Genesis 42-43
(It's a Small World)
January 13th

Produced by The Listening for God Ministry
Copyright 2016

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Please refer to one or more Bible versions of your choice to read this section. For your convenience, we have provided six links below, each of which takes you directly to today's chapters in a specific version:

Key Verse

When Jacob learned that there was food in Egypt, he said to his sons, “Why do you sit around here and look at one another? I’ve heard that there is food in Egypt. Go down there and buy some so that we can survive and not starve to death.”

- Genesis 42:1-2 (MSG)

Summary of Chapters

We have been following the story of Joseph, son of Jacob, grandson of Isaac, great-grandson of Abraham, who had been sold by his brothers for a fistful of gold because they were angry and jealous of him. We have read that the LORD was with Joseph, even at his lowest moments, and enabled him to achieve an improbable rise to the highest position in the foreign land of Egypt, second only to the Pharaoh. In this position, he managed a national storehouse of food in preparation for an anticipated famine.

In today's reading of Genesis 42-43 we learn that the Divine hand of God continued to intervene in new ways, as he orchestrated an encounter of Joseph and his brothers. Their land in Canaan was also subject to the great famine but they had heard there was grain in Egypt, so Jacob sent his ten eldest sons to buy grain.

Of all the people in the world at that time, what were the odds that the man they would have to negotiate with would be their little dreamer brother, Joseph? In a scene that might have been comic in other situations, Joseph immediately recognized his brothers, but they did not recognize him because he looked and spoke like an Egyptian. They never imagined that they would see Joseph again and certainly would not have even dreamed he would be a governor in Egypt! For his part, Joseph was not yet sure if the hearts of these men who had sold him into slavery had truly changed so he remained incognito and accused them of spying on Egypt:

    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.”

    - Genesis 42:6-11 (NRSV)

Joseph eventually decided to sell them grain, but detained one of the brothers, Simeon, as collateral until they could return with their younger brother Benjamin to prove their integrity. He also tucked their payment back in their grain bags as a test of their honesty.

The brothers returned to their father in Canaan, and after a long delay, departed for Egypt with Benjamin and extra payment. At Jacob's urging they also included gifts of “some of the best products of the land (Gen 43:11)” such as balm, honey, spices, myrrh, pistachio nuts, and almonds. When the band of brothers arrived with all of these treasures, Joseph released Simeon and treated them to a dinner fit for Pharaohs, but did not sit with them and had not yet revealed himself.

Reflection and Application

Judah had matured during Joseph’s absence. Jacob was reluctant to allow Benjamin to go to Egypt because he did not want to lose his last remaining son from Rachel. This time, Judah pledged his life to protect his little brother and committed to accept the blame if they did not return with him.

We now can also look to Judah as a role model. Perhaps there are times when we can offer to accept additional responsibilities, even when difficult, as Judah did in guaranteeing the safety of Benjamin and offering to bear the blame if he fails. This type of behavior builds character and confidence and earns respect from others.

Jacob’s next new name could be “Honest Jake.” The man who once stole the birthright and blessing from his own brother had gone an extra measure to demonstrate honesty and goodwill. He returned the silver that had been found in their bags of grain, added an extra amount, and included gifts. His actions in this case is a good one to remember the next time we receive extra change at the store or when a service provider forgets to include a charge on our invoice. The maturation of Judah and the development of honest traits in Jacob can also be a reminder that we can turn our lives around. Whatever bad traits we possess can be reined in with God's help.

One of the advantages of The Message version of the Bible is that it presents the text in a very contemporary language. For example, in Genesis 43 when Jacob reluctantly sends off his youngest son with all the gifts, he openly laments his sorrow at potentially losing both of Rachel's sons plus Simeon. In the NIV, 43:14 ends with Jacob saying, "As for me, if I am bereaved, I am bereaved." What does this mean when read by 21st Century English speakers? The King James Version, which was published 400 years ago had more or less the same phrase.

Bear in mind that the English versions of the books of the Old Testament are based on translations from a Greek version of the books known as the Septuagint, which were written in the third century before Christ. The Septuagint was translated from an ancient form of Hebrew that had no vowels (1). Consequently, interpretations can vary in this third level of translation and are best understood when presented in the language of the current era.

The Message attempts to provide a translation that achieves this objective. The resulting translation is one that we can relate to: "For me, nothing's left; I've lost everything." This is a phrase often used in our era, particularly with regard to loss of family members or loss of financial assets. How many times did we hear that phrase uttered by the people who had been swindled by Bernie Madoff or from people who suffered a great tragedy in a natural disaster, accident, or war? We know all to well what this phrase means. Therefore, we encourage you to experiment with these different authorized versions of the Bible to help you in your understanding of the passages. We will continue to offer links to multiple versions to help you but you might find additional versions that are of interest to you as well.

One of the constant themes that we read about in the Bible is that God never stops loving us. The story of Joseph is just one good example, but we will see more. Whatever your circumstance, remember that God's love is endless, it never runs out. You will hear that theme repeated in the song below. Think about Joseph's story and your own story as you listen to it. Click play on the YouTube object to hear it:

"One Thing Remains," performed by Kristian Stanfill

Questions and Prayers for Further Reflection

    Related Questions
    1. What examples can you think of when you bumped into someone you knew in a faraway place when you least expected it?
    2. What are situations in which you can take responsibility for failure of an operation even when it is or was beyond your control?
    3. In what ways can we emulate the integrity of “Honest Jake?”
    Recommended Prayer
    Father, please help us to go above and beyond what is required when we take responsibility for something or someone - and help us remember that when we do this we do it to glorify you.

    Suggested Prayer Concerns
    Christians suffering persecution in Nigeria


    (1) Boadt, Lawrence, Reading the Old Testament, Paulist Press, New York, 1984, p70, 74

    Looking Ahead

    Tomorrow's reading: Genesis 44-46 (Family Reunion)

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