Read: Genesis 42
Paybacks are … well you know, some say golden opportunities to extract revenge. After 2 years of drought Joseph’s brothers traveled from Canaan to Egypt, the only place in the world that had a surplus of food. Their father, Jacob, had sent them.
It had been many years since the brothers had seen Joseph. Joseph was a young man when he was sold into slavery. He served in Potiphar’s home for a time (?); he spent more than two years in jail, add 7 years of bountiful harvest and 2 years of drought. Genesis 41:46 says that Joseph was 30 when Pharaoh put him in charge. That makes Joseph around 39 years old when his brothers arrive famished.
His brothers did not recognize Joseph; he had aged and integrated into Egyptian culture, dress, and leadership. It would have been easy for Joseph to act out of revenge. He could have ordered them imprisoned for no reason at all, leaving them to wonder why. He could have confronted them and gloated over them. He could have had them executed and no one would have questioned his order.
Joseph had a plan. His brothers were accused of being foreign spies, and arrested, and interrogated. Joseph learned that his brother Benjamin and father Jacob were still alive in Canaan. He imprisoned his brothers for 3 days, then agreed to let them go with two conditions: 1) that one remained behind in prison; and 2) that when they returned they must bring Benjamin. He sends them off with grain, but he planted money in the grain bags making it appear that they hadn’t paid for it.
Arriving home the brothers discovered the dilemma. Jacob was distraught. Simeon was imprisoned and Benjamin must go to Egypt. They worried about how they would be received in Egypt after the missing grain payment was discovered. They had no choice but to return to Egypt. Only the elderly Jacob stayed behind.
This story is about Divine providence, character, and letting God be God. I want to point out that we’ve read many chapters without God’s voice being directly heard in the story. That’s how providence works. Discerning God’s will, distinguished from our own will, is a challenge of faithful living. It was true for them, and it is for us.
Shalom, Pastor Rob Nystrom