TODAY’S SCRIPTURE: Genesis 42:18-28 (ESV*)
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 remain confined where you are in custody, and let the rest go and carry grain for the famine of your households, and bring your youngest brother to me. So your words will be verified, and you shall not die.” And they did so. Then they said to one another, “In truth we are guilty concerning our brother, in that we saw the distress of his soul, when he begged us and we did not listen. That is why this distress has come upon us.” And Reuben answered them, “Did I not tell you not to sin against the boy? But you did not listen. So now there comes a reckoning for his blood.” They did not know that Joseph understood them, for there was an interpreter between them. Then he turned away from them and wept. And he returned to them and spoke to them. And he took Simeon from them and bound him before their eyes. And Joseph gave orders to fill their bags with grain, and to replace every man’s money in his sack, and to give them provisions for the journey. This was done for them.
Then they loaded their donkeys with their grain and departed. And as one of them opened his sack to give his donkey fodder at the lodging place, he saw his money in the mouth of his sack. He said to his brothers, “My money has been put back; here it is in the mouth of my sack!” At this their hearts failed them, and they turned trembling to one another, saying, “What is this that God has done to us?”
AN IMAGINARY JOURNAL ARTICLE
This Zaphenath-paneah is a hard man. I suppose I can understand why he thought that ten men arriving together might be a gang of spies. But then to throw us in jail after we explained to him that we are brothers, and to leave us there for three days, that I don’t understand. We came all this way looking for assistance, and instead we receive an audience with someone who throws us into the pit. It didn’t take me long to realize that we were being punished somehow for what we did to Joseph. I told my brothers just that as we stood in Zaphenath-paneah’s hall. He is going to release us to bring food back to our families, but one of us has to stay behind as a hostage to guarantee our return with Benjamin. I said to my brothers, “Don’t you see? Even though Joseph begged us not to hurt him, we didn’t listen. This is our punishment for what we did.” I swear, for just a moment I thought I saw Zaphenath-paneah wince when I spoke, but there is no way he could have understood me. He was speaking through an interpreter the whole time, and he doesn’t speak our language. He turned away for a moment, then had Simeon tied up and dragged off to the prison. But he let the rest of us go. So we’re on our way home now, and I have to deliver the news to our father. None of this has gone according to plan. I just hope the journey home goes smoothly.
THINGS TO THINK ABOUT…
- Why does Joseph use an interpreter to speak to the brothers when he can understand them perfectly?
- What advantage does it give Joseph to have the brothers think he can’t understand them?
- What does Joseph hope to learn through testing his brothers in this way?
- Why do you think Joseph chose Simeon as the hostage?
- Why does Joseph put the money in the sacks?
- Why do the brothers blame God for what has happened?
“Joseph orders not only that the brothers be given grain and food, but also that the money paid for the grain be placed in their sacks. This ploy explores the theme of integrity rather than being a sign of love or harshness. Even more, it ironically relates to their selling him for silver. This elicits further reflections regarding what they have done, including God’s activity in their lives. The brothers depart for Canaan without Simeon; en route one brother discovers the money. Their ‘hearts sink’ — they could be accused as being thieves as well as spies. Perhaps catching the irony of the silver, they feel themselves at the mercy of powers beyond their own. Joseph, of course, had done this; yet, his discernment and wisdom are God-given. Hence, the brothers do get it right in one sense: God indeed remains active in these exchanges among the brothers, not least in seeing to the moral order at work in their lives.” The New Interpreter’s Bible, vol. I (Abingdon Press: Nashville, 1994, 629.)
* The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.