And he turned himself about from them, and wept; and returned to them again, and communed with them, and took from them Simeon…
The circumstances of the case required such a behaviour from Joseph as ought not to be made a precedent, unless similar circumstances, or different circumstances of a very uncommon kind, render it advisable. It was not sufficient to satisfy Joseph that he heard his brethren sorely regret their conduct towards himself. In the judgment of charity, he hoped their repentance was sincere; but farther proofs of their sincerity were requisite, before he could place that confidence which he wished to do, in any professions they might have made. Parents are not to be blamed when they forgive their offending but penitent children, although they watch over them with anxious jealousy, lest they should not "bring forth fruits meet for repentance." The surgeon is not to be blamed although he give great pain to his patient, by incisions deeper than appear to ordinary beholders to be necessary. Joseph had too good reason to know the stubborn spirit of some of his brethren, and in particular of Simeon; and who knows but he had particular directions from God about the proper means for taming it? During the two or three days of his brethren's imprisonment, he had time to acknowledge the Lord in this important affair, and the Lord directed his steps. You must not be rash in passing judgment on men's conduct. "A tree," says our Lord, "is known by its fruit." And yet there are cases in which the fruit is to be judged of from the tree. If a good man does actions that are certainly bad, that charity which rejoiceth not in iniquity but rejoiceth in the truth, will not hinder you from assigning them that character which they deserve. But if actions are dubious, charity, which believeth all things, hopeth all things, forbids you to pronounce them bad till better evidence appear. "He bound Simeon before their eyes." This circumstance of Simeon's imprisonment puts us in mind of Nebuchadnezzar's cruelty to Zedekiah, king of Judah, whose sons he slew before their father's eyes, and then caused his eyes to be put out, that he might never behold another object. His intention was to double the calamities of the loss of sight, and of the murder of his children. But those actions may be not only different, but opposite in their nature, which present the same appearance when viewed with a careless eye. An enemy wounds that he may destroy, "but faithful are the wounds of a friend." All Joseph's brethren now with him, except Reuben, needed severe rebukes; and no reproofs of the tongue were so likely to subdue their haughty spirit, as the sight of the distress of their brother and companion in iniquity. But it is probable that Joseph's chief design in presenting this melancholy spectacle to their eyes was, that they might be excited to return more speedily with their younger brother, whom Joseph was impatient to see. The eye affects the heart. Envy hindered them from regarding the distress of Joseph in the pit; but it was to be hoped that they would compassionate the sufferings of that brother who had never offended them by his dreams, nor received from his father a coat of divers colours. We cannot pretend either to the power or to the wisdom of Joseph. We do not enjoy such intercourse with Heaven by immediate revelation as he frequently enjoyed; and therefore, it would be presumptuous in us to pretend to take such methods as he employed, to humble the spirits of those who have offended us. We have never met with usage that can be compared to the treatment which he had received from his brethren. We must not, however, hope to pass through life without trials to our patience and meekness. "Who is a wise man, and endued with knowledge among us? let him show out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom."
(G. Lawson, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.