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The Oxford Study Bible Study Bible supplemented with commentary from scholars of various religions.

Chapter 42

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1 WHEN Jacob learnt that there was grain in Egypt, he said to his sons, ‘Why do you stand staring at each other? 2I hear there is grain in Egypt. Go down there, and buy some for us to keep us alive and save us from starving to death.’ 3So ten of Joseph's brothers went down to buy grain from Egypt, 4but Jacob did not let Joseph's brother Benjamin go with them, for fear that he might come to harm.

5Thus the sons of Israel went with everyone else to buy grain because of the famine in Canaan. 6Now Joseph was governor of the land, and it was he who sold the grain to all its people. Joseph's brothers came and bowed to the ground before him, 7and when he saw his brothers he recognized them but, pretending not to know them, he greeted them harshly. ‘Where do you come from?’ he demanded. ‘From Canaan to buy food,’ they answered. 8Although Joseph had recognized his brothers, they did not recognize him. 9He remembered the dreams he had had about them and said, ‘You are spies; you have come to spy out the weak points in our defences.’ 10‘No, my lord,’ they answered; ‘your servants have come to buy food. 11We are all sons of one man. We are honest men; your servants are not spies.’ 12‘No,’ he maintained, ‘it is to spy out our weaknesses that you have come.’ 13They said, ‘There were twelve of us, my lord, all brothers, sons of one man back in Canaan; the youngest is still with our father, and one is lost.’ 14But Joseph insisted, ‘As I have already said to you: you are spies. 15This is how you will be put to the test: unless your youngest brother comes here, I swear by the life of Pharaoh you shall not leave this place. 16Send one of your number to fetch your brother; the rest of you will remain in prison. Thus your story will be tested to see whether you are telling the truth. If not, then by the life of Pharaoh you must be spies.’ 17With that he kept them in prison for three days.

18On the third day Joseph said to them, ‘Do what I say and your lives will be spared, for I am a godfearing man: 19if you are honest men, only one of you brothers shall be kept in prison, while the rest of you may go and take grain for your starving households; 20but you must bring your youngest brother to me. In this way your words will be proved true, and you will not die.’

21They consented, and among themselves they said, ‘No doubt we are being punished because of our brother. We saw his distress when he pleaded with us and we refused to listen. That is why this distress has come on us.’ 22Reuben said, ‘Did I not warn you not to do wrong to the boy? But you would not listen, and now his blood is on our heads, and we must pay.’ 23They did not know that Joseph understood, since he had used an interpreter. 24Joseph turned away from them and wept. Then he went back to speak to them, and took Simeon from among them and had him bound before their eyes. 25He gave orders to fill their bags with grain, to put each man's silver back into his sack again, and to give them provisions for the journey. After this had been done, 26they loaded their grain on their donkeys and set off. 27When they stopped for the night, one of them opened his sack to give feed to his donkey, and there at the top was the silver. 28He said to his brothers, ‘My silver has been returned; here it is in my pack.’ Bewildered and trembling, they asked one another, ‘What is this that God has done to us?’

29When they came to their father Jacob in Canaan, they gave him an account of all that had happened to them. They said: 30‘The man who is lord of the country spoke harshly to us and made out that we were spies. 31But we said to him, “We are honest men, we are not spies. 32There were twelve of us, all brothers, sons of the same father. One has disappeared, and the youngest is with our father in Canaan.” 33Then the man, the lord of the country, said to us, “This is how I shall discover if you are honest men: leave one of your brothers with me, take food a 42:33 food: so Gk; Heb. omits. for your starving households and go; 34bring your youngest brother to me, and I shall know that you are honest men and not spies. Then I shall restore your brother to you, and you can move around the country freely.”’ 35But on emptying their sacks, each of them found his silver inside, and when they and their father saw the bundles of silver, they were afraid. 36Their father Jacob said to them, ‘You have robbed me of my children. Joseph is lost; Simeon is lost; and now you would take Benjamin. Everything is against me.’ 37Reuben said to his father, ‘You may put both my sons to death if I do not bring him back to you. Entrust him to me, and I shall bring him back.’ 38But Jacob said, ‘My son must not go with you, for his brother is dead and he alone is left. Should he come to any harm on the journey, you will bring down my grey hairs in sorrow to the grave b 42:38 the grave: Heb. Sheol. .’

Notes:

a 42:33 food: so Gk; Heb. omits.

b 42:38 the grave: Heb. Sheol.

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