Genesis  ◦   Chapter 42

1When Jacob learned that there was plenty of grain in Egypt, he said to his sons, “Why are you just sitting around, helplessly looking at each other? 2I have heard there is plenty of grain in Egypt. Get up and go to Egypt and buy grain for us, so that we won’t starve to death.”

3So ten of Joseph’s brothers traveled to Egypt to buy grain. 4But Jacob kept Benjamin, Joseph’s full brother, at home with him, because he was afraid of losing him to the dangers of the journey. 5So Israel’s sons arrived in Egypt along with many others, for the famine was also severe throughout the land of Canaan.

6Now, Joseph was the governor of Egypt – the one who authorized all sales of grain to the people. When Joseph’s brothers arrived, they bowed down to him with their faces to the ground. 7Joseph recognized his brothers the moment he saw them, but he pretended to be a stranger and spoke harshly to them: “Where did you come from?” he demanded.

“From the land of Canaan,” they humbly replied, “to buy food.”

8Although Joseph recognized his brothers, he had changed so much that they did not recognize him. 9Remembering the dream he had about them many years before, he said to them, “You are spies from the east! You have come to discover any weaknesses in our land.”

10Alarmed and fearful, they replied, “No, my lord! We are not spies. We are your humble servants and submit to your authority; we have come only to buy food for our family. 11We are all brothers, the sons of one man. We are trustworthy servants, reliable, honest men, not spies.”

12“No! You are not trustworthy and honest men!” Joseph declared. “You are spies and you have come to see where our country is weak.”

13With growing anxiety, they made their case: “We, your humble servants, were twelve brothers, all sons of one man who lives in the land of Canaan. Our youngest brother is still at home with our father, and one brother is no longer alive.”

14Joseph challenged them, “You are spies, just as I have said! 15And now we can prove whether your story is true or not: As surely as Pharaoh lives, you will not leave this place unless you bring your youngest brother here to stand before me. 16Choose one of you to go home and get your brother; the rest will be kept here in prison until you return with your brother. This is how we will prove whether your story is true. If you don’t produce your brother, then we will know, as surely as Pharaoh lives, that indeed you are spies!” 17Then he put them all in prison for three days.

18After three days, Joseph told them, “I have considered your situation, and because I am a God-fearing man, I have decided that I will let you live if you do this: 19If you are indeed – as you say – honest men, then let one of you remain here in prison while the rest of you return home with food for your starving family. 20But you must bring your youngest brother to stand here before me; then your story will be proven true and you will not die.” They agreed to do this.

21They said to one another, “The governor of Egypt is more just than us – he won’t condemn without evidence. We are being punished for our guilt toward Joseph. We saw his heartache and how distressed he was when he pleaded with us to do what was right, but we would not listen. Our guilt has brought this calamity upon us.”

22Reuben spoke up and said, “Didn’t I warn you not to harm the boy? But you were so filled with hate that you wouldn’t listen! Now his blood is calling upon us to examine our hearts and give an account of ourselves – do we remain hard-hearted and unjust or do we repent and sacrifice ourselves to do right.” 23They didn’t know Joseph could understand them, since he used an interpreter when talking with them.

24 When he heard their discussion, he turned away from them and wept quietly. Then he turned back to them, and while speaking to them, he had Simeon taken and bound right in front of them.

25Then Joseph ordered his men to fill his brothers’ bags with grain; to secretly put each brother’s money in their sacks, and to give them provision for their journey home. His orders were carried out just as he said. 26His brothers loaded the grain on their donkeys and left for home.

27When they stopped for the night, one of the brothers opened his sack to get feed for his donkey and found his silver in the sack. 28He called to his brothers, “My silver, that I paid the Egyptians for the grain, is here in my sack!”

Their hearts sank in dismay. Trembling, they said to each other, “What is God doing to us?”

29When they arrived home to their father Jacob in Canaan, they told him everything that had happened to them. They said, 30“The governor of Egypt spoke harshly to us and accused us of beings spies sent against his country. 31But we explained to him who we were and said, ‘We are not spies but honest men. 32We were twelve brothers, all sons of one man who lives in the land of Canaan. Our youngest brother is still at home with our father, and one brother is no longer alive.’

33“Then the governor of Egypt said to us, ‘This is how I will know whether your story is true or not: You will leave one of your brothers here with me, while the rest of you return home with food for your starving family. 34But you must bring your youngest brother to stand here before me; then you will prove your story true and I will know that you are not spies but honest men. Then I will give your brother back to you, and you will be free to come and go, and trade here in Egypt.’”

35As they were emptying their sacks, they discovered each man’s bag of silver in their sacks. When they and their father saw the money, they were all afraid. 36Their father Jacob said to them, “You’re killing me, taking my children from me! Joseph is gone, Simeon is gone, and now you want to take Benjamin from me too – all of this is overwhelming me!”

37So Reuben, attempting to persuade and reassure his father, said to him, “I pledge to bring Benjamin back safely to you, and if I don’t, then you can put both of my sons to death. You can entrust him into my care; I will be sure to bring him back safely.”

38But Jacob scoffed, "Sure! Offer to kill my grandsons as compensation for losing my son! No, Benjamin will not go to Egypt with you. His brother is dead, and he is the only son I have left from my beloved Rachel. I am old and already heart-broken; if he is killed on the journey, it would put me in the grave."