Genesis 42 — I wish I weren’t tied and bound

Saturday, May 30, 2009

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Genesis 42 — I wish I weren’t tied and bound

Here we have some more family values and brotherly love. When Joseph’s famine-plagued brothers come searching for food, Joseph throws them in prison, and keeps one as a hostage!

Jacob (aka the patriarch-intermittently-known-as-Israel ©) hears about the grain in Egypt and sends his sons off to buy some. He asks that the youngest, Benjamin, stay behind so nothing bad happens to him (since he believes Joseph dead).

When the brothers arrive, Joseph recognizes them, but they don’t recognize him (he "disguised" himself, 42:7 New American Standard Bible, NASB ). A possible inconsistency occurs here: Joseph calls them spies because he "remembered the dreams he had about them" (42:9 NASB, NIV gives the same idea slightly reworded). But, his dreams, at least as reported in the Bible, never mention that his brothers will be spies, or do him harm (which might have come in handy when they sold him off to slavery!!). So if he had dreams of the sort, the Bible doesn’t mention them.

In any case, Joseph tells them that they are spies, and that they must send someone back to go get their youngest brother. Good tip for you youngsters out there: when going to a foreign land, don’t tell the guy in charge that you have a brother back home, especially if the whole idea was to keep him safe! (Joseph would have known anyway, but they don’t know this since they don’t realize it’s Joseph.)

So he throws them in prison, after 3 days letting them all out except for Simeon, whom he ties up as a "hostage" (hey, it’s the NASB’s word choice for the section heading, not mine!). The brothers assume it’s because of what they did to Joseph that this is befalling them (little do they know!).

But Joseph isn’t all bad, he does give them grain for free: he gives them grain, and they discover that the silver has been returned to them in their sacks, too. This upsets them, I assume because they are afraid that Joseph will think it’s stolen, although we’re not told.

Back at home, Jacob is none too pleased. Now he’s down two sons, and the brothers want to take Benjamin back? Even though Reuben promises to kill his own two sons if Benjamin is not brought back safe and sound (what a nice dad, offering to kill his sons like that! What would that solve?). But Jacob refuses for now: "My son shall not go down with you" (42:38, NASB).

Well, this story sure is exciting, at least. It’s a nail-biter. Will the brothers find out who Joseph is? Will Joseph kill his bound-up brother? Will Jacob relent and let Benjamin go with (and if so, will Joseph kill him?) What horrible thing will happen next in this "good" book??

PS Scripture quotations taken from the NASB .

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