Genesis 42:37
Then Reuben said to his father, "You may kill my two sons if I fail to bring him back to you. Put him in my care, and I will return him."
An Unlawful Mode of SpeakingG. Lawson, D. D.Genesis 42:37
God's Trials of His PeopleR.A. Redford Genesis 42
The famine was part of God's plan to carry out his promise to Abraham (Genesis 15:13, 14). But it is not merely a fact in the historical preparation for what he was bringing to pass; a link in the chain of events leading on to Christ. We must look upon it as part of a series of types foreshadowing gospel truths. The famine was a step towards the promised possession, and has its counterpart in the work of the Holy Spirit. It represents the spiritual want of man; conviction of sin (John 16:8; cf. Romans 7:9), leading to know the power of Christ's work (Matthew 18:11).

I. The first step is CONSCIOUSNESS OF FAMINE; that a man's life is more than meat; more than a supply of bodily wants. It is realizing that he has wants beyond the present life; that in living for time he has been following a shadow. This knowledge is not natural to us. Bodily hunger soon makes itself felt, but the soul's need does not; and until it is known, the man may be "poor and blind and naked," and yet suppose that he is "rich and increased with goods."

II. WE CANNOT OF OURSELVES SUPPLY THAT WANT. Gradually we learn how great it is. We want to still the accusing voice of conscience; to find a plea that shall avail in judgment; to see clearly the way of life that we may not err therein. In vain we look one on another, seeking comfort in the good opinion of men, in their testimony to our upright life. In vain we try to satisfy ourselves, by promises to do better, or by offerings of our substance or of our work. In vain is it to seek rest in unbelief, or in the persuasion that in some way all will be right. The soul cannot thus find peace. There is a voice which at times will make itself heard - "all have sinned" - thou hast sinned.

III. GOD HAS PROVIDED BREAD. "I have heard that there is corn in Egypt" (cf. Romans 10:18), answers to the gospel telling of the bread of life. As to this we mark -

1. It was provided before the want arose (1 Peter 1:20; Revelation 13:8). The gospel tells us of what has already been done, not of a gift to come into existence on certain conditions. The ransom of our souls has been paid. We have to believe and take (Revelation 22:17).

2. How faith works. They must go for that food which was ready for them. To take the bread of life must be a real earnest act, not a listless assent. The manna which was to be gathered, the brazen serpent to which the sick were to look, the command to the impotent "Rise, take up thy bed and walk," all show that it is not enough merely to wish, there must be the effort of faith (cf. 1 Thessalonians 1:3). This is a law of the spiritual kingdom. As natural laws regulate results within their, domain, so spiritual results must be sought in accordance with spiritual laws.

3. It is our Brother who has made provision for us. This is our confidence. He waits to reveal himself when in humility and emptiness we come to him, and to give us plenty (1 Corinthians 3:21, 22). - M.

Slay my two sons.
I will give you leave to take away my life, unless I do this or that. Such modes of speaking as this do not become the mouths of the disciples of our Redeemer. How do we know what we shall be able to do a day or an hour hence? We ought to say, If we live, and the Lord will, we shall do this or that; "for a man's heart deviseth his way, but the Lord directeth his steps." When men use this language their words are not to be understood in their literal sense. They are only strong assertions, tinctured with a profane levity of mind. Death ought not to be made a by-word. It will be found a serious thing to die when death comes, if it is not habitually esteemed a serious matter by us, whilst we are living in prosperity and health. "By the life of Pharaoh, ye are spies," said Joseph to his brethren. Reuben engages, by the life of his two sons, that he will bring Benjamin in safety to his father, if his father would trust the young man to his care. Surely Reuben might have learned to avoid such strong asseverations about things of this sort. It was his wish to bring Joseph home to his father, and yet he could not persuade his brethren to comply with his intentions. It was his desire to bring Simeon safe to his father, and yet he was compelled to leave him in Egypt. He had reason to hope that his brethren would not treat Benjamin as they had treated Joseph. He had reason to hope that the lord of Egypt would keep his promise. But was he so sure of both these things, and of meeting with no bad accident in the course of his journeyings, that he could warrantably pledge the life of his two sons for Benjamin's happy return? He knew that Jacob would not take him at his word. But what if God should, by some untoward event, make him sensible that he had spoken amiss?

(G. Lawson, D. D.)

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