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[Genesis:42:1-38]; [Genesis:43:1-14].

Lesson No.: 
Memory Verse: 

"And herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void of offence toward God, and toward men”  (Acts 24:16).

Cross References: 

I The Scarcity of Food in Canaan and the First Journey to Egypt
1. Jacob's sons delay going to Egypt to obtain food, [Genesis:42:1-2].
2. The ten sons of Jacob finally go to Egypt to buy food, [Genesis:42:3-5]; [Acts:7:9-15].

II The Interview with Joseph
1. The ten appear before Joseph, who is not recognised by them, [Genesis:42:6].
2. Joseph's childhood dream partially fulfilled, [Genesis:42:6-9]; [Genesis:37:78].
3. They declare the purpose of their coming to Egypt, [Genesis:42:10-13].
4. Joseph replies, accusing them of being spies, probably to further conceal his true identity, [Genesis:42:14-21].
5.Their conscience reproves them for the evil they committed against Joseph more than 20 years before, [Genesis:42:21-24]; [Romans:2:14-15]; [Ecclesiastes:11:9].

III The Return to Canaan
1. Nine of the brothers return to Canaan with a temporary supply of food, leaving Simeon in Egypt as a hostage, [Genesis:42:19-20], [Genesis:42:25-26]; [Proverbs:19:5].
2. While taking food from his sack, one man discovers his purchase-money, [Genesis:42:27-28].
3. The conscience-smitten brothers relate their experiences to their father, [Genesis:42:29-35].
4. Jacob remonstrates with them because of the conditions imposed upon them by Joseph, [Genesis:42:36-38]; [Genesis:43:1-7].
5. Judah guarantees the safe return of Benjamin, [Genesis:43:8-10].
6. Jacob finally submits to the conditions, that they may obtain more food, [Genesis:43:11-14].


The famine that came upon the land of Egypt was not confined to that country alone, for we find that its effects were felt in Canaan, where Jacob and his sons were living. The knowledge that food could be obtained in that land beyond the Red Sea seemed to be common in Canaan, but perhaps the sons of Jacob were dilatory in their response and made no effort to go there to buy food to fill their larder. The father reminded them of their inactivity, asking them why they stayed in Canaan, looking one upon another.

Perhaps there was a reason why these sons of Jacob did not hurry to make a trip into that faraway country. The journey would be hard, that is true; but these men were used to a nomadic existence and would not hesitate because of these difficulties, even though they were intense enough to try severely the average person of our day. Years before, they had committed sin against their younger brother, Joseph, and their father, the memory of which still haunted them; for we find several instances where they indicated that while they had wished to forget their evil deeds of 20 years before, they could not do so.

Whenever something happened that was not according to their plan or of a nature that would bring suffering or misfortune to them, they immediately felt that it was sent because of their long-standing, unconfessed, and unrepented sin. "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" (Genesis:42:21).

There is a God-ordained quality about time that is a valuable one indeed; namely, the fact that time will erase our sufferings and pains and allow us to enjoy our future days without their being marred by anything more than a memory of the unpleasant experience. We may suffer terrible pain, but when it is past it is gone forever. That is not true of joy or happiness; for, when those enjoyable moments are recalled in memory, they tend to increase our present joys. Their heart-warming influence is felt at once.

But, there is one thing that time can never erase, and that is the record of our past sins and misdeeds. Those ten men realised the penalising portion of this eternal truth many times during the years between the deliberate sin and this moment, in which they found themselves approaching the land of Egypt. But there was no sincere repentance on their part as yet. They had no idea that they would find their brother, or even see him -- perhaps they had little desire to do so. But the very name of the country into which they had sold him as a slave, brought back the memories of his pitiful pleas and entreaties as they cast him into the pit and then bargained with a group of strangers for him, as one would bargain for a better price on a head of livestock. Only one thing can remove that record of sins from us: the Blood of Jesus, which was shed for all mankind.

Conscience is the possessor of all, and is a whole court in itself, consisting of a judge, jury, witnesses, and sheriff. As we have said, it never forgets -- even though the intellect, or mind of man, does. "A guilty conscience needs no accuser" is indeed a truthful statement.

The youngest son, Benjamin, was left at home. He was thought to be the only surviving son of Rachel whom Jacob dearly loved, and was jealously guarded by the father because he was the son of his dead wife. For this reason only ten of the sons made the journey, not knowing that the very person before whom they appeared was their own brother, whom they had sold into slavery years before. Joseph recognised them at once, but wisely concealed his identity, speaking roughly to them, accusing them of being spies who were there to spy out the wealth of the land and to learn what possibilities there were of overthrowing the nation. He also spoke harshly better to cover the warmth of affection which he felt toward these brothers, his own flesh and blood, and also to bring them into such a state of mind and conscience that they would realise their extreme wickedness and be willing to repent of it.

Joseph inquired about the rest of the family and their state of health, while he was examining the brothers to see if they were really what they represented themselves to be or not. He finally told them that if they were true men they would not hesitate to bring their younger brother down to substantiate their statements. He gave them some provisions for their immediate needs, and held Simeon as a hostage until they returned with Benjamin, his younger brother, whom he longed to see again. Simeon was next to the eldest son; and when Judah made the proposition that Joseph be sold into slavery, Simeon, no doubt, was the one who gave the final word on the matter, since the first-born, Reuben, was absent.

It is significant that God directed Joseph to retain Simeon as a hostage so that he could begin to suffer for his part of the sinful transaction. There is no escaping the consequence of our misdeeds. "God shall bring every work into judgement, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil" (Ecclesiastes:12:14).

On the journey homeward, when the brothers stopped for rest the first night and opened one of their sacks to get food, they found that the money they had paid for the food was in the sack's mouth. Their consciences were so smitten and their remorse was so great that they could not see the kindness behind this act. Nor had they been able to reason, as yet, that the conditions imposed upon them by Joseph could not have proved to him that they were true men and not spies. If they had been spies, and their story of being a family of eleven sons were untrue, it would have been an easy matter for them to have procured a young man to pose as their brother. Joseph would have had no way of knowing the falsity of their statements. So this was not an absolute test. But they could not see that fact, so dulled were their minds by the condemnation for their sins.

The father, Jacob, was impatient with them for having told the ruler of Egypt that they had a younger brother, and he forbade their taking Benjamin to Egypt when they returned. He was sure that if they did, he would lose his favoured son and would be brought to his grave in sorrow. But finally Judah made a guarantee that was accepted by the father, in which he assumed all responsibility for the safe return of the younger son, after Reuben, the first-born, had made a similar proposition which was not accepted by the father.

Jacob had no way of knowing, as yet, of the details surrounding the supposed death of his son, Joseph. He may have suspected that his sons were not as innocent as they first made themselves appear to be; but as to the details of their discussions and the parts played by each in that cold-blooded disposal of their own brother, he could not know, for a full confession was not yet made.

But here we see the unfading judgement of God taking effect. Simeon was the one upon whom the responsibility had rested, in the absence of Reuben, for the safe-keeping of the young son -- and he acquiesced to the proposition made by the others to sell Joseph into slavery. He is now beginning his suffering, as we have seen, by being held a hostage in Egypt. Judah was the one who made the suggestion to sell the lad, which, when it was adopted, prevented Reuben from doing an act of mercy in returning Joseph to the father. God ordered the whole matter so that Judah was the one who must take the great risk of assuming the responsibility of Benjamin's safe return at this time -- thereby suffering for the part he had had in the disposal of Joseph. And Reuben, who as first-born was the responsible one but because of his absence was innocent of actual complicity in the crime, is allowed to go free of the actual burden.

Oh, how wonderful is our God! "O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor? Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again? For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever" (Romans:11:33-30). Incidents like this, worked out to such painstaking detail, that the just may be rewarded and the sinner punished, show us that we have nothing to fear, either in this life or in the next, if we put our trust in Him Who is the same yesterday, today, and forever.


1. What was probably behind the question that Jacob asked of his sons: "Why do ye look one upon another?"
2. Why did the ten sons of Jacob go to Egypt?
3. Why did only ten go?
4. Before whom did they appear when they arrived in Egypt?
5. In what way was Genesis:37:7 fulfilled in this lesson?
6. Why was Simeon held in Egypt?
7. What particular thing troubled them as they stopped for rest the first night on their trip homeward?
8. What conditions were imposed upon them that must be fulfilled before they could get more food?
9. Did Jacob agree to these conditions at first?
10. Upon what basis did Jacob agree?