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Long-Awaited Consequences — Genesis Chapter 42

This blog post will cover the devotionals #175-178 for Genesis Chapter 42.

Please note that this devotional book is for sale as a physical (paperback) &/or digital (PDF) book on my website.

[175] Genesis 42:1-5

Jacob was still living in Canaan during the seven years of famine, and his family was likewise affected by it. He had a very large family to provide for and his sons were very concerned. Their own food supply was almost gone, and they were fearful about what the future would hold for them. They told each other of their discouragement that they wouldn’t be able to provide food for their families. All they could see was starvation and lack. Meanwhile, Jacob learned of the presence of corn in Egypt. He heard about how they’d made ample provision during the abundant years so that they’d be prepared during the years of want. The fact that this was made possible because God spoke to Pharaoh through a dream impressed Jacob. Thus, he felt a sort of comfort in going to Egypt to seek for help. He told his sons to stop looking at each other the way they were, and to go do something about it. He sent all ten of his oldest sons on this mission. Joseph was obviously gone, and he wasn’t willing to risk his beloved Benjamin as he regretted having done with Joseph. In devotional #176, we’ll see if they were successful in their mission.

[176] Genesis 42:6-17

Joseph was Prime Minister over Egypt (the Bible refers to him as a governor), and people had to come to him to purchase food. He was the one that had done all the preparations for the famine—setting up immense storehouses and collecting so much food it could no longer be kept inventory of. He was in a high position, both in his work, and in relation to his brothers—who were now humbly suffering lack where he wasn’t. The first thing they did when they came to him was bow down (just as he’d seen in his dreams so many years before). When he saw them, he recognized them immediately—and recalled his dreams (which we learned about in devotional #158) but didn’t let on who he was. Remember that his brothers were already full-grown men when they betrayed him, but he was still a teenager. While they would’ve only aged (not changed), Joseph had now lived in Egypt for many years, so his physical maturity, as well as his Egyptian name, wardrobe, and language, made it impossible for them to realize his identity. To ensure this, he also decided to speak much differently to them than he had once as a loving, younger brother. He now spoke both roughly and through an interpreter. He wanted to test them and have the opportunity to see (or at least hear of) his younger brother and his father. Had their characters changed? Were they still arrogant? What he could glean from witnessing their reactions as a complete, foreign stranger, would tell him far more than he’d get if he made his identity known to them right off the bat. His cover story and excuse to retain them was to accuse them of being spies against Egypt. They denied it, calling themselves his servants twice, and revealing more about their family (their father had twelve sons, and the youngest stayed back with him, while the twelfth no longer lived), and their present circumstances of hunger. They showed humility, rather than anger, in the face of their adversity. Their hearts had clearly changed—at least to some degree. He still pretended to doubt them, in order to obtain information about his father and brother, and told them he’d only believe their report if their youngest brother was brought to him. Until one chose to go, they’d not only receive no food, but they’d also be imprisoned. The interpretation and fulfillment of Pharaoh’s dreams by God through Joseph led to the interpretation and fulfillment of Joseph’s own dreams—after all these years. He could now see clearly how God had spoken to him as a young man, and he looked forward to seeing God’s purpose in it all. Joseph’s brothers didn’t want to agree to the arrangement he proposed. They knew it’d take a bit of time for someone to return home for Benjamin, and thought of their families starving in the meantime. They also struggled with wondering which of them would be willing to make the journey alone, while the rest stayed imprisoned. They remembered how their father reacted when they told him of Joseph’s supposed demise—how would he respond now that nearly the rest of his sons were gone? Maybe they’d all indeed die, or even worse, be made slaves (the same terrible doom that Joseph had feared). And the absolute worst possibility was that, if they did go back to get Benjamin, he too could be made a slave, and it'd cause the death of heartbreak of their father. Upon deliberating all these factors, they decided they’d rather all stay and suffer than to deprive Jacob of his beloved Benjamin. In this, they experienced a self-sacrifice that equaled the selfishness with which they’d treated Joseph and Jacob so many years before.

[177] Genesis 42:18-24

Joseph allowed his brothers to sit in the prison for three days, which gave them plenty of time to think about their life and past choices—especially concerning him. It was bitterness for them. They revealed their guilty consciences and how they believed God was punishing them now for it, after all these years. They admitted they were guilty of Joseph’s distress. They remembered him pleading with them for mercy, just as they were now pleading with him for mercy—and they wouldn’t give in to him, just as he now wouldn’t give in to them. They realized they were experiencing the very thing they put him through—but didn’t realize the irony of how the roles were reversed to include Joseph himself. They thought their punishment for selling Joseph as a slave was to live as slaves themselves. Reuben gave a very strong, ‘I told you so’, reprimand to them, showing them how their choices now would have consequences. There was no doubt that, if they were convicted of being spies, they’d have no hope of proving themselves innocent, and they’d be condemned to death or slavery. They also seriously doubted that one of them alone could convince Jacob to risk Benjamin—especially in light of Joseph’s supposed death. Despite his apparent lack of care towards them now, Joseph thought about Jacob, Benjamin, and his brothers’ families—and how they’d possibly already be starving. He’d finally been convinced, after hearing all their repentance amongst themselves, that they truly were sorry for their cruelty towards him, and that he could now trust they’d never deal with his younger brother the same way. On the third day of their confinement, he told them he’d release all but one of them, so they could return with food for their families and get their brother to return to Egypt. He swore to keep his word, claiming that he was a God-fearing man. If they did otherwise, only then would there be risk of death. Now they must again experience the dread of their choices—and how their father would respond. As Joseph witnessed this (apparently not able to understand, but inside, experiencing incredible emotion), he couldn’t keep back his tears. He hid himself to cry privately, and when he was composed, he'd return to them. Would they agree, and if so, who'd stay behind as guarantee of their return? When Joseph finished his private cry, he returned and arrested Simeon to be kept until Benjamin was brought back to Egypt. His brothers decided to take him up on his second proposal. They could feed their families and try (likely in vain) to convince Jacob to let Benjamin go back with them. Why did Joseph choose Simeon? While Simeon—along with Levi—had been responsible for what’d happened to the men of Shechem, they were also most responsible in the cruelty towards, and sale of, Joseph. It should come as no surprise, then, that Joseph would choose him to stay behind as an innocent captive and let him experience the same dread that he allowed Joseph to experience as one. Joseph wasn’t getting revenge on Simeon. He just knew that Simeon was the most deserving of the mental struggle that would be experienced while awaiting, with little hope, the return of his brothers to rescue him from his fate—and that he’d also be the most deserving to stay if they didn’t return for him. Why is this? Well, as we’ll see in devotional #196, Jacob pronounced blessings (prophecies) over each of his sons before he died. Simeon was shown (along with Levi) where their past course would take them in the future. When Israel was preparing to enter the promised land, Simeon was numbered as the smallest tribe of the twelve and would only receive a small portion of Judah’s lot. When Moses made his final blessing over Israel, he didn’t even mention Simeon.

[178] Genesis 42:25-38

After Joseph arrested Simeon and the others decided to return home with food to try to bring Benjamin back, Joseph had their sacks filled with corn. He also told his men to sneak the money back into each man’s sack, along with food for the trip itself. They left for home in sadness. At one of their stops, one of them opened their sack to give their donkey something to eat, and he discovered that his exact money was in his sack. Rather than being grateful or happy, they got scared. They recognized they could look at it either way. “Did God bless us, or did He allow the mistake so we would have even worse consequences?” They decided that God knew their sins and must now be punishing them for it. When they got home, they told Jacob everything that'd happened, from their arrival in Egypt to their arrival back home. They were very apprehensive about the situation. The roughness of the Egyptian governor (Joseph) made them think he had bad motives in his accusations and arrest of them. Was he trying to devise a plan to ‘justifiably’ make them all slaves (was it a set-up?)? At that point, all the men emptied their sacks, and they discovered that not just the one man had his money returned to him, but all of them did. Now they were even more afraid that their fears of Joseph’s motives were true. How would they be able to prove that they'd indeed paid for their corn? And how much worse would it be if they didn’t return to Egypt with Benjamin? How did Jacob respond to their request to take Benjamin to Egypt as proof to free Simeon? “You’ve deprived me of my children: Joseph is no more, Simeon is no more, and you will take away Benjamin: all of this is against me.” Reuben stepped in and reassured Jacob of their promise to protect his precious Benjamin. He offered the life of his own two sons if he failed to return Benjamin to him. He meant well, but his announcement to Jacob was rash and didn’t relieve his father’s fears. Jacob still refused, saying that if tragedy would come upon Benjamin like it had to his only brother, then Jacob would die of sorrow. With the loss of both his beloved Rachel and Joseph—all that was left to him of their family was Benjamin—and he had the strong love of a mother for his son. He couldn’t bear the thought of losing him too.

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