Matthew Poole's Commentary
Now when Jacob saw that there was corn in Egypt, Jacob said unto his sons, Why do ye look one upon another?Jacob hearing there was corn in Egypt, sends all his sons thither but Benjamin, Genesis 42:1-5. They bow before Joseph, who knew them, but not they him; he treats them roughly, Genesis 42:6-8; remembers his dreams; charges them for spies, Genesis 42:9-12. They, to vindicate themselves, declare that they were all sons of one father, and had a younger brother at home, Genesis 42:13. Joseph imprisons them, but releases all but Simeon, and sends the rest to fetch their brother, and so prove their words true, Genesis 42:14-20. Their consciences are awakened, and charge them with their sin against Joseph; they accuse one another, Genesis 42:21,22. Joseph hears them; weeps; binds Simeon, Genesis 42:23,24. Joseph orders their sacks to be filled with corn, and to return their money, Genesis 42:25,26. In the way one finds his money in his sack; they are the more afraid, Genesis 42:27,28. At home they relate to Jacob what happened to them, so far as to persuade Jacob to let Benjamin go, Genesis 42:29-35. He complains; Reuben undertakes for him; he cannot consent to let him go, Genesis 42:36-38.
1707 When Jacob saw, i.e. heard, as the word is used, Exodus 20:18; as seeing is put for smelling, Exodus 5:21; and for tasting, Psalm 34:8; and for touching, John 20:29.
Why do ye look one upon another; like lazy, careless, and helpless persons, each one expecting relief from the other, but none offering either counsel or help for all our subsistence?
And he said, Behold, I have heard that there is corn in Egypt: get you down thither, and buy for us from thence; that we may live, and not die.I have heard: this word explains the word saw, Genesis 42:1.
Get you down; for Egypt was lower than Canaan; whence, on the contrary, they are said to go up to Canaan, Genesis 45:9.
That we may live, and not die; an emphatical repetition of the same thing, used here to make them more sensible of their danger.
And Joseph's ten brethren went down to buy corn in Egypt.No text from Poole on this verse.
But Benjamin, Joseph's brother, Jacob sent not with his brethren; for he said, Lest peradventure mischief befall him.Because he was very young, and now his best beloved son.
And the sons of Israel came to buy corn among those that came: for the famine was in the land of Canaan.No text from Poole on this verse.
And Joseph was the governor over the land, and he it was that sold to all the people of the land: and Joseph's brethren came, and bowed down themselves before him with their faces to the earth.He sold to the people; either,
1. By his ministers and commissioners appointed to that end, as men in Scripture and in all authors are said to do that which others do by their authority and command. Or,
2. He himself immediately contracted with the buyers, or at least with such as were foreigners; which he did upon prudential reasons; both because he would not have them to pry into the state of Egypt, Genesis 42:12, and because he would by that opportunity understand the state of other lands, and improve that knowledge for his master’s service.
Joseph’s brethren bowed down themselves before him; thus unwittingly fulfilling Joseph’s dream, Genesis 37:7.
And Joseph saw his brethren, and he knew them, but made himself strange unto them, and spake roughly unto them; and he said unto them, Whence come ye? And they said, From the land of Canaan to buy food.He spake roughly unto them; partly, to bring their sin to remembrance; partly, to get the knowledge of the true state of his father and family; and partly, to further the following design, and make way for his and their greater happiness.
And Joseph knew his brethren, but they knew not him.Because his visage was much altered by his beard, and by other things, it being about twenty years since they saw him; and his Egyptian language, and habit, and carriage, together with the great dignity of his place, prevented all suspicions concerninging their brother.
And Joseph remembered the dreams which he dreamed of them, and said unto them, Ye are spies; to see the nakedness of the land ye are come.This he saith, not because they were so, or he thought them to be so, but that he might search out the truth of their affair, speaking too much like a courtier or politician.
The nakedness of the land, i.e. the weak parts of it, and where it may be best assaulted or surprised.
And they said unto him, Nay, my lord, but to buy food are thy servants come.No text from Poole on this verse.
We are all one man's sons; we are true men, thy servants are no spies.We are all one man’s sons, and therefore not spies; for it is not likely either that a father would venture so many sons upon so hazardous an employment, or that such a work would have been trusted in the hands of one family only.
We are true men, who honestly and truly mean what we pretend, and have no other design in our coming hither.
And he said unto them, Nay, but to see the nakedness of the land ye are come.No text from Poole on this verse.
And they said, Thy servants are twelve brethren, the sons of one man in the land of Canaan; and, behold, the youngest is this day with our father, and one is not.i.e. Is dead, as that phrase often signifies both in Scripture, as Genesis 37:30 44:20 Jeremiah 31:15 Matthew 2:17,18, and in other authors, as Homer, Euripides, &c. They concluded with great probability that he was dead, Genesis 44:20, because for twenty years together they had heard nothing, either of him or from him; which may seem strange, considering the nearness of Egypt and Canaan: but this came to pass partly from his own long imprisonment, and afterwards from his great and high employment; partly, from his lothness to bring so much mischief to his father and brethren, as the discovery of his case might have produced; and principally, from the overruling providence of God, which for its own glorious design disposed of Joseph’s mind and affairs, so that he either did not send to his father’s house, or that the messages were intercepted, there being not then those conveniencies for mutual correspondencies which now there are. And it is not improbable that Joseph might be further acquainted with the mind of God in this matter by dreams, which may seem to have been familiarly afforded to him, together with the interpretation of them. See Genesis 40:8 41:16.
And Joseph said unto them, That is it that I spake unto you, saying, Ye are spies: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.
Hereby ye shall be proved: By the life of Pharaoh ye shall not go forth hence, except your youngest brother come hither.By the life of Pharaoh, as sure as Pharaoh lives. It seems to be the form of an oath in use among the Egyptians, as afterwards the Romans used to swear by the name, genius, health, and life of their emperors. Compare 1 Samuel 1:26 17:55 2 Kings 2:2 Ezekiel 33:11. And it is not strange that Joseph through human infirmity was carried by the stream of the general practice of the court, especially when the law of God was not yet delivered concerning the appropriation of oaths unto God.
Send one of you, and let him fetch your brother, and ye shall be kept in prison, that your words may be proved, whether there be any truth in you: or else by the life of Pharaoh surely ye are spies.No text from Poole on this verse.
And he put them all together into ward three days.No text from Poole on this verse.
And Joseph said unto them the third day, This do, and live; for I fear God:I will spare your lives, and not punish you with death as spies, and you shall carry provisions, that your family also may live;
for I fear God, and therefore will not be cruel to you, nor to your brother whom you shall leave with me. This might have raised some suspicion concerning Joseph, but that they knew there were divers among the heathens who did own the true God, though they worshipped idols with him.
If ye be true men, let one of your brethren be bound in the house of your prison: go ye, carry corn for the famine of your houses:Your prison, in which you are now imprisoned, and are still like to be so, if you accept not this condition.
But bring your youngest brother unto me; so shall your words be verified, and ye shall not die. And they did so.i.e. Resolved and promised to do so. Those things are oft said to be done in Scripture which were sincerely resolved upon, as hath been noted before.
And they said one to another, We are verily guilty concerning our brother, in that we saw the anguish of his soul, when he besought us, and we would not hear; therefore is this distress come upon us.This is the just punishment of that great wickedness, which though we could cover from men, yet we now see and feel was known to God, who is now reckoning with us for it. Thus Divine vengeance overtakes them, and conscience tortures them for a sin committed above twenty years before, and their affliction brings them to repentance.
When he besought us: compare Genesis 49:23. Yet this passage is not mentioned in that history, Genesis 37:1-36. Learn hence, that the silence of the Scripture is no good argument that such or such a thing was not said or done, except in some special cases.
Therefore is this distress come upon us; he is inexorable to us, as we were to him.
And Reuben answered them, saying, Spake I not unto you, saying, Do not sin against the child; and ye would not hear? therefore, behold, also his blood is required.i.e. The punishment of his blood or death occasioned by us.
And they knew not that Joseph understood them; for he spake unto them by an interpreter.No text from Poole on this verse.
And he turned himself about from them, and wept; and returned to them again, and communed with them, and took from them Simeon, and bound him before their eyes.He turned himself and wept tears, partly of natural affection and compassion towards his brethren, now in great distress and anguish; and partly of joy, to see the happy success of his design and rigorous carriage, in bringing them to the sight of their sins.
He chooseth to punish
Simeon, partly, because next to Reuben he was the eldest, and, as it may be probably gathered from his bloody disposition, Genesis 34:25 49:6, the most fierce and forward against Joseph, when Reuben was for milder counsels, as we see here, Genesis 42:22 38:29; and partly, because the detainment of one of so perverse and furious a temper would least afflict his father, and most secure Benjamin, who was to come with his brethren. He
bound him before their eyes, that it might make deeper impression upon their hard hearts, and make their repentance more effectual.
Then Joseph commanded to fill their sacks with corn, and to restore every man's money into his sack, and to give them provision for the way: and thus did he unto them.No text from Poole on this verse.
And they laded their asses with the corn, and departed thence.No text from Poole on this verse.
And as one of them opened his sack to give his ass provender in the inn, he espied his money; for, behold, it was in his sack's mouth.And after him the rest by his example and information did so, as is affirmed Genesis 43:21, and it is not denied here.
And he said unto his brethren, My money is restored; and, lo, it is even in my sack: and their heart failed them, and they were afraid, saying one to another, What is this that God hath done unto us?They were afraid, lest this should be a design to entrap, and so destroy them. Whoever were the instruments, they knew that God was the chief author of this occurrent, and wisely reflect upon his providence in it, and their own guilt which provoked him against them.
And they came unto Jacob their father unto the land of Canaan, and told him all that befell unto them; saying,No text from Poole on this verse.
The man, who is the lord of the land, spake roughly to us, and took us for spies of the country.No text from Poole on this verse.
And we said unto him, We are true men; we are no spies:No text from Poole on this verse.
We be twelve brethren, sons of our father; one is not, and the youngest is this day with our father in the land of Canaan.No text from Poole on this verse.
And the man, the lord of the country, said unto us, Hereby shall I know that ye are true men; leave one of your brethren here with me, and take food for the famine of your households, and be gone:No text from Poole on this verse.
And bring your youngest brother unto me: then shall I know that ye are no spies, but that ye are true men: so will I deliver you your brother, and ye shall traffick in the land.No text from Poole on this verse.
And it came to pass as they emptied their sacks, that, behold, every man's bundle of money was in his sack: and when both they and their father saw the bundles of money, they were afraid.i.e. Their fear returned upon them with more violence, having now more leisure to consider things, and their wise and experienced father suggesting new matters to them, which might more deeply affect them.
And Jacob their father said unto them, Me have ye bereaved of my children: Joseph is not, and Simeon is not, and ye will take Benjamin away: all these things are against me.Simeon is not; he gave him up for lost, as being, as he thought, in the power of a cruel enemy.
All these things are against me; I am the great sufferer in all these things: you carry yourselves as if you were neither concerned nor affected with them.
And Reuben spake unto his father, saying, Slay my two sons, if I bring him not to thee: deliver him into my hand, and I will bring him to thee again.Slay my two sons, two of the four mentioned Genesis 46:9. An absurd proposition, neither fit for him to make, nor for Jacob to accept.
And he said, My son shall not go down with you; for his brother is dead, and he is left alone: if mischief befall him by the way in the which ye go, then shall ye bring down my gray hairs with sorrow to the grave.He is left alone, to wit of his mother, my dear Rachel.