When the brothers came to their father, Jacob, in the land of Canaan, they told him everything that had happened to them. “The man who is governor of the land spoke very harshly to us,” they told him. “He accused us of being spies scouting the land. But we said, ‘We are honest men, not spies. We are twelve brothers, sons of one father. One brother is no longer with us, and the youngest is at home with our father in the land of Canaan.’ “Then the man who is governor of the land told us, ‘This is how I will find out if you are honest men. Leave one of your brothers here with me, and take grain for your starving families and go on home. But you must bring your youngest brother back to me. Then I will know you are honest men and not spies. Then I will give you back your brother, and you may trade freely in the land.’” As they emptied out their sacks, there in each man’s sack was the bag of money he had paid for the grain! The brothers and their father were terrified when they saw the bags of money. Jacob exclaimed, “You are robbing me of my children! Joseph is gone! Simeon is gone! And now you want to take Benjamin, too. Everything is going against me!” Then Reuben said to his father, “You may kill my two sons if I don’t bring Benjamin back to you. I’ll be responsible for him, and I promise to bring him back.” But Jacob replied, “My son will not go down with you. His brother Joseph is dead, and he is all I have left. If anything should happen to him on your journey, you would send this grieving, white-haired man to his grave. ” But the famine continued to ravage the land of Canaan. When the grain they had brought from Egypt was almost gone, Jacob said to his sons, “Go back and buy us a little more food.” But Judah said, “The man was serious when he warned us, ‘You won’t see my face again unless your brother is with you.’ If you send Benjamin with us, we will go down and buy more food. But if you don’t let Benjamin go, we won’t go either. Remember, the man said, ‘You won’t see my face again unless your brother is with you.’” “Why were you so cruel to me?” Jacob moaned. “Why did you tell him you had another brother?” “The man kept asking us questions about our family,” they replied. “He asked, ‘Is your father still alive? Do you have another brother?’ So we answered his questions. How could we know he would say, ‘Bring your brother down here’?” Judah said to his father, “Send the boy with me, and we will be on our way. Otherwise we will all die of starvation—and not only we, but you and our little ones. I personally guarantee his safety. You may hold me responsible if I don’t bring him back to you. Then let me bear the blame forever. If we hadn’t wasted all this time, we could have gone and returned twice by now.” So their father, Jacob, finally said to them, “If it can’t be avoided, then at least do this. Pack your bags with the best products of this land. Take them down to the man as gifts—balm, honey, gum, aromatic resin, pistachio nuts, and almonds. Also take double the money that was put back in your sacks, as it was probably someone’s mistake. Then take your brother, and go back to the man. May God Almighty give you mercy as you go before the man, so that he will release Simeon and let Benjamin return. But if I must lose my children, so be it.”
Dear God, I just had a couple of thoughts as I read this story.
- I noticed how Joseph asked about his father and little brother. All those years away. He was probably desperate for news from home. “Is your father still alive?” “Do you have another brother?”
- No one seemed to mind leaving Simeon in jail indefinitely. No one made an argument that they should take Benjamin back so they could get Simeon out of Egypt. “If we hadn’t wasted all this time, we could have gone and returned twice by now.” So Simeon was in jail quite a while and no one seemed to care. I wonder what his time in jail was like. What kind of forgiveness issues did Joseph have to work through with Simeon in particular while he knew he sat there in jail?
- Jacob replies to Benjamin as all that he has left after the loss of Joseph. First, he still really feels the loss of Joseph (in a way that he apparently doesn’t of Simeon) and he feels protective of Benjamin as being the last of Rachel’s sons.
- Simeon does get a shout out at the end. Jacob includes his release in the blessing he gives the boys as they leave.
- Jacob was the patriarch of the family, but he had zero idea of what was happening. That might be the biggest lesson in this story for me as a father. He didn’t understand why his children were disappearing. He didn’t know that his sons had sold Joseph into slavery. He didn’t know that Joseph had kept Simeon in jail and that he was safe. He didn’t know that Benjamin couldn’t have been safer than going to be with Joseph. And he didn’t know that you were using all. Of this to set up the nation of Israel through over 400 years of incarceration and slavery in Egypt. If he had known your plan, would he have yielded to it? Would he have made the decision to die of starvation in Canaan as opposed to know his descendants would live in slavery in Egypt? It’s a reminder that you are very good at protecting us with ignorance. As I’ve said many times, you keep me on a need-to-know basis, and I very rarely need to know.
Father, I have an old friend from childhood (we were never very close) who is going through a terrible trial with a child right now. He and his wife are scared. They are scared for their child. They are scared for their other children. They are stressed. They don’t know where this is going or how it all works out. But I know they are people of faith. I pray that you will honor their love for you and guide their family through this. Guide their son. Protect and heal him. Guide their children as they process what they see their brother doing. Help them to be protected from the fallout. And guide these parents. Surround them with your love and support. Give them a peace that is completely past all understanding. Give them the faith they need to be there for each other and for each of their children. And please use all of this pain down the road for your glory and the benefit of others. Do not let it be wasted.
In Jesus’s name I pray,