Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Genesis 42:18-24 Return Plan

Joseph had told his brothers that their words would be tested by releasing one of the brothers to return home and bring back their youngest brother.  Meanwhile, the rest of the brothers would remain in custody until his return.  Now, after three days, Joseph's instructions have changed:

"On the third day, Joseph said to them, 'Do this and you will live,
for I fear God:
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.
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."

(Genesis 42:18-20 NIV)

Whether Joseph at first actually intended to only allow one brother to return to Canaan to retrieve Benjamin, or whether the whole procedure was a test to put them under stress in order to determine their true attitude toward each other, their father, and Benjamin is not stated.  However, to the brothers, it appears that Joseph has relented and decided to allow all but one of them to return home with grain for their families.  While preparations are made toward that end, the brothers begin to discuss the current situation:

"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 upon us.'
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.'
They did not realize that Joseph could understand them, 
since he was using an interpreter." 
(Genesis 42:21-23 NIV)

Unknown to the brothers, Joseph was listening in on their every word.  He had probably dismissed the interpreter from the room for a moment, for the brothers seem to be speaking freely among themselves.  This gives Joseph a glimpse into their hearts, and it also gives us further details into what happened on that day long ago when the brothers sold Joseph into slavery.  Apparently Joseph had pleaded for his life, and was greatly distressed, yet they had ignored his pleas.  Now it seemed to the men that God was punishing them for their hard-hearted treatment of their brother.

It is amazing that this is the first conclusion which pops into their minds simultaneously.  Although many years have gone by, the memory of their sin toward their brother had continued to remain in their minds.  Also, from these verses we see that they do think that Joseph is dead, for they believe that they are being called to account for his death. (v.22)  

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