Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Genesis 42:24-28 Return Guilt Trip

Joseph has been listening as his brothers discuss their current situation.  He hears that Reuben had tried to save his life on that day long ago when the rest of his brothers sold him into slavery.  (Genesis 37:21-22,29)  Now Joseph turns away from them for a moment.  Whether is is from relief that at least one of his brothers had stood up for him, or whether it is from the memory of that life-changing day or all that he has endured since, Joseph is momentarily overcome by emotion:

"He turned away from them and began to weep,
but then turned back and spoke to them again.
He had Simeon taken from them and bound before their eyes.
Joseph gave orders to fill their bags with grain,
to put each man's silver back in his sack,
and to give them provisions for their journey.
After this was done for them,
they loaded their grain on their donkeys and left."

(Genesis 42:2-26 NIV)

Joseph takes Simeon from the brothers as a hostage.  Although Reuben is the oldest, he is not chosen.  Perhaps Joseph spares him because Reuben had saved his life, and had intended to aid his release.  Instead, Simeon is chosen to remain behind.

The brothers do not give Joseph any time to change his mind.  Greatly relieved that they have obtained grain and escaped with their lives, they begin to return home.  The vision of Simeon being bound before their eyes helps to speed them on their way, as does the thoughts of their hungry families waiting back in Canaan.

However, that night, the brothers are shaken by a further development:

"At the place where they stopped for the night one of them opened his sack to get feed for his donkey, and he saw his silver in the mouth of his sack.  'My silver has been returned,' he said to his brothers.  'Here it is in my sack.'  Their hearts sank and they turned to each other trembling and said, 'What is it that God has done to us?'

The brothers' guilt has become overwhelming.  Every event is colored by their unconfessed sin.  They see even the blessing of their returned silver as an ominous sign of God's displeasure.

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