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JACOB SENDS HIS SONS TO EGYPT
The famine reaches to Jacob's land. God makes him and his sons to feel the distress of famine until they hear that Egypt has an abundance of food that is available for sale. Jacob therefore orders his sons to take a trip there to buy food (v.2). Joseph's ten brothers then "went down" (v.3), indicating that lsrael must be humbled in order to receive blessing from God.
Benjamin does not go with them, for Jacob feared for his safety, no doubt specially because Joseph had before been taken from him, and Benjamin was the only son of Rachel remaining. In this matter there is striking spiritual significance. Joseph's brothers had rejected him, a picture of Israel's rejection of the Lord Jesus. Joseph is therefore a type of Christ in suffering before exaltation. Benjamin ("son of the right hand") is a type of Christ, the Messiah, reigning in glory. At the time when Israel is again awakened because of their need, they will not only have no recognition of Christ as the rejected Sufferer, but even thoughts of a glorious Messiah will be practically dormant in their minds.
When the brothers come they are brought into the presence of the governor himself rather than a lesser authority, but they of course had no idea that they were bowing down to their brother Joseph, though Joseph recognized them. But he spoke roughly to them, asking them where they came from (v.7). Verse 23 tells us he spoke to them by an interpreter, though of course he knew their language perfectly well, but he would not give them the least inkling that he might be known to them. When they asked to buy food, he accused them of being spies. Though this was not accurate, yet Joseph was seeking to awaken exercise in their hearts as to their past dishonesty. They protest that they are true men, the sons of one man (v.11). They must later be brought to confess that they have not been true.
When Joseph continues interrogating them, they give him the information that their father had twelve sons, one of them remaining at home, while the other, they say, "is not". How little they suspected that the governor knew better than that! But now he is going to test them in regard to their attitude toward another younger brother, Benjamin. He tells them that they must be kept in prison while one of their number returns home to bring Benjamin with him (vs.15-16).
They are all put in to prison, however, for three days. Joseph was wisely making them feel the pain of enforced confinement, though only briefly compared to the years of his own imprisonment. After the three days he lightens the sentence against them, for instead of nine being kept in prison, he decrees that only one be kept while the rest return home to bring their younger brother back with them. He did this because, as he said, "I fear God" (vs.18-20).
These words too spoke to their conscience, for with Joseph present they confessed to each other that they were guilty concerning their treatment of Joseph, "because," they say, "we saw the distress of his soul when he pleaded with us, yet we would not listen; therefore this distress is come upon us" (v.21). Reuben reminded them too that he had before remonstrated with them and they ignored him. "Now comes the reckoning for his blood," Reuben says. They knew it was true that we shall reap what we sow, and they recognize that it is God who is bringing this back upon their own heads, though they do not mention the name of God.
When Joseph heard them speak this way he turned away from them and wept (v.24), for it was evident that God was beginning a work in their hearts by the convicting of their conscience. But Joseph would not yet reveal himself to them, for a deeper work was yet required which would take more time. Still, God rewarded Joseph's wisdom up to this point by the apparent self-judgment of his brothers, and he would be encouraged, though having to still wait in patience.
He returned to them and took Simeon and bound him before their eyes, a reminder of their having before made Joseph a captive. But without the brothers knowing it, he gave orders to fill all their sacks with grain and to restore their money to them by putting it into their sacks, besides also giving them provision for their journey. So the Lord Jesus, even when He has to use discipline measures, cannot forbear to show the kindness of His grace. He does this with people individually, and will eventually do it with the awakened remnant of Israel in order to encourage their further self-judgment and restoration. The law, with its strict regulations and demands, while it might expose men's sins, will never lead them to repentanceRomans 2:4; Romans 2:4 is most clear, however, in its declaration, which many do not realize, "that the goodness of God leads you to repentance."
The brothers loaded their donkeys and began the return journey without Simeon. But when they stopped for the night, one of them opened his sack in order to feed his donkey, and was alarmed to find his money in the mouth of the sack (v.27). His brothers too were shocked at this, and realized that this was a matter in which God was definitely intervening, but for what purpose they do not understand. They were afraid. John Newton expresses this reaction clearly in his hymn, "Amazing Grace," when he writes, "Twas grace first taught my heart to fear." It is always grace that brings us face to face with the living God, though because of our sin this experience at first is frightening. This is the first time we hear the brothers mentioning God's name, so that we know that they did not miss what Joseph said as his fearing God.
Returning home, they recount to their father Jacob their experience with the governor of Egypt (vs.29-34). Then, opening their sacks, they find the money of all restored to them. Both they and their father were afraid rather than thankful, for they suspected some ulterior design in this. Thus is it with mankind generally. They are suspicious that there must be some "catch" when the free grace of God in Christ Jesus is proclaimed (v.35).
Jacob is greatly disturbed. He tells his sons that they have bereaved him of Joseph (which was more true than he suspected) and now also of Simeon, and that they want to take Benjamin away with them. "All these things are against me," he says. He did not have the slightest idea that all these things were going to work out wonderfully for him. Do we not also too frequently have a complaining attitude as though everything is against us? Yet the fact is that everything works together for good to all who love God (Romans 8:28).
Reuben then proposes to Jacob that he would be responsible for Benjamin if Jacob would send him, and in fact offers the lives of his two sons as surety (v.37). But such a thing would be folly. If Jacob's son was taken from him, would the death of his two grandsons serve to comfort him? Jacob flatly refuses, saying his son would not go with them to Egypt, for he feared that some type of harm would come to Benjamin which would cause Jacob such grief as to result in his own death (v.38)
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Grant, L. M. "Commentary on Genesis 42". Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week of Advent