Ge 42:1-38. Journey into
1. Now when Jacob saw that there was corn in
Egypt—learned from common rumor. It is evident from Jacob's
language that his own and his sons' families had suffered greatly from
the scarcity; and through the increasing severity of the scourge, those
men, who had formerly shown both activity and spirit, were sinking into
despondency. God would not interpose miraculously when natural means of
preservation were within reach.
5. the famine was in the land of
Canaan—The tropical rains, which annually falling swell the
Nile, are those of Palestine also; and their failure would produce the
same disastrous effects in Canaan as in Egypt. Numerous caravans of its
people, therefore, poured over the sandy desert of Suez, with their
beasts of burden, for the purchase of corn; and among others, "the sons
of Israel" were compelled to undertake a journey from which painful
associations made them strongly averse.
6. Joseph was the governor—in the zenith
of his power and influence.
he it was that sold—that is, directed
the sales; for it is impossible that he could give attendance in every
place. It is probable, however, that he may have personally
superintended the storehouses near the border of Canaan, both because
that was the most exposed part of the country and because he must have
anticipated the arrival of some messengers from his father's house.
Joseph's brethren came, and bowed down
themselves before him—His prophetic dreams [Ge 37:5-11] were in the course of being
fulfilled, and the atrocious barbarity of his brethren had been the
means of bringing about the very issue they had planned to prevent
(Isa 60:14; Re 3:9, last clause).
7, 8. Joseph saw his brethren, and he knew them,
… but they knew not him—This is not strange. They were
full-grown men—he was but a lad at parting. They were in their
usual garb—he was in his official robes. They never dreamt of him
as governor of Egypt, while he had been expecting them. They had but
one face; he had ten persons to judge by.
made himself strange unto them, and spake
roughly—It would be an injustice to Joseph's character to
suppose that this stern manner was prompted by any vindictive
feelings—he never indulged any resentment against others who had
injured him. But he spoke in the authoritative tone of the governor in
order to elicit some much-longed-for information respecting the state
of his father's family, as well as to bring his brethren, by their own
humiliation and distress, to a sense of the evils they had done to
9-14. Ye are spies—This is a suspicion
entertained regarding strangers in all Eastern countries down to the
present day. Joseph, however, who was well aware that his brethren were
not spies, has been charged with cruel dissimulation, with a deliberate
violation of what he knew to be the truth, in imputing to them such a
character. But it must be remembered that he was sustaining the part of
a ruler; and, in fact, acting on the very principle sanctioned by many
of the sacred writers, and our Lord Himself, who spoke parables
(fictitious stories) to promote a good end.
15. By the life of Pharaoh—It is a very
common practice in Western Asia to swear by the life of the king.
Joseph spoke in the style of an Egyptian and perhaps did not think
there was any evil in it. But we are taught to regard all such
expressions in the light of an oath (Mt 5:34; Jas 5:12).
17-24. put them … into ward three
days—Their confinement had been designed to bring them to
salutary reflection. And this object was attained, for they looked upon
the retributive justice of God as now pursuing them in that foreign
land. The drift of their conversation is one of the most striking
instances on record of the power of conscience [Ge 42:21, 22].
24. took … Simeon, and bound
him—He had probably been the chief instigator—the most
violent actor in the outrage upon Joseph; and if so, his selection to
be the imprisoned and fettered hostage for their return would, in the
present course of their reflections, have a painful significance.
25-28. Joseph commanded to fill their sacks with
corn, and to restore every man's money—This private
generosity was not an infringement of his duty—a defrauding of
the revenue. He would have a discretionary power—he was daily
enriching the king's exchequer—and he might have paid the sum
from his own purse.
27. inn—a mere station for baiting
beasts of burden.
he espied his money—The discovery
threw them into greater perplexity than ever. If they had been
congratulating themselves on escaping from the ruthless governor, they
perceived that now he would have a handle against them; and it is
observable that they looked upon this as a judgment of heaven. Thus one
leading design of Joseph was gained in their consciences being roused
to a sense of guilt.
35. as they emptied their sacks, that, behold,
every man's … money was in his sack—It appears that
they had been silent about the money discovery at the resting-place, as
their father might have blamed them for not instantly returning.
However innocent they knew themselves to be, it was universally felt to
be an unhappy circumstance, which might bring them into new and greater
36. Me have ye bereaved—This exclamation
indicates a painfully excited state of feeling, and it shows how
difficult it is for even a good man to yield implicit submission to the
course of Providence. The language does not imply that his missing sons
had got foul play from the hands of the rest, but he looks upon Simeon
as lost, as well as Joseph, and he insinuates it was by some imprudent
statements of theirs that he was exposed to the risk of losing Benjamin
37. Reuben spake, … Slay my two sons, if I
bring him not to thee—This was a thoughtless and
unwarrantable condition—one that he never seriously expected his
father would accept. It was designed only to give assurance of the
greatest care being taken of Benjamin. But unforeseen circumstances
might arise to render it impossible for all of them to preserve that
young lad (Jas 4:13),
and Jacob was much pained by the prospect. Little did he know that God
was dealing with him severely, but in kindness (Heb 12:7, 8), and that all those things he
thought against Him were working together for his good.