With the famine in full swing now, Jacob hears that there is grain for sale in Egypt and sends all of his sons except Benjamin to buy some. Having already suffered the loss of Joseph, he is not willing to risk his youngest. The brothers appear before their brother, who is the governor. But Joseph was just a teenager the last time they saw him and they have no reason to think he may still be alive. Moreover, this powerful “Egyptian” governor who speaks to them through an interpreter (verse 23) commands and receives respect from all of the hungry masses who come to him. Joseph has no trouble recognizing them, however, as the dream he told them about in Gen 37:5 comes to pass in verse 6, and verse 9 tells us that he remembered those dreams as they bowed down to him. He accuses them of being spies and has them confined for three days to show them his power.
Joseph then sends all but Simeon back to return with the younger brother they mentioned as proof they are not spies, holding Simeon “hostage” until they return. When he sends them on their way, he does so with the grain they came for – and has their money placed back in their bags. The discovery of the money brings great fear to them and to their father, Jacob, when they return. Is this the work of God upon them for what they did to their brother (verse 28)? If they were caught with it, what then? Jacob has to wonder himself why they still have money – and perhaps, what has really become of Simeon. And now they say they have to take Benjamin with them. Reuben’s statement about his own sons in verse 37 would not exactly inspire Jacob to trust him with the safe return of his youngest. Jacob flatly refuses to allow it (verse 38).
The brothers spoke to one another of their guilt concerning Joseph (and even of Joseph having begged in verse 21) as being the reason that this predicament fell on them, not knowing that “the governor” understood them. Joseph then had turn away to weep, as he was keeping his hard front up to them. Their sin is weighing heavily on them, as sin often does – and hearing so undoubtedly stirs many emotions in Joseph.
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