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Genesis Chapter 42
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Joseph's Vindication
42:1 Jacob learned that there were provisions in Egypt, and he said to his sons, 'Why are you fantasizing?'
42:2 'I have heard that there are supplies in Egypt,' he explained. 'You can go there and buy food. Let us live and not die.'
42:3 Joseph's ten brothers went to buy grain in Egypt.
42:4 But Jacob did not send Joseph's brother Benjamin along with the others. 'Something might happen to him,' he said.
42:5 Israel's sons came to buy rations along with the others who came because of the famine in Canaan.
42:6 Joseph was like a dictator over the land, since he was the only one who rationed out food for all the people. When Joseph's brothers arrived, they prostrated themselves to him, with their faces to the ground.
42:7 Joseph recognized his brothers as soon as he saw them. But he behaved like a stranger and spoke harshly to them. 'Where are you from?' he asked.

'From the land of Canaan - to buy food,' they replied.

42:8 Joseph recognized his brothers, but they did not recognize him.
42:9 He remembered what he had dreamed about them. 'You are spies!' he said to them. 'You have come to see where the land is exposed to attack.'
42:10 'No my lord!' they replied. 'We are your servants who have come only to buy food.
42:11 We are all the sons of the same man. We are honorable men. We would never think of being spies!'
42:12 'No!' retorted [Joseph]. 'You have come to see where the land is exposed.'
42:13 'We are twelve brothers,' they pleaded. 'We are the sons of one man who is in Canaan. Right now the youngest brother is with our father, and one brother is gone.'
42:14 'I still say that you are spies,' replied Joseph.
42:15 'There is only one way that you can convince me. By Pharaoh's life, [all of] you will not leave this place unless your youngest brother comes here.
42:16 Let one of you go back and bring your brother. The rest will remain here under arrest. This will test your claim and determine if you are telling the truth. If not, by Pharaoh's life, you will be considered spies.'
42:17 Joseph had them placed under arrest for three days.
42:18 On the third day, Joseph said to them, 'If you do as I say, you will live. I fear the God.
42:19 We will see if you are really being candid. One of you will be held hostage in the same building where you were kept under arrest. The rest can go and bring supplies to your hungry families.
42:20 Bring your youngest brother here, and your claim will be substantiated. Then you will not die.'

They agreed to this,

42:21 but they said to one another, 'We deserve to be punished because of what we did to our brother. We saw him suffering when he pleaded with us, but we would not listen. That's why this great misfortune has come upon us now.'
42:22 Reuben interrupted them. 'Didn't I tell you not to commit a crime against the boy?' he said. 'You wouldn't listen. Now a [divine] accounting is being demanded for his blood!'
42:23 Meanwhile, they did not realize that Joseph was listening, since they [had spoken to him] through a translator.
42:24 Joseph left them and wept. When he returned, he spoke to them sternly again. He had Simeon taken from them and placed in chains before their eyes.
42:25 Joseph gave orders that when their bags were filled with grain, each one's money should also be placed in his sack. They were also to be given provisions for the journey. This was done.
42:26 [The brothers] then loaded the food they bought on their donkeys, and they departed.
42:27 When they came to the place where they spent the night, one of them opened his sack to feed his donkey. He saw his money right there at the top of his pack.
42:28 'My money has been returned!' he exclaimed to his brothers. 'It's in my pack!'

Their hearts sank. 'What is this that God has done to us?' they asked each other with trembling voices.

42:29 When they came to their father Jacob in the land of Canaan, they told him about all that had happened to them.
42:30 'The man who was the lord of the land spoke to us harshly,' they said, 'and he charged us with spying on the land.
42:31 We said to him, 'We are honorable men. We have never been spies.
42:32 We are twelve brothers, all of the same father. One of us has been lost, and the youngest is now with our father in Canaan.'
42:33 'The man who was the lord of the land said to us, 'I have a way of knowing if you are honorable. Leave one of your brothers with me, take [what you need] for your hungry families, and go.
42:34 Bring your youngest brother back to me, and then I will know that you are honorable men, and not spies. I will give your brother back to you, and you will be able to do business in [our] land.' '
42:35 They began emptying their sacks, and each one's money was [found to be] in his sack. [The brothers] and their father saw the money-bags and they were afraid.
42:36 Their father Jacob said to them, 'You're making me lose my children! Joseph is gone! Simeon is gone! And now you want to take Benjamin! Everything is happening to me!'
42:37 Reuben tried to reason with his father. 'If I do not bring [Benjamin] back to you,' he said, 'you can put my two sons to death. Let him be my responsibility, and I will bring him back to you.'
42:38 'My son will not go with you!' replied Jacob. 'His brother is dead, and he is all I have left. Something may happen to him along the way, and you will bring my white head down to the grave in misery!'


  (Radak). Or, 'why are you looking at one another' (Septuagint); or, 'Why are you showing off' (Rashi; Rashbam; Taanith 10b); or, 'Why are you afraid' (Targum Yonathan).

  See Genesis 37:7,9, 42:6.

  Literally, 'the nakedness of the land.' They spoke Hebrew rather than Canaanite (a language related to Egyptian), and hence, the story that they came from Canaan could be suspect.

I still say
  Literally, 'It is as I have said.'

a divine accounting...
  See Genesis 9:5.

  See note on Genesis 37:24.

one of them
  Levi (Targum Yonathan; Bereshith Rabbah 91; Rashi).

two sons
  Chanokh and Palu (Genesis 46:9). Reuben actually had four sons.

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