Genesis 42:14
And Joseph said to them, That is it that I spoke to you, saying, You are spies:
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(14) That is it . . . —Joseph persists in his charge, because, besides the information which he gained, he also wished to get Benjamin into his power, that he might have him with him. As for his brethren, he had probably as yet no settled purpose, but naturally he would feel great indignation at the treatment he had experienced at their hands, and might not be unwilling to give them some degree of punishment.

42:7-20 Joseph was hard upon his brethren, not from a spirit of revenge, but to bring them to repentance. Not seeing his brother Benjamin, he suspected that they had made away with him, and he gave them occasion to speak of their father and brother. God, in his providence, sometimes seems harsh with those he loves, and speaks roughly to those for whom yet he has great mercy in store. Joseph settled at last, that one of them should be left, and the rest go home and fetch Benjamin. It was a very encouraging word he said to them, I fear God; as if he had said, You may be assured I will do you no wrong; I dare not, for I know there is one higher than I. With those that fear God, we may expect fair dealing.The ten brothers meet with a rough reception from the lord of the land. "The governor" - the sultan. This, we see, is a title of great antiquity in Egypt or Arabia. Joseph presided over the cornmarket of the kingdom. "Bowed down to him with their faces to the earth." Well might Joseph think of those never-to-be-forgotten dreams in which the sheaves and stars bowed down to him. "And knew them." How could he fail to remember the ten full-grown men of his early days, when they came before him with all their peculiarities of feature, attitude, and mother tongue. "And he made himself strange unto them." All that we know of Joseph's character heretofore, and throughout this whole affair, goes to prove that his object in all his seemingly harsh treatment was to get at their hearts, to test their affection toward Benjamin, and to bring them to repent of their unkindness to himself.

"They knew not him." Twenty years make a great change in a youth of seventeen. And besides, with his beard and head shaven, his Egyptian attire, his foreign tongue, and his exalted position, who could have recognized the stripling whom, twenty years ago, they had sold as a slave? "Spies are ye." This was to put a color of justice on their detention. To see the nakedness of the land, not its unfortified frontier, which is a more recent idea, but its present impoverishment from the famine. "Sons of one man are we." It was not likely that ten sons of one man would be sent on the hazardous duty of spies. "And behold the youngest is with our father this day." It is intensely interesting to Joseph to hear that his father and full brother are still living. "And one is not." Time has assuaged all their bitter feelings, both of exasperation against Joseph and of remorse for their unbrotherly conduct. This little sentence, however, cannot be uttered by them, or heard by Joseph, without emotion. "By the life of Pharaoh." Joseph speaks in character, and uses an Egyptian asseveration. "Send one of you." This proposal is enough to strike terror into their hearts. The return of one would be a heavy, perhaps a fatal blow to their father. And how can one brave the perils of the way? They cannot bring themselves to concur in this plan. Sooner will they all go to prison, as accordingly they do. Joseph is not without a strong conviction of incumbent duty in all this. He knows he has been put in the position of lord over his brethren in the foreordination of God, and he feels bound to make this authority a reality for their moral good.

9-14. Ye are spies—This is a suspicion entertained regarding strangers in all Eastern countries down to the present day. Joseph, however, who was well aware that his brethren were not spies, has been charged with cruel dissimulation, with a deliberate violation of what he knew to be the truth, in imputing to them such a character. But it must be remembered that he was sustaining the part of a ruler; and, in fact, acting on the very principle sanctioned by many of the sacred writers, and our Lord Himself, who spoke parables (fictitious stories) to promote a good end. This justifies my accusation; for it is not probable that one man should have so many sons, all grown up and living together in one family, and that he should expose them all to the perils of such a journey. And Joseph said unto them, that is it that I spake unto you, saying, ye are spies. This proves it, at least gives strong suspicion of it; since at first they seemed to speak of themselves, as if they were the only sons of one man and there were no more, now they speak of twelve, and make mention of one being at home with his father; but seeing he sent so many of them, why not all? why should one only be left at home? And Joseph said unto them, That is it that I spake unto you, saying, Ye are spies:
14. That is it that I spake] Joseph seems to say that their claim to be all the sons of one man is improbable and suspicious. If these suspicions are to be removed, their statements must be verified. Their statement was either the needless embroidery of a falsehood, or it was a detail of actual life that could easily be proved. Joseph’s real object is to find out about Benjamin, whether he was alive, and well treated by his brothers. It is a delicate touch in the story, that he abstains from cross questioning them about the brother that “is not.”Verses 14-16. - And Joseph said unto them (betraying his excitement in his language), That is it that I spake unto you, saying, Ye are spies. But Joseph knew by this time that they were not spies. Hence his persistent accusation of them, which to the brothers must have seemed despotic and tyrannical, and which cannot be referred to malevolence or revenge, must be explained by a desire on the part of Joseph to bring his brothers to a right state of mind. Hereby (or in this) ye shall be proved: By the life of Pharaoh - literally, life of Pharaoh An Egyptian oath (LXX., Gesenius, Rosenmüller, Kalisch, Lange), in using which Joseph was not without blame, aliquid esse fateor quod merito culpetur (Calvin) though by some (Ainsworth, Wordsworth, Murphy, 'Speaker's Commentary') the expression is regarded simply as a strong asseveration (cf. 1 Samuel 1:26; 1 Samuel 17:55) - ye shall not go forth hence (literally, life of Pharaoh! if ye go from this. The language is elliptical, meaning either, May Pharaoh perish if ye escape from punishment as spies, unless, &c.; or, As surely as Pharaoh lives, may retribution fall on me if ye go from this place) except your youngest brother come hither. The condition, which must have appeared extremely frivolous to Joseph's brethren, was clearly designed to ascertain the truth about Benjamin. Send one of you, and let him fetch your brother, and ye (i.e. the rest of you) shall be kept in prison (literally, shall be put in bonds), that your words may be proved (literally, and your words shall be proved), whether there be any truth in you; or else (literally, and if not) by the life of Pharaoh surely ye are spies - literally (sc. I swear), that ye are spies. Joseph recognised his brothers at once; but they could not recognise a brother who had not been seen for 20 years, and who, moreover, had not only become thoroughly Egyptianized, but had risen to be a great lord. And he acted as a foreigner (יתנכּר) towards them, speaking harshly, and asking them whence they had come. In Genesis 42:7, according to a truly Semitic style of narrative, we have a condensation of what is more circumstantially related in Genesis 42:8-17.
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