Summary: Joseph tests his brothers - but he is not being capricious or vindictive - rather he is testing whether they are the same characters who tried to kill him. We learn important lessons about the kind of repentence we have.
When some people read Genesis 42-45 what they see is Joseph having some fun with his brothers in a sort of revenge, or pay back for what they had done to him as a boy. He could appear capricious and arrogant – flaunting his authority to inflict pain on his brothers.
In fact, Joseph is trying to find out if his brothers have faced up to what they had done and were now different people. It brings to mind the concept of repentance and restoration. In order for our relationship with God, which was broken by our sin, to be restored – we must repent.
What we see in these four chapters is Joseph’s attempts not only to find out whether or not repentance has happened, but its depth and whether the repentance has had an impact on their character.
And we will ask some questions of ourselves as God probes our lives to see just how much we have repented as well.
Joseph’s main aim is to find out if the brothers have reformed
Chapter 42 Verses 1 – 20
Did the brothers accuse him of being a spy for Jacob?
“One is no more” – verse 13 – they can’t bring themselves to admit it yet what exactly they did to Joseph – but it’s coming.
Simeon is kept – perhaps the most likely to be abandoned – Joseph wants to know if they are still the same character – abandoning a brother and leaving him like they left him.
Why bring Benjamin back? To determine if they have treated him like they treated Joseph
Verses 21 – 24
The brothers have clearly not forgotten what they did – but have been plagued by guilt
Verses 25 – Chapter 43, Verse 14
Reuben’s efforts continually fail while Judah’s are accomplished – perhaps to show Judah’s leadership.
Verse 15 – 34
Joseph keeps them off balance with the feast
Joseph is wondering if by treating Benjamin preferentially that the brothers will react with the same jealously they had when Joseph was preferred by Jacob
Chapter 44 Verse 1 – 13
The brothers show they are changed by their attitudes towards Jacob but also when the cup is found in Benjamin’s sack
Joseph is using the cup for divination – but not by oil or water – but by seeing how the brothers respond to its presence in Benjamin’s sack
One last test when Joseph gives them the excuse to abandon Benjamin
Verses 14 – 34
Judah is very much a changed man – willing to suffer in order that others might be free
Chapter 45, Verses 1 – 24
“Quarrelling” (45:24) is most likely meant “getting all worked up” – perhaps the boys worried that Joseph would change his mind and send an army after them.
Verses 25 – 28
“He was stunned” verse 26 – NEV says “heart became numb” – wouldn’t yours?
The effects of guilt and grief on the human soul after 22 years
Fatalism (Jacob) “I can never be free”
Fear (the brothers thought everything was punishment) “I can’t break free”
Fatigue and a Troubled soul (think of all the heartache that could have been avoided) “God doesn’t love me enough to set me free”
“Be sure your sin will find you out” (Num 32:33)
Galatians 6:7-8 Be not deceived; God is not mocked : for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. 8 For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. KJV