1 Now when Jacob saw that there was corn in Egypt, Jacob said unto his sons, Why do ye look one upon another?
OK. We're back with Jacob (Israel) and sons, evidently the 'global' famine has reached them too. Jacob, having heard that there is food in Egypt rebukes his sons for being feckless. If only he knew what they'd done to Joseph.
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.
He instructs his sons to go and buy food from Egypt. Presumably their material wealth is sufficient to do this.
3 And Joseph's ten brethren went down to buy corn in Egypt.
Right you are, who stayed behind?
4 But Benjamin, Joseph's brother, Jacob sent not with his brethren; for he said, Lest peradventure mischief befall him.
Ah right, Benjamin stayed behind because Jacob was too afraid of losing yet another son. Does he not trust the older ten?
5 And the sons of Israel came to buy corn among those that came: for the famine was in the land of Canaan.
As stated above.
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.
The sons of Israel come face to face with their estranged brother who is now the governor of all of Egypt.
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.
I suppose it would be possible, after all these years, for Joseph to adequately disguise himself such that his brothers wouldn't recognise him. They identify as coming from Canaan. Are they Canaanites at this point or are they merely sojourners in that land?
8 And Joseph knew his brethren, but they knew not him.
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.
That's a non-sequitur if ever I heard one. There doesn't seem to be any connection between the first part of the sentence and the second. His dreams had no spying connotations at all.
10 And they said unto him, Nay, my lord, but to buy food are thy servants come.
What is with all of the sycophancy? Why does everyone in this book seem to be ready to prostrate themselves before anyone who has a bit more power than they do? Is it just a ridiculous extension of politeness or are they simply cowards?
11 We are all one man's sons; we are true men, thy servants are no spies.
OK. At this point both parties know that they are not spies. What does Joseph hope to gain by continuing to accuse them?
12 And he said unto them, Nay, but to see the nakedness of the land ye are come.
They've already denied it Joseph. Come on, they aren't likely to admit it just because you assert it again, besides, you know they aren't spies.
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.
14 And Joseph said unto them, That is it that I spake unto you, saying, Ye are spies:
Really? Again? Give it up Joseph!
15 Hereby ye shall be proved: By the life of Pharaoh ye shall not go forth hence, except your youngest brother come hither.
There is no logic to this. How will getting the youngest brother to come to Egypt prove their innocence? Of course we all know that proving their innocence is not Joseph's motivation but quite how he expects his brothers to accept that there is any logic to his request is beyond me.
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.
I understand that for some reason Joseph is motivated to get all of his brothers present before him, what I don't understand is why his brothers don't understand that the proof he asks for isn't proof of anything. Perhaps I'm being naïve, perhaps Joseph's brothers do understand that there is no logic in this exchange but have been 'convinced' by the many guards that Joseph must certainly have at his disposal.
17 And he put them all together into ward three days.
He's put them all into prison? Why haven't the brothers complied with his request?
18 And Joseph said unto them the third day, This do, and live; for I fear God:
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:
20 But bring your youngest brother unto me; so shall your words be verified, and ye shall not die. And they did so.
OK. He asked them, supposedly to prove that they are innocent of espionage, to take corn back to their houses but to leave one of them behind to be imprisoned. Yet again he has devised a proof that proves nothing.
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.
The brothers think that this misfortune is some kind of karmic repayment for their treatment of Joseph. If only they didn't think superstitiously as they were almost correct. What is happening now actually is as a direct result of what they did to Joseph, no cosmic balance keeping is required.
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.
This line is constructed oddly however I think that Reuben is lamenting that he is also being punished for his brother's transgressions despite having protested against them.
23 And they knew not that Joseph understood them; for he spake unto them by an interpreter.
That Joseph is so tricksy.
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.
Was he crying about their admission of guilt? Do they actually feel guilt or are they just attributing their present predicament to their prior wrongdoing? Either way Joseph has taken and bound Simeon.
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.
Right you are.
26 And they laded their asses with the corn, and departed thence.
OK. Nine of the sons of Israel are are on their way home to Benjamin and their father having lost yet another brother.
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.
Presumably Joseph didn't tell them that he'd given them their money back. Which brother found the money?
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?
What are they afraid of? Punishment from God for having not paid for their goods, despite it being obvious that the money was either returned in error or deliberately by Joseph and as such the brothers are in no way culpable? Is this another case where the supposedly all-seeing and all-knowing Lord can be tricked into punishing someone who has been forced into breaking some rules by the deceitful act of a supposedly righteous man?
29 And they came unto Jacob their father unto the land of Canaan, and told him all that befell unto them; saying,
Clearly they weren't that afraid as instead of returning directly to Egypt to give the money back, they continued home to tell their father about the whole thing.
30 The man, who is the lord of the land, spake roughly to us, and took us for spies of the country.
I think we are going to get a full account of the story above.
31 And we said unto him, We are true men; we are no spies:
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.
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:
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.
OK. Story over.
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.
How afraid? Why on earth did they not check all of the sacks when one of them found the money in his sack back at the inn? What exactly are they afraid of?
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.
Jacob (Israel) is understandably unhappy at the loss of his children.
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.
Reuben offers his father the lives of his own two sons to get permission to take Benjamin to Egypt and back. Given how easily they were imprisoned and how easily Simeon was taken from them, if I were Reuben, I would not be so confident.
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.
Jacob (Israel) refuses to let Benjamin go. His reasoning seems to be based on his having forgotten that his first ten sons are in fact his sons.
Right. So what has gone on here?
- Ten of Jacob's sons go to Egypt to buy some food. The youngest doesn't go because Jacob is afraid he'll die. For some reason he doesn't share the same fear for his other sons. Why not?
- The Governor and grain vendor of Egypt turns out to be their brother Joseph. They don't recognise him. Why not?
- Joseph pretends that he thinks they are spies in some ill thought out scheme to get them to bring Benjamin to him for some unknown reason.
- Joseph imprisons Simeon and sends the rest back with the food they bought and then hides the money they paid in their bags to entrap them.
- After all of this Jacob still refuses to let Benjamin go to Egypt.
What I really don't understand is what Joseph is attempting to do, I can't fathom his motivation. I also can't quite fathom how a man described as righteous and favoured by The Lord can be justified in engaging in such deception.
Hopefully we'll find out in Genesis 43.