Genesis 42 – Hunger and Head Games

Genesis 42 Bible with Equal Exchange 71 percent Cacao Very Dark Chocolate

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Today’s PassageGenesis 42

I don’t know what to make of today’s chapter. It’s the first of several concerning an extended deception that Jacob pulls on his brothers as the de facto ruler of Egypt. Why doesn’t he reveal outright that he’s their brother? Why does he keep Simeon in Egypt to ensure that the other brothers return with Benjamin? Why does he do so many things that cause his brothers no small amount of anxiety? I got questions.

I get that he wants to see Benjamin. Of all his brothers, Benjamin is the only one not from another mother; they’re both children of their late mom Rachel, who was also their dad’s favorite wife. Joseph was only seventeen when he was sold into slavery. How old was Benjamin at that point? Good question. It’s also a complicated question, and apparently the answer is “possibly not even born yet.” Fact is, Joseph has good reason to want to see his younger brother, whether for the first time ever or for the first time in twenty-two years. For all intents and purposes, he didn’t get to watch his little brother grow up, and he’s got some catching up to do.

So why doesn’t he come right out with it and reveal that he’s their brother? Why does he harass them, insisting three times that they’re spies? He goes to the trouble of putting an Egyptian-to-Hebrew interpreter between them, so they won’t know that he knows what they’re saying to each other in their native language (23). He confines Simeon and has him restrained right in front of the other brothers (24). And then he pulls this other crazy thing that I just have to lay out blow-by-blow.

So, the brothers are in Egypt because it’s the only dang place that has food for sale during this huge famine. After putting them all through the ringer, Joseph eventually sells them food, but he secretly instructs the workers loading up their bags to put their money back in with the food. I don’t know if he wanted to give them the food for free or what, but he had to know it would put them in a tight spot. They don’t want to look like thieves! Since they don’t know how the money got in their sacks, it makes going back to Egypt a massive risk.

Clearly he’s got past incidents on his mind, and maybe he’s treading with caution. Perhaps he doesn’t want to put power back into the hands of those who formerly sold him into slavery by revealing that he’s their little brother. He starts with the “you guys must be spies” crap because he remembers his dreams about his brothers bowing to him (9). And when he overhears them expressing remorse to each other for having sold their brother into slavery, he’s overcome with emotion: “He turned away from them and wept” (24). What is going on with this guy?

I don’t know. Everyone’s actions are so familiar, yet their motivations are so opaque. But we’ve got to keep moving forward, and maybe subsequent chapters will shed some light on the situation.

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