoh lives, you will not leave this place unless your younger brother comes here (42:14-15). The test would involve Benjamin. Send one of your number to get your brother; the rest of you will be kept in prison, so that your words may be tested to see if you are telling the truth. If you are not, then as surely as Pharaoh lives, you are spies (42:16)!
66. Both Joseph and Jesus judged and disciplined their brothers. Joseph spoke harshly to them and he put them all in custody for three days (42:7b and 17). Joseph was now the cause of their troubles. He was punishing them for their past sins. The key to the suffering of the children of Israel during all the past centuries is to be found in the fact that the rejected Messiah has been speaking harshly to them and disciplining them. My God will reject them because they have not obeyed Him; they will be wanderers among the nations (Hosea 9:17). Nothing can account for the unparalleled suffering of the children of Israel, but the judgment and discipline of the Lord.
On the third day, Joseph changed his plan and said to them: Do this and you will live, for I fear Elohim, the God of righteousness (42:18). He really didn’t want to cause his father any more suffering than necessary. My suspicion is that Joseph spent three days in the pit at Dothan (37:24). When he brought them out, Joseph mentioned God. That must have been incredibly comforting to the brothers. This was the first mention of God between them. They probably relaxed a little, thinking everything was going to be all right. Besides, Joseph probably felt that three days in jail gave them enough time to reflect on their sin.
Then Joseph changed his strategy. Instead of all of them being held as prisoners and one going back to get Benjamin, only one would be held prisoner and the rest could bring food back to their families and then bring Benjamin back. 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 (42:19). The reason for this was that how they treated Benjamin would tell Joseph if they had changed at all. That was the test. But you must bring your youngest brother to me, so that your words may be verified and that you may not die. This they proceeded to do (42:20).
Not realizing that Joseph could understand what they were saying, they said to one another: Surely we are being punished because of our brother. We saw how distressed he was when he pleaded with us for his life, but we would not listen; that’s why this distress has come upon us (42:21). Twenty-two years later, they still felt convicted about what they assumed to be the death of their younger brother.
Joseph had possibly held Reuben responsible for having been placed in the pit because he was the oldest brother, but now Reuben reminded them that he tried to talk them out of it. He said to them: Didn’t I tell you not to sin against the boy? But you wouldn’t listen! Now we must give an accounting for his blood (42:22). Joseph never knew that before.
They did not realize that Joseph could understand them, since he was using an interpreter (42:23). As Joseph heard them, he realized his prayers had been answered. The passage of time could not dull the memory of their sin against their brother, nor ease their sense of guilt. Their confession deeply moved Joseph and he was so overcome with emotion that he had to leave quickly.650 He turned away from them and began to weep, but then turned back and spoke to them again (42:24a). One of them must stay in prison while the others went home to get Benjamin. Having heard that Reuben had at least partially tried to prevent their crime, Joseph realized that the next youngest brother Simeon must have been primarily responsible and bound him before his brother’s eyes. He needed the instruction of a time in prison and chains more than any of the others. The other brothers must have been shocked when the prime minister placed the one in prison who had been most responsible for their sin and therefore the retribution that seemed to be overtaking them.651
67. Both Joseph and Jesus made deliverance known to the children of Israel through substitution. On the third day, he had Simeon taken from them and bound before their eyes so that one might be punished for the deliverance of his brothers (42:19 and 24b). As they were plotting to kill Jesus, Caiaphas the high priest prophesied that He would deliver the Jewish nation through substitution. He said: It is better that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish (John 11:50-51). And so it was that on the third day, when Jesus rose from the dead, all who believed in Him by faith would find deliverance through substitution, His life for theirs. The rabbis teach that Simeon was the one who had thrown Joseph into the pit.
68. Both Joseph and Jesus provided for their brothers while they were in a strange land. Joseph gave orders to fill their bags with grain, and to put the silver that they had brought to pay for the grain back in each man’s sack, and to give them provisions for their journey back to Canaan (42:25a). Although they didn’t recognize Joseph, and he spoke harshly to them and punished them; nevertheless, His judgments were tempered with mercy. Joseph did not want his brothers to perish. They were in a strange land and he ministered to their need. Even though they have endured the Holocaust, and have been severely punished by God more than any other nation, He has provided for them. The Lord declared: I am with you and will save you. Though I completely destroy all the nations among which I scatter you, I will not completely destroy you. I will discipline you, but only with justice; I will not let you go unpunished (Jeremiah 30:11).
They paid for the grain, but Joseph instructed the servant to put the silver payment back in their sacks without them knowing it. He knew they would panic, but he also knew it would further awaken their consciences. They would be both puzzled and terrified by it, because they knew that it would not look good for them. After this was done for them, they loaded their grain on their donkeys and left (42:25b-26). They were clearly anxious to get home.
The Teaching Ministry of Jay Mack 2006-2013