“Search me, God, and know my heart… See if there is any offensive way in me…” (Psa. 139:23,24).
Read Genesis 42:1–24
When Jacob learned that there was grain in Egypt, he said to his sons, “Why do you just keep looking at each other?” 2 He continued, “I have heard that there is grain in Egypt. Go down there and buy some for us, so that we may live and not die.”
3 Then ten of Joseph’s brothers went down to buy grain from Egypt. 4 But Jacob did not send Benjamin, Joseph’s brother, with the others, because he was afraid that harm might come to him. 5 So Israel’s sons were among those who went to buy grain, for there was famine in the land of Canaan also.
6 Now Joseph was the governor of the land, the person who sold grain to all its people. So when Joseph’s brothers arrived, they bowed down to him with their faces to the ground. 7 As soon as Joseph saw his brothers, he recognized them, but he pretended to be a stranger and spoke harshly to them. “Where do you come from?” he asked.
“From the land of Canaan,” they replied, “to buy food.”
8 Although Joseph recognized his brothers, they did not recognize him. 9 Then he remembered his dreams about them and said to them, “You are spies! You have come to see where our land is unprotected.”
10 “No, my lord,” they answered. “Your servants have come to buy food. 11 We are all the sons of one man. Your servants are honest men, not spies.”
12 “No!” he said to them. “You have come to see where our land is unprotected.”
13 But they replied, “Your servants were twelve brothers, the sons of one man, who lives in the land of Canaan. The youngest is now with our father, and one is no more.”
14 Joseph said to them, “It is just as I told you: You are spies! 15 And this is how you will be tested: As surely as Pharaoh lives, you will not leave this place unless your youngest brother comes here. 16 Send one of your number to get your brother; the rest of you will be kept in prison, so that your words may be tested to see if you are telling the truth. If you are not, then as surely as Pharaoh lives, you are spies!” 17 And he put them all in custody for three days.
18 On the third day, Joseph said to them, “Do this and you will live, for I fear God: 19 If you are honest men, let one of your brothers stay here in prison, while the rest of you go and take grain back for your starving households. 20 But you must bring your youngest brother to me, so that your words may be verified and that you may not die.” This they proceeded to do.
21 They said to one another, “Surely we are being punished because of our brother. We saw how distressed he was when he pleaded with us for his life, but we would not listen; that’s why this distress has come on us.”
22 Reuben replied, “Didn’t I tell you not to sin against the boy? But you wouldn’t listen! Now we must give an accounting for his blood.” 23 They did not realize that Joseph could understand them, since he was using an interpreter.
24 He turned away from them and began to weep, but then came back and spoke to them again. He had Simeon taken from them and bound before their eyes.
New International Version (NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
ReflectWhat relationships, however old the wounds, need restoration? Who is the Lord calling you to help liberate?
Old Testament storytelling often doesn’t explain people’s motivations; they’re often left open for us to ponder. Does Jacob’s protection of Benjamin mean that he suspects his sons of foul play? Is Joseph being vindictive towards his brothers, or just testing them? We’re told he remembers his dreams (9). God, he is reminded, is involved in this.
Joseph’s “bad cop” interrogation awakens his brothers’ conscience. Armed with this information, his actions seem designed to remind them of former events—he throws them in a place they can’t escape, and forces them to return to Jacob one brother less. Indeed, like God sending the prophet Nathan to confront and restore King David who has been stewing in the unconfessed sins of murder and adultery (2 Sam. 12), Joseph’s actions seem intended to liberate, not torture, his brothers. Unconfessed, unforgiven guilt is, after all, a terrible burden. God, however, does not point out our sin to condemn us and push us away but rather to restore and bring us close.
Is there a situation in your life that needs God’s restoration? Take time to ask him now to begin the healing process.
Gracious Savior, hear my confession and cleanse me from all unrighteousness so that I can be an agent of peace this day.
Click here to sign up to receive the EXTRAs via email each quarter.