Genesis 42: Joseph Sees His Brothers

Why did Jacob have to tell his sons to go to Egypt? Shouldn’t they have been asking their father to go?

Author’s Thoughts
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Genesis 42:1–3 When Jacob learned that Egypt had grain, he said, “Why are you looking at one another, wondering what to do? I hear that Egypt has grain. Go there to buy food so we won’t die from starvation.”
So ten of Joseph’s brothers left for Egypt to buy grain.
King James
Genesis 42:1–3 Now when Jacob saw that there was corn in Egypt, Jacob said unto his sons, Why do ye look one upon another? And he said, Behold, I have heard that there is corn in Egypt: get you down thither, and buy for us from thence; that we may live, and not die. And Joseph’s ten brethren went down to buy corn in Egypt.

Why did all ten brothers need to go? Wouldn’t a smaller number be sufficient? Why?

Author’s Thoughts
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Author’s Paraphrase
Genesis 42:1–3 When Jacob learned that Egypt had grain, he said, “Why are you looking at one another, wondering what to do? I hear that Egypt has grain. Go there to buy food so we won’t die from starvation.”
So ten of Joseph’s brothers left for Egypt to buy grain.
King James
Genesis 42:1–3 Now when Jacob saw that there was corn in Egypt, Jacob said unto his sons, Why do ye look one upon another? And he said, Behold, I have heard that there is corn in Egypt: get you down thither, and buy for us from thence; that we may live, and not die. And Joseph’s ten brethren went down to buy corn in Egypt.

What reasons did Jacob have for keeping Benjamin at home? With the protection of ten brothers, wouldn’t he have been as safe with them as he would be at home? Why?

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Genesis 42:4 Jacob did not allow Benjamin, Joseph’s brother, to go with them, fearing that he might be harmed.
King James
Genesis 42:4 But Benjamin, Joseph’s brother, Jacob sent not with his brethren; for he said, Lest peradventure mischief befall him.

Why was it important to travel main roads with a caravan?

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Genesis 42:5 The sons of Israel joined the caravans to buy grain in Egypt because of the famine in Canaan.
King James
Genesis 42:5 And the sons of Israel came to buy corn among those that came: for the famine was in the land of Canaan.

After so many years, how could Joseph recognize his brothers? Why did the brothers not recognize Joseph?

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Genesis 42:6–7 As governor of Egypt, Joseph was in charge of selling grain. When his brothers arrived, they bowed before him with their faces to the ground. Joseph recognized them but pretended to be a stranger, speaking roughly to them. “Where do you come from?” he said.
“From the land of Canaan,” they said. “We have come to buy grain.”
King James
Genesis 42:6–7 And Joseph was the governor over the land, and he it was that sold to all the people of the land: and Joseph’s brethren came, and bowed down themselves before him with their faces to the earth. And Joseph saw his brethren, and he knew them, but made himself strange unto them, and spake roughly unto them; and he said unto them, Whence come ye? And they said, From the land of Canaan to buy food.

Why did Joseph conceal his identity and accuse his brothers of being spies?

Author’s Thoughts
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Genesis 42:8–9 Although Joseph knew each of them, they had no idea who he was. He remembered the dreams where they had bowed before him. “You are spies,” he said. “You have come to see where our nation is weak.”
King James
Genesis 42:8–9 And Joseph knew his brethren, but they knew not him. And Joseph remembered the dreams which he dreamed of them, and said unto them, Ye are spies; to see the nakedness of the land ye are come.

As they were being accused, how did the brothers feel? What did they imagine might happen to them and their mission to buy grain?

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Genesis 42:10–12 They said, “No, my lord. We are your servants, who have only come to buy food. We are all the sons of one man—honest servants, not spies.”
“No, you’re lying,” Joseph said. “You’ve come to see where our land is vulnerable to attack.”
King James
Genesis 42:10–12 And they said unto him, Nay, my lord, but to buy food are thy servants come. We are all one man’s sons; we are true men, thy servants are no spies. And he said unto them, Nay, but to see the nakedness of the land ye are come.

Did the brothers really believe that Joseph was dead? Why?

Author’s Thoughts
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Genesis 42:13 “Your servants are twelve brothers in all, sons of one man in the land of Canaan. The youngest is with his father, and one is dead.”
King James
Genesis 42:13 And they said, Thy servants are twelve brethren, the sons of one man in the land of Canaan; and, behold, the youngest is this day with our father, and one is not.

Why did Joseph demand proof of what he already knew was true?

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Genesis 42:13–16 “Your servants are twelve brothers in all, sons of one man in the land of Canaan. The youngest is with his father, and one is dead.”
“As I have said, so it is,” Joseph said. “You are spies. You must prove you are telling the truth. I swear by Pharaoh, you will never leave Egypt unless your youngest brother comes here. One of you can go get your brother. The rest must remain in prison until you bring proof. Otherwise, as sure as Pharaoh reigns, you are spies.”
King James
Genesis 42:13–16 And they said, Thy servants are twelve brethren, the sons of one man in the land of Canaan; and, behold, the youngest is this day with our father, and one is not.
And Joseph said unto them, That is it that I spake unto you, saying, Ye are spies: Hereby ye shall be proved: By the life of Pharaoh ye shall not go forth hence, except your youngest brother come hither. Send one of you, and let him fetch your brother, and ye shall be kept in prison, that your words may be proved, whether there be any truth in you: or else by the life of Pharaoh surely ye are spies.

Which prison did Joseph send his brothers to, the prison for criminals or to the prison where he had spent so many years? Why would he do that? Why three days?

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Genesis 42:17 He put them all in prison for three days.
King James
Genesis 42:17 And he put them all together into ward three days.

After being locked up for three days, what did the brothers anticipate happening to them? Did this help them immediately agree to Joseph’s offer, or did they try to negotiate another arrangement? Why?

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Genesis 42:18–20 On the third day, he said, “Do this and live, for I fear God. If you are the honest men you claim to be, let one of you remain in prison. The rest of you can leave with grain to feed your starving families. To prove you are telling the truth, bring your youngest brother back to me, and you will live.”
Joseph’s brothers agreed.
King James
Genesis 42:18–20 And Joseph said unto them the third day, This do, and live; for I fear God: 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: But bring your youngest brother unto me; so shall your words be verified, and ye shall not die. And they did so.

Why did the brothers think they were being punished for what they did to Joseph? What did Reuben have to gain by saying, “I told you so”?

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Genesis 42:21–22 They said to one another, “Surely we are being punished for what we did to Joseph. We saw the anguish when he begged for mercy, but we would not listen. That’s why we’re in trouble now.”
“Didn’t I tell you not to harm the young man?” Reuben said. “You wouldn’t listen, so now we’re paying the price for killing him.”
King James
Genesis 42:21–22 And they said one to another, We are verily guilty concerning our brother, in that we saw the anguish of his soul, when he besought us, and we would not hear; therefore is this distress come upon us.
And Reuben answered them, saying, Spake I not unto you, saying, Do not sin against the child; and ye would not hear? therefore, behold, also his blood is required.

How did Joseph benefit from hearing his brothers when they didn’t know he understood their language? Why was this an emotional experience for him?

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Genesis 42:23–24 They didn’t know that Joseph understood everything they were saying, because he had only spoken to them through an interpreter. He turned away so they could not see him crying. Later, he returned with his interpreter and had Simeon bound while they watched.
King James
Genesis 42:23–24 And they knew not that Joseph understood them; for he spake unto them by an interpreter. And he turned himself about from them, and wept; and returned to them again, and communed with them, and took from them Simeon, and bound him before their eyes.

What kind of treatment did Simeon receive when he was sent to prison? Why was that brother chosen? Why not Judah, who had arranged Joseph’s sale to the Ishmaelite traders?

Author’s Thoughts
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Author’s Paraphrase
Genesis 42:24 He turned away so they could not see him crying. Later, he returned with his interpreter and had Simeon bound while they watched.
King James
Genesis 42:24 And he turned himself about from them, and wept; and returned to them again, and communed with them, and took from them Simeon, and bound him before their eyes.

When the brothers discovered the money, what did they speculate must have happened for it to be in one of the sacks? Why didn’t they check all the sacks and go back to Egypt to correct the error?

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Genesis 42:25–29 Privately, Joseph gave orders to fill his brothers’ sacks with grain, with every man’s money hidden in their sacks. He also gave them provisions for their journey home.
Then the brothers loaded their donkeys with the sacks of grain and left.
When they stopped for the night, one of them opened his sack to feed his donkey and saw his money at the top of the sack. “My money has been returned,” he said. “Here it is in the top of my sack.”
Terrified, they said to one another, “What has God done to us?”
They returned to their father, Jacob, in Canaan and told him everything that had happened.
King James
Genesis 42:25–29 Then Joseph commanded to fill their sacks with corn, and to restore every man’s money into his sack, and to give them provision for the way: and thus did he unto them. And they laded their asses with the corn, and departed thence. And as one of them opened his sack to give his ass provender in the inn, he espied his money; for, behold, it was in his sack’s mouth. And he said unto his brethren, My money is restored; and, lo, it is even in my sack: and their heart failed them, and they were afraid, saying one to another, What is this that God hath done unto us? And they came unto Jacob their father unto the land of Canaan, and told him all that befell unto them; saying,

What was Jacob’s reaction when he learned that his son Simeon had been imprisoned?

Author’s Thoughts
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Author’s Paraphrase
Genesis 42:30–34 “The governor of Egypt spoke harshly to us,” they said. “He accused us of being spies. We told him we were honest men, not spies—twelve brothers, sons of one father. One is dead, and the youngest is with his father in the land of Canaan.
“He required proof that we were telling the truth. He allowed us to leave with grain for our starving families only after we agreed to leave one brother with him. To prove we are honest men and not spies, we must take our youngest brother back to him. Then our imprisoned brother will be released, and we can freely trade with Egypt.”
King James
Genesis 42:30–34 The man, who is the lord of the land, spake roughly to us, and took us for spies of the country. And we said unto him, We are true men; we are no spies: We be twelve brethren, sons of our father; one is not, and the youngest is this day with our father in the land of Canaan. And the man, the lord of the country, said unto us, Hereby shall I know that ye are true men; leave one of your brethren here with me, and take food for the famine of your households, and be gone: And bring your youngest brother unto me: then shall I know that ye are no spies, but that ye are true men: so will I deliver you your brother, and ye shall traffick in the land.

At what point did the brothers discover that all their sacks had money returned to them?

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Genesis 42:35 As they were emptying their sacks of grain, every man found his bag of money in his sack. When they saw that all their money had been returned, they and their father were afraid.
King James
Genesis 42:35 And it came to pass as they emptied their sacks, that, behold, every man’s bundle of money was in his sack: and when both they and their father saw the bundles of money, they were afraid.

Why did Reuben give such radical assurance that he would bring Benjamin safely back from Egypt? How did Reuben and the other brothers feel when Jacob said no?

Author’s Thoughts
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Genesis 42:36–38 “You have left me childless,” Jacob said. “Joseph is dead, and Simeon is gone. Now you want to take Benjamin away. I am left with nothing.”
“If I do not bring Benjamin back to you,” Reuben said, “you can kill my two sons. I will bring him back.”
“No,” Jacob said, “my son cannot go. His brother Joseph is dead, and he alone is left. If something happened to him on your journey, this gray-haired man would go grieving to his grave.”
King James
Genesis 42:36–38 And Jacob their father said unto them, Me have ye bereaved of my children: Joseph is not, and Simeon is not, and ye will take Benjamin away: all these things are against me.
And Reuben spake unto his father, saying, Slay my two sons, if I bring him not to thee: deliver him into my hand, and I will bring him to thee again.
And he said, My son shall not go down with you; for his brother is dead, and he is left alone: if mischief befall him by the way in the which ye go, then shall ye bring down my gray hairs with sorrow to the grave.