Fifteen years had passed since Joseph had been sold into slavery by his angry brothers (Genesis 37). Their actions eventually led Joseph to Egypt where he became a slave to Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh and captain of the guard (Genesis 37:36). Joseph quickly rose to a position of authority in Potiphar’s house until he was falsely accused of rape by the wife of his master (Genesis 39). He was thrown into prison where he became known as an interpreter of dreams (Genesis 40), which eventually allowed him to interpret the dreams of Pharaoh, king of Egypt. Joseph revealed that Pharaoh’s dreams foretold seven years of bountiful harvest followed by seven years of famine throughout all the lands (Genesis 41). Pharaoh set Joseph over all of Egypt in order to help them survive the upcoming famine and his plan of action protected the Egyptians during this seven years of barrenness (Genesis 40:37-57).
The famine had also devastated the land of Canaan and Jacob, Joseph’s father, sent his ten sons (except Benjamin) to Egypt to buy food (42:1-5). Since it was Joseph who sold food to any foreigner, his brothers stood before him but they did not recognize him (42:6). It had been fifteen years since they had seen Joseph and it is likely that he was dressed in Egyptian clothing. When the brothers approached Joseph, they bowed down before him and requested to buy food (see Genesis 37:5-8). Joseph immediately recognized his brothers but hid his identity and spoke harshly to them, accusing them of spying out the condition of the land (42:7-9). The brothers quickly denied that they were spies and told Joseph that they were honest men from Canaan whose father had sent them to buy food; furthermore, Joseph’s brothers revealed that their father had twelve sons, but one of them was no longer with them (42:10-13). Of course, this one brother who was no longer with them was Joseph. Joseph continued to accuse them of being spies and demanded that they bring back their younger brother, Benjamin, to prove that they were telling the truth (42:14-15). Joseph put all of them in prison for three days and then released all but Simeon, who would not be released until the other brothers brought Benjamin back to Egypt (42:16-24). Before they departed, Joseph commanded that their sacks be filled with grain but he secretly had their money restored to each brother’s sack (42:25). As they journeyed back to Canaan, they stopped to camp but discovered the money that they had taken to Egypt to buy food had been restored to their sacks and they became very fearful (42:26-28). Upon arriving home, the brothers told Jacob about their harrowing experience in Egypt and requested that he allow Benjamin to return with them to Egypt (42:29-35); however, Jacob would not entertain the thought of possibly losing another son so he refused to allow Benjamin to go with them to Egypt (42:36-38). The sins of Joseph’s brothers were catching up with them and their guilty consciences were now causing them to fear God’s judgment upon them, but God was still at work even in the midst of their sin.
Dear God, may I quickly confess and forsake my sin so that I will not experience continued judgment from You.