Genesis 42:1-5 Famine spread to Canaan. Jacob sent his 10 sons; minus Benjamin (The next in line to receive the blessings and now new favorite of Jacob), for he feared something would happen to him also. Remember, Jacob not only lost Joseph, but their mother, Rachael, also.
Genesis 42:6-11 Although Joseph recognized his brothers, he did not reveal himself to them. They did not recognize Joseph for it had been many years. Joseph remembered the dreams he had of his brothers bowing to him, which they are doing right now! Joseph did not trust them and tested them by asking questions.
Notes: 20 years has passed since the brothers saw their brother Joseph. Joseph had become Egyptian in appearance and dress. Calling themselves “honest men” was hardly an accurate assessment.
Genesis 42:12-17 Joseph pretends to accuse them of being spies to get them to prove that Benjamin was alive and well, for he feared they would have gotten rid of Benjamin also, Benjamin being the next in line and all. Joseph put them in custody for three days so they can think over his proposition.
Genesis 42:18-20 Since the brothers said they were “honest men”; Joseph set the stage to have the brothers prove they have changed. He decided, because of his fear of God, to keep one of the brothers in custody as surety that the remaining brothers, after returning to Canaan with the grain would return to Egypt with Benjamin. They agreed.
Genesis 42:21-25 The brothers admitted their guilt about what they did to Joseph and concluded that this was happening to them by a direct punishment by God. Reuben tells his brothers, “I told you so!” Joseph overhears the conversation, not knowing Joseph could understand them (speaking in their own tongue) and he wept. Joseph chose Simeon (the second oldest) to remain in custody and not Reuben, the oldest, because Reuben admitted he was against killing Joseph. Joseph commanded secretly to restore the money the brothers used to buy the grain back into their sacks to further ensure they would return by giving them another thing to worry about upon their discovery.
Notes: The brothers could not forget the fervent pleading and terror-filled voice of the teenager dragged away as a slave from home.
Genesis 42:26-28 One of the brothers found the money in their sacks as Joseph planned and they were afraid now even more.
Notes: Running through this section of the story is the idea that those who perpetrate evil cannot evade punishment forever. The brothers’ consciences clearly trouble them.
Genesis 42:29-34 The brothers explained to their father Jacob that the only way they can prove themselves honest men and to have Simeon released was to produce Benjamin as evidence in Egypt the next time they returned to buy more grain.
Genesis 42:35-38 The brothers opened up their sacks and discovered that all of them still had the money they were supposed to use to buy the grain. They feared again even more. Jacob blames the brothers for Joseph being no more, and now Simeon is gone, and now accuses them of plotting to cause Benjamin to be lost. Reuben tries to persuade Jacob to let him take Benjamin by offering his two children to be put to death if he does not return from Egypt with Benjamin. Jacob flat out refuses! Benjamin is the only child left of his beloved wife, Rachel, and he is not willing to gamble his life away, not for Simeon or for the judgment of death that would await the remaining brothers.
Notes: Jacob might have believed the worse against his sons that because the brothers returned with all their money, they might have sold Simeon for cash or for the grain.