Genesis 42:21-24a 21 They said to one another, “Surely we are being punished because of our brother. We saw how distressed he was when he pleaded with us for his life, but we would not listen; that’s why this distress has come on us.” 22 Reuben replied, “Didn’t I tell you not to sin against the boy? But you wouldn’t listen! Now we must give an accounting for his blood.” 23 They did not realize that Joseph could understand them, since he was using an interpreter. 24 He turned away from them and began to weep,…
Today’s verses describe one of the most poignant scenes in the whole story of Joseph. His brothers have come to Egypt to purchase grain. They encounter Joseph; he recognizes them but they do not recognize him. He then remembered his dreams about them and accuses them of being spies. In challenging them they reveal that there is another brother – the youngest – and he is with their father back in the land of Canaan. He then asserts again that they are spies and holds them in custody for 3 days.
After 3 days, he informed them what they must do to live. One of them will be held hostage and the others will return to Canaan with grain and then bring back the youngest brother to confirm they are telling the truth. It was at this point that the above exchange takes place. Here it is over 20 years later and they express their belief that they are being punished (by God) because of what they did to Joseph. Because Joseph was using a translator, the brothers had no idea he could understand what they were saying.
For the first time, Joseph heard them acknowledge that they know what they did was wrong. He also learned that Reuben, the oldest brother, was opposed to mistreating Joseph and had spoken in his behalf but they wouldn’t listen to him. His father and younger brother were still alive. The dreams that he had so long ago had come true! Here he was the 2nd most powerful man in Egypt and his brothers who had wronged him were before him – under his control and at his mercy. What would he do?
Can you imagine all that Joseph was experiencing as he listened and participated in this exchange? His remembrance of the dreams had to be of major significance to him as he dealt with them. I wonder if it really hit home then that he was able to be there in Egypt – where God wanted him to be, in the position God wanted him to be in – only because God used his brothers to get him there. I am so grateful that Joseph is such a wonderful example of walking righteously with God in the most difficult and trying circumstances. His life has so many wonderful lessons for us to learn.