Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 44:3-6

3 As soon as the morning was light, the men were sent away, they and their asses.

4 And when they were gone out of the city, and not yet far off, Joseph said unto his steward, Up, follow after the men; and when thou dost overtake them, say unto them, Wherefore have ye rewarded evil for good?

5 Is not this it in which my lord drinketh, and whereby indeed he divineth? ye have done evil in so doing.

6 And he overtook them, and he spake unto them these same words.

This time Joseph does not leave his brothers to find the money on their own. Shortly after they leave, he sends his steward to apprehend them. The steward is instructed to overtake them, accuse them, and then reveal the incriminating evidence.

Of course, the steward knows that this accusation is false, as he was the same one Joseph used to plant the evidence to begin with. But evidently the steward is someone that Joseph trusts to obey and be discrete. Whether he understands Joseph’s full plan or not, he will humbly obey.

Also, it may seem harsh how Joseph is treating his brothers, but it is frankly far less brutal than what they deserve, and he is doing it to ultimately bless their lives. The test is a hard one, but a joyful reunion is going to be the end result.

Whether we find ourselves in the position of the steward or the brothers, there is a lesson for us to learn from this story. Like the steward we might at times be directed to do things that don’t make sense, like the brothers we might feel our trials cannot have a happy end. But if we will trust the Master, somehow everything will become what it should be in the end.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 43:27-30

27 And he asked them of their welfare, and said, Is your father well, the old man of whom ye spake? Is he yet alive?

28 And they answered, Thy servant our father is in good health, he is yet alive. And they bowed down their heads, and made obeisance.

29 And he lifted up his eyes, and saw his brother Benjamin, his mother’s son, and said, Is this your younger brother, of whom ye spake unto me? And he said, God be gracious unto thee, my son.

30 And Joseph made haste; for his bowels did yearn upon his brother: and he sought where to weep; and he entered into his chamber, and wept there.

For a third time the brothers bow themselves to Joseph. God has made good on His promises and then some!

Joseph is able to inquire whether his father is still alive under the guise of general politeness. But then his pretended formalities are tested when he sees Benjamin before him. Up to this point Joseph has had multiple interactions with his brothers, but only the ones who betrayed him. This is now the first time that he is seeing someone from his old life with whom he had a positive relationship. He had already been reunited to the worst parts of his past, but now here is the best!

Is it any wonder then that he finally loses it? At least he is able to hold back the tears long enough to retreat to a private room. For all we know, Joseph might have always intended to eventually reveal who he was to his brothers, but I would imagine that at this point he has to do so. He is so close to being a brother to Benjamin again, but only if he reveals his true identity. He doesn’t take that step just yet, but I assume that he expected to do so soon.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 43:24-26

24 And the man brought the men into Joseph’s house, and gave them water, and they washed their feet; and he gave their asses provender.

25 And they made ready the present against Joseph came at noon: for they heard that they should eat bread there.

26 And when Joseph came home, they brought him the present which was in their hand into the house, and bowed themselves to him to the earth.

The brothers have some time to prepare for Joseph. Their animals are fed, their feet are washed, and they get out their gift of fruits and spices. Then they carry the gift in their hands and bow themselves before Joseph once more.

Once they had scoffed at the idea that he would ever be greater them, but twice he dreamed of his brothers making obeisance to him and twice now they have done it. And not because they were compelled to, it was their own decision, based on the fact that they saw him as being…well…greater than they.

Not only this, but they also take the greatest of their fruits, and removed them from themselves, to offer them as a gift to Joseph. He literally is taking their best, and once again by their own will. God had elevated Joseph above others first, but now his brothers are elevating him above themselves as well.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 43:19-23

19 And they came near to the steward of Joseph’s house, and they communed with him at the door of the house,

20 And said, O sir, we came indeed down at the first time to buy food:

21 And it came to pass, when we came to the inn, that we opened our sacks, and, behold, every man’s money was in the mouth of his sack, our money in full weight: and we have brought it again in our hand.

22 And other money have we brought down in our hands to buy food: we cannot tell who put our money in our sacks.

23 And he said, Peace be to you, fear not: your God, and the God of your father, hath given you treasure in your sacks: I had your money. And he brought Simeon out unto them.

Jacob’s sons were so afraid to enter Joseph’s home, that they wouldn’t cross the threshold until they had made their case to his steward. There has been no insinuation or accusation brought against them, but they take the initiative and admit in advance that their money was somehow returned to their sacks of grain last time, and they now offer it all back again. Perhaps this forthrightness is driven more by fear than integrity, but it still shows them in a better light than if they had tried to conceal things.

As for the steward, he must have been let in on some of Joseph’s plot beforehand. He claims that there was no money missing on their end, it must have been some miraculous blessing that provided the extra treasure in their sacks. Then, to further show the brothers that all is well, the steward fetches Simeon from the prison and family is finally reunited.

Thus begins an experience that will be totally opposite to the brothers’ visit to Egypt. Whereas everything seemed to go wrong for them beforehand everything is now going right!

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 43:15-18

15 And the men took that present, and they took double money in their hand, and Benjamin; and rose up, and went down to Egypt, and stood before Joseph.

16 And when Joseph saw Benjamin with them, he said to the ruler of his house, Bring these men home, and slay, and make ready; for these men shall dine with me at noon.

17 And the man did as Joseph bade; and the man brought the men into Joseph’s house.

18 And the men were afraid, because they were brought into Joseph’s house; and they said, Because of the money that was returned in our sacks at the first time are we brought in; that he may seek occasion against us, and fall upon us, and take us for bondmen, and our asses.

Jacob’s sons set out as instructed, bringing with them the present, the double-money, and their youngest brother. Once again they come to Egypt, and once again they find themselves dealing directly with the great Egyptian ruler Zaphnath-paaneah, who is in reality Joseph. And so, at last, Joseph sees Benjamin, and he is moved. Shortly he will show an abundance of tender and caring feeling towards him.

Rather than conduct his business with his brothers right away, Joseph makes ready for the second stage of his test. He is going to play the part of gracious host and treat them kindly, presumably to set his brothers at ease.

But Joseph’s brothers do not receive the invitation to his house with any enthusiasm! Thus far Zaphnath-paaneah, has seemed extremely paranoid towards them, and they immediately assume that this is all a trap. What would stop him from doing whatever mischief he desired to them, just as soon as the doors to the outside world were closed?

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 42:36-38

36 And Jacob their father said unto them, Me have ye bereaved of my children: Joseph is not, and Simeon is not, and ye will take Benjamin away: all these things are against me.

37 And Reuben spake unto his father, saying, Slay my two sons, if I bring him not to thee: deliver him into my hand, and I will bring him to thee again.

38 And he said, My son shall not go down with you; for his brother is dead, and he is left alone: if mischief befall him by the way in the which ye go, then shall ye bring down my gray hairs with sorrow to the grave.

It seems that Reuben was in favor of immediately returning to Egypt, proving that their youngest brother existed, and getting Simeon out of bondage. But this was a risk too great for Jacob. He had lost one son, and now a second, and he would rather cut his losses here than risk losing a third!

Reuben still contends the matter, though. Simeon is Reuben’s blood brother, both being the sons of Leah. Simeon was also the very next son born after Reuben, the nearest to him of all his brethren. Thus, of all his brothers, Simeon might be the one that Reuben has the most motivation to get free.

Perhaps the brothers had evil intentions towards Joseph in the past, but Reuben makes it clear that he harbors no such ill will for Benjamin. He is willing to put his own sons on the line, committing them to death if he doesn’t keep his promise and bring Benjamin back safe and sound! With such an oath we can be sure he truly intended to let no harm come to the boy.

And in Reuben’s oath there seems to be a messianic representation. A father is willing to put the life of his own son on the line in order to save another child. It is a moving offer, yet it is not enough to sway Jacob. For even if Reuben’s heart is in the right place, and he will not personally cause harm to Benjamin, he cannot claim to have power over all the other factors in the world. He could really try his best to preserve his younger brother, but mischief might still “befall him by the way.”

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 42:35

35 And it came to pass as they emptied their sacks, that, behold, every man’s bundle of money was in his sack: and when both they and their father saw the bundles of money, they were afraid.

One of the brothers had opened his sack of grain on the way home and found his money restored, but apparently the others did not check theirs until they were all gathered before their faither. Now they see that all of them have had their money returned to them and it fills them with dread.

On the one hand, they might rightly assume that this is a trick by that suspicious head Egyptian, Zaphnath-paaneah, who sold them the grain. And based on his attitude towards the brothers earlier, it would seem likely Zaphnath had done this to entrap them, rather than as a kindness. Indeed, they will suggest as much in the very next chapter.

Or, on the other hand, it might have ended up in their grain as a mistake, in which case the Egyptians might have found the imbalance in their ledgers, and then they might assume the brothers had somehow stolen their money back again. In either case, the presence of this money is a disturbing turn of events, giving the Egyptians ample reason to persecute them further.

The prospect of going back to Egypt thus becomes so distasteful, that they won’t even attempt it until they are once again at starvation’s door in the next chapter. Indeed, if it weren’t for the shadow of death upon them, perhaps Simeon would never have been retrieved. He would have been left by his brothers to rot in prison, just as Joseph.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 42:29-34

29 And they came unto Jacob their father unto the land of Canaan, and told him all that befell unto them; saying,

30 The man, who is the lord of the land, spake roughly to us, and took us for spies of the country.

31 And we said unto him, We are true men; we are no spies:

32 We be twelve brethren, sons of our father; one is not, and the youngest is this day with our father in the land of Canaan.

33 And the man, the lord of the country, said unto us, Hereby shall I know that ye are true men; leave one of your brethren here with me, and take food for the famine of your households, and be gone:

34 And bring your youngest brother unto me: then shall I know that ye are no spies, but that ye are true men: so will I deliver you your brother, and ye shall traffick in the land.

The brothers make it back home and now they have to tell their father what transpired. Yes, they have the grain, but at what cost? And this, of course, is not the first time that they have returned to their father with a tragic report. Once, more than twenty years ago, they came to tell him that his son had been ravaged by a beast, now they inform him that another son is bound in prison.

And while it might appear that the brothers couldn’t possibly be responsible for the misfortune in Egypt, they actually are. If it felt like the foreign ruler had some strange vendetta against them it’s because he really did, and though they don’t know it, they have only themselves to blame for it.

The perpetually guilty may very well portray themselves as perpetually unfortunate, but sooner or later the mask starts to wear thin, and one begins to wonder if the always-unlucky isn’t actually creating his own bad luck. And as we will see in Jacob’s response, he is not about to give these troublesome sons the benefit of the doubt.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 42:25-28

25 Then Joseph commanded to fill their sacks with corn, and to restore every man’s money into his sack, and to give them provision for the way: and thus did he unto them.

26 And they laded their asses with the corn, and departed thence.

27 And as one of them opened his sack to give his ass provender in the inn, he espied his money; for, behold, it was in his sack’s mouth.

28 And he said unto his brethren, My money is restored; and, lo, it is even in my sack: and their heart failed them, and they were afraid, saying one to another, What is this that God hath done unto us?

Joseph had given a strict command to his brothers. Either they could return with Benjamin, or they would never see Simeon again or be welcome back in Egypt. These facts give them a strong incentive to return with their youngest brother.

Now, though, Joseph tips the scales the other way. By putting the money back in their sacks, he gives himself a reason to accuse them of being thieves. Now, even if the brothers follow Joseph’s instructions to the letter, they can expect to still be in hot water. Thus, they are strongly incentivized to not return.

It seems likely to me that Joseph’s reasoning is to fully test their commitment to Simeon. Are they willing to come back for their brother, even when it is to their own peril, or will they abandon him for their own self-interest, just as they did with Joseph all those years ago? Do they regret what they did in the past, and have they changed so that they would not do it again? As it turns out, Joseph will have to wait a little while longer to get the answers to those questions.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 42:21-24

21 And they said one to another, We are verily guilty concerning our brother, in that we saw the anguish of his soul, when he besought us, and we would not hear; therefore is this distress come upon us.

22 And Reuben answered them, saying, Spake I not unto you, saying, Do not sin against the child; and ye would not hear? therefore, behold, also his blood is required.

23 And they knew not that Joseph understood them; for he spake unto them by an interpreter.

24 And he turned himself about from them, and wept; and returned to them again, and communed with them, and took from them Simeon, and bound him before their eyes.

Joseph’s test yields its first fruits. The brothers see the punishment as the working of karma, compensating them for their crimes against Joseph, and they are even more right in that thought than they realize!

We also learn an interesting detail in verse 21 about the time that Joseph’s brothers betrayed him. In the original account we heard nothing of Joseph’s reaction, but here we learn that he begged them for deliverance, in anguish, and they refused to listen.

Joseph is deeply moved to hear the brothers speak of that traumatic event, and perhaps this is the first he is learning of Reuben’s failed attempts to spare him. Now he knows that there is some remorse among his brothers, though how far it extends he has yet to prove.

And so, he continues with his stated plan. It is interesting to note which of his brothers he selects for bondage. Reuben might have been the most dramatic choice, given that he was the eldest, but he is the one that has shown the most remorse so far. Simeon was the second eldest, and one of the first to sully himself when he and Levi slaughtered the men of Shalem.

Whether those were the actual reasons that Joseph selected Simeon, or if it was something else, we do not know. But in any case, he made an impressive show of it, having Simeon bound right in front of his brothers, a grim warning to all the others not to cross Joseph.