● Gen 42:1 . .When Jacob learned that there were rations of grain in Egypt, he said to his sons; Why do you just keep looking at each other?
You can just picture what was going on. One brother would turn to another and ask; What are we going to do for food? And the other would just shrug and raise his eyebrows. They must have been doing that a lot lately because apparently it was beginning to grate on their dad.
● Gen 42:2-4 . . He continued: I have heard that there is grain in Egypt. Go down there and buy some for us, so that we may live and not die. Then ten of Joseph's brothers went down to buy grain from Egypt. But Jacob did not send Benjamin, Joseph's brother, with the others, because he was afraid that harm might come to him.
To Jacob's knowledge, Joseph was dead. His mother was certainly dead, having died giving birth to Benjamin back in chapter 35. So, to Jacob's mind, all that's left of the love of his life is Benjamin. So that if something were to happen to him, he would have nothing left to remind him of Rachel, and that whole side of the family would be gone.
Benjamin, at this time, wasn't a little kid. He was born when the family moved south from Bethel to Hebron back in chapter 35. And as Joseph was now about 38, and sold into slavery at 17 while Jacob was at Hebron, then Benjamin is, at the bare minimum, at least 21.
● Gen 42:5 . . So Israel's sons were among those who went to buy grain, for the famine was in the land of Canaan also.
That must have been an interesting sight. The brothers mingled in with caravans traveling to (and from) Egypt, and there must have been a lot of them because the drought had effected the whole land of Palestine, possibly even clear up into Syria and Lebanon. Traveling in a caravan had its benefits. With food so scarce, grain would be more valuable than money, and lone travelers would be easy targets for desperate clans; and brigands too.
● Gen 42:6a . . Now Joseph was powerful in the land; the one who sold grain to all its people.
Apparently, before anybody could obtain grain, they had to first go by the Minister Of Agriculture's office and purchase a permit in the form of an official receipt, which was then taken to a designated silo and redeemed for grain. Apparently, collecting the money, and issuing permits, was a task that Joseph personally supervised himself rather than delegate to subordinates: which tells me that Joseph trusted no one. And no surprise.
Those permits were a golden opportunity for graft and/or embezzling. A dishonest clerk could smuggle some of those permits out of the office and distribute them to friends and relatives and/or peddle them on the black market because they were just as valuable as Cap & Trade emission permits and food stamps. You could probably scalp those grain coupons for at least double the original price.
● Gen 42:6b-8 . . So when Joseph's brothers arrived, they bowed down to him with their faces to the ground. As soon as Joseph saw his brothers, he recognized them, but he pretended to be a stranger and spoke harshly to them. Where do you come from? he asked. From the land of Canaan, they replied, to buy food. Although Joseph recognized his brothers, they did not recognize him.
One can hardly blame Joseph for acting like a stranger. For all he knew, his brothers were still toxic; and might be inclined to find new ways to mess up his life yet once more like they did when he lived at home. When people have been burned by someone they trust; that trust is not easily regained; nor does it deserve to be. Those men tried to murder Joseph-- his own flesh and blood kin tried. That's something that's neither easily forgotten, nor easily forgiven; and shouldn't be. Joseph's reluctance to befriend his brothers at this point is fully justified. Only a fool would try to kiss a rattlesnake twice after the first time one bites him on the nose.
But at the same time, this presents a dilemma for Joseph. No doubt he's anxious for an update of his father Jacob's health and welfare, and also of his one full brother Benjamin; against whom Joseph harbored no bad feelings whatsoever. I sincerely believe that if it wasn't for Joseph's concern for his father and kid brother back home, that he never, ever would have told his brothers anything about himself. They would have come and gone with no consciousness at all that they'd ever passed his way.
It's not surprising that Joseph's older brothers didn't recognize him. He was just a shiny-faced, 17 year-old teen-ager the last they saw him. They haven't seen their kid brother for the past 21 years. In that time his face and his voice had aged to that of a matured 38 year-old man. Plus he's cultured far different than any of Palestine's sheep herders. He has an Egyptian hair cut, an Egyptian beard, speaks the Egyptian language, wears the expensive clothing of Egyptian aristocrats; and he's a top-of-the-heap Egyptian government official; a position in which they would never in a million years expect to find their sheep-herding kid brother.
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