Joseph – week 3, day 4


TODAY’S SCRIPTURE: Genesis 42:6-17 (NRSV*)

Now Joseph was governor over the land; it was he who sold to all the people of the land. And Joseph’s brothers came and bowed themselves before him with their faces to the ground. When Joseph saw his brothers, he recognized them, but he treated them like strangers and spoke harshly to them. “Where do you come from?” he said. They said, “From the land of Canaan, to buy food.” Although Joseph had recognized his brothers, they did not recognize him. Joseph also remembered the dreams that he had dreamed about them. He said to them, “You are spies; you have come to see the nakedness of the land!” They said to him, “No, my lord; your servants have come to buy food. We are all sons of one man; we are honest men; your servants have never been spies.” But he said to them, “No, you have come to see the nakedness of the land!” They said, “We, your servants, are twelve brothers, the sons of a certain man in the land of Canaan; the youngest, however, is now with our father, and one is no more.” But Joseph said to them, “It is just as I have said to you; you are spies! Here is how you shall be tested: as Pharaoh lives, you shall not leave this place unless your youngest brother comes here! Let one of you go and bring your brother, while the rest of you remain in prison, in order that your words may be tested, whether there is truth in you; or else, as Pharaoh lives, surely you are spies.” And he put them all together in prison for three days.


Quote BeginAs the oldest son, I know my responsibility to my family. I know that I have to protect my younger brothers, and to find a way to procure food to keep my father and brothers alive. We’ve had such a long journey to get to Egypt. Not an easy road to travel! Then we arrived with, I think, thousands of other people all traveling for the same thing: food. It was a bit frightening, being jostled around on the full streets, with so many hungry people in a panic. It was all I could do to keep track of my nine brothers. Then we were brought into the presence of Zaphenath-paneah himself! We had heard about him from the moment we stepped foot in Egypt. A man with the power of life and death, the power to give food or withhold it. The power of Pharaoh! I told all my brothers to put their faces right down to the ground as soon as we entered his chambers. I didn’t want to take a chance at offending this great man by our country manners. But somehow we managed to offend him anyway. Now we’re sitting here in jail, and he’s told us that we need to bring back our little brother Benjamin, or be prosecuted as spies. How in the world am I going to explain this to Father? After what happened to Joseph, it will break his heart if he loses Benjamin, too.Quote End
— Reuben


  • The brothers only know that they are being directed to meet the man who is administering the kingdom for the Pharaoh. What must be running through their minds at this moment?
  • Why do you think Joseph didn’t immediately tell his brothers who he was?
  • The brothers don’t recognize Joseph. Why do you think that is?
  • Why does Joseph accuse the brothers of being spies?
  • We are told that right before he accuses them of being spies, he remembers the dreams he had of them. How might this memory of those dreams have affected his actions here?
  • The last time Joseph saw his family was over twenty years before, and he was the youngest son at the time. What do you imagine Joseph is thinking and feeling as he sees his brothers and hears that he now has a younger brother?


“The fact that the brothers bow down before Joseph fulfills the dream in 37:7, reinforced by the brothers’ repeated use of lord/servant language (verses 10, 11, 13, 30, 33). Verse 9a shows that Joseph recognizes this; his dream has now come full circle. This recognition now propels the story over the next chapters. The brothers’ lack of recognition enables Joseph to manipulate the situation toward the objective he chooses.” The New Interpreter’s Bible, vol. I (Abingdon Press: Nashville, 1994, 628.)

New Revised Standard Version Bible, © 1989 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

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