Monday, March 21, 2011

Genesis 42:6-7 Joseph's Brothers Bow Before Him

When the ten brothers arrive in Egypt, they go to the governor of the land in order to buy grain.  Unknown to them, it is their brother Joseph -- the one they had sold into slavery -- who is standing before them:

"Now Joseph was the governor of the land,
the one who sold grain to all its people.
So when Joseph's brothers arrived,
they bowed down to him with their faces to the ground.
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.' "
(Genesis 42:6-7 NIV)


The brothers bow before Joseph, for they wish to show respect for this man who has the power to grant or deny their request for food.  This is no small matter.  Their lives and the lives of their households depend upon them being able to obtain grain.

Joseph immediately recognizes his brothers.  He is among the youngest of Jacob's sons, so his brothers may have already been mature young men when he last saw them.  In contrast, Joseph had been a teenager when they sold him into slavery, so he looked very differently than the Joseph they remembered.  Also, Joseph would be clean-shaven and dressed in the manner of a well-to-do Egyptian official, the second in command under Pharaoh.  The brothers would never dream of finding Joseph in that position.

Later, we find out that Joseph was using an interpreter to speak with his Hebrew visitors. (Genesis 42:23)  He pretends that they are strangers, and, as the ruler of Egypt, he is concerned that they explain their presence there.  The brothers assure him that their intentions are honest; they are merely seeking relief from the famine.

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