Verse/Lesson 6 of 12
We are picking up today in Genesis 42:1-36. Remember Joseph is Governor of Egypt and we are in a time of great famine. Egypt had prepared for the famine because God had given Pharaoh a dream about it and Joseph interpreted it. During the 7 years of abundance they carefully planned and stored grain in preparation for the 7 years of famine. Now Joseph is second only to Pharaoh in Egypt and has the duty of overseeing the disbursement of grain. We know he is at least 37 years old and has married and has two sons. I’d say Joseph is living his life and not dwelling on the wounds of his past. My guess is he is a busy guy with much to do in his job.
Meanwhile back in Canaan, Jacob hears word that there is food in Egypt and sends his sons off to buy some so they don’t starve. 10 brothers leave Canaan in hopes of buying grain in Egypt.
The brothers arrive and are in the presence of the governor (Joseph) and they bow down before him. Joseph sees them and recognizes them but doesn’t reveal himself to them. I like the wording in the NIV for this verse
As soon as Joseph saw his brothers, he recognized them, but he pretended to be a stranger and spoke harshly to them. "Where do you come from?" he asked. "From the land of Canaan," they replied, "to buy food." (NIV)
Joseph saw his brothers and recognized them, but he treated them like strangers and spoke roughly to them. “Where do you come from?” he said. They said, “From the land of Canaan, to buy food.” (ESV)
And Joseph saw his brothers, and he recognized them, but he made himself a stranger to them, and he spoke to them harshly, and he said to them, "Where do you come from?" And they said, "From the land of Canaan to purchase food." The Torah
The emphasis is mine and I know it isn’t a big difference but there is a difference in the way one acts if they themselves are strangers rather than encountering strangers.
So, I had to look up the Hebrew word…
נָכַר nâkar, naw-kar'; a primitive root; properly, to scrutinize, i.e. look intently at; hence (with recognition implied), to acknowledge, be acquainted with, care for, respect, revere, or (with suspicion implied), to disregard, ignore, be strange toward, reject, resign, dissimulate (as if ignorant or disowning):—acknowledge, × could, deliver, discern, dissemble, estrange, feign self to be another, know, take knowledge (notice), perceive, regard, (have) respect, behave (make) self strange(-ly).
On a side note, I am left so humbled when I go chasing these word rabbits because the fact that we have a Bible translated into English and/or any other language is miraculous. Sometimes I may look up one root word per chapter. Imagine each and every word, meaning, overall meaning trying to be correctly translated. It is a miracle!
Anyway, back to our text…Joseph doesn’t blurt out to them, “It’s me! It’s me!”
He treats them harshly – I took this to mean if they were anybody else from Canaan, business would have gone on. His accusation of them being spies is the harsh treatment, and oh yeah, the throwing them into prison.
Before they are thrown in prison they protest their innocence and declare,
“We, your servants, are twelve brothers, the sons of one man in the land of Canaan, and behold, the youngest is this day with our father, and one is no more.” Genesis 42:13 ESV
The first time I read this my heart broke for Joseph.
On the one hand they at least acknowledge his existence, but on the other they have written him off.
Upon reading it again and again, I began to see that there may have been a little twinge of pain but taking himself out of the equation, in that one exchange he has found out that his father and little brother are still living! And what joy that must have been for him.
Joseph puts his 10 brothers in prison for 3 days. After the three days Joseph releases all but one of them and sends them back home to return with Benjamin, as proof they were who they said they were. At this the brothers say,
Then they said to one another, “In truth we are guilty concerning our brother, in that we saw the distress of his soul, when he begged us and we did not listen. That is why this distress has come upon us.” Genesis 42:21 ESV
God is tapping on these guys and they are beginning to feel it. I love this verse (although I did not select it for this section to Journal) because of all that is going on in it. Look at it. They admit their responsibility (we are guilty), they understand empathy (we saw the distress of his soul, when he begged us), they understand guilt (we did not listen), and they know there are repercussions for their actions (That is why this distress has come upon us)
But God is not finished yet…
They set out on their way back to Canaan and stop to rest and one of them reaches into a sack to feed his donkey and finds all the money for grain has been returned to them….and that brings us to my verse
At this their hearts failed them, and they turned trembling to one another, saying, “What is this that God has done to us?”
I think it is clear that their hearts are now fully convicted! I thought it was a powerful verse and summed up what this portion was about.
In the remainder of the section of reading today, the brothers arrive home and tell Jacob what has happened. Jacob is not happy. To me, he seems pretty weary and sad. Jacob’s response to the 9 brothers is…
..."You have deprived me of my children. Joseph is no more and Simeon is no more, and now you want to take Benjamin. Everything is against me!" Genesis 42:36 NIV
If we were doing a TV series this is where we would end for a season cliff hanger. Luckily for you, we will pick it up here on the next post.
If you are following along, read 42:36-43:15 for next time.