Genesis 42:1-38

 |  April 9, 2018

Gen. 42:1-38

  1. Locate the passage

In this passage, Joseph’s brothers, with a little help from Joseph, are finally forced to confront their sin in selling their brother into slavery. For 13 years, they lived with their unconfessed and unaddressed sin. How God used Joseph’s test of his brothers may be different than Joseph’s intention. In this passage, Joseph’s brothers are twice forced to confront their sin against Joseph. Reuben reminded them of their sin when Joseph initially spoke harshly to them and the last three verses of the chapter highlight their sin again as Jacob recalls being bereft of Joseph. We also see evidence that Jacob has not forgotten the sin of Reuben (when he slept with Bilhah) and no longer trusts him.

  1. Genre

The passage is narrative and records the conversations between Jacob and his sons, Joseph and his brothers, and the brothers among themselves.

  1. Determine the structure of the passage

42:1-5 – Jacob instructed his sons to go to Egypt to buy grain

42:6-17 – Joseph accused his brothers of being spies and put them in prison

42:18-24 – Joseph offered his brothers a compromise that required them to bring Benjamin to Egypt

42:18-20 Joseph offered a compromise to keep one brother in prison and allow the remainder to go home and bring Benjamin to prove that they were not spies.

42:21-24 – The brothers expressed guilt over their mistreatment of Joseph (who overheard their conversation) and Reuben tried to absolve himself of the fault; all the brothers concluded that they were being punishment for that sin

42:25-38 – Joseph gave instructions to put each of his brother’s money back into their sacks of grain which they discovered and went home to explain to their father

42:25-28 – The brothers blamed God for their circumstances

42:29-38 – Jacob blamed his sons for their circumstances

  1. Exegete the passage

42:1-2 – Jacob both “saw” and “heard” that there was grain in Egypt

42:3-5 – The “ten” brothers and “Joseph’s brother”

42:6 – Joseph’s dream fulfilled

42:7 – It may over-spiritualize the text to suggest that Joseph was testing his brothers to force them to confront their sin and repent of it. The text does not stipulate that. It is just as possible that Joseph was concerned about the welfare of his brother, Benjamin and wanted to know if his other brothers were treating Benjamin as poorly as they treated him.

42:8 – Along with recognizing his brothers, Joseph remembered his dreams

42:9-12 – You are spies

42:13-14 – Realizing that simply maintaining their innocence will not convince the Egyptian ruler, the brothers respond by giving Joseph more information about their family in an effort to earn his trust.

42:15-16 – The brother’s plan backfired. Hoping to gain Joseph’s trust by being honest about their family led to Joseph demanding to see Benjamin to “prove” their innocence.

42:17 – Joseph put his brothers in prison

42:18-20 – This is the second test of the brother’s honesty that Joseph offered in the text. Again, the brothers are not given an opportunity to respond. This is not a negotiation. Joseph made the decision and began to carry out his plan.

42:21-22 – The brothers interpreted their situation with Joseph as Divine judgment

42:23 – Joseph overheard the brothers talking about him

42:24 – The imprisonment of Simeon parallels a previous situation with the brothers of one brother imprisoned, but the others benefit financially from it.

42:25-28 – Joseph ordered that each of the brother’s money be returned to them

42:29-35 – The brothers recounted the events in Egypt to their father

42:36 – Jacob blamed the brothers for already being bereaved of two of his children (Joseph and Simeon) and now accused them of wanted to jeopardize another (Benjamin)

42:37-38 – My son will not go with you!

  1. Let the structure of the text drive the sermon

Exp. The passage is more about God than Joseph: God fulfilled His plan; God brought the brothers to Egypt; God convicted the brother of their guilt;

Exp. The irony of the passage is that the one thing for which God gets credit in this passage is the one thing that God didn’t do!

Exp. The brothers should have turned to God in their guilt; and Jacob should have turned to God in his despair

Exp. The brothers appear convicted, but fail to recognize that their sin was not only against Joseph. It was a sin against their father and a sin against God.

Exp. Strangely, at the end of this passage, Jacob seems to have resigned to the fact that Simeon (like Joseph) was gone and ignored the fact that they would still have to return to Egypt to buy more grain.

Exp. But, ignoring a problem won’t make it go away

Exp. What’s missing in this passage is Jacob turning to God in prayer

Category: Sermon Structure
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