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Bible Commentaries

John Trapp Complete Commentary
Genesis 42

 

 

Verse 1

Genesis 42:1 Now when Jacob saw that there was corn in Egypt, Jacob said unto his sons, Why do ye look one upon another?

Ver. 1. Now when Jacob saw that there was corn.] A sale of corn. Heb., A breaking: so called, either because corn breaks famine; or, because it is broken and ground to make bread of; or, for that they made their bread in thin cakes and so broke it. Or lastly, because he that selleth it breaks the heap and gives part to the buyer.

Why look ye one upon another?] As hopeless and helpless; or, as at your wits’ ends, and not knowing whither to turn you. Youth is one while witless, another while shiftless. Let days speak, and multitude of years teach wisdom. [Job 32:7] As at feasts, so at other meetings, old men should be vowels, young men mutes; or at most, but semivowels. (a)


Verse 2

Genesis 42:2 And he said, Behold, I have heard that there is corn in Egypt: get you down thither, and buy for us from thence; that we may live, and not die.

Ver. 2. Get you down thither,] Here the divine decree of Israel’s sojourning and suffering in Egypt begins to be fulfilled, by a wonderful providence. The ruinous 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 othex 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 full fraught with treasures of truth and grace? "It pleased God, that in him should all fulness dwell." [Colossians 1:19] And his fulnees is not only repletive, but diffusive; a fuiness of plenty and abundance, but of bounty also and redundance. He was "anointed with the oil of gladness," not only "above," but for "his fellows." [Hebrews 1:9]

That we may live, and not die.] Saints have their share in common calamities. Jacob tasted of the famine, as well as his neighbonrs the Canaanites; so had Abraham and Isaac done before him. Both the good figs and bad figs were carried captive; [Jeremiah 24:5] the corn as well as the weeds is cut down at harvest, &c.


Verse 3

Genesis 42:3 And Joseph’s ten brethren went down to buy corn in Egypt.

Ver. 3. And Joseph’s ten brethren went.] Forty or fifty miles an end: Austin saith three hundred. Should we think much to go a few steps, say it be miles, to get food for our souls? Beware of that famine. [Amos 8:11-12] The seven churches of Asia, Bohemia, the Palatinate, and many other parts of Germany, are under it already. So is the large region of Nubia in Africa, which had from the apostles’ time, as it is thought, professed the Christian faith, but now embraced Mohammedanism through lack of ministers. For, as Alvarez (a) hath recorded, at his being in the king of Habasaia’s court, there were ambassadors out of Nubia to entreat him for a supply of ministers, to instruct their nation, and repair Christianity, gone to ruin among them; but were rejected. Oh, fearful!


Verse 4

Genesis 42:4 But Benjamin, Joseph’s brother, Jacob sent not with his brethren; for he said, Lest peradventure mischief befall him.

Ver. 4. But Benjamin Jacob sent not.] Because best beloved; as last born, and likeliest to live longest; and the least, and least able to shift for himself; and all that was left of his dearest Rachel; his only darling that had been always at hand, and in the father’s eye.


Verse 5

Genesis 42:5 And the sons of Israel came to buy [corn] among those that came: for the famine was in the land of Canaan.

Ver. 5. And the sons of Israel came.] God could have fed them by a miracle, as he did Elijah by the ravens; and Israel in the wilderness, where he rained them down manna, and set the flint abroach; (a) and Merlin, hid in a hay mow in the massacre of Paris, by a hen that came thither, and laid an egg by him every morning. (b) But he worketh ordinarily by means, and will have them used, but not trusted to.


Verse 6

Genesis 42:6 And Joseph [was] the governor over the land, [and] he [it was] that sold to all the people of the land: and Joseph’s brethren came, and bowed down themselves before him [with] their faces to the earth.

Ver. 6. And Joseph was the governor.] Of the Hebrew word here used, is made in Arabic the title Sultan, given at this day to the great Turk by his subjects; among whom the Arabic is now the learned language. Their Koran is written in it, and prohibited to be translated; which both preserves the tongue, they say, and conceals religion.

And Joseph’s brethren came, and bowed.] This those mockers little thought ever to have done to that dreamer. But the will of the Lord, that shall stand.


Verse 7

Genesis 42:7 And Joseph saw his brethren, and he knew them, but made himself strange unto them, and spake roughly unto them; and he said unto them, Whence come ye? And they said, From the land of Canaan to buy food.

Ver. 7. Spake roughly unto them.] To bring them the sooner to a sight of their sin. God also, for like purpose, writes bitter things against his people, stands afar off, hides his love, as Joseph, out of increasement of love; fights against them with his own hand, as he threw his brethren into prison; - than the which there is no greater affliction, saith Luther; and all to show them their sin, and to bring them home to himself by repentance. (a)


Verse 8

Genesis 42:8 And Joseph knew his brethren, but they knew not him.

Ver. 8. But they knew not him.] As being now altered in stature, voice, visage, his present pomp, and haply also, by his former imprisonment and affliction. We read of a young man, that being condemned to die, was turned gray-headed in one night, through forethought and fear of death, and was thereupon spared.


Verse 9

Genesis 42:9 And Joseph remembered the dreams which he dreamed of them, and said unto them, Ye [are] spies; to see the nakedness of the land ye are come.

Ver. 9. And 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; as that. 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] The spouse either heard not, or heeded not that speech of her beloved, "Open unto me, my sister, my spouse," till some while after he was gone. [Song of Solomon 5:2-6]

Ye are spies.] This, Joseph speaks not, assertive, but tentative; not seriously, but by a covert counsel; not as himself thought, but as the Egyptians suspected; or not absolutely, but conditionally; "ye are spies," unless you prove what ye have spoken. (a)


Verse 10

Genesis 42:10 And they said unto him, Nay, my lord, but to buy food are thy servants come.

Ver. 10. Nay, my lord.] The world is well changed since they said one to another, "Behold, this dreamer cometh." Then they could not find in their hearts to call him brother; now they call him "lord." God, when he pleaseth, can change the note of our worst enemies to us. There is a promise, that "they shall bow down to thee with their faces toward the earth, and lick up the dust of thy feet." [Isaiah 49:23]


Verse 11

Genesis 42:11 We [are] all one man’s sons; we [are] true [men], thy servants are no spies.

Ver. 11. We are all one man’s sons.] Therefore no spies; for what one man would hazard all his sons at once upon so dangerous a design?

We are true men.] Heb., Recti. The Popish doctors reject those ancient authors that are alleged against them, with Non sunt Recti in Curia. Bellarmine saith, To Irenaeus, Tertullian, Eusebius, and Luther, I answer, Omnes manifesti haeretici sunt; when anything in the decrees likes not the Pope, he sets Palea upon it, &c. (a)


Verse 12

Genesis 42:12 And he said unto them, Nay, but to see the nakedness of the land ye are come.

Ver. 12. Nay, but to see the nakedness.] That is, the weakness, and where we may be best invaded; as Numbers 13:19. By this wile he gets out of them that which he much longed to hear of; his father and brother Benjamin’s health and welfare. [Genesis 42:9]


Verse 13

Genesis 42:13 And they said, Thy servants [are] twelve brethren, the sons of one man in the land of Canaan; and, behold, the youngest [is] this day with our father, and one [is] not.

Ver. 13. And one is not.] They tell Joseph that Joseph is not. When God holds men’s eyes, they see not the truth that lies before them; "Who is blind as my servant?" [Isaiah 42:19]


Verse 14

Genesis 42:14 And Joseph said unto them, That [is it] that I spake unto you, saying, Ye [are] spies:

Ver. 14. That is it that I spake unto you.] He lays it hard to them still: as who should say, The longer I hear you, the worse I like you; ere while ye said, ye were ten brethren of you: now you acknowledge two more: liars had need to have good memories, &c. (a) Be we as jealous of Satan, and as watchful against his wiles, when he comes to set out the nakedness of our souls; that where the hedge is lowest, this beast may leap over; watch him, I say, and "learn out his haunts," for we have heard and felt that he is very subtle; as Saul said of David, 1 Samuel 23:22.


Verse 15

Genesis 42:15 Hereby ye shall be proved: By the life of Pharaoh ye shall not go forth hence, except your youngest brother come hither.

Ver. 15. By the life of Pharaoh.] Joseph, that he might seem enough an Egyptian, swears heathenishly; Egyptians, partly of flattery, and partly of superstition, used to swear by the life, or, as the Greek here hath it, by the health of their king. The Spaniards, in the pride of their monarchy, are grown also now to swear by the life of their king. (a) The Hebrews write, to this day, that he which falsely swears by the king’s head, in a money matter, shall be put to death; as Pererius upon this text tells us. This grew, doubtless, of that cursed custom of deifying their kings; as Antiochus surnamed Yεος; and Caligula would be styled Dominus Deus: as at this day the Pope’s parasites call him Dominum Deum nostrum papam. To be sworn by, is an honour peculiar to God. [Isaiah 65:16 Jeremiah 4:2] That of Paul [1 Corinthians 15:31] is not an oath, but an obtestation; or, a taking of his afflictions for Christ to witness. That of the spouse [Song of Solomon 3:5] is not an oath, but an adjuration: for he chargeth his church’s enemies not to trouble her; and if they do, roes and hinds shall testify against them; which would not do so had they but reason. This of Joseph, likewise, is by some said to be not an oath, but an earnest asseveration: (b) as who should say, As true as Pharaoh liveth; or, So Pharaoh live. Be it what it will, Joseph cannot altogether be excused for conforming himself to the Egyptians. The place had somewhat tainted him; and he might well take up that of the prophet Isaiah, "Woe is me! for I am a man of unclean lips"; and why? "for I dwell amidst a people of unclean lips." [Isaiah 6:5] Courts and great places are ill air for zeal to breathe in: it is hard for such not to remit somewhat of their former fervour, and contract filth of sin, which is as catching as the plague. As sheep among thorns lose part of their fleece; so do the saints part of their goodness among the wicked.


Verse 16

Genesis 42:16 Send one of you, and let him fetch your brother, and ye shall be kept in prison, that your words may be proved, whether [there be any] truth in you: or else by the life of Pharaoh surely ye [are] spies.

Ver. 16. By the life of Pharaoh surely, &c.] See how easily sin entereth twice, where it had once entered. "Be not overcome of evil." [Romans 12:21] Some swear, and find it not; they would be sorry their excrements should pass from them, and they feel it not. Oh, cross this ill custom; and though ye cannot so soon turn the stream, yet swim against it. It is the devil that saith unto thee, as those Jews did to Pilate; "Do as thou hast ever done." [Mark 15:8] God also will answer such, when they plead for their swearing, that they have got a custom, and cannot leave it; as the judge did that thief that desired him to spare him, for stealing had been his custom from his youth. The judge replied, it was also his custom to give judgment against such malefactors, therefore he must be condemned, (a) "Swear neither by heaven, nor by earth, lest ye fall into condemnation," saith St James [James 5:12] to the converted Jews. This they had learned of the Pharisees, to whom it was familiar to swear by creatures. [Matthew 5:34] And though now converted, they could not leave it: but they must, or be damned for it, choose them which, as the apostle there assures them. (b) And whereas such kind of oaths are now grown a piece of gallantry, and such as cannot swear them are thought to want the tropes and figures befitting a gentleman, God will deal with such as that judge did with one that pleaded for his life that he might not be hanged, because he was a gentleman; he told him, that therefore he should have the gallows made higher for him: so shall these have a deeper damnation, because better bred, and should have kept a better watch; as that martyr told the swearing Bishop Bonner. (c)


Verse 17

Genesis 42:17 And he put them all together into ward three days.

Ver. 17. And he put them all together into ward three days.] Not into close prison, but into some chamber, or private room, where they might have opportunity of reflecting upon themselves, and repenting. (a) I have heard of a grave divine, lately living, that did much good upon many that came to him to crave alms, by shutting them up in a room by themselves, having first taken great pains with them by way of direction what to do to be saved, joining in prayer, setting them in a course of better living, and then providing for them fit services. (b)


Verse 18

Genesis 42:18 And Joseph said unto them the third day, This do, and live; [for] I fear God:

Ver. 18. And Joseph said unto them the third day.] So God, "after two days, will receive his; in the third day he will raise them up, and they shall live in his sight." [Hosea 6:2] "The rod of the wicked shall not rest on the lot of the righteous, lest they put forth their hands to folly"; [Psalms 125:3] lest their "spirits fail" before him. For others he cares not so much, as for the choice spirits of his faithful people. When we beat ordinary spices, we care not for every dust, but let some fly out, and fall on the ground; but if Bezoar stone, or some such precious stuff, every little is looked to. So here.

For I fear God.] Deum illum, saith Junias, that true God, the proper object of fear; and therefore you need not doubt of fair dealing. {See Trapp on "Genesis 20:11"} Learn here, that confession of our faith is to be made as oft as thereby God may be glorified and our brethren edified.


Verse 19

Genesis 42:19 If ye [be] true [men], let one of your brethren be bound in the house of your prison: go ye, carry corn for the famine of your houses:

Ver. 19. Let one of your brethren be bound.] By binding Simeon, he brought down Benjamin to himself. So doth God, by chastening our bodies, save our souls.


Verse 20

Genesis 42:20 But bring your youngest brother unto me; so shall your words be verified, and ye shall not die. And they did so.

Ver. 20. But bring your youngest brother unto me.] So saith God to all his worshippers, See that you bring your hearts with you, whatever you leave behind you. And as David sent to Abner, "Thou shalt not see my face, except thou bring Michal, Saul’s daughter": [2 Samuel 3:13] so here. The poor widow’s heart’s being put to her mite, gave it weight above the greater but heartless largesses of the Pharisees.


Verse 21

Genesis 42:21 And they said one to another, We [are] verily guilty concerning our brother, in that we saw the anguish of his soul, when he besought us, and we would not hear; therefore is this distress come upon us.

Ver. 21. We are verily guilty, &c.] See here the force of conscience and fruit of affliction to bring old sins to a new reckoning. Conscience, though for a while still, and seemingly asleep, yet is faithful in recording, and fearful in accusing. It writes bitter things, and will article against the sinner in the evil day. Therefore, as Bishop Latimer took special heed to the placing of his words, in his examination before Bonner, when he heard the pen walking in the chimney behind the cloth, and describing whatsoever he said; (a) so should we; since conscience is not only God’s spy, but notary: and albeit it doth not always execute the acts of accusing, yet hath always the habit of it. And that we shall know when trouble overtakes us; then shall we feel those darts of the Almighty, dagging at the heart, and those arrows of his, drinking up the spirit. Daniel chose rather to be cast into the den of lions than to carry about a lion in his bosom - an enraged conscience.


Verse 22

Genesis 42:22 And Reuben answered them, saying, Spake I not unto you, saying, Do not sin against the child; and ye would not hear? therefore, behold, also his blood is required.

Ver. 22. Spake not I unto you, &c.] Fellows in sin oft fall out, and then all comes to light. Mohammed the great Turk had, with great rewards, procured two Turks to undertake to kill Scanderbeg. These traitors came to Seanderbeg, making such a show of the detestation, both of Mohammed’s tyrannical government and vain superstition, that they were, both of Scanderbeg and others, reputed to be indeed the men they desired to be accounted: and so, after they had learned the principles of the Christian religion, were, by their own desire, baptized. But so it happened by God’s good providence, that these false traitors, expecting nothing but opportunity to perform their devilish device upon some occasion, fell at variance between themselves, and in their heat let some such words fall, as being taken up by some there present, drew them both into suspicion. And thereupon, being straitly examined, it was at last by them confessed that they were sent for such a purpose; for which they were both presently executed, as they had well deserved. (a) Evil men are as glass that is soldered together; as soon as the solder is melted, the glass falls in pieces, and all is discovered.


Verse 23

Genesis 42:23 And they knew not that Joseph understood [them]; for he spake unto them by an interpreter.

Ver. 23. Understood them.] Heb., Heard them. See 1 Corinthians 14:2, marg. So Isaiah 36:11. So a hearing heart is put for "an understanding heart," [1 Kings 3:9] which many of our common hearers want; and therefore hear to no purpose. [Isaiah 6:9]


Verse 24

Genesis 42:24 And he turned himself about from them, and wept; and returned to them again, and communed with them, and took from them Simeon, and bound him before their eyes.

Ver. 24. And wept; and returned, &c.] The better any one is, the more inclined to weeping; as David, than Jonathan. [1 Samuel 20:41]

“Nam faciles motus mens generosa capit.”

Paulus non tam atramento quam lachrymis chartas inficiebat, saith Lorinus.

And took from them Simeon, and bound him.] He is thought to have been the chief doer in the sale of Joseph; and is therefore singled out for punishment. Judas Iscariot is said to come of his tribe. Of a turbulent and restless spirit Joseph knew him to be; and therefore detained him, saith Musculus, lest he should have hindered the motion of bringing down Benjamin.


Verse 25

Genesis 42:25 Then Joseph commanded to fill their sacks with corn, and to restore every man’s money into his sack, and to give them provision for the way: and thus did he unto them.

Ver. 25. Then Joseph commanded to fill their sacks.] This was the revenge he took upon them for their many misusages. So Joshua marched all night, and fought all day for the Gibeonites that had deceived him. So Elisha set bread and water before the Syrians that came to surprise him. So St Paul bids, "If thine enemy hunger, feed him," &c. Injuries are more bravely overcome with benefits than recompensed with the pertinacy of a mutual hatred, said a very heathen. (a)


Verse 26

Genesis 42:26 And they laded their asses with the corn, and departed thence.

Ver. 26. And they laded their asses.] Which are beasts fit to bear burdens; and have their names in Greek of their usefulness. (a)


Verse 27

Genesis 42:27 And as one of them opened his sack to give his ass provender in the inn, he espied his money; for, behold, it [was] in his sack’s mouth.

Ver. 27. To give his ass provender in the inn.] Their inns then were not so well furnished as ours are; but they were forced to carry their provender, which was a trouble.


Verse 28

Genesis 42:28 And he said unto his brethren, My money is restored; and, lo, [it is] even in my sack: and their heart failed [them], and they were afraid, saying one to another, What [is] this [that] God hath done unto us?

Ver. 28. My money is restored.] Joseph had stolen this benefit upon them, which they misinterpret, their own misgiving hearts telling them that God’s just hand was in it for their harm. Conscience, being now awakened, meets them at every turn, till they were soundly humbled, and had made their peace. Better a sore than a seared conscience; as, better a tormentful strangury than a senseless lethargy. Bee masters tell us that those are the best hives that make the greatest noise.


Verse 29

Genesis 42:29 And they came unto Jacob their father unto the land of Canaan, and told him all that befell unto them; saying,

Ver. 29. And they came to Jacob.] Who had looked many a long look for them, no doubt, and was now glad to see their faces and full sacks. But this joy lasted but a little while; for no sooner had he heard them speak, but he was thunderstruck, as it were: so little stability is there in any worldly felicity. The saints have all here their back burdens of afflictions; yet some have more than others; as Jacob, who was seldom without: God not only gave him a draught of them, but made him a diet drink. Look how your refiners of sugar, taking sugar out of the same chest, some thereof they melt but once; other, again and again: not that it hath more dross in it, but because they would have it more refined: so is it here.


Verse 30

Genesis 42:30 The man, [who is] the lord of the land, spake roughly to us, and took us for spies of the country.

Ver. 30. See Genesis 42:9; Genesis 42:11; Genesis 42:13; Genesis 42:19, &c.


Verse 31

Genesis 42:31 And we said unto him, We [are] true [men]; we are no spies:

Ver. 31. See Genesis 42:9; Genesis 42:11; Genesis 42:13; Genesis 42:19, &c


Verse 32

Genesis 42:32 We [be] twelve brethren, sons of our father; one [is] not, and the youngest [is] this day with our father in the land of Canaan.

Ver. 32. See Genesis 42:9; Genesis 42:11; Genesis 42:13; Genesis 42:19, &c


Verse 33

Genesis 42:33 And the man, the lord of the country, said unto us, Hereby shall I know that ye [are] true [men]; leave one of your brethren [here] with me, and take [food for] the famine of your households, and be gone:

Ver. 33. See Genesis 42:9; Genesis 42:11; Genesis 42:13; Genesis 42:19, &c


Verse 34

Genesis 42:34 And bring your youngest brother unto me: then shall I know that ye [are] no spies, but [that] ye [are] true [men: so] will I deliver you your brother, and ye shall traffick in the land.

Ver. 34. See Genesis 42:9; Genesis 42:11; Genesis 42:13; Genesis 42:19, &c


Verse 35

Genesis 42:35 And it came to pass as they emptied their sacks, that, behold, every man’s bundle of money [was] in his sack: and when [both] they and their father saw the bundles of money, they were afraid.

Ver. 35. And it came to pass as they emptied.] Calvin’s note on this text is, that Joseph was misunderstood, and ill-advised; for that intending to help his father, by sending back his money, he grieved and frighted him. But this might be Jacob’s fault more than Joseph’s. We many times mistake God himself, through self-guiltiness, as if he meant to kill us with kindness, which is a great unthankfulness. See my "Love Tokens," p. 32.


Verse 36

Genesis 42:36 And Jacob their father said unto them, Me have ye bereaved [of my children]: Joseph [is] not, and Simeon [is] not, and ye will take Benjamin [away]: all these things are against me.

Ver. 36. Simeon is not.] That is, As good he were not; for ye have left him prisoner, and unless ye return the sooner with Benjamin, which I cannot yield to, is like to be put to death as a spy. See here the pangs and passions of a parent, and how love descends!


Verse 37

Genesis 42:37 And Reuben spake unto his father, saying, Slay my two sons, if I bring him not to thee: deliver him into my hand, and I will bring him to thee again.

Ver. 37. Slay my two sons.] A simple and sinful offer. Reuben was the oldest, but not the wisest. Age is no just measure of wisdom. Howbeit, of him we may learn, in our parents’ fear, to be hardy and hearty; in our brethren’s distress, to be eager and earnest.


Verse 38

Genesis 42:38 And he said, My son shall not go down with you; for his brother is dead, and he is left alone: if mischief befall him by the way in the which ye go, then shall ye bring down my gray hairs with sorrow to the grave.

Ver. 38. Then shall ye bring down my gray hairs, &c.] To the state of the dead; not to hell, or Limbus Patrum. Many of the ancients erroneously held that men’s souls were not judged till the last day; nor rewarded or punished, but reserved in some secret receptacles unto the general judgment. Bellarmine would hence prove Purgatory. (a) Luther also seems to approve of that figment of the fathers; for in his notes upon this text, he will have "Sheol" here translated "the grave," to be an underground receptacle of all souls, where they rest and sleep till the coming of Christ. But gray hairs descend not farther than the grave. And Luther somewhere entreats his readers, that if they find anything in his books that smelleth of the old cask, they should consider he was not only a man, but some time had been a poor monk, &c.

 


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Bibliography Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on Genesis 42:4". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/genesis-42.html. 1865-1868.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, October 15th, 2019
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28
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