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Free Daily Bible notes by Rev Stephen Thompson

Genesis 42:25-35: Getting your silver back

“25 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, 26 they loaded their grain on their donkeys and left. 27 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. 28 “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 this that God has done to us?”29 When they came to their father Jacob in the land of Canaan, they told him all that had happened to them. They said, 30 “The man who is lord over the land spoke harshly to us and treated us as though we were spying on the land. 31 But we said to him, ‘We are honest men; we are not spies. 32 We were twelve brothers, sons of one father. One is no more, and the youngest is now with our father in Canaan.’33 “Then the man who is lord over the land said to us, ‘This is how I will know whether you are honest men: Leave one of your brothers here with me, and take food for your starving households and go. 34 But bring your youngest brother to me so I will know that you are not spies but honest men. Then I will give your brother back to you, and you can trade[a] in the land.’”35 As they were emptying their sacks, there in each man’s sack was his pouch of silver! When they and their father saw the money pouches, they were frightened.”NIV

“As they were emptying their sacks, there in each man’s sack was his pouch of silver!” (35a).

Three times in this passage we are told of the returned “silver” (25, 28, 35). We know from the outset that the silver was returned to all of them (25), but in the middle of the story the brothers thought it was only the experience of ‘’one of them” (27). That was bad enough in their eyes! But eventually they discovered the silver back in all of their sacks. In the light of the trouble they were already in, it’s not surprising that they were horrified. They knew they hadn’t stolen the silver, but they had every reason to believe they would stand accused of the crime.

‘Whether Joseph meant the money to be found at the first halt, or not till the homecoming (if the provision for the way was a separate package), the event proved more effective than either, with its initial shock repeated still more forcibly at home in the presence of Jacob.
The sense of guilt, already aroused (21), made the group quick to see the hand of God in the governor’s action.’ Derek Kidner: Tyndale commentary, p.200.

However, that all said, when I read this story it makes me think of what I will call ‘Kingdom economics’. So many believers will testify to this mysterious truth that, when you seek to give according to Biblical principles (as best you understand them), over and again you find your silver back in your back in your sack (as it were). It is mysteriously wonderful, and one of the ways God ‘proves’ His reality to those who trust Him:

“Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it’’ (Malachi 3:10).

PRAYER: I am grateful to find that I can never out-give you Lord, and I thank you for your extravagant generosity to me.

Genesis 42:18-24: Caught in the headlights

18 On the third day, Joseph said to them, “Do this and you will live, for I fear God: 19 If you are honest men, let one of your brothers stay here in prison, while the rest of you go and take grain back for your starving households. 20 But you must bring your youngest brother to me, so that your words may be verified and that you may not die.” This they proceeded to do.

21 They said to one another, “Surely we are being punished because of our brother. We saw how distressed he was when he pleaded with us for his life, but we would not listen; that’s why this distress has come on us.”

22 Reuben replied, “Didn’t I tell you not to sin against the boy? But you wouldn’t listen! Now we must give an accounting for his blood.” 23 They did not realize that Joseph could understand them, since he was using an interpreter.

1On the third day, Joseph said to them, “Do this and you will live, for I fear God: 19 If you are honest men, let one of your brothers stay here in prison, while the rest of you go and take grain back for your starving households. 20 But you must bring your youngest brother to me, so that your words may be verified and that you may not die.” This they proceeded to do.

21 They said to one another, “Surely we are being punished because of our brother. We saw how distressed he was when he pleaded with us for his life, but we would not listen; that’s why this distress has come on us.”

22 Reuben replied, “Didn’t I tell you not to sin against the boy? But you wouldn’t listen! Now we must give an accounting for his blood.” 23 They did not realize that Joseph could understand them, since he was using an interpreter.

24 He turned away from them and began to weep, but then came back and spoke to them again. He had Simeon taken from them and bound before their eyes.

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‘They said to one another, “Surely we are being punished because of our brother. We saw how distressed he was when he pleaded with us for his life, but we would not listen; that’s why this distress has come upon us.” ‘ (21).

Actions have consequences. It may take years for the results of a bad decision to show up – but they will. The hidden body finally comes to light. Someone said, ‘We make our decisions then our decisions turn around and make us.’ The brothers were now understanding that chickens come home to roost. They were caught in the headlights.

Hear their confession. Joseph heard it all (23). The grim detail came out. The brothers made their confession, ignorant that it was being heard by a ‘priest’ who was actually the victim of their crimes. ‘Truth will out.’ In these moments Joseph also discovered the part played by Reuben in trying to save him.

See how callous they were. It all tumbled out as they unwittingly came clean. They had hated their younger brother and in those moments, years earlier, they had been heartless in their behaviour towards him.

See how they stood convicted. Without being aware of it, they were in the dock, and out of their own mouths they were prosecuting themselves. Yet, even though it didn’t appear so at the time, they were being treated with kindness and mercy, and they were to float in streams of it in days to come.

But the sense of guilt (and with it fear) did not easily go away (50:15-21). We don’t find it easy to receive mercy; we find it hard to forgive ourselves. But the Cross says we can if we rely on Jesus, our Saviour.

Genesis 42:14-17: A rough ride

14 Joseph said to them, “It is just as I told you: You are spies! 15 And this is how you will be tested: As surely as Pharaoh lives, you will not leave this place unless your youngest brother comes here. 16 Send one of your number to get your brother; the rest of you will be kept in prison, so that your words may be tested to see if you are telling the truth. If you are not, then as surely as Pharaoh lives, you are spies!” 17 And he put them all in custody for three days.”NIV

The man who is lord over the land spoke harshly to us and treated us as though we were spying on the land” (30).

Here are just a few more thoughts on Joseph’s seeming harsh treatment of his brothers.

In Jeremiah 6:14, God utters this complaint against the prophets and priests at that time:

“They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. ‘Peace, peace,’ they say, when there is no peace.”

Sin is a serious issue, and it must not be treated superficially. Is this, then, the explanation for Joseph’s conduct? F.B.Meyer seems to think so. Listen:

‘He spake roughly, but he did not feel so. When he had spoken in these harsh tones, he restored their money; turned aside to weep (24); and did his best to alleviate the toils of travel. So sometimes God seems to deal harshly, and speak roughly; but there is no change in the tender love of his heart. It costs Him immeasurably more than it does us. Often when some unusual severity has been evinced, if we could but see his face, it would be full of pity, pain, and pleading on our behalf. He feels yearnings over us which He restrains, and dares not betray until the work of conviction is complete.
He spake roughly to awaken conscience. It had slept for twenty years…There must be repentance and confession before God can take us to his heart. We must confess the wrongs done to our Brother in heaven and our brothers on earth; and many of the roughnesses of God’s Providence are intended to awaken us, and bring our sin to remembrance…’

God knows that, ultimately, our repentance is for our comfort and joy, and He will do what is necessary to bring about deep healing.

PRAYER: Thank you Lord for your love demonstrated in the difficult experiences of my life.

Genesis 42:9-20: ‘Goodness and severity”

Then he remembered his dreams about them and said to them, “You are spies! You have come to see where our land is unprotected.” 10 “No, my lord,” they answered. “Your servants have come to buy food. 11 We are all the sons of one man. Your servantsare honest men, not spies.” 12 “No!” he said to them. “You have come to see where our land is unprotected.” 13 But they replied, “Your servants were twelve brothers, the sons of one man, who lives in the land of Canaan. The youngest is now with our father, and one is no more.” 14 Joseph said to them, “It is just as I told you: You are spies! 15 And this is how you will be tested: As surely as Pharaoh lives, you will not leave this place unless your youngest brother comes here. 16 Send one of your number to get your brother; the rest of you will be kept in prison, so that your words may be tested to see if you are telling the truth. If you are not, then as surely as Pharaoh lives, you are spies!” 17 And he put them all in custody for three days.18 On the third day, Joseph said to them, “Do this and you will live, for I fear God: 19 If you are honest men, let one of your brothers stay here in prison, while the rest of you go and take grain back for your starving households. 20 But you must bring your youngest brother to me, so that your words may be verified and that you may not die.” This they proceeded to do.

“Your servants were twelve brothers, the sons of one man, who lives in the land of Canaan. The youngest is now with our father, and one is no more” (13).

This statement must have affected Joseph deeply, but it showed him that his father and youngest brother were alive and well. So it would also have been a relief.

‘It must have been difficult for Joseph to control his emotions as he spoke harshly to his brothers, because his natural desire would have been to speak to them in Hebrew and reveal who he was. But that would have ruined everything , for he knew that all eleven brothers had to bow before him. This meant that Benjamin would have to come with them on their next trip. Furthermore, Joseph’s brothers had to be forced to face their sins and come to a place of honest confession, and that would take time.’ Warren W. Wiersbe: Old Testament Commentary’, p.125.

Four times Joseph accused his brothers of being in Egypt under false pretences (9, 12, 14, 16), and each time they protested their innocence. It seems like very rough treatment. But if we take into account the story as a whole, we know Joseph loved these men and his heart was breaking (see 24,25). However, he was working to a plan to ensure that true repentance and reconciliation would take place.

Paul writes:

“Consider therefore the kindness and sternness of God…” (Romans 11:22).

The ‘New Living Translation puts this:

“Notice how God is both kind and severe.”

God, who always works to a plan, seems at times to be hard on His own family. But this is never incompatible with who He is, and it is an expression of His love for them, even though it may not immediately appear so.

“My son, do not take lightly the discipline of the Lord, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you. For the Lord disciplines the one He loves, and He chastises every son He receives…No discipline seems enjoyable at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it yields a harvest of righteousness and peace to those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews 12:5,6,11)

See also Jeremiah 31:18,19:

“I have surely heard Ephraim’s moaning:
‘You disciplined me like an unruly calf,
and I have been disciplined.
Restore me, and I will return,
because you are the Lord my God.
After I strayed,
I repented;
after I came to understand,
I beat my breast.
I was ashamed and humiliated
because I bore the disgrace of my youth.’ “

Genesis 42:6-9: A supernatural revelation

Now Joseph was the governor of the land, the person 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.”Although Joseph recognized his brothers, they did not recognize him. Then he remembered his dreams about them and said to them, “You are spies! You have come to see where our land is unprotected.”

“Although Joseph recognised his brothers, they did not recognise him” (8).

‘As second ruler of the land, Joseph certainly didn’t participate in each individual grain transaction because he had many important things to do. Furthermore, the food supply was stored in several cities (41:46-49), and Joseph had commissioners assisting him (vv.34-36)…In the providence of God, Joseph was on hand when his ten brothers arrived to buy grain, and he recognised them.’ ‘The Wiersbe Old Testament Commentary’, p.125.

Ten of Joseph’s brothers arrived in Egypt. They “bowed down” to Joseph (6), unwittingly fulfilling the two dreams he’d had as a teenager back in Canaan (37:5-7,9). It’s hardly surprising they were unable to recognise him. Twenty-two years had passed, and he spoke to them through an interpreter. He would now be clean-shaven like an Egyptian, and wearing Egyptian clothes. How could they have imagined that this important ruler in Egypt was none other than their little brother?!

As we have noted before, there are many parallels between the Joseph story and Jesus

Why is it that people can’t see Jesus as we see Him? How is it that someone can be blind to the reality of Jesus one day, and become a zealous disciple the next? 2 Corinthians 4 provides a helpful insight into this question. Paul writes:

“The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (4).

He goes on to say,

“For God, Who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ” (6)

Joseph’s brothers did not recognise him until the moment he chose to reveal himself to them (Gen.45:1,4). This has its parallel in every conversion story. When someone ‘sees’ Jesus there is a supernatural revelation.

The people of the world live in the presence of Jesus, but they do not recognise Him.

PRAYER: Lord, please open the eyes of many.

THOUGHT: “We may ignore, but we can nowhere evade the presence of God. The world is crowded with Him. He walks everywhere incognito.” C.S. Lewis

Genesis 42:3-6: Be sure your sins will find you out

Here is a further thought on why the brothers may have been hesitant to make the necessary journey to obtain bread:

‘For one thing, the trip to Egypt was long (250-300 miles) and dangerous, and a round trip could consume six weeks’ time. Even after arriving in Egypt, the men wouldn’t be certain of a friendly reception. As “foreigners” from Canaan, they would be very vulnerable and could even be arrested and enslaved. If that happened to Jacob’s sons, who would care for their families and their aged father?
Perhaps too the memory of selling their innocent brother to traders going down to Egypt haunted Jacob’s sons. The brothers had done that evil deed over thirty years ago and by now were convinced that Joseph was dead (Gen.42:13), but they hadn’t forgotten the scene (vv.17-24). Conscience has a way of digging up the past and arousing doubts and fears within us.’ Warren Wiersbe: Old Testament Commentary, p.125.

One thing was for sure, Jacob was not going to let the boys take Benjamin along. Maybe, after what had happened to Joseph, Jacob was rightly suspicious of his sons. As far as he was concerned, Benjamin was his last living link with his beloved Rachel and he didn’t intend to lose the second of his favourite sons (38).

But the other brothers went…and momentous events are about to unfold.

“No sooner had Joseph said, ‘God has made me forget…all my father’s household’ (41:51) than his brothers turned up in Egypt. And what was more surprising, considering the many visitors who came to Egypt at that time, Joseph saw them there. He recognised them but, of course, they failed to recognise him. This is the first of three journeys to Egypt by Joseph’s brothers, and each is more momentous than the previous one.” G.J.Wenham: ‘The New Bible Commentary’, p.87.

Genesis 42:1,2: “I have heard…”

“I have heard that there is grain in Egypt. Go down there and buy some for us, so that we may live and not die”

How had Jacob heard? I have no idea. But the point is he had “heard.” The word had been spread; the news had travelled. It somehow reached Jacob’s ears.

‘Evangelism is one beggar telling another where to find bread.’

We have good news that can save people’s lives. It is literally a matter of life and death. Here is the challenge, expressed in Paul’s water-tight logic:

“How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent?” (Romans 10:14, 15a).

PRAYER: Lord, I get the logic of Paul’s words. I so want to tell other ‘beggars’ about the ‘bread’ I have found. I really do. But I admit I also find this difficult. As you see the sincere desire of my heart to tell people about you, please give me the courage to open my mouth so that present day ‘Jacobs’ may hear the good news.

Genesis 42: 1,2: Don’t sit on your hands

“When Jacob learned that there was grain in Egypt, he said to his sons, “Why do you just keep looking at each other?” He continued, “I have heard that there is grain in Egypt. Go down there and buy some for us, so that we may live and not die.”

The famous ‘serenity prayer’ was composed by the theologian Reinhold Niebuhr. It was adopted and popularised by ‘Alcoholics Anonymous.’ You may know it in this form:

‘God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
courage to change the things I can,
and wisdom to know the difference.’

Apparently, when Niebuhr first wrote it he expressed it like this:

‘Father, give us courage to change what must be altered, serenity to accept what cannot be helped, and the insight to know the one from the other.’

When something obviously has to be done we must get on and do it – even though the doing may be risky, uncomfortable, even unpleasant. It is not enough to only pray about it. Prayer must be combined with action. We are comfortable at home with father. It is pleasant to be in our familiar surroundings. But the bread we need is in Egypt. It is not going to make its way to us on foot. However, we can see our walking boots by the door. So let’s put them on and move. Sitting around looking at each other won’t get the shopping done. It will just bring starvation one day nearer.

PRAYER: Lord God, may we truly have the insight to see what needs to be done, and the courage to do it.

Genesis 42: 1-3: Food in God’s house

“When Jacob learned that there was grain in Egypt, he said to his sons, ‘Why do you just keep looking at each other?’ He continued, ‘I have heard that there is grain in Egypt. Go down there and buy some for us, so that we may live and not die.’Then ten of Joseph’s brothers went down to buy grain from Egypt.”NIV

“When Jacob learned that there was grain in Egypt…” (1).

People know they want and need food, and if they lack it they will go where they can find it. This same principle applies spiritually.

Clearing out some old papers the other day, I came across a prophetic word, given in our church by a visiting speaker on 6th December1992. Someone in the congregation, who happened to know shorthand, wrote it down and afterwards gave me a copy. It included these words:

‘I am your God who will uphold you and strengthen you and carry you through. There are days coming in the Church in this nation, and the signs are already being seen, when there will be a famine of the Word of God. I have been moving amongst my people, and preparing an oasis in the wilderness. I have been preparing for that time, so there may still be food in my house for my children.’

Jacob sent his sons to where the food was.

There is so much about today’s culture that is trite and superficial and empty. People are ‘discipled’ by this crass material all day long; they are shaped by it. They are fed on this diet of junk food, and it does not satisfy their gnawing inner hunger. When the church tries to ape the world in its approach, placing style over substance, it is not doing ‘the starving’ any favours. It is in fact failing in its core mission.

One of the main features of the first Christian church in Jerusalem was their devotion to Scripture (see Acts 2:42-47). It wasn’t just about the Bible teaching. There were other key elements such as a close-knit fellowship and prayer. But the leaders spent lots of time in the kitchen preparing tasty, nutritious ‘meals’, and the people happily gathered around the table to ‘eat’.

I have long believed that the hungry will go to where they will find food.

Of course, it is not simply the Bible we need – it is rather the Christ who is at the heart of Scripture. He is the true Bread from heaven.

PRAYER: Lord, may your churches be places where the hungry find food.

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