Joseph Tests his Brothers (February 2, 2021)

Joseph tests his brothers: Joseph gave commands to his household manager: “Fill the men’s sacks with as much food as they’ll hold, and put each man’s silver at the top of his sack. Put my cup, the silver cup, on top of the youngest brother’s sack, together with the silver for his grain.” At dawn, the men and their donkeys were sent off. They had left the city but hadn’t gone far when Joseph said to his household manager, “Get ready, go after the men and catch up with them! Ask them, ‘Why have you repaid hospitality with ingratitude? Isn’t this the cup my master drinks from?”

Joseph Tests his Brothers (February 2, 2021)

Genesis 42:1–45:28, CEB

When Jacob learned that there was grain in Egypt, he said to his sons, “Why are you staring blankly at each other? I’ve just heard that there’s grain in Egypt. Go down there and buy some for us so that we can survive and not starve to death.” So Joseph’s ten brothers went down to buy grain in Egypt. However, Jacob didn’t send Joseph’s brother Benjamin along with his brothers because he thought something bad might happen to him. Israel’s sons came to buy grain with others who also came since the famine had spread to the land of Canaan.

As for Joseph, he was the land’s governor, and he was the one selling grain to all the land’s people. When Joseph’s brothers arrived, they bowed down to him, their faces to the ground. When Joseph saw his brothers, he recognized them, but he acted like he didn’t know them. He spoke to them with a harsh tone and said, “Where have you come from?”

And they said, “From the land of Canaan to buy food.”

Joseph recognized his brothers, but they didn’t recognize him. Joseph remembered the dreams he had dreamed about them, and said to them, “You are spies. You’ve come to look for the country’s weaknesses.”

They said to him, “No, Master. Your servants have just come to buy food. We are all sons of one man. We are honest men. Your servants aren’t spies.”

He said to them, “No. You’ve come to look for the country’s weaknesses.”

They said, “We, your servants, are twelve brothers, sons of one man in the land of Canaan. The youngest is now with our father, but one is gone.”

Joseph said to them, “It’s just as I’ve said to you. You are spies! But here is how to prove yourselves: As Pharaoh lives, you won’t leave here until your youngest brother arrives. Send one of you to get your brother, but the rest of you will stay in prison. We will find out if your words are true. If not, as Pharaoh lives, you are certainly spies.”

He put them all in prison for three days. On the third day, Joseph said to them, “Do this and you will live, for I’m a God-fearing man. If you are honest men, let one of your brothers stay in prison, and the rest of you, go, take grain back to those in your households who are hungry. But bring your youngest brother back to me so that your words will prove true and you won’t die.”

So they prepared to do this. The brothers said to each other, “We are clearly guilty for what we did to our brother when we saw his life in danger and when he begged us for mercy, but we didn’t listen. That’s why we’re in this danger now.”

Reuben responded to them, “Didn’t I tell you, ‘Don’t do anything wrong to the boy’? But you wouldn’t listen. So now this is payback for his death.” They didn’t know that Joseph was listening to them because they were using an interpreter. He stepped away from them and wept. When he returned, he spoke with them again. Then he took Simeon from them and tied him up in front of them.

Then Joseph gave orders to fill their bags with grain, to put back each man’s silver into his own sack, and to give them provisions for their trip, and it was done. They loaded their grain onto their donkeys, and they set out. When they stopped to spend the night, one of them opened his sack to feed his donkey, and he saw his silver at the top of his sack. He said to his brothers, “My silver’s been returned. It’s right here in my sack.” Their hearts stopped. Terrified, they said to each other, “What has God done to us?”

When they got back to their father Jacob in the land of Canaan, they described to him everything that had happened to them: “The man, the country’s governor, spoke to us with a harsh tone and accused us of being spies in the country. We told him, ‘We’re honest men, not spies. We are twelve brothers, all our father’s sons. One of us is gone, but the youngest is right now with our father in the land of Canaan.’ The man, the country’s governor, told us, ‘This is how I will know you are honest men: Leave one of your brothers with me, take grain for those in your households who are hungry, and go. But bring back your youngest brother to me. Then I will know that you are not spies but honest men. I will give your brother back to you, and you may travel throughout the country.’ ”

When they opened their sacks, each man found a pouch of his silver in his sack. When they and their father saw their pouches of silver, they were afraid. Their father Jacob said to them, “You’ve taken my children from me. Joseph’s gone. Simeon’s gone. And you are taking Benjamin. All this can’t really be happening to me!”

Reuben said to his father, “You may put both of my sons to death if I don’t bring him back to you. Make him my responsibility, and I will make sure he returns to you.”

But Jacob said to him, “My son won’t go down with you because his brother’s dead and he’s been left all alone. If anything were to happen to him on the trip you are taking, you would send me—old as I am—to my grave in grief.”

The famine was severe in the land, and when they had eaten all the grain that they brought from Egypt, their father said to them, “Go back and buy us a little food.”

Judah said to him, “The man was absolutely serious when he said, ‘You may not see me again without your brother with you.’ If you agree to send our brother with us, then we will go down and buy you food. But if you don’t agree to send him, then we can’t go down because the man said to us, ‘You may not see me again without your brother with you.’ ”

Israel said, “Why have you caused me such pain by telling the man you had another brother?”

They said, “The man asked us pointedly about our family: ‘Is your father still alive? Do you have a brother?’ So we told him just what we’ve said. How were we to know he’d say, ‘Bring your brother down here’?”

Judah said to his father Israel, “Send the young man with me. Let’s get ready to leave so that we can stay alive and not die—we, you, and our children. I will guarantee his safety; you can hold me responsible. If I don’t bring him back to you and place him here in front of you, it will be my fault forever. If we hadn’t waited so long, we would’ve returned twice by now.”

Their father Israel said to them, “If it has to be, then do this. Take in your bags some of the land’s choice produce, and bring it down to the man as a gift: a little medicinal resin, a little honey, gum, resin, pistachios, and almonds. Take twice as much silver with you, and take back the silver returned in the top of your sacks. It might have been a mistake. And take your brother, get ready, and go back to the man. May God Almighty make the man compassionate toward you so that he may send back your other brother and Benjamin with you. But me, if I’m left childless, then I’m left childless.”

So the men took this gift. They took twice as much silver with them, together with Benjamin. They left, traveled down to Egypt, and received an audience with Joseph. When Joseph saw Benjamin with them, he said to the manager of his household, “Bring the men to the house and slaughter an animal and prepare it because the men will have dinner with me at noon.” The man did as Joseph told him and brought the men to Joseph’s house.

When they were brought to Joseph’s house, the men were frightened and said, “We’ve been brought here because of the silver put back in our sacks on our first trip so he can overpower us, capture us, make slaves of us, and take our donkeys.”

They approached the man who was Joseph’s household manager and spoke to him at the house’s entrance: “Please, Master, we came down the first time just to buy food, but when we stopped to spend the night and opened our sacks, there was the exact amount of each man’s silver at the top of his sack. We’ve brought it back with us, and we’ve brought down with us additional silver to buy food. We don’t know who put our silver in our sacks.”

He said, “You are fine. Don’t be afraid. Your God and your father’s God must have hidden a treasure in your sacks. I received your money.” Then he brought Simeon out to them.

The manager brought the men into Joseph’s house and gave them water to wash their feet and feed for their donkeys. They prepared the gift, anticipating Joseph’s arrival at noon, since they had heard that they would have a meal there. When Joseph came into the house, they presented him the gift they had brought with them into the house, and they bowed low in front of him. He asked them how they were and said, “How is your elderly father, about whom you spoke? Is he still alive?”

They said, “Your servant our father is fine. He’s still alive.” And they bowed down again with deep respect.

Joseph looked up and saw his brother Benjamin, his own mother’s son, and he said, “Is this your youngest brother whom you told me about? God be gracious to you, my son.” Joseph’s feelings for his brother were so strong he was about to weep, so he rushed to another room and wept there. He washed his face, came back, pulled himself together, and said, “Set out the dinner.” So they set out his food by himself, their food by themselves, and the Egyptians’ who ate with him by themselves because Egyptians don’t allow themselves to eat with Hebrews; the Egyptians think it beneath their dignity. They were seated in front of him from the oldest to the youngest in their exact birth order, and the men looked at each other with amazement. Portions of food from Joseph’s table were brought to them, but Benjamin’s portion was five times as large as theirs. So they drank together and were at ease.

Joseph gave commands to his household manager: “Fill the men’s sacks with as much food as they’ll hold, and put each man’s silver at the top of his sack. Put my cup, the silver cup, on top of the youngest brother’s sack, together with the silver for his grain.” So he did just as Joseph told him to do.

At dawn, the men and their donkeys were sent off. They had left the city but hadn’t gone far when Joseph said to his household manager, “Get ready, go after the men and catch up with them! Ask them, ‘Why have you repaid hospitality with ingratitude?Isn’t this the cup my master drinks from and uses to discover God’s plans? What you’ve done is despicable.’ ”

When he caught up to them, he repeated these words. They replied, “Why does my master talk to us like this? Your servants would never do such a thing. The silver that we found at the top of our sacks, we’ve just brought back to you from the land of Canaan. We didn’t steal silver or gold from your master’s house. Whoever of your servants is found with it will be put to death, and we’ll be my master’s slaves.”

He said, “Fine. We’ll do just as you’ve said. Whoever is found with it will be my slave, and the rest of you will go free.” Everyone quickly lowered their sacks down to the ground and each opened his sack. He searched the oldest first and the youngest last, and the cup was found in Benjamin’s sack. At this, they tore their clothing. Then everyone loaded their donkeys, and they returned to the city.

When Judah and his brothers arrived at Joseph’s house, he was still there, and they fell to the ground in front of him. Joseph said to them, “What’s this you’ve done? Didn’t you know someone like me can discover God’s plans?”

Judah replied, “What can we say to my master? What words can we use? How can we prove we are innocent? God has found your servants guilty. We are now your slaves, all of us, including the one found with the cup.”

Joseph said, “I’d never do such a thing. Only the man found with the cup will be my slave. As for the rest of you, you are free to go back to your father.”

Judah approached him and said, “Please, my master, allow your servant to say something to my master without getting angry with your servant since you are like Pharaoh himself. My master asked his servants, ‘Do you have a father or brother?’ And we said to my master, ‘Yes, we have an elderly father and a young brother, born when he was old. His brother is dead and he’s his mother’s only child. But his father loves him.’ You told your servants, ‘Bring him down to me so I can see him.’ And we said to my master, ‘The young man can’t leave his father. If he leaves, his father will die.’ You said to your servants, ‘If your youngest brother doesn’t come down with you, you’ll never see my face again.’

“When we went back to my father your servant, we told him what you said. Our father told us, ‘Go back and buy for us a little food.’ But we said, ‘We can’t go down. We will go down only if our youngest brother is with us. We won’t be able to gain an audience with the man without our youngest brother with us.’ Your servant my father said to us, ‘You know that my wife gave birth to two sons for me. One disappeared and I said, “He must have been torn up by a wild animal,” and I haven’t seen him since. And if you take this one from me too, something terrible will happen to him, and you will send me—old as I am—to my grave in despair.’ When I now go back to your servant my father without the young man—whose life is so bound up with his—and when he sees that the young man isn’t with us, he will die, and your servants will have sent our father your servant—old as he is—to his grave in grief. I, your servant, guaranteed the young man’s safety to my father, telling him, ‘If I don’t bring him back to you, it will be my fault forever.’ Now, please let your servant stay as your slave instead of the young man so that he can go back with his brothers. How can I go back to my father without the young man? I couldn’t bear to see how badly my father would be hurt.”

Joseph could no longer control himself in front of all his attendants, so he declared, “Everyone, leave now!” So no one stayed with him when he revealed his identity to his brothers. He wept so loudly that the Egyptians and Pharaoh’s household heard him. Joseph said to his brothers, “I’m Joseph! Is my father really still alive?” His brothers couldn’t respond because they were terrified before him.

Joseph said to his brothers, “Come closer to me,” and they moved closer. He said, “I’m your brother Joseph! The one you sold to Egypt. Now, don’t be upset and don’t be angry with yourselves that you sold me here. Actually, God sent me before you to save lives. We’ve already had two years of famine in the land, and there are five years left without planting or harvesting. God sent me before you to make sure you’d survive and to rescue your lives in this amazing way. You didn’t send me here; it was God who made me a father to Pharaoh, master of his entire household, and ruler of the whole land of Egypt.

“Hurry! Go back to your father. Tell him this is what your son Joseph says: ‘God has made me master of all of Egypt. Come down to me. Don’t delay. You may live in the land of Goshen, so you will be near me, your children, your grandchildren, your flocks, your herds, and everyone with you. I will support you there, so you, your household, and everyone with you won’t starve, since the famine will still last five years.’ You and my brother Benjamin have seen with your own eyes that I’m speaking to you. Tell my father about my power in Egypt and about everything you’ve seen. Hurry and bring my father down here.” He threw his arms around his brother Benjamin’s neck and wept, and Benjamin wept on his shoulder. He kissed all of his brothers and wept, embracing them. After that, his brothers were finally able to talk to him.

When Pharaoh’s household heard the message “Joseph’s brothers have arrived,” both Pharaoh and his servants were pleased. Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Give your brothers these instructions: Load your pack animals and go back to the land of Canaan. Get your father and your households and come back to me. Let me provide you with good things from the land of Egypt so that you may eat the land’s best food. Give them these instructions too: Take wagons from the land of Egypt for your children and wives, and pick up your father and come back. Don’t worry about your possessions because you will have good things from the entire land of Egypt.”

So Israel’s sons did that. Joseph gave them wagons as Pharaoh instructed, and he gave them provisions for the road. To all of them he gave a change of clothing, but to Benjamin he gave three hundred pieces of silver and five changes of clothing. To his father he sent ten male donkeys carrying goods from Egypt, ten female donkeys carrying grain and bread, and rations for his father for the road. He sent his brothers off; and as they were leaving, he told them, “Don’t be worried about the trip.”

So they left Egypt and returned to their father Jacob in the land of Canaan. They announced to him, “Joseph’s still alive! He’s actually ruler of all the land of Egypt!” Jacob’s heart nearly failed, and he didn’t believe them.

When they told him everything Joseph had said to them, and when he saw the wagons Joseph had sent to carry him, Jacob recovered. Then Israel said, “This is too much! My son Joseph is still alive! Let me go and see him before I die.”

Job 17:1–16, MEV

“My spirit is broken, my days are extinguished,

the grave is ready for me.

Are not mockers with me?

And does not my eye dwell on their provocation?

“Now put down a pledge for me with Yourself.

Who is he who will shake hands with me?

For You have hidden their heart from understanding.

Therefore will You not exalt them.

He who speaks flattery to his friends,

even the eyes of his children will fail.

“And He has made me a byword of the people,

someone in whose face they spit.

My eye also is dim because of sorrow,

and all my members are like a shadow.

Upright men will be astonished at this,

and the innocent will stir up himself against the hypocrite.

The righteous also will hold to his way,

and he who has clean hands will be stronger and stronger.

“But as for you all, return and come now,

for I cannot find one wise man among you.

My days are past, my purposes are broken off,

even the thoughts of my heart.

They change the night into day;

the light is short because of darkness.

If I wait, the grave is my house;

I have made my bed in the darkness.

I have said to the pit, ‘You are my father’;

to the worm, ‘You are my mother and my sister.’

Where now is my hope?

As for my hope, who will see it?

Will they go down to the gates of Sheol?

Will we descend together in the dust?”

Isaiah 22:15–23:18, NLT

This is what the Lord, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, said to me: “Confront Shebna, the palace administrator, and give him this message:

“Who do you think you are,

and what are you doing here,

building a beautiful tomb for yourself—

a monument high up in the rock?

For the Lord is about to hurl you away, mighty man.

He is going to grab you,

crumple you into a ball,

and toss you away into a distant, barren land.

There you will die,

and your glorious chariots will be broken and useless.

You are a disgrace to your master!

“Yes, I will drive you out of office,” says the Lord. “I will pull you down from your high position. And then I will call my servant Eliakim son of Hilkiah to replace you. I will dress him in your royal robes and will give him your title and your authority. And he will be a father to the people of Jerusalem and Judah. I will give him the key to the house of David—the highest position in the royal court. When he opens doors, no one will be able to close them; when he closes doors, no one will be able to open them. He will bring honor to his family name, for I will drive him firmly in place like a nail in the wall. They will give him great responsibility, and he will bring honor to even the lowliest members of his family.”

But the Lord of Heaven’s Armies also says: “The time will come when I will pull out the nail that seemed so firm. It will come out and fall to the ground. Everything it supports will fall with it. I, the Lord, have spoken!”

This message came to me concerning Tyre:

Wail, you trading ships of Tarshish,

for the harbor and houses of Tyre are gone!

The rumors you heard in Cyprus

are all true.

Mourn in silence, you people of the coast

and you merchants of Sidon.

Your traders crossed the sea,

sailing over deep waters.

They brought you grain from Egypt

and harvests from along the Nile.

You were the marketplace of the world.

But now you are put to shame, city of Sidon,

for Tyre, the fortress of the sea, says,

“Now I am childless;

I have no sons or daughters.”

When Egypt hears the news about Tyre,

there will be great sorrow.

Send word now to Tarshish!

Wail, you people who live in distant lands!

Is this silent ruin all that is left of your once joyous city?

What a long history was yours!

Think of all the colonists you sent to distant places.

Who has brought this disaster on Tyre,

that great creator of kingdoms?

Her traders were all princes,

her merchants were nobles.

The Lord of Heaven’s Armies has done it

to destroy your pride

and bring low all earth’s nobility.

Come, people of Tarshish,

sweep over the land like the flooding Nile,

for Tyre is defenseless.

The Lord held out his hand over the sea

and shook the kingdoms of the earth.

He has spoken out against Phoenicia,

ordering that her fortresses be destroyed.

He says, “Never again will you rejoice,

O daughter of Sidon, for you have been crushed.

Even if you flee to Cyprus,

you will find no rest.”

Look at the land of Babylonia—

the people of that land are gone!

The Assyrians have handed Babylon over

to the wild animals of the desert.

They have built siege ramps against its walls,

torn down its palaces,

and turned it to a heap of rubble.

Wail, you ships of Tarshish,

for your harbor is destroyed!

For seventy years, the length of a king’s life, Tyre will be forgotten. But then the city will come back to life as in the song about the prostitute:

Take a harp and walk the streets,

you forgotten harlot.

Make sweet melody and sing your songs

so you will be remembered again.

Yes, after seventy years the Lord will revive Tyre. But she will be no different than she was before. She will again be a prostitute to all kingdoms around the world. But in the end her profits will be given to the Lord. Her wealth will not be hoarded but will provide good food and fine clothing for the Lord’s priests.

Matthew 12:22–45, The Bible for Everyone: A New Translation

They brought to Jesus a man who was possessed by a demon that made him unable to see or speak. Jesus healed him, so that the sick man was able to talk and see. All the crowds were astonished.

‘He can’t be David’s Son, can he?’ they said.

The Pharisees heard this.

‘The fellow can only cast out demons’, they said, ‘because he’s in league with Beelzebul, the prince of demons!’

Jesus knew their thoughts.

‘Suppose a kingdom is split down the middle,’ he said to them. ‘It’ll go to rack and ruin! If a city or a household is split down the middle, it’s doomed! And if the satan drives out the satan, he’s split down the middle—so how can his kingdom stay standing?

‘What’s more, if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, whose power are your people in league with when they cast them out? Yes, they’ll tell you what’s what! But if I’m casting out demons because I’m in league with God’s spirit—well, then, God’s kingdom has arrived on your doorstep!

‘Look at it like this. Suppose you want to break into a strong man’s house and steal his belongings. How are you going to do that unless you first tie up the strong man? Then you can plunder his house to your heart’s content. If you’re not with me, you’re against me. Unless you’re gathering the flock with me, you’re scattering it.

‘So let me tell you this: people will be forgiven for every sin and blasphemy; but blasphemy against the spirit will not be forgiven. If anyone speaks a word against the son of man, it will be forgiven. But if anyone speaks a word against the holy spirit, it won’t be forgiven, either in the present age or in the age to come.’

‘You must make up your mind between two possibilities,’ Jesus went on. ‘Either the tree is good, in which case its fruit is good; or the tree is bad, in which case its fruit is bad. You can tell the tree by its fruits, after all.

‘You’re a family of snakes! How can you say good things when you’re bad inside? What the mouth speaks is what fills the heart. A good person produces good things from a good storeroom; an evil person produces evil things from an evil storeroom. Let me tell you this: on judgment day people will have to own up to every trivial word they say. Yes: you will be vindicated by your own words—and you will be condemned by your own words.’

‘Teacher,’ responded some of the scribes and Pharisees. ‘We would like to see a sign from you.’

‘This wicked and immoral generation is looking for a sign,’ replied Jesus. ‘But no sign will be given to it—except the sign of Jonah. Jonah, you see, was in the stomach of the sea-monster for three days and three nights—and in the same way the son of man will be in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights. The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment along with this generation and will condemn it. They, after all, repented when they heard Jonah’s warnings! And, in case you hadn’t noticed, something greater than Jonah is here. The Queen of the South will be raised at the judgment with this generation and will condemn it. She, after all, came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon! And, in case you hadn’t noticed, something greater than Solomon is here.’

‘When the unclean spirit goes out of a person,’ Jesus continued, ‘it goes wandering through waterless places looking for somewhere to rest, and doesn’t find anywhere. Then it says, “I’ll go back to my house, the one I left.” When it gets there it finds it standing empty, clean and tidy. Then it goes out and collects seven other spirits to join it, spirits worse than itself. They go in and take up residence there. The poor person ends up worse off than they were to start with! And that’s what will happen with this wicked generation.’

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