Genesis 42:1–38: What is this that God has Done?
Joseph has been through an extraordinary ordeal, suffering innocently at the hands of his own brothers and then by various Egyptians during his captivity. By the end of Genesis 41, however, Joseph has risen as a ruler over Egypt, second only to Pharaoh himself (Gen. 41:40). Joseph’s rise to power in Egypt, however, is not the end of his story. The next section of the story of Joseph’s life will recount the way in which Joseph becomes reconciled with his whole family. This story begins here in Genesis 42 as some of Joseph’s brothers come to buy grain in Egypt; however, this story will stretch over multiple chapters—and multiple years—as the Lord brings these estranged brothers back together. Here, we see that the Lord tests his people to confront their sins and to overcome their fears.
1) This passage describes yet another famine in Canaan (v. 1–5; cf. Gen. 12:10; 26:1). Why do you think that God’s people so often face trials, even when they are living obediently? How does this particular trial begin the process of reconciling Joseph with his brothers and his father, Jacob? What trials have you gone through in your life? What have you seen God accomplish through those trials for your good? How might those experiences strengthen your faith for future trials?
2) What do you make of how Joseph prevents himself from being recognized by his brothers (v. 7–8)? What do you think that Joseph is trying to accomplish by pretending not to know or to understand his brothers? Why should we be careful about using this story as an example of how to treat those who have been cruel toward us? How does this passage instead show God’s work in addressing the sins of Joseph’s brothers, and the fears of Joseph’s father, Jacob?
3) How does this narrative slowly build up the sense that God is beginning to convict Joseph’s brothers for their sin? Where does this growing awareness begin? Why does this growing awareness of sin lead to fear (v. 28, 35)? In the past, how has God impressed upon your conscience a growing awareness of your sin? How does God use his word to lead us to conviction of sin? How does he use our circumstances? What is God seeking as he leads us to face our sin?
4) How does this narrative develop the theme of Jacob’s fear for the safety of his beloved son, Benjamin? What traumatic event has left the once-confident Jacob so fearful? How does this narrative suggest that Jacob may have worked out what his sons did to Joseph? Why does God lead his people through situations where they must face their different fears? How has God confronted your fears in the past? How did that experience teach you to trust him more?