Joseph and his brothers (42:1-45:28)
When Joseph’s brothers came to Egypt to buy grain, Joseph recognized them but they did not recognize him (42:1-8). Rather than make himself known to them immediately, Joseph decided to test them to see if they had experienced any change of heart over the years. Joseph was not looking for revenge. His apparently harsh treatment of them, mixed with kindness, was designed to stir their consciences. They realized they were being punished for their unjust treatment of their younger brother (9-24). Further events impressed upon them that God was dealing with them (25-28).
Joseph’s brothers returned to Canaan with a genuine desire to do what was right. But when they told Jacob what the Egyptian governor required of them, they could not persuade him to cooperate (29-38).
After resisting for some time, Jacob eventually realized that he had to allow his sons to return to Egypt, this time taking Benjamin with them. A new spirit of unity and self-sacrifice now appeared among the sons of Jacob (43:1-14). They were still fearful of Joseph (15-23), whose remarkable knowledge gave them the uneasy feeling that they could hide nothing from him (24-34).
The greatest test of the brothers came when Joseph placed them in a situation similar to that of many years earlier when they had sold him. He accused them of a theft by Benjamin, and then gave them the chance to save themselves at Benjamin’s expense (44:1-17). The brothers could easily have escaped by sacrificing Benjamin, but instead one of them offered to bear the punishment in his place, so that he, the favourite son, could return to his father (18-34).
Joseph’s plan had succeeded. His brothers, accepting the consequences of their past guilt, were now changed men, both in their attitudes and in their behaviour. Therefore, when Joseph told them who he was, he had no need to accuse them of their misdeeds. Instead he pointed out that God had arranged for him to come to Egypt so that the covenant family could be kept alive during the famine (45:1-8). He told them that, since the famine would last another five years, they should bring Jacob and their families to Egypt where he could look after them (9-15).
Pharaoh confirmed Joseph’s invitation and provided his family with transport for the move (16-20). Loaded with provisions, the brothers then returned home and told their father all that had happened (21- 28).