About Jesus Steve Sweetman
Brothers Go To
In verses 1 and 2 we see
that Jacob hears that there is grain in Egypt. He asks his sons,"
why do you just keep looking at each other?"
This famine was severe. We
have extra-Biblical evidence that there was in fact a severe famine that
spread across the known world at this time.
It is clear that the sons of Jacob had no work to do in the
fields. They were just
sitting around, looking at each other, that seems to be quite irritating
to Jacob. There was no
grain, so the flocks were probably beginning to die since they would
have no food to eat. Jacob
was clearly afraid that they would die as well, as seen in verse 2, so
he tells his sons to get down to Egypt and buy some grain.
In verses 3 and 4 we see
that ten of Jacob's sons went down to Egypt. He had twelve sons
altogether. Jacob would not allow Benjamin to go with the other brothers.
Remember, Jacob's favourite wife Leah had only two sons.
They were Joseph and Benjamin.
Jacob was still in distress over the fact that Joseph was gone.
He thought that he was dead, and he did not want the last of the
two sons born to Leah to die too.
Verse 5 tells us that
Jacob's sons weren't the only one's going down to
We see in verse 6 that
Joseph was the governor of Egypt. He was second in command
to Pharaoh, the king. We
also see that Joseph's brothers arrived in
In verse 7 we see that
the brothers did not recognize Joseph, but he recognized them.
You might wonder why this was the case.
There are a few reasons. One
is that he was trying not to be recognized.
He might well have been disguising his voice.
He would have also been clean shaven, since that was the custom
of Egyptian men back then. The
custom of Hebrew men were to grow beards.
Also, at least 15 years had now passed since the brothers saw
Joseph, and his appearance would have changed.
He was only seventeen the last time they saw him. We
will also learn later that Joseph did not speak directly to his
brothers. He spoke through
an interpreter, even though he knew the language.
The text states that
Joseph "spoke harshly" to his brothers.
This suggests that he was tough on them.
He did not want to make it easy for them.
This also might imply some kind of changing of his voice to
disguise who he was.
Some suggest that Joseph
was getting back at his brothers with his harsh words and the ordeal he
was about to put them through. There
might be some truth to this, but I think the reason he is about to do
what he does is to get Benjamin and Jacob in
The last part of verse 7
simply states that the brothers were from Canaan, something Joseph obviously knew.
In verse 8 it clearly
states that Joseph recognized the brothers but they didn't recognize
him. It then says that
Joseph remembered his dreams. It
might be possible that he had long forgotten the dreams but as soon as
the brothers bowed down before him, the dreams came flooding back to his
memory. That only makes
In verse 9 Joseph accused
the brothers of being spies. He
told them that they had come to spy out any unprotected land in Egypt. We see here that Joseph
was a quick thinker. It
didn't take him long to
In verse 10 the brothers
flatly denied Joseph's claim. They
say, "no, my lord, your servants…"
Note that the brothers call Joseph "lord", and call
themselves "servants" to Joseph.
Once again, a fulfillment of the dreams that Joseph had when he
was seventeen years old..
In verse 12 the brothers
tell Joseph that they are all sons "of one man", and that they
were honest men. Being sons
of "one man" was correct, but being honest, well, that's
somewhat debatable. They all
had participated in selling Joseph.
Two were murderers. One
slept with his father's concubine, and the rest, we don't know all the
things they might have done.
In verse 13 to 17 we see
that Joseph pretends that he doesn’t' believe
his brothers. He
still says that they are spies, and to prove it, one of the brothers
must return to bring back the youngest brother while the rest are put
into prison. Joseph put them
all in jail for three days. This
was meant to be a test, as the text states, to prove whether or not the
brothers were spies. Yet in
Joseph's mind we know it wasn't that kind of a test, but it still might
have been a test to him. He
might well have been testing them to see their reaction, to see just
what kind of men his brothers turned out to be after all of these years.
In verse 18 Joseph says,
"do this and you will live, for I fear God."
You would wonder what the brothers thought about this
statement about Joseph fearing God.
Egyptians weren't fearers of Elohim.
I don't know if this triggered something in their minds or not,
but it should have triggered something.
It should have at least showed the brothers that God might have
something to do with the situation they were in, but we aren't really
sure how much of a God-fearing group of men these brothers are in the
Note here also the number
three, which is the number of completion in Bible terms.
In Joseph's mind the initial time of testing was over, and now
comes part two of the test. Many
liberal scholars understand the importance of numbers in the Bible as do
conservative scholars, but they have differing reactions.
Because there is a definite numbering system in the Bible, they
say that the Bible is all contrived, a man made story, with a man made
numbering system. They fail
to see that God Himself might just well place an important emphasis on
Joseph's plan is seen in
verses19 and 20. He will
send grain back with nine brothers.
One brother will stay as collateral. We
note the word "die" in verse 20.
I'm sure at this point the brothers were afraid of what might
happen to them.
We see the reaction to
all of this by the brothers in verse 21.
They rightfully felt that all these problems had come on them
because of what they did to Joseph years ago.
Many years had passed, but the guilt had now risen to the top of
their heart's. The feeling
of guilt often does such things. Unless
guilt is resolved, the feeling of guilt can arise any time in one's
life. We need to understand
that guilt is not a feeling. It
is a position in which we stand before God, whether we feel guilty or
not. Some people don't feel guilty when in fact they are.
Other's feel guilty when in fact they aren't. I use the term
"feeling of guilt" in the sense that it is a by-product of
In verse 22 we see that
Reuben speaks up. He
reminded the others that he told them not to sin against Joseph.
It was Reuben's thinking that what they were now experiencing was
punishment, or a time of accountability.
We see in verse 23 that
Joseph was using an interpreter all along to speak to his brothers.
It was all part of the disguise.
He could have spoke directly to his brothers but that might have
given him away. The brothers
did not realize that Joseph understood every word they were saying.
What an impact this had on Joseph.
I don't think we can fully understand how he felt at this moment.
Now he knew what Reuben had thought all along.
Verse 24 gives us a hint
to how Joseph felt. He had to turn his back on his brothers because he
began to weep. Clearly, he
was quite disturbed. Once
composing himself, he had Simeon bound before the rest of the brothers
and had him led away to prison.
In verses 25 and 26 the
orders were given to fill the brothers bags with grain, and have the
silver they brought with them put in the bags as well.
This silver was supposed to be the payment for the grain, but
Joseph had other plans for this silver that was put back into the
brother's sacks. It would
become a form of torment for the brothers. They would become afraid due
to the fact that it looked like they robbed Joseph of the silver that
was meant to by the grain.
In verses 27 and 28 the
brothers stop to feed their donkey's. The first sack to be opened showed
the silver that was to be payment for the grain.
The first reaction was good.
They thought that the silver was given back to them, yet upon
second thought, they trembled. It
now appeared that they had stolen the money that was meant to buy the
grain. Once again, they feel
that God was punishing them for what they had done to Joseph.
I won't comment on verses
29 to 34 since these verses are merely recounting the situation of the
brothers to their father Jacob. This
is often how Hebrew writers wrote. They
could have easily shortened this portion, but they restated the story in
In verse 35 we note that
all the sacks of grain were opened, and in each sack the silver that was
meant to buy the grain was in the sacks.
It is thus clear that not all the sacks were opened back in
verses 27 and 28.
You see how Jacob now
felt. He said that the
brothers had "deprived" him of his children.
He said Joseph "was no more," meaning he was dead.
He also said that Simenon " was no more."
It appears that he thought that either Simeon was dead, or now
would be dead because this money was found in the brothers' sacks.
He also thought that this would now be the end of Benjamin if
they went back to Egypt. What a dilemma
Jacob found himself in.
In verse 37 we see Reuben
again speaking up with a plan that was clearly based on his guilt,
although the text doesn't say it. He
told his father to trust him and he would make sure everything would
turn out fine, and if it didn't, Jacob could kill his two sons.
Now I'm not sure how that would have solved anything.
Jacob was afraid that he would lose more of his children and here
Reuben is suggesting that if things didn't work out, Jacob was free to
lose two of his grand children by Jacob killing them.
It makes no sense to us, but in that time, it might have made
some sense to Reuben. Rueben
felt that they were being punished for them selling Joseph years ago.
If Reuben could not pull this off now, then he thought that he
should be punished again by the death of his two sons.
In Reuben's mind, this was all a matter of guilt and punishment.
In verse 38 Jacob refuses
Reuben's plan. We will see
in the next chapter what the plan will be.