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Bible Commentaries
Genesis 42

Whedon's Commentary on the BibleWhedon's Commentary

Verse 1


1. Jacob saw that there was corn in Egypt He, perhaps, saw caravans returning from Egypt with grain, and he also heard (Genesis 42:2) that grain could there be had .

Why do you look one upon another The mention of Egypt and the thought of going thither probably filled the sons of Jacob with strange fears, and the aged father noticed their peculiar looks whenever the matter was alluded to . They seemed to shrink from going thither, as if they feared some retributive judgment in the land whither they had sold their brother.

Verse 3

3. Joseph’s ten brethren went No one of them would go alone, and they conclude it is best for all of them to go together . They might thus mutually protect and help each other . In this there is another intimation of their guilty fears .

Verse 4

4. Benjamin… Jacob sent not His partiality for Joseph has now become transferred to Benjamin . And Jacob seems to have entertained a suspicion that his elder sons had had something to do with Joseph’s strange disappearance . Comp . Genesis 42:36.

Verse 5

5. Among those that came They mingled themselves with the multitudes of some caravan, as if anxious to escape notice .

Verse 6

6. The governor The word ( שׁלישׂ ) thus rendered occurs elsewhere only in the later Hebrew books Ezekiel, Daniel, and Ecclesiastes . It seems, says Keil, “to have been the standing title which the Shemites gave to Joseph as ruler in Egypt, and from this the later legend of Salatis, the first king of the Hyksos, arose . ” Josephus, Apion, 1: 14 .

He it was that sold Not that Joseph personally attended to all the details of the selling; but he had general oversight and authority; and when, as in the present instance, a large number of foreigners came to buy, he would be called upon to receive them in due form, and see that all was proper. He would not allow a general traffic in Egyptian grain to be carried on among foreign nations in such a time of famine.

Verse 7

7. Made himself strange יתנכר , acted like a foreigner, speaking to them through an interpreter . Genesis 42:23. He dissembled, and spoke harsh things to them . Perhaps he had anticipated their coming, and had, therefore, arranged to have all foreigners presented to him personally; but in that moment of interest and excitement, noticing that Benjamin was not among them, he must find out the reason, and deems it best to treat them with severity .

Verse 9

9. Remembered the dreams How strangely but clearly fulfilled! They had thought to put him out of their way, and said, “We shall see what will become of his dreams . ” Genesis 37:20. Now, behold, what comes of his dreams!

Ye are spies This would be a very natural charge for Joseph to make in order to carry out his policy with his brethren . “The Egyptians were always most liable to be assailed from the east and north-east. The various Arab and Canaanitish tribes seem to have constantly made incursions into the more settled and civilized land of Egypt. Particularly the Hittites were at constant feud with the Egyptians. Moreover, the famous Hyksos invasion and domination may have been very nearly impending at this period.” Speaker’s Com.

Nakedness of the land In this time of dearth the land may have been in a comparatively exposed and defenceless condition.

Verse 15

15. By the life of Pharaoh Joseph thus speaks like a true Egyptian, who was accustomed to swear by the life of the king .

Verse 17

17. Put them all together Hebrews, Gathered, or, assembled them to prison . He huddled them together in one cell . This might remind them of their casting Joseph into the pit . Genesis 37:24. But Joseph’s character and tender heart forbid our supposing that his severity towards his brethren was in retaliation for their sins against him. He doubtless sought in this way to test them, and find out their feeling toward Jacob and Benjamin. And in all this he was acting, in a way which he scarcely comprehended, the part of a minister of retribution. God used him and his methods to chasten and punish those who were virtually guilty of his blood. He seems all through to have entertained dark suspicions of his brethren. How could he else, when his experience at their hands showed them to be utterly heartless and cruel? He proposes to find out if Benjamin still lives, and what their feeling is towards him. Also, if his father still lives, and whether they love or hate him. He may find it necessary to become the avenger of their blood.

Verse 18

18. I fear God By this remark Joseph designedly shows them that he is a religious man, and will not do them wrong . “This language,” says Lange, “is the first definite sign of peace, the first fair self-betrayal of his heart . Agitated feelings lie concealed under these words . ”

Verse 21

21. We are verily guilty How the guilty conscience smites them now, and makes them see and feel in this trial a divine retribution!

The anguish of his soul In their awakened souls the scene of their brother’s look of agony and cries for mercy rises up afresh and vividly, deepening their present distress.

Verse 22

22. Reuben answered Reuben here acts as the accuser of his brethren . But he seems to have had no real sympathy with their cruelty, and had purposed to secure and restore Joseph to his father . Genesis 37:21-22; Genesis 37:29-30.

His blood is required Thus Reuben voices their deepest fears. It seems to him and them as if the avenger of blood (Genesis 9:5) in some dire form is suddenly to come upon them .

Verse 24

24. Turned… and wept On hearing their words of conscientious fear, he cannot control his feelings in their presence .

Took from them Simeon Probably his cruel temper (lxix, 5,) had largely instigated and controlled the action of his brethren in making away with Joseph.

Verse 25

25. Restore every man’s money He would not take pay for his father’s and brothers’ food, but he would not openly decline it, lest he inadvertently betray himself and his feelings. He also, probably, furnished them provision for the way that they might not open their sacks until they reached their home.

Verse 26

26. Asses Some critics have objected that asses were an abomination to the Egyptians, and would not have been allowed in the land . But the monuments disprove the assertion by their numerous representation of this animal, and Genesis 47:17, shows that the Egyptians possessed asses .

Verse 27

27. The inn מלון , a lodging place; some sheltered and suitable place for encampment over night . Possibly some sort of caravansary was, even in that early time, provided along the great highways of travel for the convenience of caravans like this.

Verse 28

28. God hath done Every thing seems to them now as the condemning acts of God; and the feeling deepens more and more, until, on finding all their money returned (Genesis 42:35) and Benjamin demanded, their aged father breaks out in a bitter wail of sorrow .

Verse 36

36. Jacob… said Jacob’s words are full of emotion, and may be literally rendered thus:

Me have ye bereft;

Joseph is not,

And Simeon is not,

And Benjamin ye will take:

Upon me are all these things!

Here Jacob more than intimates that they had been privy to Joseph’s and Simeon’s disappearance, and would fain seize away Benjamin also.

Verse 37

37. Reuben spake As became the firstborn . Joseph’s words (in Genesis 42:18-20) seem to have satisfied him that no harm would befall Benjamin.

Verse 38

38. Sorrow to the grave Comp . Genesis 37:35.

Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Genesis 42". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/whe/genesis-42.html. 1874-1909.
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