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Bible Commentaries
Genesis 42

Preacher's Complete Homiletical CommentaryPreacher's Homiletical

Verses 1-2



I. Considered in its bearing upon the Divine purposes concerning the chosen people. It had been long ago predicted that the covenant people should be afflicted in a strange land four hundred years. God used ordinary means to bring this about. The family of Jacob must be driven to Egypt, and there increase to a nation, and by affliction and oppression be trained for entry into the Promised Land. It is remarkable that, not only Jacob, but his fathers Abraham and Isaac, had experienced a famine in Canaan and by reason of it were driven into Egypt. This must have sorely tried their faith; for the land which was promised to them seemed to be a land which ate up its inhabitants. But these afflictions wrought good for their souls, and trained them to lose sight of all selfish aims in religion and to be concerned only for the glory of God. They learned to submit to whatever means God might be pleased to use to bring about His purposes.

II. Considered in its effect upon Jacob’s sons. “Why do ye look one upon another?” This sad question revealed—

1. The utmost distress. They were as men who were stunned by a sudden blow.

2. Great perplexity. They could do nothing else but thus look one upon another. They seemed utterly helpless.

3. Forebodings of conscience. It was not altogether the great calamity of famine that made them so helpless and afraid. Conscience was now awake and filled them with other fears. Why must they wait for Jacob to tell them that there was corn in Egypt, and to suggest the obvious course of going down thither to buy? They surely must have heard this, and have known that in their very neighbourhood a caravan of travellers was already making preparation for that journey. (Genesis 42:5.) The news that there was plenty of food in Egypt would naturally spread rapidly all over the country. Distress has a quick ear. Why, then, are Jacob’s sons of all others the last to bestir themselves to seek help! Alas! to their guilty conscience, Egypt is a dreaded name, a threatening calamity, a foreboding evil. To them the road to Egypt is haunted by the memory of an awful crime.


Genesis 42:1. Jacob’s words resemble those of the four lepers: “Why sit we here until we die?” It is a dictate of nature not to despair while there is a door of hope; and the principle will hold good in things of everlasting moment. Why sit we here, poring over our guilt and misery, when we have heard that with the Lord there is mercy, and with Him there is plenteous redemption? How long shall we take counsel in our soul, having sorrow in our hearts daily? Let us trust in His mercy, and our hearts shall rejoice in His salvation.—(Fuller.)

Genesis 42:2. Here the Divine decree of Israel’s sojourning and suffering in Egypt begins to be fulfilled, by a wonderful providence. The fulness of Joseph’s barns invites Jacob first to send, and then to go thither himself for relief. Shall not the fulness that is in Christ (John 1:16) incite and entice us to come to Him, as bees to a meadow full of flowers; as merchants to the Indies, full of spices and other riches; as the Queen of Sheba to Solomon, full of wisdom; as Jacob’s sons to Egypt, full of corn, in that extreme famine; that we may return with treasures full fraught with treasures of truth and grace?—(Trapp.)

Verses 3-20


Genesis 42:6. Governor.] “The word rendered governor, Shalit, is, except here, said to be only found in the books contemporary with and following the Captivity. Salatis is given by Josephus as the title of the first shepherd-king.”—(Alford.)—

Genesis 42:9. Spies.] “This dynasty, we are told by Manetho, was ever in fear of invasion from the then powerful Assyrians, and Josephus says that on that account they fortified the eastern side of Egypt. Hence men arriving from Asia, and especially Jacob’s sons, who from their Chaldaic origin were more like the eastern Semitic peoples than Canaanites, might well arouse suspicion as to their being Assyrian spies.”—(Alford).—The nakedness of the land. Its unfortified cities, unprotected boundaries—exposed as a man unarmed, having fewer strong places than any other countries.—

Genesis 42:15. By the life of Pharaoh.] The Egyptians swore by the life of their kings. There are similar instanced among the Hebrews themselves. (1 Samuel 17:55; 2 Samuel 11:11.) A similar form is found in the address of Abigail to David. (1 Samuel 25:36.)—



I. They show evident signs of fear. Therefore they go together in a company, ten strong, that by their numbers they might encourage and support one another. (Genesis 42:3).

II. Their worst forbodings are fulfilled. They dreaded Egypt, and events justified their fears.

1. They are received roughly. (Genesis 42:7.) Joseph acted the part of a foreigner, and treats them with a heartless and haughty indifference. With their peculiarities of feature, attitude, and mother tongue, he knew them. But they did not know him; for twenty years had made a great change in a youth of seventeen. Besides, his beard was shaven, he had on Egyptian attire, and spoke in a foreign tongue, and above all was found in such an exalted position. Therefore they failed to recognise him. This rough reception had dark suggestions for them. Their conscience read it as the beginning of sorrows.

2. They are suspected of evil designs. “Ye are spies,” said Joseph, “to see the nakedness of the land ye are come.” (Genesis 42:9.) The suspicion which Joseph expressed was unfounded, and he knew it to be so. But he was acting a part for the purpose of bringing their guilt home to them. He disguised, for the time, under a hard aspect a loving design. Yet his suspicion (even though it be regarded as expressing no real conviction on his part), expresses a righteous judgment—a stern moral fact, that guilty men who conceal a crime demanding open atonement, must ever encounter suspicion as a reflex of their evil secret. They felt that, though not in form, yet in reality that suspicion was justified.

3. They are threatened with the prospect of imprisonment and death. (Genesis 42:15; Genesis 42:20.) They must remain in ward until their words be proved. And if unable to verify them, their lives were to be forfeited.

III. Great principles of God’s moral government are illustrated in this history.

1. That pride is sure to meet with a fall. In Genesis 42:6 we are told that “Joseph’s brethren came and bowed down themselves before him with their faces to the earth.” Where were now those lofty looks, and that contemptuous tone with which they said—when Joseph had told them one of his dreams—“Shalt thou then indeed reign over us, or shalt thou have dominion over us?” They now bow themselves with the most abject humility before that very man of whom they said, on another occasion, “Come, let us slay him, and cast him into some pit, and we will see what will become of his dreams.”

2. That nothing can hinder the counsel of the Lord from taking effect. Joseph’s brethren tried their utmost to prevent the fulfilment of his dreams; but all the while they were really working towards this very end. They were accomplishing the will of God concerning Joseph though they knew it not. They knew not how wonderful is the Lord of Hosts in counsel, and how excellent in working.

3. That the crisis will arrive when the wicked must appear before the judgment seat of the pious. The time will come when the oppressors and the oppressed must meet together. The saints shall judge the world by their very position, for righteouness carries in itself the condemnation of sin. The highest form of this truth is “that we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:10). We must all come into the presence of Jesus Christ the Righteous, who will make manifest what we really are and appoint us our true place.

4. That retribution, even in kind, follows sin. Joseph was hated of his brethren for being his father’s spy, and now the time has come when they themselves are treated as spies. He who was hungry when they were eating now holds the food for which they hunger. They condemned Joseph to the pit, and now he judges them. That same thing which a man sows he also reaps.

5. That throughout the severity of God’s righteous anger against sin there runs a purpose of mercy. Joseph put on a stern demeanour. (Genesis 42:7.) He must bring his brethren to a sense of their sin by lifting the rod of justice against them. And yet he feels more distress than the objects of his chastisement. He is like a wise and just father who feels compelled to punish his son, though all the time it goes sore against his heart. A merciful intention must often wear this hard aspect. Joseph afflicted his brethren for their good. He disguises his private feelings, and acts for the time with stern justice. But when the harsh remedy had wrought its end, then he relents, and the prevailing kindness of his nature is free to flow. And so God loves us, yet with a love which does not shrink from severity. But the purpose which underlies all His dealings is kind. He wounds only in order that he might heal. “He will not always chide, neither will He keep His anger for ever. (Psalms 103:0.)


Genesis 42:3-4. The family is spoken of in their relation to Joseph, not as Jacob’s ten sons, but as Joseph’s ten brethren. He is the hero of the narrative. Benjamin was Joseph’s brother in a special sense, as born of the same mother, and beloved by the father in Joseph’s stead, so that he could not bear to part with him for fear the like calamity might fall upon him as befell Joseph. How little does Jacob know what is good or evil in Providence!—(Jacobus).

The guilt of Benjamin’s brothers seems to weigh upon the father’s heart as a kind of presentiment.—(Lange).

Genesis 42:5. The expression sons of Israel, instead of sons of Jacob, points to Israel the man of faith, whose children they were, who accompanied them with his prayers, and for whose sake, though he knew it not, this journey to Egypt, so dark in its commencement, became a blessing to them all.—(Lange).

Genesis 42:6. They bowed down themselves before him, etc. This fulfils most literally the dream of Joseph, which up to this time had seemed so impossible to human view. Joseph had doubtless rested in the confidence of this result as thus revealed to him, and had felt it his duty to wait patiently upon God through his long years of trial.—(Jacobus).

Genesis 42:7-8. What must have been his feelings! The remembrance of the manner in which he parted from them two and twenty years ago, the events which had befallen him, their prostration before him, and the absence of Benjamin, from which he might be apprehensive that they also had made away with him,—altogether must have been a great shock to his sensibility. Let him beware, or his countenance will betray him. He feels the danger of this, and immediately puts on a stern look, speaks roughly to them, and affects to take them for spies. By this innocent piece of artifice, he could interrogate them, and get out of them all the particulars that he wished without betraying himself, which he could not have done by any other means.—(Fuller.)

God sometimes brings us to a sense of our sins by hiding Himself from us, and standing afar off.
He did not allow his personal feelings to interfere with what seemed to him his duty. Joseph’s love to his brethren was a noble love. God’s love to us is still nobler, and severity accompanies it. It does not shrink from human suffering, for suffering is necessary for the man’s well being.—(Robertson.)

Genesis 42:9. Such an imputation as this remains to this day, that to which a stranger is continually exposed in the East. The Orientials generally have no idea that people will make a journey unless from urgent necessity, or on gainful speculations. Curiosity, or the desire of collecting information, are motives perfectly incomprehensible to them, and are always treated as shallow and childish pretences. They ask triumphantly whether you have no trees, birds, animals, rivers, or ruins at home to engage your attention, that you should come so far to look for them.—(Bush.)

This is the Oriental method of challenging a stranger. In truth it is the very idea of the European passport system, which puts every traveller under so much suspicion of mischievous intent as to put him constantly upon the proof of an honest and good object in his visit.—(Jacobus.)

He was not only to bless, but also to punish and judge, i.e., become forgetful of all human relations and act divinely. A similar position God assumes towards believers when in tribulation. Let us, therefore, hold assuredly that all our misfortunes, trials, and lamentations, even death itself, are nothing but a hearty and fair display of the Divine goodness towards us.—(Luther.)

Joseph remembered the dreams. Event is the best interpreter of Divine oracles. The disciples understood not many things at first that our Saviour said to them. (John 2:22; John 12:16.) So John Baptist’s preaching wrought not for some years after it was delivered, and then it did. (John 10:41-42.)—(Trapp.)

Genesis 42:10-13. It was not likely that ten sons of one man would be sent on the hazardous duty of spies. And behold the youngest is with our father this day. It is intensely interesting to Joseph to hear that his father and his full brother are still living. And one is not. Time has assuaged all their bitter feelings, both of exasperation against Joseph, and of remorse for their unbrotherly conduct. This little sentence, however, cannot be uttered by them, or heard by Joseph, without emotion.—(Murphy.)

Genesis 42:14-16. Send one of you. This proposal is enough to strike terror into their hearts. The return of one would be a heavy, perhaps a fatal, blow to their father. And how can one brave the perils of the way? They cannot bring themselves to concur in this plan. Sooner will they all go to prison, as accordingly they do. Joseph is not without a strong conviction of incumbent duty in all this. He knows he has been put in the position of lord over his brethren in the fore-ordination of God, and he feels bound to make this authority a reality for their moral good.—(Murphy.)

Genesis 42:17-20. Here they lie three days; a period which afforded him time to think what to do, and them to reflect on what they had done. On the third day he paid them a visit, and that in a temper of more apparent mildness. He assures them that he has no design, upon their life, and ventures to give a reason for it which must appear to them no less surprising than satisfying: I fear God. What, an Egyptian nobleman know and fear the true God! If so, they can have no injustice to fear at his hands! nor can he withhold food from a starving family. The fear of God will ever be connected with justice and humanity to man. But how mysterious! If he be a good man, how is it that he should treat us so roughly? How is it that God should suffer him so to mistake our designs? Their hearts must surely at this time have been full. Such were the means which God by this wise man made use of to bring them to repentance. This indeed is His ordinary method of dealing with sinners. Now their fears are awakened by threatnings, or adverse providences, in which death sometimes stares them in the face; and now a little gleam of hope arises, just sufficient to keep the mind from sinking; yet all is covered with doubt and mystery. It is thus, as by alternate frost and rain, and sunshine upon the earth, that He humbleth the mind, and maketh soft the heart of man.—(Fuller.)

The true God had not been altogether forgotten in Egypt. Pharaoh had already confessed Him. (Genesis 41:38-39.)

This mention of the fear of God would have a two-fold effect upon these men.

1. Encouragement. They would thus be assured that they would be dealt with by a higher principle than expediency or political considerations, even by the just law of heaven. Joseph served the same God in whom their fathers trusted.
2. Alarm. The mention of God’s name would serve to bring home to him a conviction of their sin.

The only permanent and true basis of morality is the fear of God.

Verses 21-24


Genesis 42:23. Interpreter.] Heb. The interpreter—of the court. This official was not necessarily employed in interpreting a foreign tongue. He was the medium through which the prime minister was wont to speak to others.—

Genesis 42:25. Fill their sacks with corn.] Heb. Vessels, i.e., any portable article in which grain may be carried.—Into his sack.] Heb. Sack,—the very word which remains in our language unto this day.—



I. It is sure to awaken, though it may slumber long. Reuben’s words show that they believed that Joseph was dead. (Genesis 42:22.) All was now over and past concerning him, and the deeds of that dark day, when they sold him into slavery, had almost faded from their recollection. But now, after so many years of almost complete forgetfulness, the memory of conscience is suddenly awakened. It is doubtful whether any thought, deed, or impression can depart clean for ever from the mind. The buried things of memory rise again, and appear in all their living and awful reality. No guilty deed can be completely forgotten. The time must come when conscience will revive it.

II. It is sometimes awakened by outward trouble. These guilty men thought that as Joseph was now sheltered from their enmity in the grave, they had naught to fear from his revenge. But their deed was not dead, and now it is crying for vengeance. In their present trouble they read their just punishment. Thus by affliction God forces us to bring our sins to mind. We are driven to enquire wherefore He has a controversy with us.

III. It is faithful and just.

1. In that it brings the past accurately to mind. The memory of conscience is faithful and exact in reproducing the past, so that every circumstance of an evil deed comes to recollection most vividly. These men now remember their cruelty with all the aggravations of it, how they beheld unmoved by pity the anguish of a brother, how they refused to hear him when in vain he cried for mercy, and would not even listen to the prayer of one of their number, who relenting, interceded on his behalf. All the terrible scenes of that dark day lived again as if they had been but yesterday. They well knew that murder was intended; and though their deed was not actually a deed of blood, yet it was really such to them now. “One is not,” said they, “Behold also his blood is required.” The records of the past may be written as with invisible ink, but the writing stands out revealed when held before the fires of affliction.

2. In that it connects the penalty with the sin. Conscience not only brings the past accurately to mind, but also stamps its moral character and proclaims its results. These men accused themselves. Their hearts told them the truth. They see in their present punishment the penalty for their past sin. They would not hear Joseph in his distress, and now they could not be heard. They had cast him into a pit, and now they themselves are cast into a prison. Reuben gives them to expect blood for blood.

IV. It converts moral direction and remonstrance into reproach and upbraiding. Reuben became to his brethren what conscience becomes to the sinner. Conscience first shows what is right, and afterwards, when sinned against, reproaches and upbraids. When the penalties of a righteous judgment overtake the sinner, conscience turns accuser and casts them in his teeth, and forebodes the worst consequences.

V. It reminds us of moral processes now at work in the world. God’s searching providence is ever bringing past sins to light. Though his brethren knew it not, Joseph was there all the time and heard their self-accusations. He allowed this moral chastisement, and these forebodings and retributions to take effect. And so the Lord Jesus—our Joseph—passes through the world unknown, unrecognized, and sees what sinners have done against Him. He anticipates judgment already, with His fan in His hand thoroughly purging His floor. The light of His Cross reveals the darkness of the world’s guilt. The thoughts of many hearts are revealed.


Genesis 42:21. Joseph’s treatment of his brethren had gained its end. They were humbled before him with shame and sorrow for their sin.

Here again we are reminded of our New Testament Joseph, who sometimes seems to hide Himself to us behind the law and behind our sins, but only to make the mutual recognition the more blessed. All this stirring up of their circle of brotherhood, makes the conscience of Joseph’s betrayal and sale more sharp. And so Jesus will have us remember with grief and self-reproach how we have betrayed Him and abused His love. But all this should be only in order to the more earnest embrace of that love.—(Jacobus.)

They could see in each other’s looks that the same thoughts were in the minds of all. How universal is conscience!
It would be well for us if we could entertain the same views of sin in the time of temptation that we are likely to have after it is committed, or at the time when trouble brings it home to our consciences.—(Bush.)

The Recording Angel, consider it well, is no fable, but the truest of truths: the paper tablets thou canst burn; of the “iron leaf” there is no burning.—(T. Carlyle.)

Genesis 42:22. It was fit that they should be made to feel the stings of conscience; and it was proper that he should be the remembrancer of their crime, because he had warned them against it. And how utterly inexcusable do his words represent the deed. “Spake I not unto you, saying, Do not sin against the child.” What apology could they offer? Did they consider his telling his dreams an insult? He was but a child. Had they a right to destroy a youth of seventeen years of age because he had not all the wisdom and caution of a man of thirty?—(Bush.)

Genesis 42:23-24. Joseph stood by and heard and understood it all without their suspecting it; but such words were too much for the heart of man, at least such a man as he was, to hear, and the pretended Egyptian becomes, in spite of himself, a real Israelite.—(Bush.)

There might be a fitness in taking Simeon rather than any other. He had proved himself a ferocious character by his conduct towards the Shechemites; and therefore it is not unlikely that he was one of the foremost in the cruelty practised towards Joseph. Perhaps he was the man who tore off his coat of many colours, and threw him into the pit. If so, it would tend to humble him, and heighten all their fears, as beholding the righteous judgment of God.—(Fuller.)

They had heard Joseph’s deprecation of their evil with tears, and had not pitied him; yet Joseph doth but hear their mention of this evil which they had done against him, and pities them with tears; he weeps for joy to see their repentance, and to compare his safety and happiness with the cruelty which they intended, and did, and thought they had done. Yet he can abide to see his brother his prisoner, whom no bonds could bind so strong, as his affection bound him to his captive.—(Bp. Hall.)

Verses 25-28


Genesis 42:27. In the Inn.] “A camping place for the night rather than a caravansera. The term is from a verb meaning to lodge, and has the local prefix. These halting grounds are well understood by travellers, and are fixed according to the distance and the convenience of water for man and beast.”—(Jacobus.) There are no places of entertainment; even at the present day, in this desert over which they had to pass.—

Genesis 42:28. And their heart failed them.] Heb. And their heart went forth. Thus, Song of Solomon 5:6., “My soul failed when he spake.” (Heb. “Went forth.”) They had no courage left.



I. They pursue the sinner everywhere. In a strange land, and far from any human habitation, these men are suddenly alarmed. Time and place are nothing to conscience. When once awakened it will not allow the sinner to rest.

II. They drive the sinner to put the worst construction upon every event. Joseph’s real motive in treating his brethren thus, was love; but that love was now operating so as to confound, perplex, and dismay them. They read it as a design to ensnare and find occasion against them. Thus when our conscience is awakened, we are alarmed and confounded even by those things which may be really working for our peace.

III. They are intended to lead the sinner to repentance. By this harsh treatment Joseph designed, as an immediate purpose, to fill the minds of his brethren with consternation and fear. But he had a deeper purpose of love. He hoped to bring them to humble their souls in penitence before God, so that they might feel the guilt of their sin and obtain forgiveness. In this way God deals with the sinner when He would bring him to a right mind; leads him into dark and perplexing situations so that he is utterly unable to perceive the design. By turns his hopes and his fears are awakened, so that he might be forced to bring his sin to remembrance and feel his utter danger and helplessness. The evil which God thus brings upon awakened souls is only that deep darkness which precedes the dawn. Had Joseph’s brethren known all, they could not have been brought to the right state of mind. And so, if we knew all God’s designs concerning us, it is possible that we might be spared some pain, yet might we miss many a salutary lesson. If we are in God’s way at all, there is a meaning of goodness for us—a purpose of love and blessing. But God’s order is this,—that it is only by the law, which brings home to us the knowledge of sin, that we can obtain the blessings of the Gospel.


Genesis 42:25-28. They construe this circumstance to mean something against them; but in what way they know not. They do not reproach the man, the lord of the land, though it is likely from his treatment of them that they would suspect some ill design against them: but overlooking second causes they ask, “What is this that God hath done to us!” To His righteous judgment they attributed what they had already met with (Genesis 42:21-22), and now it seems to them that He is still in a mysterious way, and with a design to require their brother’s blood at their hand. Such a construction, though painful for the present, was the most useful to them of any that could have been put upon it.—(Fuller.)

Simeon is left in pawn, in fetters; the rest return with their corn, with their money, paying nothing for their provision but their labour; that they might be as much troubled with the beneficence of that strange Egyptian lord, as before with his imperious suspicion. Their wealth was now more irksome to them than their need; and they fear God means to punish them more in this superfluity of money than in the want of victuals. It is a wise course to be jealous of our gain; and more to fear, than desire abundance.—(Bp. Hall.)

Verses 29-38



I. The causes which led to them.

1. The strange perplexity into which his sons had been brought. They related to their father the rough treatment they had received in Egypt, and how one of their brethren was detained in pledge until they should return with their youngest brother. When one of them opened his sack’s mouth, on the journey, he was alarmed to find his money tied up with it; but when they all emptied their sacks in their father’s presence, how great must have been their consternation when they saw that “every man’s bundle of money was in his sack.” (Genesis 42:35.) Jacob understood their trouble, and like them he feared the worst. He has the corn, indeed, but with it sorrow upon sorrow.

2. The opening again of an old wound. He is reminded again of Joseph, and all the old trouble comes back to him. (Genesis 42:32.) The wound which time had but imperfectly healed bleeds afresh.

3. The loss of all earthly hope. To poor Jacob all was now well nigh gone. Every earthly hope was lost now, save one, and that also was in danger of being taken away. (Genesis 42:36.) Looking over his past life, he felt that all had failed. “All these things are against me,” he said. Let there come but one more calamity (and he had too much reason to fear it) then would the cup of his sorrow be full, “then shall ye bring down my grey hairs with sorrow to the grave.” (Genesis 42:38.)

II. The weaknesses in Jacob’s character which they reveal.

1. Querulousness and despondency. The former was natural to an old man who had seen so much sorrow. But there was also a prevailing sadness about Jacob’s character which led him to look on the dark side of events. He was inclined to magnify his sorrows until they spread a gloom over his whole life and shut out the light of hope.

2. Want of strong faith in God. Jacob was really reflecting upon Providence when he said, “All these things are against me.” No man who had strong faith to see the “end of the Lord,” which is gracious and loving even through a frowning Providence, could utter such words. And yet Jacob casts these dark reflections upon God’s dealings, though God had once said to him, “I will surely do thee good.” Thus he who once wrestled with God and man, and prevailed, now shows the weakness of his faith. It was not for want of light, and frequent supports, and encouragement that Jacob betrayed this weakness of faith. It is to be traced to the native selfishness of his character. His very religion had, all the way through, a strong trace of selfishness. The idea of bargain entered largely into it. He seemed one who studied his own ease, comfort, and prosperity; getting all he could for himself, and giving as little as possible. He who lives upon this principle will, in the end, find such religion as he has to fail him. Unless he has faith and hope in God above, despite all appearances, he will find every earthly foundation to give way under him until nothing is left. He must go deep down to find his rock in God. Nothing else can stand, for faith can never be secure and constant unless it lays hold upon Him above who is “ever faithful, ever sure.” God’s ways to Jacob were indeed mysterious; he was a much tried man, but yet he ought to have triumphed over all his difficulties. Job was tried with greater sorrows, and yet he had the strength to say of his God who was afflicting him, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him.” (Job 13:15.) We have heard of the patience of Job, and we know how trouble served only to purify his soul and to give him a clear and sure knowledge of Divine things. (Job 42:5-6). Jacob relied too much upon human agents, and upon the course of events. He lacked the faith of that father of believers who could give up his Isaac. He failed to see that if God had promised to be with him, no evil could finally prevail over him. He thinks of the grave only as a refuge from the sorrows of the world. The thought which he utters is painful, but it is only the passionate expression of feelings which had long been pent up within him. He now declares the melancholy suspicion which he had carried in the depths of his own heart for many a year. As time went on, the prospects and fortunes of his family seemed to grow only darker, and now the end had come. There is nothing left for him but to go down to the grave with sorrow, his life uncompleted, his hopes unrealised. He speaks not as one who looks forward to the rest of the grave when his soul is satisfied with life and the blessing of the Lord, whose faith has overcome the world, and who has the blessed prospect of joining the company of those who have triumphed and have entered into their rest. This is a dark moment with Jacob, but he will yet recover his faith, and triumph in the Lord.


Genesis 42:29-34. Their narrative must have given their father a very bad idea of the lord of the land. They said nothing of him but the truth. And yet Jacob must have formed an opinion far remote from the truth. Joseph must have appeared to him as an insolent, overbearing tyrant, that made use of his power to crush poor men under his feet. “Surely,” might the patriarch have said, “the fear of God is not before the eyes of this man, who shows so little regard to the comfort, the liberty, the lives of his fellow-men. Yet Joseph’s conduct towards his brethren was full of wisdom and mercy. He dealt hardly with them that he might do them good. So far is the appearance from always corresponding with the reality of things. “Judge nothing before the time.”—(Bush,)

Genesis 42:35-36. The mysterious circumstance of the money being found by the way in their sacks, they appear to have concealed. Mention is made of only one of the sacks being opened; yet by what they afterwards said to the steward (Genesis 43:21), it appears that they opened them all, and found every man’s money in his sack’s mouth. But they might think their father would have blamed them for not returning with it when they were only a day’s journey from Egypt, and therefore agreed to say nothing to him about it, but leave him to find it out. Hence it is that they are represented as discovering the money in a manner as if they knew nothing of it before; not only participating with their father in his apprehensions, but seeming also to join with him in his surprise.—(Fuller.)

Old Jacob, that was not used to simple and absolute contentments, receives the blessing of seasonable provision, together with the affliction of that heavy message, the loss of one son and the danger of another; and he knows not whether it be better for him to die with hunger or with grief, for the departure of that son of his right-hand. He drives off all till the last. Protraction is a kind of ease in evils that must come.—(Bp. Hall.)

Jacob’s declarations betray a feeling that the brothers were not guiltless respecting Joseph’s disappearance. He knew their jealousy, and he had experienced the violent disposition of Simeon and Levi.—(Lange.)

All these things are against me. How did Jacob know this? Because his feelings, his affections, and the general sense of mankind, told him it was a great misery to lose a son, especially the best and most beloved of sons. But, in fact, the very reverse was the case, as Jacob afterwards found, Joseph was sent before him into Egypt to provide sustenance for his family; Simeon was bound in prison to mortify his haughty spirit; Benjamin was to be taken away that he might find Joseph alive and happy. A great portion of our present trouble arises from our not knowing the whole truth.—(Bush.)

Genesis 42:37. Reuben is once more the tender-hearted one. He offers everything that he may prevail with his father. “But it is out of reason what he offers” (Luther).—(Lange.)

The motive may be good when the speech is rash. It is well to beware of strong assertions which are far beyond our meaning, and besides have in them a tincture of levity and impiety.
A simple and sinful offer. Reuben was the eldest, but not the wisest. However, of him we may learn, in our parent’s fear, to be hardy and hearty; in our brethren’s distress to be eager and earnest.—(Trapp.)

Genesis 42:38. He puts them in mind of his grey hairs, which always constitute a claim for reverence, but more especially from children. It was natural that he should make the strongest possible appeal to the filial sentiments of his children, to spare him the crushing sorrow which he saw likely to overwhelm him; yet in saying he should die of grief he went beyond the bounds of a reasonable apprehension. But in this Jacob utters the language of human infirmity, and all that are human will be slow to condemn in him what they would probably evince in themselves.—(Bush.)

Painful as it is, this last, bitterest stroke of parting with Benjamin must be endured for the happy issue. “The darkest hour is just before the day.” In the mount of Jehovah shall be seen as it was with Abraham. God brings His chosen people through sorrow to joy, and through labour to rest.—(Jacobus.)

Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Genesis 42". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/phc/genesis-42.html. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.
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