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Joseph's Brethren Faced with Guillt of Secret Sin | Genesis 42

In Chapter 41 we read about Joseph becoming the ruler of Egypt, just underneath Pharaoh himself. In this chapter, while in charge of selling grain during the famine, Joseph runs into his brothers who came to Egypt looking for food. While here they will be forced to remember the secret sin they committed 20 years ago. What will they do? How will they react?

Let us begin reading:


Genesis 42:1 Now when Jacob saw that there was corn in Egypt, Jacob said unto his sons, Why do ye look one upon another?

Why do ye look one upon another?- In other words, “What are you waiting for?” Jacob says. The boys seemed to be indecisive here as this emergency builds.

Genesis 42:2 And he said, Behold, I have heard that there is corn in Egypt: get you down thither, and buy for us from thence; that we may live, and not die.

I have heard- Word got around that Egypt had corn during this time of famine, and getting that corn seemed to be the only means of survival for Jacob and his family. There was no other choice but to go down to Egypt. Either go down, or die.

Spiritual type: When Jesus walked the earth, there was a severe famine for hearing the truth of God’s Word. Those responsible for distributing it had become corrupt and the people were destitute of spiritual food. The leaders had made the “word of God of none effect” through their vain “traditions” (Mark 7:13). But there was hope. A savior had come. “When he (Jesus) saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd” (Matt. 9:36). Then Jesus curiously proceeded on to say to his disciples, “The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few; Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest” (Matt. 9:37-38).

Do you see the connection?

Just as Joseph saved the world from physical famine, Jesus saved the world from a spiritual famine. In one place, “Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst” (John 6:35).

During Jesus’ ministry great multitudes from all over “pressed upon him to hear the word of God” (Luke 5:1).

Genesis 42:3 And Joseph's ten brethren went down to buy corn in Egypt.

Perhaps the brothers initial delay had something to do with the guilt of what they had done to Joseph. They’ve been holding onto this secret sin for 20 years now, so even the thought of Egypt reminds them of something they’ve tried hard to forget.

Genesis 42:4 But Benjamin, Joseph's brother, Jacob sent not with his brethren; for he said, Lest peradventure mischief befall him.

Peradventure mischief befall him- By this time, it appears Jacob suspected the brothers had something to do with the disappearance of Joseph. He doesn’t trust them. Probably fears that whatever they did to Joseph, they will also do to Benjamin.

Going down to Egypt, and their father not sending Benjamin the youngest with, no doubt is causing the memory of what they had done to Joseph to come to mind. Their secret sin is going to begin eating away at their conscience, step by step.

Genesis 42:5 And the sons of Israel came to buy corn among those that came: for the famine was in the land of Canaan.

Among those that came- They weren’t the only ones needing food. People from all over the world were coming to Joseph, in Egypt, to get saved!


Genesis 42:6 And Joseph was the governor over the land, and he it was that sold to all the people of the land: and Joseph's brethren came, and bowed down themselves before him with their faces to the earth.

Bowed down themselves before him- His dream is coming to pass! Joseph’s brothers effort to stop him from reigning over them, actually made this moment possible. Think about it! Now, their sheaves are indeed bowing down unto his sheaf, exactly as Joseph saw it (Gen. 37:7).

Genesis 42:7 And Joseph saw his brethren, and he knew them, but made himself strange unto them, and spake roughly unto them; and he said unto them, Whence come ye? And they said, From the land of Canaan to buy food.

Spake roughly unto them- Instead of revealing who he was right away, Joseph is going to treat his brothers in a way that will force them to face their consciences and repent. This will be a process, not something that happens instantaneously. Some things still need to happen in order to jar their consciences. Though speaking roughly to them after not seeing them since the day they betrayed him was a strategic move to gather information about his family, I’m sure it was also a natural reaction as well. How would you react if you were in Joseph’s position?

Spiritual lesson- Same way for us even to this day. Sometimes God must bring us through certain trials and tribulations in order to shed light upon our sins, to get us to see and acknowledge them. That’s what is beginning to happen here with Joseph’s brothers.

Genesis 42:8 And Joseph knew his brethren, but they knew not him.

Same with Jesus:

“He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. He came unto his own, and his own received him not.” -John 1:10-11

Genesis 42:9 And Joseph remembered the dreams which he dreamed of them, and said unto them, Ye are spies; to see the nakedness of the land ye are come.

Remembered the dreams- It’s all coming together now! Joseph understands why they betrayed him. It was all part of a much larger plan.

Genesis 42:10 And they said unto him, Nay, my lord, but to buy food are thy servants come.

Genesis 42:11 We are all one man's sons; we are true men, thy servants are no spies.

We are true men- While it may be true that their intentions were pure in this instance, they were still liars! They had not yet admitted or repented of their secret sin.


Genesis 42:12 And he said unto them, Nay, but to see the nakedness of the land ye are come.

Genesis 42:13 And they said, Thy servants are twelve brethren, the sons of one man in the land of Canaan; and, behold, the youngest is this day with our father, and one is not.

One is not- They probably thought Joseph was dead, but ironically, he was the one talking to them! This sort of reminds me how that the 12 disciples thought Jesus was dead not knowing he had resurrected. “And it came to pass, that, while they communed together and reasoned, Jesus himself drew near, and went with them. But their eyes were holden that they should not know him” (Luke 24:15-16). So many parallels between Joseph and Jesus, it is astounding.

Genesis 42:14 And Joseph said unto them, That is it that I spake unto you, saying, Ye are spies:

Genesis 42:15 Hereby ye shall be proved: By the life of Pharaoh ye shall not go forth hence, except your youngest brother come hither.

Except your youngest brother come hither- Of course Joseph knew they weren’t spies, he is using this accusation so he can meet his younger brother that he had never met, the only brother innocent of the crime committed against him.

Genesis 42:16 Send one of you, and let him fetch your brother, and ye shall be kept in prison, that your words may be proved, whether there be any truth in you: or else by the life of Pharaoh surely ye are spies.

Whether there be any truth in you- Oh, how this statement must have pricked their consciences! I’m sure this accusation must have caused them to think about what they were guilty of, their secret sin of betraying their own flesh and blood brother. Not only that, Joseph may also have been seeing at what lengths they would go to protect their younger brother. Would they treat Benjamin like they treated him? Don’t overlook this my friends. It’s obvious God was using Joseph to test them, to see if they changed their jealous ways.

As it is written:

“I the LORD search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings” (Jer.17:10).

Genesis 42:17 And he put them all together into ward three days.

Three days- Does the three days in prison have anything to do with Jesus being three days in the grave? Interesting that three days was the number chosen by God.

Genesis 42:18 And Joseph said unto them the third day, This do, and live; for I fear God:

This do, and live- Again, three is the number associated with the “resurrection” of Jesus Christ.

Genesis 42:19 If ye be true men, let one of your brethren be bound in the house of your prison: go ye, carry corn for the famine of your houses:

Let one of your brethren be bound- Seemingly looking ahead to the one who would be “bound” as the true sacrifice for his brothers- The Lord Jesus Christ.

Genesis 42:20 But bring your youngest brother unto me; so shall your words be verified, and ye shall not die. And they did so.


Genesis 42:21 And they said one to another, 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.

We are verily guilty concerning our brother- Amen! They are on the path to repentance now. They are beginning to view this unlucky series of events in Egypt as punishment from God for the secret sin they committed 20 years ago. Now they are finally showing some remorse, as they shame themselves for not listening to the cries of their brother Joseph. Sometimes we have to experience things ourselves, we must experience the same wrongs we’ve committed against others in order to understand what we’ve done to others.

Genesis 42:22 And Reuben answered them, saying, Spake I not unto you, saying, Do not sin against the child; and ye would not hear? therefore, behold, also his blood is required.

His blood is required- Reuben knows that eventually, the sin of murder or attempted murder will catch up to everyone in due time. Though they seemed to have gotten away with leaving Joseph for dead, it now appears to be the DAY OF RECKONING. How did Reuben know this? Well, I’m sure he knew what God had said after the flood of Noah. As it is written:

“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” (Gen. 9:5-6).

Genesis 42:23 And they knew not that Joseph understood them; for he spake unto them by an interpreter.

Genesis 42:24 And he turned himself about from them, and wept; and returned to them again, and communed with them, and took from them Simeon, and bound him before their eyes.

And wept- Seeing the brothers show remorse for what they did moved Joseph emotionally.

Took from them Simeon- Why Simeon and not one of the other brothers? It’s not really clear.


Genesis 42:25 Then Joseph commanded to fill their sacks with corn, and to restore every man's money into his sack, and to give them provision for the way: and thus did he unto them.

Genesis 42:26 And they laded their asses with the corn, and departed thence.

Genesis 42:27 And as one of them opened his sack to give his ass provender in the inn, he espied his money; for, behold, it was in his sack's mouth.

Genesis 42:28 And he said unto his brethren, My money is restored; and, lo, it is even in my sack: and their heart failed them, and they were afraid, saying one to another, What is this that God hath done unto us?

Why did “their heart fail them”? Since their money was in the sack, now they feared they’d be accused of stealing grain from Egypt. Perceiving that this was divine punishment for what they had done to Joseph they said, “What is this that God hath done unto us?”


Genesis 42:29 And they came unto Jacob their father unto the land of Canaan, and told him all that befell unto them; saying,

Genesis 42:30 The man, who is the lord of the land, spake roughly to us, and took us for spies of the country.

Genesis 42:31 And we said unto him, We are true men; we are no spies:

Genesis 42:32 We be twelve brethren, sons of our father; one is not, and the youngest is this day with our father in the land of Canaan.

Genesis 42:33 And the man, the lord of the country, said unto us, Hereby shall I know that ye are true men; leave one of your brethren here with me, and take food for the famine of your households, and be gone:

Genesis 42:34 And bring your youngest brother unto me: then shall I know that ye are no spies, but that ye are true men: so will I deliver you your brother, and ye shall traffick in the land.


Genesis 42:35 And it came to pass as they emptied their sacks, that, behold, every man's bundle of money was in his sack: and when both they and their father saw the bundles of money, they were afraid.

They were afraid- One of the products of sin is fear. “I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself” Adam said long ago after eating of the forbidden tree (Gen. 3:10).

Genesis 42:36 And Jacob their father said unto them, Me have ye bereaved of my children: Joseph is not, and Simeon is not, and ye will take Benjamin away: all these things are against me.

Bereaved of my children- This is the man who wrestled with the Angel of the Lord and prevailed. This is the man whose name was changed to Israel. Now, in his old age he sits in doubt complaining about his lot in life saying, “all these things are against me.” What happened? Why the change?

Genesis 42:37 And Reuben spake unto his father, saying, Slay my two sons, if I bring him not to thee: deliver him into my hand, and I will bring him to thee again.

Genesis 42:38 And he said, My son shall not go down with you; for his brother is dead, and he is left alone: if mischief befall him by the way in the which ye go, then shall ye bring down my gray hairs with sorrow to the grave.

My son shall not go down with you- Jacob is not willing to take the chance. He feels he has lost too much already and isn’t able to lose anymore.


It doesn’t pay to hide your sins. Secret sins will always come back to haunt us. In Luke 8:17 Jesus says, “For nothing is secret, that shall not be made manifest; neither anything hid, that shall not be known and come abroad.”

It’s much better to confess them, accept the consequences, or forgiveness, and move on with life striving to live according to the Word of God. Unless someone’s heart is pricked with guilt, they will never become a true Christian convert.

“Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ. Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” -Acts 2:36-38
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