Genesis 42 Commentary
The brothers arrive in Egypt. The mission is to buy food. Jacob is starving. Israel is in need of food. Egypt is the solution. Jacob’s God is going to provide for him from Joseph’s base in Egypt, by Joseph’s hand.
The blessing that brothers would bow down to Joseph comes to fruition. The dream wasn’t silly at all!
May nations serve you and peoples bow down to you. Be Lord over your brothers, and may the sons of your mother bow down to you. May those who curse you be cursed and those who bless you be blessed.”
Genesis 27:29 NIV
This was the patriarchal blessing that came down to Jacob from his father Isaac. It is the same blessing that comes to Joseph via a direct voice of the LORD in a dream. The same dream that the brothers hated – the dream we all thought was boyish. We are not at all surprised that Jacob reacted strangely to his son’s ‘silly’ dream by simply ‘keeping it in his mind’. He pondered in his spirit the meaning of this dream. To Jacob Joseph’s dream was more than a boyish wish of an ambitious lad.
The picture of the real seed getting back to his own brothers comes to mind. They tear his clothes…Joseph’s special clothing reminds us of a seamless cloth of the real seed that soldiers decided not to tear apart. The symbolism is littered everywhere in these pages.
We are all the sons of one man. Your servants are honest men, not spies.”
Genesis 42:11 NIV
I love this part, ‘honest men’. Honest men indeed.
Simeon is bound and left in prison and the rest were released with an instruction to ‘bring Benjamin’. You would guess Simeon’s extra rough character was responsible for his being singled out for detention. (Simeon and Levi combined to exterminate an entire city).
In a moving statement, the brothers recall and bring themselves to a point of regret over their ill treatment of their brother Joseph. He didn’t deserve it. He had begged them but to no avail. Now the ‘honest’ men must pay for their sins. Could it be that the LORD allowed them to get to this point for their own restoration? A wrong must be acknowledged and confessed before the Spirit begins to work in our lives for a positive journey afterwards.
Now Reuben talks. He had tried to persuade his brothers against sin but I guess his weak position meant that his ideas weren’t to be respected. He spoke again assuring his father that he would take care of Benjamin but Jacob would have none of it. Reuben’s position as the firstborn was under real threat – threatened by his own weakness of character…..remember how he went and slept with his father’s wife, Bilhah! We are also aware of the cruelty of the second and third sons (Simeon and Levi).
The patriarch Jacob sits down to count his losses. Joseph is no more. Simeon is no more. Now Benjamin is next. Everything is against me, he says. Could this be the point when the patriarch begins to suffer the consequences of his own character – now very visible in his own children? Could this also be a point of reflection for the patriarch?
Throughout these pages Jacob is a clever man. He took advantage of his starving (and weak) brother to buy his position in the family. To his credit Jacob knew the importance of the firstborn position while Esau was lacking both in character and ambition. The LORD would not work with someone lacking ambition. Lack of ambition meant lack of desire for the LORD’S blessing that would always go to the firstborn]. Jacob would later on deceive his father Isaac for a blessing. [That is how ambitious both Jacob and Rebekah were]. Laban tested his own medicine at the hands of Jacob.
Now the aged Jacob has no solutions to the problems that he was facing. He could not resolve the disappearance of Joseph. He could not resolve the disappearance of Simeon. All these happenings are too high for his head. Now the aged Jacob must reflect on the LORD’S mercies. It’s a case when the world begins to fall apart right in front of you. The solutions that easily solved his problems are nowhere near enough. Jacob has nothing left in his rich armory of solutions but the LORD of his fathers. It’s a point of brokenness – but a good point for Jacob.