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Bible Commentaries
Genesis 42

Poole's English Annotations on the Holy BiblePoole's Annotations



Jacob hearing there was corn in Egypt, sends all his sons thither but Benjamin, Genesis 42:1-5.

They bow before Joseph, who knew them, but not they him; he treats them roughly, Genesis 42:6-8; remembers his dreams; charges them for spies, Genesis 42:9-12.

They, to vindicate themselves, declare that they were all sons of one father, and had a younger brother at home, Genesis 42:13.

Joseph imprisons them, but releases all but Simeon, and sends the rest to fetch their brother, and so prove their words true, Genesis 42:14-20.

Their consciences are awakened, and charge them with their sin against Joseph; they accuse one another, Genesis 42:21-22.

Joseph hears them; weeps; binds Simeon, Genesis 42:23-24.

Joseph orders their sacks to be filled with corn, and to return their money, Genesis 42:25-26.

In the way one finds his money in his sack; they are the more afraid, Genesis 42:27-28.

At home they relate to Jacob what happened to them, so far as to persuade Jacob to let Benjamin go, Genesis 42:29-35.

He complains; Reuben undertakes for him; he cannot consent to let him go, Genesis 42:36-38.

Verse 1

When Jacob saw, i.e. heard, as the word is used, Exodus 20:18; as seeing is put for smelling, Exodus 5:21; and for tasting, Psalms 34:8; and for touching, John 20:29.

Why do ye look one upon another; like lazy, careless, and helpless persons, each one expecting relief from the other, but none offering either counsel or help for all our subsistence?

Verse 2

I have heard: this word explains the word saw, Genesis 42:1.

Get you down; for Egypt was lower than Canaan; whence, on the contrary, they are said to go up to Canaan, Genesis 45:9.

That we may live, and not die; an emphatical repetition of the same thing, used here to make them more sensible of their danger.

Verse 4

Because he was very young, and now his best beloved son.

Verse 6

He sold to the people; either,

1. By his ministers and commissioners appointed to that end, as men in Scripture and in all authors are said to do that which others do by their authority and command. Or,

2. He himself immediately contracted with the buyers, or at least with such as were foreigners; which he did upon prudential reasons; both because he would not have them to pry into the state of Egypt, Genesis 42:12, and because he would by that opportunity understand the state of other lands, and improve that knowledge for his master’s service.

Joseph’s brethren bowed down themselves before him; thus unwittingly fulfilling Joseph’s dream, Genesis 37:7.

Verse 7

He spake roughly unto them; partly, to bring their sin to remembrance; partly, to get the knowledge of the true state of his father and family; and partly, to further the following design, and make way for his and their greater happiness.

Verse 8

Because his visage was much altered by his beard, and by other things, it being about twenty years since they saw him; and his Egyptian language, and habit, and carriage, together with the great dignity of his place, prevented all suspicions concerninging their brother.

Verse 9

This he saith, not because they were so, or he thought them to be so, but that he might search out the truth of their affair, speaking too much like a courtier or politician.

The nakedness of the land, i.e. the weak parts of it, and where it may be best assaulted or surprised.

Verse 11

We are all one man’s sons, and therefore not spies; for it is not likely either that a father would venture so many sons upon so hazardous an employment, or that such a work would have been trusted in the hands of one family only.

We are true men, who honestly and truly mean what we pretend, and have no other design in our coming hither.

Verse 13

i.e. Is dead, as that phrase often signifies both in Scripture, as Genesis 37:30; Genesis 44:20; Jeremiah 31:15; Matthew 2:17,Matthew 2:18, and in other authors, as Homer, Euripides, &c. They concluded with great probability that he was dead, Genesis 44:20, because for twenty years together they had heard nothing, either of him or from him; which may seem strange, considering the nearness of Egypt and Canaan: but this came to pass partly from his own long imprisonment, and afterwards from his great and high employment; partly, from his lothness to bring so much mischief to his father and brethren, as the discovery of his case might have produced; and principally, from the overruling providence of God, which for its own glorious design disposed of Joseph’s mind and affairs, so that he either did not send to his father’s house, or that the messages were intercepted, there being not then those conveniencies for mutual correspondencies which now there are. And it is not improbable that Joseph might be further acquainted with the mind of God in this matter by dreams, which may seem to have been familiarly afforded to him, together with the interpretation of them. See Genesis 40:8; Genesis 41:16.

Verse 14

This justifies my accusation; for it is not probable that one man should have so many sons, all grown up and living together in one family, and that he should expose them all to the perils of such a journey.

Verse 15

By the life of Pharaoh, as sure as Pharaoh lives. It seems to be the form of an oath in use among the Egyptians, as afterwards the Romans used to swear by the name, genius, health, and life of their emperors. Compare 1 Samuel 1:26; 1 Samuel 17:55; 2 Kings 2:2; Ezekiel 33:11. And it is not strange that Joseph through human infirmity was carried by the stream of the general practice of the court, especially when the law of God was not yet delivered concerning the appropriation of oaths unto God.

Verse 18

I will spare your lives, and not punish you with death as spies, and you shall carry provisions, that your family also may live;

for I fear God, and therefore will not be cruel to you, nor to your brother whom you shall leave with me. This might have raised some suspicion concerning Joseph, but that they knew there were divers among the heathens who did own the true God, though they worshipped idols with him.

Verse 19

Your prison, in which you are now imprisoned, and are still like to be so, if you accept not this condition.

Verse 20

i.e. Resolved and promised to do so. Those things are oft said to be done in Scripture which were sincerely resolved upon, as hath been noted before.

Verse 21

This is the just punishment of that great wickedness, which though we could cover from men, yet we now see and feel was known to God, who is now reckoning with us for it. Thus Divine vengeance overtakes them, and conscience tortures them for a sin committed above twenty years before, and their affliction brings them to repentance.

When he besought us: compare Genesis 49:23. Yet this passage is not mentioned in that history, Genesis 37:1-36. Learn hence, that the silence of the Scripture is no good argument that such or such a thing was not said or done, except in some special cases.

Therefore is this distress come upon us; he is inexorable to us, as we were to him.

Verse 22

i.e. The punishment of his blood or death occasioned by us.

Verse 24

He turned himself and wept tears, partly of natural affection and compassion towards his brethren, now in great distress and anguish; and partly of joy, to see the happy success of his design and rigorous carriage, in bringing them to the sight of their sins.

He chooseth to punish

Simeon, partly, because next to Reuben he was the eldest, and, as it may be probably gathered from his bloody disposition, Genesis 34:25; Genesis 49:6, the most fierce and forward against Joseph, when Reuben was for milder counsels, as we see here, Genesis 42:22; Genesis 38:29; and partly, because the detainment of one of so perverse and furious a temper would least afflict his father, and most secure Benjamin, who was to come with his brethren. He

bound him before their eyes, that it might make deeper impression upon their hard hearts, and make their repentance more effectual.

Verse 27

And after him the rest by his example and information did so, as is affirmed Genesis 43:21, and it is not denied here.

Verse 28

They were afraid, lest this should be a design to entrap, and so destroy them. Whoever were the instruments, they knew that God was the chief author of this occurrent, and wisely reflect upon his providence in it, and their own guilt which provoked him against them.

Verse 35

i.e. Their fear returned upon them with more violence, having now more leisure to consider things, and their wise and experienced father suggesting new matters to them, which might more deeply affect them.

Verse 36

Simeon is not; he gave him up for lost, as being, as he thought, in the power of a cruel enemy.

All these things are against me; I am the great sufferer in all these things: you carry yourselves as if you were neither concerned nor affected with them.

Verse 37

Slay my two sons, two of the four mentioned Genesis 46:9. An absurd proposition, neither fit for him to make, nor for Jacob to accept.

Verse 38

He is left alone, to wit of his mother, my dear Rachel.

Bibliographical Information
Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Genesis 42". Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/mpc/genesis-42.html. 1685.
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