Now when Jacob saw that there was corn in Egypt, Jacob said unto his sons, Why do ye look one upon another?
I. The story of Joseph is a good example of what is meant by Providence working for the best in the lives of men. Look at the young foreigner, as he comes to a land not his own; see how he resists the one great temptation of his age and station; observe how, through means not of his own seeking, through good report and evil, through much misunderstanding of others, but by consistent integrity and just dealing on his own part, he overcomes all the difficulties of his position, and is remembered long afterwards in his adopted land as the benefactor of his generation and the deliverer of his country.
II. The story of Joseph is, perhaps, of all the stories in the Old Testament, the one which most carries us back to our childhood, both from the interest we felt in it as children, and from the true picture of family life which it presents. It brings before us the way in which the greatest blessings for this life and the next depend on the keeping up of family love pure and fresh, as when the preservation and fitting education of the chosen people depended on that touching generosity and brotherly affection which no distance of time, no new customs, no long sojourn in a strange land, could extinguish in the heart of Joseph. Home is on earth the best likeness of heaven; and heaven is that last and best home in which, when the journey of life is over, Joseph and his brethren, Jacob and his sons, Rachel and her children, shall meet to part no more.
A. P. Stanley, Sermons in the East, p. 17.
References: Genesis 42:3.—G. Bainton, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xv, p. 218. Genesis 42:4.—Weekly Pulpit, vol. i., p. 300. Genesis 42:8.—Spurgeon, Evening by Evening, p. 4.
Genesis 42:9Jacob became aware of a fact which his brother had not cared to know—a fact for himself and his seed after him. The Being who had made man in His own image told this man that he was made in His image; taught him that he was not meant, like the serpent, to go on his belly and eat dust. This is the only explanation given. It assumes that man lives because he is related to God, that when he denies that relation he chooses death; it assumes that God is continually teaching men of their relation to Him, and that they are continually flying from His voice.
I. Joseph's story is in strict accordance with these principles. He had dreams of greatness: his brothers' sheaves are to bow down before him; the sun and the moon are to pay him obeisance. In his vanity he tells the dreams, and is hated the more. His brothers plot against his life, throw him into a pit, sell him to a company of Ishmaelites. There is no description of his anguish, or of any thoughts of comfort that came to him. We are merely told that God was with him, that he found favour with Potiphar, and became the steward of his house.
II. We know that though our dreams have never told us anything about that which is to come, they have told us secrets of our own experience; they have shown how near dark, fierce thoughts, which we fancied at a great distance, were lying to us. The interpretation of dreams for us and for the old world lies in the belief that we are under a loving and Divine Teacher, who does not wish us to walk in darkness.
III. There are crises, however, in a man's life, when he is neither troubled with the dreams of the night nor of the day—when he is called to act, and act at once—when life and death hang on the decision of a moment. To such a crisis had Joseph come when he spoke the words, "How shall I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?" The belief in a living, present God, was then all in all to him.
IV. Joseph's sermon to Pharaoh was a simple declaration that the Righteous Being was the Lord over Egypt, that He could set it in order. And his sermon to the Egyptians was the proof which his administration gave that he had spoken truth.
F. D. Maurice, The Patriarchs and Lawgivers of the Old Testament, p. 118.
References: Genesis 42:11—J. Van Oosterzee, The Year of Salvation, vol. ii., p. 369. Genesis 42:13.—G. Orme, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xvii., p. 15. Genesis 42:18.—J. Van Oosterzee, The Year of Salvation, vol. ii., p. 369; J. Edmunds, Sixty Sermons, p. 131. Genesis 42:21.—J. Burns, Sketches of Sermons on Missions, p. 248; Preacher's Monthly, vol. vii., p. 178.
Genesis 42:21-22I. Joseph's brethren had not been placed in any peculiar circumstances of trial since the loss of Joseph; consequently their sin had slept. There had been nothing to call it to light; they had well-nigh forgotten it; its heinousness had become dim in the distance. But now they were in trouble, and they could not help seeing the hand of God in that trouble. Their spiritual instinct told them that their trouble did not spring out of the ground; it had been planted there,—it had a root. Their sin had found them out at last, and their own adversity brought about that contrition for their offence which its own hatefulness ought to have been sufficient to produce.
II. We see from this story that men may commit sins, and may forget them; and yet the sins may be recorded, and may one day rise up again with a frightful vitality. Men will soon bury their own sins, if they be left to themselves; but it is like burying seed, which appears to die and be forgotten, and yet it. rises up again, and perhaps becomes a great tree.
III. The voice of conscience is a good voice, a wholesome voice,—yea, the very voice of God to our souls, and one to be welcomed by us if we only listen to it at the right time. The consciousness of guilt is a blessed thing, if only it come at the right time, and when there is opportunity for bringing forth fruits meet for repentance. Well for us if our estimate of our condition is the same, at least in its main features, as that estimate which God has made, and which the last day will produce!
Bishop Harvey Goodwin, Parish Sermons, 5th series, p. 118.
References: Genesis 42:22.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xiv., No. 840. Genesis 42:24.—Parker, vol. i., p. 329. Genesis 42:25.—R. S. Candlish, Book of Genesis, vol. ii., p. 194. Genesis 42:28.—E. Garbett, The Soul's Life, p. 125.
Genesis 42:36So spoke the patriarch Jacob when Joseph had been made away with, Simeon was detained in Egypt, Benjamin threatened, and his remaining sons were suspected by him and distrusted; when at his door was a grievous famine, enemies or strangers round about, evil in prospect, and in the past a number of sad remembrances. Thus did Almighty God remind His people that the world was not their rest.
I. In Jacob is prefigured the Christian. What he said in dejection of mind, the Christian must say, not in dejection, not in complaint or impatience, but calmly, as if confessing a doctrine—"'All these things are against me,' but it is my portion; they are against me, that I may fight with and overcome them." If there were no enemy, there could be no conflict; were there no trouble, there could be no faith; were there no trial, there could be no love; were there no fear, there could be no hope.
II. To passages like these it is natural to object, that they do not belong to the present time, that so far from Christians being in trouble because they are Christians it is those who are not Christians who are under persecution. The answer is that affliction, hardship, and distress are the Christian's portion, both promised and bestowed, though at first sight they seem not to be. If Christians are in prosperity, not in adversity, it is because, by disobedience, they have forfeited the promise and privilege of affliction.
III. Take up thy portion then, Christian soul, and weigh it well, and learn to love it. There is an inward world which none see but those who belong to it—an inward world into which they enter who come near to Christ. They have a portion in destinies to which other men are strangers; and, having destinies, they have conflicts also. Never, while the Church lasts, will the words of old Jacob be reversed—All things here are against us, but God; and if God be for us, who can really be against us?
J. H. Newman, Selection from Parochial and Plain Sermons, p. 113; also vol. v., p. 284.
References: Genesis 42:36.—Bishop Harvey Goodwin, Sermons Preached at St. Paul's, No. 18; J. Van Oosterzee, The Year of Salvation, vol. ii., p. 371; Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xiv., No. 837; Old Testament Outlines, p. 19. Genesis 42:38.—S. W. Skeffington, Our Sins and Our Saviour, p. 90. Gen 43—M. Dods, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph, p. 231; F. W. Robertson, Notes on Genesis, p. 156; W. M. Taylor, Joseph the Prime Minister, p. 122. Genesis 43:6.—Clergyman's Magazine, vol. viii., p. 96. Genesis 43:14.—R. S. Candlish, Book of Genesis, vol. ii., p. 194. 43:15-45:3.—Ibid., p. 205. Genesis 43:27.—S. Baring-Gould, Village Preaching for a Year, vol. i., p. 350.
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.
And Joseph's ten brethren went down to buy corn in Egypt.
But Benjamin, Joseph's brother, Jacob sent not with his brethren; for he said, Lest peradventure mischief befall him.
And the sons of Israel came to buy corn among those that came: for the famine was in the land of Canaan.
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.
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.
And Joseph knew his brethren, but they knew not him.
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.
And they said unto him, Nay, my lord, but to buy food are thy servants come.
We are all one man's sons; we are true men, thy servants are no spies.
And he said unto them, Nay, but to see the nakedness of the land ye are come.
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.
And Joseph said unto them, That is it that I spake unto you, saying, Ye are spies:
Hereby ye shall be proved: By the life of Pharaoh ye shall not go forth hence, except your youngest brother come hither.
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.
And he put them all together into ward three days.
And Joseph said unto them the third day, This do, and live; for I fear God:
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:
But bring your youngest brother unto me; so shall your words be verified, and ye shall not die. And they did so.
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.
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.
And they knew not that Joseph understood them; for he spake unto them by an interpreter.
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.
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.
And they laded their asses with the corn, and departed thence.
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 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?
And they came unto Jacob their father unto the land of Canaan, and told him all that befell unto them; saying,
The man, who is the lord of the land, spake roughly to us, and took us for spies of the country.
And we said unto him, We are true men; we are no spies:
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.