Genesis
Introduction 1-6 Ten Brothers Are Going to Buy Grain 7-14 Accused of Espionage 15-20 The Test 21-24 Awareness of Guilt 25-28 The Money in the Bag 29-34 Back to Jacob with Report 35-38 Benjamin Shall Not Go down
Introduction

After the wisdom that Joseph shows to Pharaoh in the previous chapter, we see in this chapter and the following chapters his wisdom to his brothers. Throughout the whole event with Joseph we are not told anything about the fate of Jacob and his sons. It is as if the Spirit of God thus says: “After their crime, and now that Joseph is no longer among them, I have nothing more to say about them.’

It is the history of Israel after the rejection of the Lord Jesus. Israel is now “Lo-Ammi”, which means “not My people” (Hos 1:99And the LORD said, “Name him Lo-ammi, for you are not My people and I am not your God.”
). That is not to say that God has forgotten them and His promises to them. He waits until the favorable moment has come to take up the thread with them again. And all this happens in connection with the true Joseph, the Lord Jesus.


Ten Brothers Are Going to Buy Grain

1Now Jacob saw that there was grain in Egypt, and Jacob said to his sons, “Why are you staring at one another?” 2He said, “Behold, I have heard that there is grain in Egypt; go down there and buy [some] for us from that place, so that we may live and not die.” 3Then ten brothers of Joseph went down to buy grain from Egypt. 4But Jacob did not send Joseph’s brother Benjamin with his brothers, for he said, “I am afraid that harm may befall him.” 5So the sons of Israel came to buy grain among those who were coming, for the famine was in the land of Canaan [also]. 6Now Joseph was the ruler over the land; he was the one who sold to all the people of the land. And Joseph’s brothers came and bowed down to him with [their] faces to the ground.

There is a great difference in the way Joseph deals with the Egyptians who are hungry and how he deals with his brothers. The brothers are to blame for the rejection of their brother. Therefore a deep work of repentance must take place in them before they can receive the blessing. This also applies to the Jews in the future, just before the coming of the Lord Jesus. That repentance will be worked through what they experience in great tribulation.

For the brothers, repentance is worked through the way Joseph treats them. Just as the prodigal son is driven home by hunger (Lk 15:17-1817But when he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have more than enough bread, but I am dying here with hunger!18I will get up and go to my father, and will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in your sight;), so the hunger drives the brothers to Joseph. They no longer have a special place among the peoples, for they are “among those who were coming” to buy grain. Yet the Spirit of God keeps their separate place they have for faith by speaking of “the sons of Israel” and not “the sons of Jacob”, which we would have understood.

In our lives too, God sometimes allows periods of ‘hunger’, trials, by which He wants to lead us to resort to the Lord Jesus or to return to Him. He wants Christ, the true Joseph, to have His true place in our lives.

Jacob doesn’t let Benjamin go with the brothers. He knows his sons. He may still have doubts about their story about Joseph. Maybe they will also sacrifice Benjamin to safeguard their own interests. Benjamin became his favorite son instead of Joseph, the remaining son of his favorite wife Rachel.

More than twenty years have passed since the brothers appeared before Joseph and bowed down before him, without recognizing him. The circumstances have changed completely. Joseph is the second most powerful man in Egypt after Pharaoh. The whole world depends on him for food.


Accused of Espionage

7When Joseph saw his brothers he recognized them, but he disguised himself to them and spoke to them harshly. And he said to them, “Where have you come from?” And they said, “From the land of Canaan, to buy food.” 8But Joseph had recognized his brothers, although they did not recognize him. 9Joseph remembered the dreams which he had about them, and said to them, “You are spies; you have come to look at the undefended parts of our land.” 10Then they said to him, “No, my LORD, but your servants have come to buy food. 11We are all sons of one man; we are honest men, your servants are not spies.” 12Yet he said to them, “No, but you have come to look at the undefended parts of our land!” 13But they said, “Your servants are twelve brothers [in all], the sons of one man in the land of Canaan; and behold, the youngest is with our father today, and one is no longer alive.” 14Joseph said to them, “It is as I said to you, you are spies;

The brothers, who at first were so powerful and also ruthless towards Joseph, are now powerless at his feet. As soon as he sees them, he begins the work that is needed to put their hearts in the right attitude to him. It is as with the Lord Jesus Who, in the consciousness of His dominion over all things, is about to wash the feet of the disciples (Jn 13:3-53[Jesus], knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come forth from God and was going back to God,4*got up from supper, and *laid aside His garments; and taking a towel, He girded Himself.5Then He *poured water into the basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded.).

Instead of putting his foot on them while they are kneeling before him – as they did with him – the wise Joseph treats them in love. At first his attitude does not look much like love (cf. Mk 7:24-3024Jesus got up and went away from there to the region of Tyre. And when He had entered a house, He wanted no one to know [of it]; yet He could not escape notice.25But after hearing of Him, a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit immediately came and fell at His feet.26Now the woman was a Gentile, of the Syrophoenician race. And she kept asking Him to cast the demon out of her daughter.27And He was saying to her, “Let the children be satisfied first, for it is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.”28But she answered and *said to Him, “Yes, Lord, [but] even the dogs under the table feed on the children’s crumbs.”29And He said to her, “Because of this answer go; the demon has gone out of your daughter.”30And going back to her home, she found the child lying on the bed, the demon having left.). Yet he deals in love with them. He has learned to accept everything from the hand of God (cf. Gen 45:77God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant in the earth, and to keep you alive by a great deliverance.). Then there are no feelings of revenge. He sees them, knows them, and loves them.

He wants to see if they have changed inwardly, whether they are not just kneeling for the sake of the benefit. He is tough, but not to take revenge. This is not difficult for him in his position, but Joseph is not like that. He is still morally far above them. Nor does he go to the opposite, by very generously forgetting everything that has been done to him. This does not really serve the brothers.

In the future God will also act in this way with Israel. He will not reveal Himself directly to them when they are in trouble. In the book of Psalms, we read that the remnant says that God is hiding Himself or His face (Psa 10:11Why do You stand afar off, O LORD?
Why do You hide [Yourself] in times of trouble?
; 13:1b1For the choir director. A Psalm of David.
How long, O LORD? Will You forget me forever?
How long will You hide Your face from me?
; 88:1414O LORD, why do You reject my soul?
[Why] do You hide Your face from me?
; 89:4646How long, O LORD?
Will You hide Yourself forever?
Will Your wrath burn like fire?
). God is looking in everything for a transformation into His image. He will work that transformation Himself. Then the past must be confessed. This is only possible if they understand what is wrong. Then there will be room for enjoyment of the blessing.

The brothers want to buy grain. They must also learn that there is something that is not for sale: grace. In their defense, they mention their honesty. While saying this, they do not realize that they are facing him who can prove the opposite. All that is needed for this is to name them his name. He doesn’t, because his work with them isn’t finished yet, it’s only just started. They must also learn that they have not shown much of their honesty in their dealings with Joseph and deceiving their father.

Many people boast of their honesty or piety or compassion, but they do not realize that they are guilty of the death of the Son of God. The brothers say of Joseph: “One is no longer alive” (verse 1313But they said, “Your servants are twelve brothers [in all], the sons of one man in the land of Canaan; and behold, the youngest is with our father today, and one is no longer alive.”). As for them, Joseph disappeared for good.


The Test

15by this you will be tested: by the life of Pharaoh, you shall not go from this place unless your youngest brother comes here! 16Send one of you that he may get your brother, while you remain confined, that your words may be tested, whether there is truth in you. But if not, by the life of Pharaoh, surely you are spies.” 17So he put them all together in prison for three days. 18Now Joseph said to them on the third day, “Do this and live, for I fear God: 19if you are honest men, let one of your brothers be confined in your prison; but as for [the rest of] you, go, carry grain for the famine of your households, 20and bring your youngest brother to me, so your words may be verified, and you will not die.” And they did so.

Only by bringing Benjamin to Joseph can they prove that they are honest people. Joseph and Benjamin belong together. Prophetically this points forward to the acceptance by Israel of the Lord Jesus, not only as Benjamin, but as Joseph, the picture of Him as the one they rejected, and Benjamin, a picture of Him in His reign in power.

Joseph decides to put them in the jail. He makes them feel a bit of what he has been through. He was innocent there, they are rightly there. Yet they only experience a fraction of it. There they can also think about their fate for three days (Job 36:8-98“And if they are bound in fetters,
And are caught in the cords of affliction,
9Then He declares to them their work
And their transgressions, that they have magnified themselves.
). When they get out, they are told how they can prove the accuracy of their statements.

To bring his brothers to a sincere confession of guilt, Joseph deals with them in different ways. Sometimes he uses severity, sometimes goodness; sometimes he threatens them, sometimes he encourages them; sometimes he accuses them, sometimes he makes a feast for them. This is not an arbitrariness, but actions of great wisdom. This is how the Lord works with us when He wants to reach our heart and conscience.

The accusation of espionage, which Joseph makes four times (verses 9,12,14,169Joseph remembered the dreams which he had about them, and said to them, “You are spies; you have come to look at the undefended parts of our land.”12Yet he said to them, “No, but you have come to look at the undefended parts of our land!”14Joseph said to them, “It is as I said to you, you are spies;16Send one of you that he may get your brother, while you remain confined, that your words may be tested, whether there is truth in you. But if not, by the life of Pharaoh, surely you are spies.”), is not right. The brothers are not spies. Joseph, however, is concerned with their reaction to this. Their response to this accusation shows that they no longer intend to defend themselves. They notice that God is dealing with them. Instead of getting upset about injustice being done to us, we should ask ourselves more what God has to say to us with this. Do we have an eye for God’s hand in our lives?


Awareness of Guilt

21Then they said to one another, “Truly we are guilty concerning our brother, because we saw the distress of his soul when he pleaded with us, yet we would not listen; therefore this distress has come upon us.” 22Reuben answered them, saying, “Did I not tell you, ‘Do not sin against the boy’; and you would not listen? Now comes the reckoning for his blood.” 23They did not know, however, that Joseph understood, for there was an interpreter between them. 24He turned away from them and wept. But when he returned to them and spoke to them, he took Simeon from them and bound him before their eyes.

The treatment they undergo brings the event with Joseph back into their remembrance. There may be events in our lives that forcefully remind us of things we have done that have not yet been cleared up, or which we remember with shame and are humiliated by (cf. 1Kgs 17:1818So she said to Elijah, “What do I have to do with you, O man of God? You have come to me to bring my iniquity to remembrance and to put my son to death!”). The awareness of guilt begins to awaken. The jail has done its work. They say: “Truly we are guilty concerning our brother” (verse 2121Then they said to one another, “Truly we are guilty concerning our brother, because we saw the distress of his soul when he pleaded with us, yet we would not listen; therefore this distress has come upon us.”).

When Joseph hears how they speak about it, he must weep (verse 2424He turned away from them and wept. But when he returned to them and spoke to them, he took Simeon from them and bound him before their eyes.). He will do this several times in the following chapters (Gen 43:3030Joseph hurried [out] for he was deeply stirred over his brother, and he sought [a place] to weep; and he entered his chamber and wept there.; 45:2,142He wept so loudly that the Egyptians heard [it], and the household of Pharaoh heard [of it].14Then he fell on his brother Benjamin’s neck and wept, and Benjamin wept on his neck.; 46:2929Joseph prepared his chariot and went up to Goshen to meet his father Israel; as soon as he appeared before him, he fell on his neck and wept on his neck a long time.; 50:1,171Then Joseph fell on his father’s face, and wept over him and kissed him.17‘Thus you shall say to Joseph, “Please forgive, I beg you, the transgression of your brothers and their sin, for they did you wrong.” ’ And now, please forgive the transgression of the servants of the God of your father.” And Joseph wept when they spoke to him.). It shows how much the Lord Jesus is moved by the development someone experiences to come to terms with Him. As said, the work in their hearts has only just begun; more needs to be done about it. Simeon is bound. Will they come back because of him?


The Money in the Bag

25Then Joseph gave orders to fill their bags with grain and to restore every man’s money in his sack, and to give them provisions for the journey. And thus it was done for them. 26So they loaded their donkeys with their grain and departed from there. 27As one [of them] opened his sack to give his donkey fodder at the lodging place, he saw his money; and behold, it was in the mouth of his sack. 28Then he said to his brothers, “My money has been returned, and behold, it is even in my sack.” And their hearts sank, and they [turned] trembling to one another, saying, “What is this that God has done to us?”

Joseph has not yet made himself known. Yet the money in the bag is proof of his grace. This proof of grace is not experienced by them as such. It places them in the presence of God. However, it does not give a feeling of gratitude, but of fear and doubt. They discover that God is acting with them.

Joseph’s goodness is meant to make them happy, but a guilty conscience has no joy. It is a dismay of grace. It proves that they do not yet know God well. But God is with them on the way, that they may know Him as Giver.


Back to Jacob with Report

29When they came to their father Jacob in the land of Canaan, they told him all that had happened to them, saying, 30“The man, the lord of the land, spoke harshly with us, and took us for spies of the country. 31But we said to him, ‘We are honest men; we are not spies. 32We are twelve brothers, sons of our father; one is no longer alive, and the youngest is with our father today in the land of Canaan.’ 33The man, the lord of the land, said to us, ‘By this I will know that you are honest men: leave one of your brothers with me and take [grain for] the famine of your households, and go. 34But bring your youngest brother to me that I may know that you are not spies, but honest men. I will give your brother to you, and you may trade in the land.’”

Back at Jacob’s they give an honest report. In any case, they no longer try to deceive their father. They realize that they do not control events themselves. That is a lesson the Lord also wants us to learn. There may be certain circumstances in our lives that we do not know how to deal with, that we cannot influence and can only face honestly.


Benjamin Shall Not Go down

35Now it came about as they were emptying their sacks, that behold, every man’s bundle of money [was] in his sack; and when they and their father saw their bundles of money, they were dismayed. 36Their father Jacob said to them, “You have bereaved me of my children: Joseph is no more, and Simeon is no more, and you would take Benjamin; all these things are against me.” 37Then Reuben spoke to his father, saying, “You may put my two sons to death if I do not bring him [back] to you; put him in my care, and I will return him to you.” 38But Jacob said, “My son shall not go down with you; for his brother is dead, and he alone is left. If harm should befall him on the journey you are taking, then you will bring my gray hair down to Sheol in sorrow.”

Then it turns out that all of them have received the money back in their sacks. The brothers’ fear increases (verse 2828Then he said to his brothers, “My money has been returned, and behold, it is even in my sack.” And their hearts sank, and they [turned] trembling to one another, saying, “What is this that God has done to us?”). Jacob is also overcome by fear. In the words “you have bereaved me of my children”, it is also heard that Jacob suspects that the brothers had a hand in the disappearance of Joseph. There is no rest with him about what happened to Joseph.

Jacob cannot (yet) speak the language of faith: “We know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God” (Rom 8:2828And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to [His] purpose.). He experiences it all as against him. He only sees what he has already lost (Joseph, Simeon) and also what he is about to lose (Benjamin). Reuben is a picture of the people of Israel as it is now, in its present state, a people that sacrifices its own sons and thinks it will thereby not lose ‘Benjamin’ (the Messiah).

Jacob has no intention of giving up Benjamin. As long as this is not the case, Joseph cannot make himself known. As long as we do not intend to give up everything, God cannot reveal Himself to us.


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