Jacob sends ten sons to buy corn. (Verse 1-6.)
Joseph’s treatment of his brethren. (Verse 7-20.)
Their remorse, Simeon detained. (Verse 21-24.)
The rest return with corn. (Verse 25-28.)
Jacob refuses to send Benjamin to Egypt. (Verse 29-38.)
1 Now when Jacob saw that there was corn in Egypt, Jacob said unto his sons, Why do ye look one upon another?
2 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.
[Gen 43:8, Psa 33:19]
3 And Joseph’s ten brethren went down to buy corn in Egypt.
4 But Benjamin, Joseph’s brother, Jacob sent not with his brethren; for he said, Lest peradventure mischief befall him.
[peradventure – perhaps; by chance]
5 And the sons of Israel came to buy corn among those that came: for the famine was in the land of Canaan.
6 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.
[Gen 37:7, Gen 43:26, Gen 44:14]
The reason for Jacob not sending Benjamin to Egypt with his brothers is because Benjamin was now the heir that would inherit the right of the first born which was forfeited by Rueben for his indiscretion with Bilha his father’s handmaid.
Simeon and Levi also lost their right to replace Rueben when they slew all the men of Shechem against their father’s wishes. But little did Benjamin and Jacob know that Joseph was still alive. Jacob however did not trust his elder sons to care for Joseph’s little brother.
7 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.
8 And Joseph knew his brethren, but they knew not him.
What Joseph is looking for is a sign of genuine sorrow and repentance in his ten brothers for what they did to him twenty years previous to this meeting.
Just as his dreams had prophesied many years ago his brothers were lying prostrate before him. Remember it was in his second dream that his father as well would prostrate himself before him along with his wife. Just as Joseph was highly exalted so also will be the Messiah.
Philippians 2:9 Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: 10 That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth;
Notice here that Joseph was not recognized by his brethren the first time they seen him some twenty years later, but at the second appearance he made himself known unto them as he will do at his return.
Jesus was not recognized by his brethren on the road to Emmaus Luke 24:37. Most importantly Jesus was not recognized as Israel’s Messiah by the leadership of Israel. He came unto his own, and his own received him not.
9 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.
10 And they said unto him, Nay, my lord, but to buy food are thy servants come.
11 We are all one man’s sons; we are true men, thy servants are no spies.
12 And he said unto them, Nay, but to see the nakedness of the land ye are come.
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.
[Gen 37:30, Gen 44:20, Lam 5:7]
“one is not” – a reference to Joseph; it is amazing how a sin that you think you got away with can come back to haunt you – in this case twenty years later; sin is ALWAYS better confessed than hidden!
14 And Joseph said unto them, That is it that I spake unto you, saying, Ye are spies:
15 Hereby ye shall be proved: By the life of Pharaoh ye shall not go forth hence, except your youngest brother come hither.
16 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.
17 And he put them all together into ward three days.
As he once went to jail so to now do his brothers find themselves in a foreign prison. Joseph gave his brothers only a small taste of what it was like for him so that they could reflect upon their evil ways.
The Jews will suffer for a little over three years during the last half of the Tribulation Period. This will give them time to realize their sin and receive their deliverer.
18 And Joseph said unto them the third day, This do, and live; for I fear God:
[Lev 25:43, Neh 5:15]
19 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:
20 But bring your youngest brother unto me; so shall your words be verified, and ye shall not die. And they did so.
[Gen 43:5, Gen 44:23]
21 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.
a perfect picture of the sinner under conviction about his sin!
22 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.
23 And they knew not that Joseph understood them; for he spake unto them by an interpreter.
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.
It couldn’t have happened to a nicer fellow. Simeon, the one who argued with Reuben about killing Joseph in the first place and the one along with Levi who deceived the people of Shechem before slaughtering them.
Simeon was also the leader in throwing Joseph into the pit as well, how fitting that he is the one now in the pit at Joseph’s hand. Simeon was second in line to lead the family but forfeited his claim at Shechem.
Notice also that it is said of Joseph that he wept, this is said of him seven times concerning his brethren, Jesus also wept for Israel, he was truly a man of sorrows.
25 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.
26 And they laded their asses with the corn, and departed thence.
27 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.
28 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?
“What is this that God hath done unto us?” The sinner with a guilty conscience begins to start making some progress toward “getting right” with God when he stops attributing his problems to bad luck and begins to recognize God’s hand in his circumstances.
They received ill-gotten gain when they sold Joseph to the traders and now they had another reminder of how money would get them into trouble. Be sure your sin will find you out! Even today Israel is blessed by God, but it hasn’t brought them to repentance.
29 And they came unto Jacob their father unto the land of Canaan, and told him all that befell unto them; saying,
30 The man, who is the lord of the land, spake roughly to us, and took us for spies of the country.
31 And we said unto him, We are true men; we are no spies:
32 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.
33 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:
34 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.
Joseph brothers were feeling some remorse for their sin against him, so he let them return to their father and requested his younger brother to be brought back. A request that Joseph knew his father would not favor because he knew he didn’t trust his oldest sons.
Just imagine the divisiveness that went on in the tents of Jacob’s wives and handmaidens, each fighting over preeminence.
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.
36 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.
“all these things are against me.” The pessimistic view of life is the way things really are in every man’s life unless the grace of God intervenes to make a difference.
What does the second half of Prov. 13:15 state?
37 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.
Reuben makes a very rash statement; he is not trusted by Jacob as noted in 35:22 and 49:3; compare this with Judah’s much more sensible offer in 43:8-9.
38 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.
What a pronouncement to make against the ten half-brothers! Jacob was basically saying, “I don’t trust any of you!” He wasn’t worried about the Egyptians causing any mischief against Benjamin, but he was concerned that his brother possibly would so that they might return the right of the firstborn back to Rueben.
Commentary by Matthew Henry, 1710.
Verse 1-6 – Jacob saw the corn his neighbours had bought in Egypt, and brought home. It is a spur to exertion to see others supplied. Shall others get food for their souls, and shall we starve while it is to be had? Having discovered where help is to be had, we should apply for it without delay, without shrinking from labour, or grudging expense, especially as regards our never-dying souls. There is provision in Christ; but we must come to him, and seek it from him.
Verse 7-20 – Joseph was hard upon his brethren, not from a spirit of revenge, but to bring them to repentance. Not seeing his brother Benjamin, he suspected that they had made away with him, and he gave them occasion to speak of their father and brother. God, in his providence, sometimes seems harsh with those he loves, and speaks roughly to those for whom yet he has great mercy in store. Joseph settled at last, that one of them should be left, and the rest go home and fetch Benjamin. It was a very encouraging word he said to them, “I fear God;” as if he had said, You may be assured I will do you no wrong; I dare not, for I know there is one higher than I. With those that fear God, we may expect fair dealing.
Verse 21-24 – The office of conscience is to bring to mind things long since said and done. When the guilt of this sin of Joseph’s brethren was fresh, they made light of it, and sat down to eat bread; but now, long afterward, their consciences accused them of it. See the good of afflictions; they often prove the happy means of awakening conscience, and bringing sin to our remembrance. Also, the evil of guilt as to our brethren. Conscience now reproached them for it. Whenever we think we have wrong done us, we ought to remember the wrong we have done to others. Reuben alone remembered with comfort, that he had done what he could to prevent the mischief. When we share with others in their sufferings, it will be a comfort if we have the testimony of our consciences for us, that we did not share in their evil deeds, but in our places witnessed against them. Joseph retired to weep. Though his reason directed that he should still carry himself as a stranger, because they were not as yet humbled enough, yet natural affection could not but work.
Verse 25-28 – The brethren came for corn, and corn they had: not only so, but every man had his money given back. Thus Christ, like Joseph, gives out supplies without money and without price. The poorest are invited to buy. But guilty consciences are apt to take good providences in a bad sense; to put wrong meanings even upon things that make for them.
Verse 29-38 – Here is the report Jacob’s sons made to their father. It troubled the good man. Even the bundles of money Joseph returned, in kindness, to his father, frightened him. He laid the fault upon his sons; knowing them, he feared they had provoked the Egyptians, and wrongfully brought home their money. Jacob plainly distrusted his sons, remembering that he never saw Joseph since he had been with them. It is bad with a family, when children behave so ill that their parents know not how to trust them. Jacob gives up Joseph for gone, and Simeon and Benjamin as in danger; and concludes, All these things are against me. It proved otherwise, that all these things were for him, were working together for his good, and the good of his family. We often think that to be against us, which is really for us. We are afflicted in body, estate, name, and in our relations; and think all these things are against us, whereas they are really working for us a weight of glory. Thus does the Lord Jesus conceal himself and his favour, thus he rebukes and chastens those for whom he has purposes of love. By sharp corrections and humbling convictions he will break the stoutness and mar the pride of the heart, and bring to true repentance. Yet before sinners fully know him, or taste that he is gracious, he consults their good, and sustains their souls, to wait for him. May we do thus, never yielding to discouragement, determining to seek no other refuge, and humbling ourselves more and more under his mighty hand. In due time he will answer our petitions, and do for us more than we can expect.