Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 43:1-5

1 And the famine was sore in the land.

2 And it came to pass, when they had eaten up the corn which they had brought out of Egypt, their father said unto them, Go again, buy us a little food.

3 And Judah spake unto him, saying, The man did solemnly protest unto us, saying, Ye shall not see my face, except your brother be with you.

4 If thou wilt send our brother with us, we will go down and buy thee food:

5 But if thou wilt not send him, we will not go down: for the man said unto us, Ye shall not see my face, except your brother be with you.

We don’t know how much corn the brothers bought the first time, nor how long it lasted, but it wasn’t enough. Once again, they found themselves unable to preserve their own lives, and needing outside help. I wonder whether this could have been by design on Joseph’s part. He had the benefit of knowing exactly how long this famine was going to last, and so he might have known that the amount of corn the brothers bought would not be enough to get all the way through. They would have to come back whether they wanted to or not.

Which is exactly the same conclusion that Jacob comes to. The sons must go back to Egypt and must buy more grain. But in his request, he leaves out any mention of Benjamin, and whether the boy will be allowed to go with the rest of his brothers.

Earlier Reuben had made impassioned promises to try and get his father to send Benjamin and it hadn’t worked. Now Judah uses a different tactic. He does not open with pleading or solemn oaths, Judah point-blank refuses the old man’s request unless he consents to send the boy. Jacob must choose between risking Benjamin’s life and risking everyone’s life…including Benjamin’s. No further argument is necessary, the correct choice is obvious.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 42:1-5

1 Now when Jacob saw that there was corn in Egypt, Jacob said unto his sons, Why do ye look one upon another?

2 And he said, Behold, I have heard that there is corn in Egypt: get you down thither, and buy for us from thence; that we may live, and not die.

3 And Joseph’s ten brethren went down to buy corn in Egypt.

4 But Benjamin, Joseph’s brother, Jacob sent not with his brethren; for he said, Lest peradventure mischief befall him.

5 And the sons of Israel came to buy corn among those that came: for the famine was in the land of Canaan.

I could not find any clear answer on whether “why do ye look upon one another” was a common idiom of the time. It does seems to have a distinct meaning within this story, though, similar to our modern expression of “don’t look at me,” spoken when we don’t have a solution to the problem at hand.

Whatever tactic they had employed thus far to make it through this famine, it hadn’t worked, and if they continued to rely on their own power or resources, they and their families would starve and die. Thus, as Jacob suggests, they have to admit their own uselessness and go to where real hope resides.

Unbeknownst to them, this means humbling themselves and coming to Joseph, their younger brother, as helpless souls in need. They are about to fulfill the prophecy they once said could never be, and they aren’t even aware of it.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 41:56-57

56 And the famine was over all the face of the earth: And Joseph opened all the storehouses, and sold unto the Egyptians; and the famine waxed sore in the land of Egypt.

57 And all countries came into Egypt to Joseph for to buy corn; because that the famine was so sore in all lands.

Joseph saves countless lives and makes a healthy profit for the Pharaoh at the same time! It really speaks to the incredible bounty of the first seven years that the excess was enough to keep the locals alive and still have more to sell.

Also, once again foreknowledge is essential for him to be able to handle the situation with clarity and decisiveness. God had not only forewarned of the famine, but He had also specified exactly how long it would endure for. By knowing that he needed to divide the resources across seven years Joseph would know exactly how much of their stock he could afford to sell off each year. If it weren’t for that ability to plan ahead, one might have been tempted in the fourth or fifth year to say “this famine might never end! I better hoard everything remaining for myself and let the rest of the world starve.” Then war might have occurred, and unnecessary deaths would have abounded everywhere.

As Joseph conducted his business and sold the grain to many foreign hands, I wonder whether the thought ever occurred to him that his own father was caught within this famine and might very well send for some corn. Did he have any inkling that he might soon see his brothers yet again?

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 41:53-55

53 And the seven years of plenteousness, that was in the land of Egypt, were ended.

54 And the seven years of dearth began to come, according as Joseph had said: and the dearth was in all lands; but in all the land of Egypt there was bread.

55 And when all the land of Egypt was famished, the people cried to Pharaoh for bread: and Pharaoh said unto all the Egyptians, Go unto Joseph; what he saith to you, do.

The time of plenty was drawing to a close on all that region of the world, but not on the life of Joseph. He had been made to suffer separately from the rest of the world but now he was going to flourish apart from it as well. In all the area was a great famine and hunger, but in Joseph’s storehouses there was grain aplenty.

When the Egyptians complained to Pharaoh about the issue, he simply referred them to Joseph. “What he saith to you, do.” This is one matter of royal responsibility that the Pharaoh did not need to lose any sleep over. This very well could have been the single greatest hurdle of his entire rulership, and the whole thing had already been taken care of!

I can’t help but assume that seeing seven years of plenty, just as Joseph had foretold, would have cemented Pharaoh’s faith in the entire interpretation. By the sixth and seventh years it would have been easy to start assuming that the extreme yield would never subside. But then it did. Then as the famine proceeded year after year, one might be tempted to assume that there would never be good times again. But there would be, and Pharaoh could rest easy in that knowledge, because he had already seen the first half of Joseph’s prophecy come true.

There is a lesson to be learned of the calming reassurance that comes by having God’s guidance in our lives. Things might be tumultuous, good and then bad and then good again. When we are in the middle of a season it might be easy to feel like it will last forever. But though there be chaos around us, and for very long, if we are securely tucked in the hand of our maker, uncertainties can be sureties, giving us a constant, abiding peace inside.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 41:22-24

22 And I saw in my dream, and, behold, seven ears came up in one stalk, full and good:

23 And, behold, seven ears, withered, thin, and blasted with the east wind, sprung up after them:

24 And the thin ears devoured the seven good ears: and I told this unto the magicians; but there was none that could declare it to me.

I mentioned last time that Pharaoh spent far more time describing the sickly cattle than the well ones, and he also spent far more time describing the first dream than he spends here on the second. Evidently the sight of cattle consuming their own kind made far more of an impression than withered stalks consuming healthy ones. But as we will soon find out, it is the dream of grain that is a closer representation of what will soon befall the land. The famine will presumably affect the crops first, and the creatures secondarily.

Something I missed in the first recounting of the dreams is that they show the seven goodly specimens emerge from one source. With the cattle the source was the river, and for the ears it was a single stalk. I don’t know what the significance of that singular source is. Perhaps it is representative of God, stating that He is personally sending these changes?

In any case, Pharaoh complains to Joseph a second time that none of his magicians were able to tell the meaning of these dreams, and at last we are about to hear Joseph’s answer.