DIG: Do you think the brother’s experienced true repentance or worldly sorrow in verses 21-22 and here in verses 27-28? What is Benjamin’s role in the family? Why would Joseph be so interested in how the brothers feel about “the baby in the family” (see 35:24)?
REFLECT: Like Jacob in verses 36-38, what situation in your life seems hopeless right now? From this chapter, what will you keep in mind as you face your situation with hope? What is the difference between remorse and repentance?
Their journey back to Canaan must have been over a distance of about two hundred and fifty miles or more. Presumably Jacob was still living in Hebron, and Joseph’s headquarters were possibly at or near the city of Memphis, which is about ten miles from the current city of Cairo. Therefore, the journey would have taken them about three weeks.652 At the place where they stopped for the night one of them opened his sack to get feed for his donkey, and he saw that his silver had mysteriously reappeared in the mouth of his sack (42:27). One brother said to all the rest: My silver has been returned. Here it is in my sack. Their hearts sank and they turned to each other trembling and said: What is this that Elohim, the God of justice, has done to us (42:28)? No answer was needed because their guilt was obvious.
When they came to their father Jacob in the land of Canaan, they told him all that had happened to them (42:29). They said: The man who is lord over the land spoke harshly to us and treated us as though we were spying on the land (42:30). But we said to him: We are honest men; we are not spies (42:31). We were twelve brothers, sons of one father. One is no more, and the youngest is now with our father in Canaan (42:32).
Then the man who is lord over Egypt said to us: This is how I will know whether you are honest men: Leave one of your brothers here with me, and take food for your starving households and go (42:33). But bring your youngest brother to me so I will know that you are not spies but honest men. Then I will give your brother back to you, and you can trade in the land of Canaan (42:34).
Up to this time, Jacob had taken the news in stride. But as they were emptying their sacks, there in each man’s sack was his pouch of silver! When they and their father saw the money pouches, they were frightened (42:35). Their father Jacob was distraught and for the first time accused them: You have deprived me of my children. Joseph is no more and Simeon is no more, and now you want to take Benjamin. Each time his sons have left home (Chapters 37 and 42), they had returned with one of his sons missing. This was more than he could bear. He was not against them returning to Egypt; he would like more grain and he would like Simeon back, but he could not bear the possible loss of Benjamin. It seemed that he was in an impossible situation, so Jacob cried out: Everything is against me (42:36)!
Have you ever had one of those days? You must remember what Jacob did not know. He didn’t know his flesh and blood was sitting on a throne of gold, with unlimited power and at that very moment was working for his good. Jesus Christ is your flesh and blood because the word became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14a); He sits on the throne in heaven, with unlimited power and at this very moment He is working for your benefit so that we know that in all things God works for the good for those who have been called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).
God has a higher purpose for our eternal future and He prepares us for it through life’s trials. The brother of Jesus counsels us when he says: Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything (James 1:2-4).
Then Reuben, taking on the responsibility of the firstborn, said to his father, “You may put both of my sons to death if I do not bring Benjamin back to you. Entrust him to my care, and I will bring him back” (42:37). This was ironic since Reuben had failed to prevent the loss of Joseph, and obviously, killing his two grandsons wouldn’t have made Jacob feel any better. Reuben simply spoke from the heart without thinking. The brothers wanted to leave immediately to go back and rescue Simeon.
But Jacob wanted no part of it. Clearly being selfish and only thinking of Rachel’s children he says: My son will not go down there with you; his brother is dead and he is the only one left. If harm comes to him on the journey you are taking, you will bring my gray head down to the grave in sorrow (42:38). If he didn’t have Benjamin to remind him of Joseph and Rachel, he would simply die an unhappy death (44:31). His life was absolutely tied up in the life of Benjamin. He was the son of his right hand. He was his walking stick because Jacob leaned on him. So Jacob was still the head of his family and he said that Benjamin would not go down to Egypt.653 And there the matter stood for some time.
Joseph’s tests were important in God’s plan to bless the seed of Abraham. God planned to bring the family to Egypt so that it would grow there into a great nation. But it was necessary that the people who entered Egypt be faithful to the Lord. It was necessary that the brothers be tested before they could participate in God’s blessing. Joseph’s prodding had to be subtle; the brothers must perceive the hand of God moving against them so that they would not only see their sin but also repent from it with a changed heart. But one test was not enough; there needed to be a second.654 How would they treat their brother Benjamin when their lives were on the line? That’s what Joseph needed to find out.
The Teaching Ministry of Jay Mack 2006-2013