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Free Daily Bible notes by Rev Stephen Thompson



Pastor of The King's Church Boston Spa.

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.

Genesis 41: 57: Little did he know

“And all the countries came to Egypt to buy grain from Joseph, because the famine was severe in all the world.”

Matthew Henry makes the excellent point that while Joseph was doing all this, his father thought he was dead and was grieving accordingly (see 42:36,38). He writes these words:

‘What a large portion of our troubles would be done away if we knew the whole truth!’

That is worth thinking through. We can cause ourselves great unhappiness because we believe certain things to be true when they are untrue (or only partially true).

I was also thinking that we Christians are capable of acting like Jesus is dead when He really is alive.

PRAYER: Lord, please lead us out of darkness into the full brilliant glare of your shining truth.

Genesis 41:53-57: Bread of heaven

“53 The seven years of abundance in Egypt came to an end, 54 and the seven years of famine began, just as Joseph had said. There was famine in all the other lands, but in the whole land of Egypt there was food. 55 When all Egypt began to feel the famine, the people cried to Pharaoh for food. Then Pharaoh told all the Egyptians, ‘Go to Joseph and do what he tells you.’56 When the famine had spread over the whole country, Joseph opened all the storehouses and sold grain to the Egyptians, for the famine was severe throughout Egypt. 57 And all the world came to Egypt to buy grain from Joseph, because the famine was severe everywhere.” NIV

“Go to Joseph and do what he tells you” (55)

If things seem to be going wrong in your life this does not necessarily mean God is not with you; that His Hand is not on you. Consider Joseph. So much ‘went wrong’ in his story on the way to everything being set ‘right’. But we know that God was with him in the valleys as surely as He was on the mountain. God was working out His great, mysterious purposes in all things.

On the summit of the mountain is where we now find Joseph. He was raised to extraordinarily high office (41-44), but it was not for his own sake. He was there for others; placed there to ‘feed them world’.

There are so many similarities between the Joseph account and that of the life of Christ. Joseph stands, in Scripture, as one of the great types of Christ. As I look at verse 55, I feel I hear God saying, ‘Go to Jesus and do what He tells you.’ Jesus is “…the bread of life” (John 6:35). He is so much more than Joseph. We don’t simply come to Him for bread – He is the bread we come for. Those who come to Him will never go hungry, and those who believe in Him will never be thirsty.

The bread Joseph provided was not just for the Egyptians (55), but for “the world” (57). Similarly, Jesus said:

“This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world” (John 6:51).

‘There is a famine of the bread of life throughout the whole earth. Go to Jesus, and what he bids you, do. Attend to His voice, apply to him; he will open his treasures, and satisfy with goodness the hungry soul of every age and nation, without money and without price. But those who slight this provision must starve, and his enemies will be destroyed.’ Matthew Henry.

Prayer: ‘Bread of heaven…feed me now and evermore.’

Genesis 41:52: Joseph’s inner-stances

The second son he named Ephraim and said, “It is because God has made me fruitful in the land of my suffering.”

Yesterday I quoted Selwyn Hughes’ words about how its not our circumstances that matter so much as our inner-stances. Joseph exemplifies this principle, and here are, I believe, a number of his inner-stances. Doing these things helped him to co-operate with God in the process of becoming fruitful in his ‘land of suffering’:

  • He held on tight to his dreams. By which I mean to say he gripped hold of the promises of God. Joseph’s dreams were revelatory. They were the word of God to him;
  • He patiently waited for what God had said to come to pass. He did not lose heart or hope;
  • He faithfully served wherever he found himself. In Potiphar’s home and the prison house; in favourable circumstances and in unfavourable, he took the opportunity to bless others;
  • He considered not only his own interests but also the interests of others (See Philippians 2:1-5);
  • He lived with a strong consciousness of God. This is even reflected in the naming of his sons;
  • He resisted temptation when it came his way. In times of stress we can be savagely and surprisingly assaulted by all manner of temptations. Joseph found strength in God to walk away – indeed, to run!

PRAYER: Lord God, I do not know what may come my way in life, but my prayer is that I will be so inwardly strong in you that I will glorify you in whatever circumstances I may find myself

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