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Scripture reading – Genesis 42

Joseph’s dreams were coming to pass (37:5-11), but the path from Jacob’s favored son to the role of a ruler in Egypt had been one of disappointments, challenges, and injustices. He was a mere seventeen years old (37:2) when his brothers sold him to Midianite merchantmen, who then sold him as a slave in Egypt (37:27-28, 36). Wrongfully accused by his master’s wife, Joseph found himself a prisoner, forgotten by man, but faithful to God. Nevertheless, “the Lord was with [Joseph], and that which he did, the Lord made it to prosper” (39:23).

Review of Genesis 41

Headline News: Thirty-Year-Old Hebrew Becomes Second Ruler of Egypt! (Genesis 41:38-57)

God had providentially worked throughout the highs and lows of Joseph’s life. He had suffered the indignity of slavery and imprisonment for 13 years, but when he was thirty, he was dramatically promoted to the sovereign of Egypt and second only to Pharoah (41:47)

Entrusted by Pharaoh to oversee the preparations for seven years of famine, “Joseph went out from [the king’s]presence… and went throughout all the land of Egypt” (41:45-46). For the next seven years, he oversaw everything harvested and stored in Egypt’s granaries (41:38-44). Pharaoh also honored Joseph, giving him the name Zaphnath-paaneah (meaning “a giver of secrets”) and “Asenath the daughter of Poti-pherah priest of On” as his wife (41:45).

“Before the years of famine came” (41:50), Asenath, Joseph’s wife, conceived, and God blessed him with two sons. The firstborn he named Manasseh, meaning “forgetting,” for he had forgiven the hardships and mistreatments of his past (41:51). The second son he called Ephraim, meaning “fruitful,” for his life had become abundantly blessed (41:52).

As Joseph had foretold, when the seven years of abundant harvests were passed (41:53), the seven years of famine began in Egypt (41:54). When the people cried for want of food, Pharaoh commanded them to go to Joseph. Then, he opened the granary storehouses and sold grain to the people (41:55).

Genesis 42 – Famine in Canaan

As famine spread throughout the world (41:57), word reached Canaan, “that there was corn [grain] in Egypt, [and] Jacob said unto his sons, Why do ye look one upon another?”(42:1). “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” (42:2). The ten sons of Jacob, less Benjamin, the youngest, made their journey to Egypt (42:3). Perhaps suspecting his sons had a hand in Joseph’s disappearance, Jacob refused to allow Benjamin to accompany his brothers, “for he said, Lest peradventure mischief befall him” (42:4).

A Long-Awaited Family Reunion (Genesis 42:5-38)

Seeking food for their households, God providentially brought Joseph’s brothers to Egypt. Imagine the scene: Joseph, the brother they sold as a slave, was a ruler in Egypt. Indeed, it was incomprehensible that the one they despised and rejected held their fate in his hands (42:1-20).

Nine years have passed since Joseph was promoted (including seven years of plenty and two years of famine). Joseph was 39 years old when he spied his brothers standing amid a crowd gathering to purchase grain (42:5-6). Recognizing the dress of Hebrew shepherds, Joseph looked into the faces of his brothers and “made himself strange unto them [speaking through an interpreter], and spake roughly unto them…Whence come ye? And they said, From the land of Canaan to buy food” (42:7).

We read that Joseph “knew his brethren, but they knew not him” (42:8). Though twenty-two years had passed, the memories of his childhood dreams rushed over him (37:5-11). He “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” (42:9).

The brothers protested their innocence and revealed in their reply that Benjamin, Joseph’s brother, and his father were alive and well in Canaan (42:13). Searching out whether or not his brothers had repented of their sinful ways; he imprisoned them for three days (42:14-17). On the third day, he directed that nine brothers remain in prison and the tenth allowed to return to Canaan. To prove they were not spies, Joseph demanded the youngest brother be brought to Egypt to stand before him (42:18-20).

The brothers were overcome with guilt and grief (42:21), and Reuben, the oldest brother, rebuked 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” (42:22). They did not know that the ruler who stood before them was Joseph. Yet, he understood their guilt-charged conversation and admission that they had sinned against him (42:23). Emotions swept over Joseph as “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” (42:24).

Joseph then commanded that their sacks be filled with grain and their money be concealed within them. He then sent his brothers away (42:25-26). Along the journey, one of the brothers opened his grain sack and discovered his money returned to him (42:27-28). Fate, it seemed, had cast its long shadow over their lives, and they asked one another, “What is this that God hath done unto us?” (42:28)

Later arriving in Canaan without Simeon, the brothers shared with their father, the harsh words of the ruler in Egypt. They told him the ruler demanded that Benjamin must return with them if Simeon was to be freed from prison (42:29-34). When the brothers emptied their sacks of grain, each man discovered his money had been returned (42:35). Fear and grief followed the discovery, yet, Jacob refused to allow Benjamin to return with them to Egypt (42:36-37).

Closing thoughts – Today’s devotional concludes with Jacob’s sorrows seemingly overwhelming his faith (42:38). The famine would continue in the region for five more years. Eventually, it forced Joseph’s brothers to return to Egypt, where they would learn that God was sovereign and in control.

Questions to Consider

  1. Although a prisoner, Joseph maintained a right-heart attitude toward the LORD and his circumstances. What was God’s response to Joseph’s faith? (Genesis 39:23)
  2. What did Pharaoh observe concerning Joseph’s character? (Genesis 41:38-39)
  3. What was Joseph’s response when he recognized his brothers? (Genesis 42:6-7)
  4. Why did Joseph’s brothers fail to recognize him? (Genesis 42:8)
  5. Who did Joseph demand to see when his brothers returned to Egypt? (Genesis 42:20)

Copyright © 2023 – Travis D. Smith

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