Joseph's treatment of his brothers
Genesis 42:25 --
Joseph gave orders to fill his brother's grain sacks with wheat, and then to put each man's silver
back into his sack and to give them provisions for their journey. But rather than comforting
the brothers, this frightened them. The concept of Grace is difficult for most people,
even Christians, to understand. So they panicked. "What is this that God has done to us?" they
asked, in Genesis 42:27.
We often ask why Joseph played games with his brothers this way. Was he vindictive?
Possibly. But he also wanted to help them, and to test them. In testing them, Joseph
was able to learn several things about his brothers:
- They were not jealous of Benjamin, but tried to protect him.
- They loved their father, and tried to protect him.
- Whereas they were willing to sell their brother earlier, now they were concerned about the
extra money that showed up.
Father Jacob's reaction:
The brothers obviously dreaded Jacob's reaction, especially to the disclosure that the Egyptian
Prime Minister had requested Benjamin's presence in Egypt. So they bent the truth a little in 43:8,
saying Joseph had asked them if they had any more brothers. It isn't recorded that he did.
Reuben's second try at being a hero:
You'll remember that Reuben, as the responsible firstborn, had tried to rescue Joseph from the
empty cistern years earlier. Now he's offering the lives of his two sons if Benjamin didn't return.
Jacob spurns the offer.
In all of this, no one seems concerned about Simeon, held in jail in Egypt.
A year or two go by, and they are running out of food again, and the reality of the situation
was such that food would have to be gotten from Egypt, and the brothers would have to take Benjamin.
This time it's Judah's turn to act as the responsible firstborn, as he guarantees Benjamin's return.
But Jacob still gave Joseph the double portion allotted to the firstborn, not to Judah.
- Reuben, the firstborn, lost his position and inheritance as firstborn because he had
slept with his father Jacob's concubine.
- Simeon and Levi, the next two in line, were disqualified because they had
double-crossed and slaughtered the Shechemites.
- Judah -- the fourth in line -- received the rights as the firstborn, and it was from
his family line that King David and the Messiah came (as well as the name "Jews". In Egypt they
were known as "Hebrews").
Back in Egypt:
Joseph invites the men to his house for dinner. This, too, scares them, fearing the worst.
They try to return the extra money found in their sacks, but were assured that the grain had
been paid for. Simeon is released to join them at dinner.
Next week: Joseph continues the charade and tightens the screws even tighter. Genesis 44-45.