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 42:17-20

17 And he put them all together into ward three days.

18 And Joseph said unto them the third day, This do, and live; for I fear God:

19 If ye be true men, let one of your brethren be bound in the house of your prison: go ye, carry corn for the famine of your houses:

20 But bring your youngest brother unto me; so shall your words be verified, and ye shall not die. And they did so.

Yesterday I wondered whether Joseph’s brothers had the option to just leave Egypt without any grain, but today’s verses suggest not! They are all put into prison as Joseph finalizes his plans for them.

What must they have thought during those three days of imprisonment? I would imagine it was a frightening ordeal with an uncertain future. So far as we know, they had never been subjected to a confinement such as this. I imagine that if I were in their shoes, I might have a strong sense of being treated unfairly. After all, they were innocent of what they had been accused of, so they were being imprisoned unjustly.

Except it wasn’t quite that simple, was it? They were innocent of the crime Joseph had accused them of, that of being spies, but they were deserving of imprisonment for other reasons. They had betrayed their brother and sent him to be unjustly imprisoned, and so, according to the balance of justice, they deserved to be imprisoned also. And as we will see in tomorrow’s verses, this sense of karmic retribution was not lost upon them at all.

What a relief it must have been for the brothers when Joseph came and lessened his earlier demands. He tells them that he fears God, which presumably is meant to assure him that he is a man of his word, and that if they follow his instructions, they can trust him to keep his end of a bargain. Then, instead of requiring all but one of them to stay in prison while the other is sent to retrieve Benjamin, he reverses the ratio. Only one brother must stay imprisoned, and all the others are free to go retrieve the missing brother. Not only this, but he will even send them home with the grain that they came to buy in the first place.

Given the alternatives mentioned before, it is an offer they can’t afford to refuse.