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the Week of Proper 11 / Ordinary 16
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Bible Commentaries
Genesis 42

Benson's Commentary of the Old and New TestamentsBenson's Commentary


A.M. 2297. B.C. 1707.

We have in this chapter,

(1,) The humble application of Jacob’s sons to Joseph, to buy corn, Genesis 42:1-6 .

(2,) The fright Joseph put them into, for their trial, Genesis 42:7-20 .

(3,) The conviction they were now under of their sin concerning Joseph long before, Genesis 42:21-24 .

(4,) Their return to Canaan with corn, and the great distress their good father was in, upon the account they gave him of their expedition, Genesis 42:25-38 .

Verses 1-2

Genesis 42:1-2 . When Jacob saw That is, heard, as the word is used, Exodus 20:18; or saw the corn which his neighbours had bought there and brought home. Why look ye one upon another? As careless and helpless persons, each one expecting relief from the other; but none offering either counsel or help for the subsistence of all. Go down thither Masters of families must not only pray for daily bread for their families, but must, with care and industry, endeavour to provide it.

Verse 6

Genesis 42:6. Joseph’s brethren came and bowed themselves before him Some have inferred from this that the names of all the strangers that came to buy corn in Egypt were brought to Joseph and registered; and such persons or families as were any way remarkable, were brought before him. Thus his brethren would of course be introduced to him: but, in general, he undoubtedly sold the corn by deputies. With their faces to the earth The common method of salutation in the eastern nations. Thus Joseph’s first dream was already fulfilled; their sheaves bowed to his sheaf.

Verse 7

Genesis 42:7. We may well wonder that Joseph, during the twenty years he had been in Egypt, especially during the last seven years that he had been in power there, never sent to his father to acquaint him with his circumstances; nay, it is strange that he, who so oft went through all the land of Egypt, never made a step to Canaan, to visit his aged father. When he was in the borders of Egypt that lay next to Canaan, perhaps it would not have been above three or four days’ journey for him in his chariot. It is a probable conjecture, that his whole management of himself in this affair was by special direction from Heaven, that the purpose of God, concerning Jacob and his family, might be accomplished. When Joseph’s brethren came, he knew them by many a good token, but they knew not him, little thinking to find him there.

Verse 9

Genesis 42:9. He remembered the dreams But they had forgotten them. The laying up of God’s oracles in our hearts will be of excellent use to us in all our conduct. Joseph had an eye to his dreams, which he knew to be divine, in his carriage toward his brethren, and aimed at the accomplishment of them, and the bringing his brethren to repentance; and both those points were gained.

Verse 15

Genesis 42:15. By the life of Pharaoh As sure as Pharaoh lives, or as I value the life of Pharaoh. A solemn protestation, as Judah, who heard it, and must have understood its meaning, explains it to his father, Genesis 43:3; The man did solemnly protest unto us. It seems, however, to have been the form of an oath in use among the Egyptians, as afterward the Romans used to swear by the name and life of their emperors. And it is no wonder that Joseph was carried by the stream of the general practice of the court, especially as the law of God concerning the appropriation of oaths unto God, that men are to swear only by his name, or are only to appeal to him for the truth of what they affirm, was not yet delivered.

Verse 18

Genesis 42:18. For I fear God This was a very encouraging word unto them. It is as if he had said, You may assure yourselves I will do you no wrong; I dare not, for I know that, as high as I am, there is one higher than I. With those that fear God we have reason to expect fair dealing: the fear of God will be a check upon those that are in power, to restrain them from abusing their power to oppression and tyranny.

Verse 21

Genesis 42:21. We are verily guilty This is the just punishment of that wickedness which we committed against our brother. Though we could conceal it from men, we now see and feel it was known to God, who is reckoning with us for it. Thus the divine vengeance overtakes them, and conscience tortures them for a sin committed twenty years before, and their affliction, we may hope, brought them to repentance. We saw the anguish of his soul when he besought us This particular is not mentioned in the history of this affair, recorded chap. 37., from which circumstance we learn, that the silence of Scripture concerning certain matters, is not a sufficient proof that they did not take place. We do not read that Joseph’s brethren were brought to feel this remorse of conscience, or made this confession to each other, during their three days of imprisonment; but now, when the matter was come to some issue, and they saw themselves still embarrassed, they began to relent. Perhaps Joseph’s mention of the fear of God, put them upon consideration, and extorted this reflection from them.

Verse 23

Genesis 42:23. He spake by an interpreter Joseph’s pretending not to understand their language was a wise piece of art, as by that means he discovered their real sentiments, as it appears they spoke to one another in their own language without reserve before him, probably when the interpreter was gone forth.

Verse 28

Genesis 42:28. Their heart failed them, and they were afraid Their awakened consciences set their sins in order before them, made them afraid of every thing, and threw them into the utmost dismay and consternation. Saying one to another, What is this that God hath done unto us? They knew that the Egyptians abhorred a Hebrew, (Genesis 43:32,) and therefore, since they could not expect to receive any kindness from them, they concluded that their money was put into their sacks with a design to pick a quarrel with them, and the rather, because the man, the lord of the land, had charged them as spies. Thus they construed every circumstance in this affair as the purpose of God to bring evil upon them, for their unnatural and cruel usage of their brother. When the events of Providence concerning us are surprising, it is good to inquire what it is that God has done, and is doing with us.

Verse 36

Genesis 42:36. Me have ye bereaved of my children Who can read Jacob’s lamentation here without being moved by it? He considers Simeon as already dead, being in the power of so rough a man as they described the lord of the country to be: he reflects on his former loss of Joseph, and he looks on Benjamin, the only remaining pledge of his beloved Rachel, as already taken from him. And what makes it the more moving is, that by his expressions it seems as if he thought his sons did not sympathize with him, and were little affected with these calamities. Nay, the unhappy father seems to have suspected that it was a plot of his sons to bereave him of Benjamin. All these things are against me How ready have we all been to think and say the same amid disappointments, and afflictive dispensations of Providence, even at a time when all things, although in a mysterious way, were working together for our good!

Verse 37

Genesis 42:37. Slay my two sons This was a very rash and absurd proposal. What authority had Reuben to dispose of the lives of his children? And how could the murder of two grandchildren compensate Jacob for the loss of Benjamin? Besides, how did he know that Benjamin, if he went, would live to return, or that he should be able to restore him to his father? He ought, at least, to have said, “If the Lord will.” But he seems to have been little sensible of his dependance on Divine Providence.

Verse 38

Genesis 42:38. My son shall not go down with you Nothing can be more tender than this verse: it melts us while we read it, and is so expressive that it sets the venerable old patriarch full before our eyes. His brother is dead, and he is left alone He plainly intimates a distrust of them, remembering that he never saw Joseph since he had been with them; therefore Benjamin should not go with them.

Bibliographical Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Genesis 42". Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/rbc/genesis-42.html. 1857.
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