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Genesis 42:67, 9, 1324acomment (0)

May 1, 2008

By Jay T. Robertson

Related Scripture: Genesis 42:67, 9, 1324a

Assistant Professor of Christian Studies, School of Christian Studies, University of Mobile

Acknowledge broken relationships
Genesis 42:6–7, 9, 13–24a

Joseph’s brothers, apart from Benjamin, were a pitiful bunch. These 10 needed to be confronted with their sin against Joseph. They needed to repent. And they needed reconciliation with Joseph if they were to survive the worldwide famine. Their future rested upon such changes. Although they did not know it, the brothers desperately needed grace.

Remember Past Problems (6–7, 9)
The famine was “severe all over the earth,” not just confined to Egypt. Jacob, upon learning that there was grain in Egypt, sent his 10 older sons there to purchase grain. Twenty years after selling Joseph into slavery, Joseph’s brothers traveled down into the Nile Valley. They never dreamed they would meet Joseph; if he were somehow still alive, he would be a slave. In God’s providence, they not only met him but they also bowed before him. But they did not recognize the beardless, well-dressed “Egyptian.” But Joseph recognized them. They were bearded Semites. And there were 10 of them — all brothers.

Joseph had the advantage. They had no idea whom he was, but he knew them with a terrifying intimacy. And from their perspective, he held the key to their survival. At the same time, Joseph needed to know what was in his brothers’ hearts. Were they the same murderous men? Were they as heartless as they had been? Would they sacrifice one of themselves to save the others? Did they still hate him? Joseph wanted to know the truth, and he knew he might never know if he revealed whom he was at that point. Joseph decided on the spot to interrogate his brothers. He treated them like strangers and spoke harshly to them.

In the midst of his interrogation, Joseph remembered his dreams of them bowing down to him as they had now done. He also realized that his dreams were not yet fulfilled because the dreams included not 10 but 11 brothers, plus his parents. Joseph repeatedly charged the 10 with espionage. His repeated accusations unnerved them. They revealed that there were actually 12 brothers. They counted not only Benjamin among them but also Joseph. Were their consciences coming to life?

Explore Present Possibilities (13–20)
Joseph tested his brothers by requiring one of them to bring their youngest brother to Egypt. Three days in prison gave the brothers time to reflect. Certainly they discussed which of them would go and tell their father that Benjamin must come to Egypt. Most of them probably chose to wait in prison rather than deliver that message to their father.

After three days of imprisonment, Joseph surprised his brothers with two things. First, he mentioned God. The 10 Hebrew brothers had not mentioned God, but the “Egyptian” did. Not only did he mention God by name, he also declared that he feared God. This pagan ruler was invoking the name of their God. Second, Joseph decided that only one brother would have to stay as a hostage. The other nine could return with grain and then return to Egypt with Benjamin. With only one brother remaining in Egypt, Joseph wondered if they would abandon another brother as they had once abandoned him.

Evaluate Future Prospects (21–24a)
Joseph’s strategy was successful. The brothers admitted their corporate guilt. Their confession revealed some retrospective tenderness. Joseph, whom they had scorned as “that dreamer” (Gen. 37:19), was now referred to as “our brother.” Reuben had even referred to him as “the boy.” Joseph learned that Reuben had not agreed to his sale. Joseph also realized that his uncaring brothers were not as hardened as some might think. They had heard his cries for help. His pleas had been haunting their consciences for the past 20 years. His brothers believed that this distress had justly come upon them. They knew they were guilty and deserving of death. They were experiencing the grace of guilt. True guilt is a grace, because it brings the guilty to seek forgiveness and to repent. Joseph was so moved by their expressions of guilt and remorse that he had to turn away from them as he wept.

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