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Wednesday in the Word

Second Baptist Church

September 14, 2016

Genesis 42:5-24

  1. Verse 5. The sons of Israel go to buy grain. As shocking as it might be, Ps 105:16 tells us that God Himself “called down a famine upon the earth.” It is important to see what God is doing. With this famine God gets their attention. It is easy to avoid God when we feel self-sufficient. It is easy to feel that you have no need of God’s touch when everything is running smoothly. These men were comfortable in their denial and their deceptions. As long as the status quo remained they would never change. So God provokes a crisis. This crisis would either harden them further or wake them up.

  2. Verses 6-8. We now move from the home of Jacob to the brothers appearing before Joseph in Egypt. Back in 37:5-7, Joseph had two dreams and predicted that one day his entire family would bow before him. And here the prediction begins to come to pass. What God says will ultimately come to pass and whatever God says in His Word, you can trust it. He is faithful to His promises (2 Cor 1:20). The question is how would Joseph respond? He had had at least 20 years to consider what he would do if and when this moment presented itself. And now, here it was! You see the greatest test of Joseph’s life occurred not when he was laid low by injustice, but when he was given unlimited power over his wicked brothers. Would he use his God-given power to seek revenge against them? Or would he use it for the purpose of saving the nation Israel from famine? Just to make things interesting, Moses tells us when 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?” While Joseph recognizes his brothers, they don’t recognize him. How is this possible? Keep in mind, the last time the brothers had seen Joseph, he was a l7-year-old boy who was in a position of weakness, pleading for mercy as he was carried off into slavery by the Midianites, who had purchased him for 20 pieces of silver (37:2). On the other hand, the man in front of them is almost 40 years old (41:46, 53-54), the governor of all of Egypt, clean-shaven, wearing the royal clothing of an Egyptian king, and confident, powerful, and speaking in the language of the Egyptians (42:23). They were never expecting the brother they sold into slavery to be the man in charge of Egypt.

  3. Verses 9-l7. Joseph pretends to accuse his brothers of being spies. Joseph’s purpose in speaking harshly and accusing them of spying was not motivated by bitterness at all, but by a desire to covertly discover information regarding the health and well-being of his father, Jacob, and his younger brother, Benjamin. I also think Joseph (who had lived his life listening to God) realizes that this is an opportunity to accomplish God’s work in his brothers’ lives. Joseph repeats with his brothers the exact scene that had happened to him 22 years earlier. In 37:2, Joseph brought his father a “bad report” about his brothers. In 37:14-17, Jacob sent Joseph on a mission to find out where his brothers were and what they were doing. When Joseph finds his brothers they are upset because they no doubt think he’s spying on them for the second time. Reading between the lines, it is likely that Joseph’s brothers accused him of being both “a spy.” Now in an unusual tum of events, Joseph accuses his brothers of being spies. No doubt he had protested that he wasn’t spying, just as they now protest. They would have answered him roughly and without any basis for their accusation, just as Joseph now answers them. They threw him into a pit, just as Joseph now throws them into the dungeon. The parallels between their treatment of Joseph and the treatment they are now receiving is a powerful stimulant to their sleeping consciences. Joseph is doing all of this in the hope that his brothers will wake up to the nature of their actions. He is hoping this treatment will make them “come clean.” Joseph’s brothers probably hadn’t given much thought to what it felt like to be a captive in a pit until Joseph put them in the dungeon. He may have put them there both to give them time to think as well as to buy some thinking time for himself. As Joseph thought through his original plan of keeping all but one in confinement, he realized that it might be more than his aged father could bear. So he changes his plan and decides to keep only one in confinement. But the effect of three days in the dungeon got his brothers’ attention. They began to think about their lives from a spiritual perspective. They thought about their own sin and the fact that sin has consequences. Before this they had shrugged off their sin as if there were no future reckoning with God. But now, sitting in prison for three days, they made the connection. Thorough repentance often takes time. It’s not always quick, easy, and over with. Joseph was not being cruel. God was using these events to awaken the conscience of his brothers. He was stripping away the pretense and exposing the horror within. The brothers needed to see, to feel, to understand their own wickedness. It is unfortunate but true that often we do not understand sin until we see the way it hurts God and destroys others.

  4. Verses 18-20. We are told that on the third day Joseph said to them “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, and bring your youngest brother to me, so your words may be verified, and you will not die. And they did so.” Another shocking event takes place as Joseph uses the name of the Hebrew’s God (Elohim). Joseph gives his brothers a glimmer of hope when he tells them, “I fear God.” They would not have expected this from this seemingly harsh Egyptian prime minister. But there was enough hope of fair treatment in those words to keep them from despairing and to reveal some tenderness underneath the harsh exterior of this man. If he hadn’t been harsh, he wouldn’t have gotten their attention. If he hadn’t shown them a glimmer of grace, he would have crushed their spirits. God’s grace shines through in His compassion, which underlies His discipline.

  5. Verses 21-24. Moses records this dramatic scene: “Then 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.’ Reuben 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.’ They did not know, however, that Joseph understood, for there was an interpreter between them. He 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.” In 42:21-22, the brothers begin talking among themselves. Joseph’s brothers believed that this distress had rightfully come upon them. They were experiencing the grace of guilt. At this point, Joseph’s pent-up emotions simply had to come out, so he left the room and wept privately. The Scripture does not say why Joseph chooses to imprison Simeon rather than any of the other brothers. Perhaps the reason lies in the brothers’ discussion of their guilt in having sold Joseph into slavery. In that discussion, Joseph learns for the first time that Reuben, the oldest son of the family, had kept the other brothers from killing him (Joseph). If Joseph had intended to imprison the oldest brother (i.e., Reuben), then he (Joseph) may have had a change of heart regarding Reuben when he (Joseph) learned of Reuben’s role in rescuing him (Joseph). If this was Joseph’s reasoning, then the next candidate in line for imprisonment would be the second eldest son, Simeon. Simeon, being the second oldest, would have been responsible for their collective wickedness. Joseph chose to keep him as leverage and to see if they were willing to desert Simeon like they had him.

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