Scripture Reading: Genesis 42:18-26
“And Joseph said unto them the third day: ‘This do, and live; for I fear God: If ye be upright men, let one of your brethren be bound in your prison-house; but go ye, carry corn for the famine of your houses; and bring your youngest brother unto me; so shall your words be verified, and ye shall not die…'” (Genesis 42:14-15)
“And they said one to another: ‘We are verily guilty concerning our brother, in that we saw the distress of his soul, when he besought us, and we would not hear; therefore is this distress come upon us.'” (Genesis 42:21)
On the third day of their imprisonment they were brought out to stand before Joseph. He said to them, “This do, in order that ye may live, for I fear God.”
The Haftorah says: “The brethren claimed to be upright, honest men. Profession was not enough. Let them bring the youngest brother, ‘so shall your words be verified, and ye shall not die.'”
“For I Fear God:” Because of Joseph’s righteousness he was saying, “I am unwilling to treat you with unnecessary severity on mere suspicion. I will keep one of you as a hostage, the rest shall convey food for your families.”
They were willing to do this. In fact, they were very relieved at this command. The kindness of Joseph brought a great conviction of soul upon them, and they immediately began to confess their sins. We find out more of the story of how cruelly they had treated Joseph so many years before. Listen to their discourse, “We are verily guilty concerning our brother, in that we saw the distress of his soul, when he besought us, and we would not hear; therefore is this distress come upon us.”
Reuben, the only kind one among them, who had pled for his little brother reminded them, “Spoke I not unto you saying: ‘Do not sin against the child; and ye would not hear? therefore also, behold, his blood is required.'”
When Joseph heard their conversation, for they spoke freely with each other because they thought he did not understand their language, he was deeply moved. He quietly left the room, and went into another room where he could weep alone. This is their first indication of remorse. It took three days in prison, with the death sentence hanging over their heads, to bring them to the place where they could confess their sins.
“We are upright men.” Punishment helps us to see our wrong. At first they had told Joseph, “We are upright men” (vs. 11); now to each other they were confessing the truth about themselves. It is so easy to pretend to others how righteous and good we are, when we know that the truth is that we are nothing but rascals, and that there is no good thing in us.
Punishment helps us to see our wrong. Most people will not confess to their guilt unless they are punished.
Punishment drives demons out of us because they do not want to share with our suffering and punishment. If we punish children when they are young we will drive evil spirits far from them (Proverbs 22:15).
“His blood is required”: Reuben’s statement, “His blood is required” is a scriptural truth that God had given Noah (Genesis 9:5-6). “And surely your blood of your lives will I require; at the hand of every beast will I require it, and at the hand of man; at the hand of every man’s brother will I require the life of man. Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man.” Everyone who sheds blood will be judged by God — a life for a life (Exodus 21:23). They may get away without paying the death penalty now, but the day of judgment will surely come and terrible shall be the punishment!
When Joseph returned to the room where his brothers were, he selected Simeon out of the group, bound him before their eyes and commanded that he should be put into the prison as a hostage until his brothers returned.
Then Joseph commanded his servants to fill the vessels with grain, and privately he told his servants to put every man’s money in their sacks and give them an extra supply of food for the journey home.
When the brothers saw Simeon, the cruelest, trickiest, and the meanest of them being selected out of their midst, they knew that he was singled out by God for punishment for his cruelty to Joseph.
The Commentator in Josephus says, “The reason why Simeon might be selected out of the rest is plain in the testament of Simeon, that he was one of the bitterest of all Joseph’s brethren against him.” (Lost Books of the Bible).
So it was that when his brothers started out for home, Simeon was retained as a prisoner in Egypt. He probably was in the same prison that Joseph had been in.
God was giving him a space of time to repent. Sometimes prison-time helps a man to think over what he has done, and leads to his repentance.
In the Beginning by Gwen Shaw
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