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Bible Commentaries

Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible
Genesis 42

 

 

Verses 1-38

Genesis 42. Joseph's Brothers Come to Egypt to Buy Corn, and unwittingly Encounter Joseph.—The greater part is taken from E, but Genesis 42:2; Genesis 42:4 b, Genesis 42:5; Genesis 42:7; Genesis 42:9 b - Genesis 42:11 a, Genesis 42:12; Genesis 42:27-28 ab, Genesis 42:38 may be assigned to J. The treatment accorded to the brothers was not less than they deserved, and Joseph meant to punish them. But he meant also to test them and see if they had become better men. Presumably he intended all along to disclose his identity, for there was his father to be considered, but to have done it at once would have made it impossible to find out the real character of his brothers. Hence he racks them with suspense, treats them now harshly, now generously, holds firmly to his predetermined line of conduct though it costs him a hard struggle with his affections, and at last is convinced that love and forgiveness may have free course.

The brothers come down at Jacob's behest, and fulfil Joseph's dreams by prostrating themselves before him, as he personally sells the corn. He recognises them, and charges them with being spies, bent on discovering the weak places in the fortified and jealously-guarded frontier. They meet this with the statement that they are all sons of one man, therefore the rather large number in which they have crossed the frontier is due to kinship, not to political or military combination. They go into detail, and thus not only tell Joseph that he is dead but that they have a younger brother, which gives Joseph the opportunity on which the future development hinges. (According to J the statement is not volunteered but secured in answer to his own inquiry.) Reiterating his charge, he proposes that nine shall be detained and one sent to bring Benjamin, but after three days' suspense in custody he allows nine to take back corn and one to be detained. The brothers own among themselves the justice of the retribution for their callous deafness to Joseph's anguished plea, and Reuben reminds them how he had vainly counselled them against harming him. (They had taken the advice he actually gave, but his real intention had been frustrated.) Joseph now learns, for the first time, of Reuben's intervention, and cannot control his feelings; still he steels himself to carry out his plan, and passing over Reuben, selects Simeon and binds him as a hostage. Their money is put into their sacks with the corn, and provisions for the journey are given them, so that their sacks need not be opened till they reach home. So it fell out according to E (Genesis 42:35), but according to J first one (Genesis 42:27 f.) then all (Genesis 43:21) discovered it at the lodging-place. On their arrival, they report to Jacob, who replies that they have bereaved him of two sons and want to take away a third, to which Reuben replies that his own two sons shall be forfeit if Benjamin does not return. They wish to take him at once that Simeon may be released. Genesis 42:38 belongs rather to the next chapter.

 


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Bibliography Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on Genesis 42:4". "Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pfc/genesis-42.html. 1919.

Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, October 16th, 2019
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28
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