GENESIS - CHAPTER 42
A Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough
Copyright 2000 James Melough
42:1. “Now when Jacob saw that there was corn in Egypt, Jacob said unto his sons, Why do ye look one upon another?”
In Pharaoh’s dreams in chapter forty-one we are given a symbolic preview of the Tribulation, and in the confession of the butler, a picture of the remnant of the Jewish testimony during that time. The purpose of the Tribulation, however, is to bring Israel and the nations to repentance, so that the millennial kingdom can come, in which Israel will be supreme among the nations, while she and the nations enjoy the blessings of an earth under the beneficent reign of the Prince of Peace.
Genesis chapter forty-two resumes the history of Jacob and his sons, and in the process by which they are reconciled to Joseph, we are shown symbolically the process by which Israel will be reconciled to Christ in the Tribulation.
The famine, which represents the Tribulation judgments, had affected Jacob’s family. They became acutely aware of their need of corn, and in this we are being shown that the Tribulation judgments will bring Israel to an awareness of her need of what the corn represents - spiritual “bread” (Christ).
The corn, however, was in Egypt. Jacob had to look outside of his own family and country. In the Tribulation, Israel will learn that she must go outside the boundaries of Judaism, beyond her legalistic religion. She will learn that the bread of life is the Christ Who has been in “Egypt” (the world) for the past twenty centuries of the Church age.
“Why do ye look one upon another?” This should remind us that the bread of life is not to be found in dead formal religion, and also that it doesn’t come from man. “None ... can ... redeem his brother, nor give to God a ransom for him” (Ps 49:7).
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.”
Word had reached Canaan that there was corn in Egypt. This implies the activity of a messenger in bringing that word, reminding us that the messengers spreading the good tidings in the Tribulation period will be the hundred and forty-four thousand Jews converted after the Rapture, plus their converts. The faithfulness of those messengers in spreading the good news, even at the risk of their lives, should surely impel us to greater faithfulness in the same work today, especially in view of the fact that this present age is fast coming to its end.
“Get you down thither.” As Jacob was compelled to turn to Egypt for corn, so will Israel in the Tribulation be compelled to turn to the Gospel she has so long rejected.
“And buy for us.” Jew and Gentile alike are guilty of the same error: they think that salvation is something that can be bought by conforming to the requirements of the ten commandments. It is significant that on the two occasions when Jacob sent his sons to Egypt to buy corn, their purchase money was returned. All men must learn what Israel will learn in the Tribulation: salvation can’t be bought, for the simple reason that it is priceless. Because it is beyond man’s ability to purchase, God offers it as a gift, and he who refuses to accept it as such must remain without it.
“That we may live and not die.” As Jacob knew that they would die without the corn that was available in Egypt, so will the remnant of Israel learn in the Tribulation, that without Christ, the Bread of Life, they too, must die. But Israel is God’s mirror for the human race. No man can be saved until he learns first the imperative need of Christ, and then also that Christ can’t be bought by good works or anything else. He is offered, and must be accepted, as God’s priceless gift.
42:3. “And Joseph’s ten brethren went down to buy corn in Egypt.”
There is more than one lesson to be learnt here. Joseph had eleven brethren, but Benjamin didn’t go with the others. Ten is the number of divine government, and the requirements of that government are expressed in the ten commandments. The fact that only ten of the brethren went is the symbolic declaration of the truth that it will take the Tribulation judgments to teach Israel the folly of seeking justification through the keeping of the law, and the lesson God would teach all men is that since the Jew, to whom the law was given, can’t be saved by law-keeping, neither can it be the means of salvation for those to whom it hasn’t been given.
42:4. “But Benjamin, Joseph’s brother, Jacob sent not with his brethren, for he said, Lest peradventure mischief befall him.”
Jacob represents the old nature, as his new name Israel represents the new. It is instructive therefore, that it is Jacob, and not Israel, who refuses to send Benjamin with the other brethren. The old nature refuses to accord Christ His proper place, and will never acknowledge its need of Him.
Jacob’s reason was, “Lest mischief befall him.” This fear was prompted, no doubt, by his memory of Joseph’s supposed death, but as with most of Scripture, the spiritual transcends the literal. The Jew clings to the idea of a Messiah who is a mighty king, the Lion of the tribe of Judah. He refuses to believe that the Lamb of God and the Lion of Judah are one and the same. He refuses to believe that the Messiah must first die to make atonement for sin, and then, in resurrection, take up the scepter. Jacob’s refusal to send Benjamin portrays the tenacity with which Israel clings to the mistaken idea that there is no other Messiah than the Lion of Judah. Only the Tribulation judgments will open her eyes to the fact that the Lamb of God and the Lion of Judah are the same Christ. As Jacob was ultimately compelled to give up Benjamin, so will Israel be compelled to give up the false belief that her salvation lies in a Christ Who will come as the Lion of Judah. She will have to learn that her salvation lies in the Messiah Who has come two thousand years ago as the Lamb of God to bear away the sin of the world by the offering of Himself without spot to God at Calvary.
The other ten brothers were the sons of Leah, and the handmaids, but Joseph and Benjamin were the sons of the beloved wife, Rachel. Since Joseph had been given the place of the firstborn, we may possibly conclude that Jacob, believing Joseph to be dead, intended bestowing the birthright on Benjamin. In other words, with Joseph dead, Jacob may have felt that Benjamin was now the only one through whom his line would be perpetuated. He was to learn, however, that Joseph lived, and that it would be through Joseph, figuratively resurrected, that the line would be perpetuated. In the Tribulation the Jewish remnant will also learn that it is only in a resurrected Christ that their lives will be perpetuated.
In all of this we catch a glimpse of the fact that salvation for Israel, and the world, comes neither through the law (represented in the rejected ten sons), nor through Christ as the Lion of Judah (represented by Benjamin), but only through Christ the slain but resurrected Lamb (represented by Joseph).
42:5. “And the sons of Israel came to buy corn among those that came: for the famine was in the land of Canaan.”
It should be noted that in verse one it was the sons of Jacob who were sent, but here in verse five it is the sons of Israel who came to buy corn. In this we learn that as the famine revealed the need of Jacob’s whole house for bread, so will the Tribulation judgments reveal the need of the whole nation of Israel for Christ the true bread. But inasmuch as it is the sons of Israel, rather than Jacob, who came to buy corn, we learn that the remnant, the true Israel, will consist only of those obedient Jews who will seek salvation through Christ in the Tribulation.
As has been noted already, their coming as the sons of Jacob “to buy corn” points to the error of both Jew and Gentile, that salvation must be bought. Their coming as the sons of Israel, however, points to another aspect of salvation. While it can’t be bought by doing good works, etc., there is a sense in which the believer does buy salvation, the purchase price being measured in terms of what he is willing to give up of the things of this world. This is the thought behind Isa 55:1, “Ho, everyone that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money, come ye, buy, and eat, yea, come buy wine and milk without money and without price.”
“Among those that came.” During the seven year Tribulation period there will be converts from every nation, not just from Israel.
“For the famine was in the land of Canaan.” The famine, of course, was in all lands, but its being emphasized that it was in the land of Canaan, reminds us that the Tribulation, while affecting all nations, will be particularly “the time of Jacob’s trouble” (Jer 30:7).
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.”
From this we learn that though unseen and unknown by His “brethren” the Jews, Christ will be “the Governor” of the world during the post-Rapture and Tribulation years. As Joseph’s brethren bowed to him, though unaware that he was their brother whom they had hated and sold, so will Israel in the Tribulation have to bow to Christ, that is, submit to His dealings through the judgment that will bring the remnant to repentance and blessing.
In chapter thirty-seven, when he was but a youth, Joseph had been shown in a dream, that his brethren would bow down to him, but what had not been revealed then was that the Egyptians would also bow down to him. With the world “expectation is better than realization,” but the fulfillment of God’s promises always exceeds expectation, as it is written, “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him” (1 Cor 2:9).
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.”
The last time Joseph had seen his brethren was under vastly different circumstances. They had sold him to the Ishmeelites who carried him into Egypt. There he was the suppliant whose cries fell on deaf ears, but now the positions are reversed, and it is the brethren who have become the suppliants. In the intervening years Joseph had prospered: he had received a Gentile bride, and had risen to be premier of Egypt. They, on the other hand, must often have known regret, and now famine had driven them down to Egypt to seek bread. In all of this it is easy to trace the experiences of Christ, and of the Jewish “brethren” who were as merciless to Him as these brethren had been to Joseph. The day isn’t far off when Christ will confront the “brethren” who sold Him, and in the long interval (nearly two thousand years) between those two meetings, Christ will have received a Gentile bride, the Church, and will have been established as Governor of the earth, and it is the Jewish brethren who will then bow before Him seeking His favor.
The type, however, isn’t limited to Christ and Israel, for Israel is God’s mirror in which every man may see himself. As those guilty brethren were brought to bow before Joseph, so will every man be brought to bow before Christ. He is a wise man who bows here on earth to receive a pardon, because he who doesn’t bow in time will be compelled to bow in eternity, but then without hope of mercy.
In Joseph’s making himself strange and speaking roughly, we see in symbol the process by which Christ will yet reconcile Israel to Himself by means of the Tribulation judgments. He will be “strange unto them,” for they won’t know Him until the “rough speaking” (the Tribulation judgments) has brought them to confession and repentance.
As those guilty brethren didn’t know Joseph, so are sinners equally ignorant of the true identity of Christ. They may know Him as a historical figure, a prophet, a good man, etc., but salvation comes only to the man who knows Him as Savior, and that knowledge comes only to the man who knows himself to be a guilty sinner for whom Christ died.
The “rough speaking” to the sinner comes in the declaration of the Gospel, “There is none righteous, no, not one.... For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Ro 3:1O,23). Man is reluctant to accept those words, but the “rough speaking” must be accepted as truth by every man who would be saved.
“Whence come ye?” was a question that Joseph’s brethren had to answer. It was designed to elicit confession, not information: though they knew not Joseph, he knew them. Israel will be compelled by the Tribulation judgments to confess her guilty past before she can enjoy millennial blessing, as each individual sinner must confess his sin before he can enjoy eternal blessing.
At this point their confession was far from complete, as well it might be. Who would want to confess to such sin as theirs? Joseph, however, could afford to wait, because he loved them in spite of what they had done, and his only desire was to have them reconciled to him so that he could bless them.
The necessity for reconciliation becomes apparent when we stop to consider what it would have been like had he identified himself, assured them of his pardon, and given them corn. They would have been ashamed and embarrassed. Hunger would have compelled them to accept the corn as long as the famine lasted, but there could have been no fellowship, and the end of the famine would have become the opportunity for them to remove themselves from a painfully embarrassing situation, so that Joseph would never have seen them again. But he wanted to do more than just give them corn: he wanted to have their fellowship. He wanted them to be near him so that he could supply their needs, not only in the famine, but for as long as he and they would live. Only their full confession, given before he revealed himself, could convince him that they were sorry for what they had done. That sorrow would be tantamount to confessing that they no longer envied and hated him, and was an absolute necessity if they were to enjoy fellowship together. There can be no fellowship between two people if one hates the other.
Joseph was under no necessity to seek reconciliation. He sought it only because he loved them. He could, with complete justification, have had all of them executed on the spot. Similarly, Christ is under no necessity to seek reconciliation with the nation that has Him crucified. He seeks it only because He loves them, and desires them to enjoy eternal blessing and fellowship with Him. That fellowship, however, is possible only on the basis of confession and repentance by which He is assured that their hatred of Him has been replaced by gratitude and love. And what is true with regard to Israel is true also with regard to the individual sinner, Jew and Gentile alike.
Their reply to his question emphasized more their need than their origin. They had come “to buy food.” It will be consciousness of need that will turn Israel in the Tribulation to seek the Bread of life. It is only consciousness of need that turns a sinner to Christ. Until a man becomes aware of his need of a Savior he cannot be saved.
42:8. “And Joseph knew his brethren, but they knew not him.”
Christ knows Israel, as He knows also every sinner on earth, though neither knows Him.
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.”
Joseph’s recollection of the dreams that had foretold the submission of his brethren flashed before him again to remind him perhaps, that the purposes of God can’t be changed. As he was carried to Egypt, as he served in Potiphar’s house, and as he served in the prison, it must have seemed that those dreams were nothing but a delusion, a hope that would never be fulfilled, but as his guilty brethren stood before him that day, can there be any doubt that he came to the realization that in all the seeming adversity, God had all the while been working to bring about the fulfillment of those dreams?
This foreshadows the truth God would have us grasp, “All things work together for good to them that love God” (Ro 8:28). Too often the circumstances seem to say, God’s promise is a delusion, but He would have us see in the fulfillment of Joseph’s dreams the assurance that all of His promises to us will be just as surely fulfilled.
His guilty brethren, however, must be brought to confession and repentance if they were to become the recipients of all the blessings he wanted to shower upon them. They must learn the enormity of their guilt. He charged them therefore, with being spies, an offense punishable by death. They may have had qualms of conscience about what they had done to Joseph, but it is very doubtful that they would have considered themselves worthy of death. Most men are willing to admit that they are sinners, but few can believe that the penalty for those sins is death. It comes as a shock to the awakened sinner to learn that he stands condemned in God’s sight, and is guilty, not just of a few minor offenses, but of crimes that carry the sentence of death. And it is the realization of his true state that leads him to cry out, What must I do to be saved? That cry, however, brings God’s response, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved” (Ac 16: 30-31). The Tribulation judgments will bring that conviction to Israel, wringing from their lips the same cry of despair, and bringing from God the same assurance, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.” Without conviction there can be no confession, and without confession there can be no salvation either for Israel or for an individual.
42:10. “And they said unto him, Nay, my lord, but to buy food are thy servants come.”
They were quick to protest their innocence of the charge, unwilling to confess that while they were innocent of this crime, they were guilty of a far worse one - their treatment of their younger brother. Israel has taken the same stand. For centuries she has protested her innocence, in spite of the fact that she not only sold, but slew the “younger brother” Christ. It will take the Tribulation judgments to wring that confession from her lips, but until it is given she cannot be saved.
The brethren sought to turn the accusation aside by emphasizing that they had come to buy food, and the attitude of the nation that has sprung from those same brethren remains the same to this day. Israel vehemently denies her guilt, and insists that she is simply buying the bread of life by law-keeping. She will yet learn not only that she must confess her guilt, but also that the Bread of life can’t be bought.
42:11. “We are all one man’s sons, we are true men, thy servants are no spies.”
Their protest is strikingly similar to that of the Jews in Jn 8:39,41, “Abraham is our father.... We have one father, even God.” As was the attitude of Joseph’s self-righteous brethren, so was the attitude of their descendants when the Lord confronted them with sin. Joseph’s brethren, however, couldn’t be blessed till all hypocrisy was dropped and full confession made, nor can the nation they fathered be blessed until they, too, abandon all their self-righteous hypocrisy, and make full confession of their sin.
“We are true men, thy servants are no spies.” True means “right: established.” This reveals their brazen hypocrisy. Having consigned Joseph to what they thought would be a life of slavery, and having, by that deed, condemned their father to a life of sorrow, they still dared to call themselves “true” men. Such is the hypocrisy of Israel to this very day. But the Israelite is the representative of all men. All who refuse to confess themselves sinners worthy only of death, are guilty of the same self-righteous hypocrisy.
42:12. “And he said unto them, Nay, but to see the nakedness of the land ye are come.”
Joseph’s insistence that they were spies, and his rejection of their claim that they were true men, is but the demonstration of the attitude of God towards unbelieving Israel, and towards every man who refuses to admit that he is not righteous, but sinful.
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.”
They were separated from both Joseph (Christ as Savior) and from Benjamin (Christ as King). Israel today is in the same position - separated from Christ; and since she knows Him not as Savior, she can’t have Him as King.
Everything they said was true except in regard to Joseph: he still lived, though they supposed him dead. This continues to picture Israel. As has been noted already, Joseph represents Christ in rejection and suffering, while Benjamin represents Him in millennial power and glory. As far as Israel is concerned there is no Christ as represented by Joseph. Such a Christ is to Israel what Joseph was in the minds of Jacob’s sons: He is One Who “is not.”
Jacob’s refusal to send Benjamin with the others may imply that he had designated Benjamin to take the place of Joseph as his heir. Certainly the nation, as represented by Jacob, rather than Israel, has done just this in regard to Christ. The rejected suffering Messiah Who must first die to make atonement for sin before coming to reign, has been treated by Israel as Joseph was by his brethren, and the result is that Israel has the same view of that Messiah as the brethren had of Joseph: He “is not.” As far as they are concerned such a Messiah doesn’t exist. In their blindness they can see only a Messiah represented by Benjamin, that is, a Messiah who will fulfill what is predicted of Benjamin, “Benjamin shall ravin (tear) as a wolf: in the morning he shall devour the prey, and at night he shall divide the spoil” (Ge 49:27). They fail to understand that the two Messiahs are one. Christ fulfilled the Joseph type at His first advent. He will fulfill the Benjamin type at His second, for of the Christ Who hung on Calvary’s cross it is written that He, too “Shall divide the spoil.” “Therefore (because He was willing to die to make atonement for sin) will I divide Him a portion with the great, and He shall divide the spoil with the strong” (Isa 53:12).
“The youngest is this day with our father.” As Benjamin was with Jacob, so is the Christ portrayed by Benjamin, with the nation that is represented by Jacob. (The believing remnant, the true nation, is represented by Israel rather than by Jacob). That “Jacob” nation clings to the “Benjamin” Messiah to this very day, and nothing less than the Tribulation judgments will make them see their error.
“... and one is not.” Joseph’s brethren weren’t blessed until Jacob gave up Benjamin, and Benjamin and Joseph were brought together, and the guilty brethren learned that Joseph was alive. Israel will be blessed only when she relinquishes her hope in a “Benjamin” Messiah, and learns that the “Joseph” Messiah and the “Benjamin” Messiah are One.
Similarly, those who would be saved must learn, that apart from faith in a Christ Who has died to make atonement for sin, there can be no hope of eternal glory.
42:14. “And Joseph said unto them, That is it that I spake unto you, saying, Ye are spies.”
At this point the brethren were still a long way from confessing themselves guilty, but that confession must precede blessing, so Joseph continued to repeat his charge that they were spies, and therefore worthy of death. His repeated insistence that they were spies reminds us that, until Israel confesses her guilt, God’s only word to her must be, “There is none righteous... all have sinned.... The wages of sin is death” (Ro 3:1O,23; 6:23). And what is true of Israel is true of all men.
42:15. “Hereby shall ye be proved: by the life of Pharaoh ye shall not go forth hence, except your youngest brother come hither.”
Certainly one reason for Joseph’s insistence that they bring his younger brother was to verify their words concerning Benjamin. His knowledge of what they had done to him may well have caused him to fear that Benjamin had suffered a similar fate. Above and beyond the literal, however, is the spiritual content of the words. As they must bring Benjamin and Joseph together, so must Israel bring together what they have so long kept apart: the Christ Who is represented by both. That is the prerequisite of blessing for them as a nation.
Since, in the context of this section, Pharaoh is a type of God the Father, Joseph’s swearing by the life of Pharaoh simply declares the fact that as nothing but the death of Pharaoh would change the sentence, so will nothing less than the death of God (an impossibility) change the decree concerning Israel: there can be no blessing for them until the Lamb of God and the Lion of Judah are brought together.
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 ye are spies.”
Years before, they had sent Joseph to “prison” when they sold him, and they had gone free, but now they must reap what they had sown, and it is they who must enter the prison, while one brother goes free to bring Benjamin.
For the past twenty centuries Israel has reaped in some measure what she has sown. The blood she invoked upon herself that day at Calvary, “His blood be on us, and on our children” (Mt 27:25), has been returned in a degree, but it will not be until the Tribulation that she will find herself in the position to which she consigned Christ two thousand years ago. There He experienced the wrath of God, Satan, and man, and in the Tribulation, Israel will suffer similar wrath. That reversal of roles is foreshadowed in the reversed positions of Joseph and his brethren.
Emphasis continues to be placed upon the necessity of bringing Benjamin and Joseph together, as it is also upon the fact that failure to bring them together will result in their being treated as spies, which is nothing less than a sentence of death. The spiritual lesson is crystal clear: until Israel brings together the Christ portrayed in both Joseph and Benjamin, there can be no blessing, and if she doesn’t bring them together she will die.
42:17. “And he put them all together into ward three days.”
This three-day restriction points to the fact that the Tribulation is a time when Israel will be under divine restriction, but as the purpose of Joseph’s restriction of his brothers was to bring them to repentance, so will the Tribulation judgments be for the same purpose in regard to Israel.
The three-day duration of the imprisonment speaks of resurrection. It is God’s symbolic declaration that the Tribulation judgments are designed to bring about the spiritual resurrection of the remnant that will be the new nation of Israel in the Millennium.
42:18. “And Joseph said unto them the third day, This do, and live, for I fear God.”
The third day (day of resurrection) brought a command, “This do, and live,” and that command is linked to the fear of God. Israel’s resurrection will come only when the fear of the Lord produces obedience. And what is true for Israel is true for every man. Resurrection out of spiritual death into eternal life is experienced only by the man whose fear of God produces obedience.
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.”
This verse declares the Gospel in a few brief words, for it teaches redemption through the death of a substitute. The Scriptural references to prison indicate that it is the symbolic place of death. That is where they were, and their only way of escape was for one of their number to become their substitute, and remain in the prison (the place of death). Those guilty brethren represent all men, for “All have sinned,” and are, therefore, under sentence of death. The Lord Jesus Christ, however, became man, that is, He became one of us, the One Who would be the Substitute for the rest, the One Who would submit to being “bound” in the house of our prison, that is, the One Who would die that we might go free. The fullness of God’s redemption is declared in the fact that not only were they set free because of the brother, who as their substitute, remained “bound in the house of their prison,” but they went away carrying with them “corn for the famine of their houses.” Because of the “Brother” Who remained “bound” in the house of our prison, we not only go free, but in addition carry with us the “corn” to meet the need of our “houses” and of the whole world.
Their safety, however, was contingent on their having told the truth, for if Benjamin were dead, then they, too, were but dead men, for unless they came back with him they would receive no more corn, and would die of hunger, and the brother left behind as substitute would die in the prison. This teaches the necessity of being honest before God, as it teaches also the necessity of bringing together “Joseph” and “Benjamin.” Saving faith is that which believes not only in a Christ Who has died, but also in a Christ Who has risen as Victor over death. “If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved” (Ro 10:9). This is the confession that the remnant of Israel will yet make as a result of the Tribulation judgments.
42:20. “But bring your youngest brother unto me, so shall your words be verified, and ye shall not die. And they did so.”
It continues to be emphasized that the Israel represented by Jacob must give up Benjamin. Before there can be a Christ to reign over a redeemed creation, there must first be a Christ to die to redeem that creation.
It should be noted also that it was a matter of life and death, “... and ye shall not die.” Apart from Israel’s bringing “Joseph” and “Benjamin” together she too, will die.
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.”
Joseph’s “rough speaking” was beginning to have its effect. At last confession was made, that far from being true men, they were, in fact, guilty men. God’s “rough speaking” in the Tribulation judgments will produce the same effect in the hearts of the remnant. They will be made to confess their guilt concerning the “Brother” Whom they crucified two thousand years ago, and that confession is a prerequisite of their being blessed.
We learn also something not recorded in chapter thirty-seven: Joseph had pleaded with them for mercy. The silence concerning this in chapter thirty-seven is to preserve the accuracy of the type of Christ as the One Who went without protest to Calvary. The mention here, however, of “the anguish of his soul” is to remind us that His unprotesting submission to the Father’s will was not apart from an anguish deeper than we can possibly understand.
They correctly linked their present distress with their treatment of their younger brother, and it will be only when the remnant learns that their Tribulation “distress” is directly linked to their treatment of Christ, that they will be saved.
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.”
In our study of chapter thirty-seven we took Reuben to be the representative of the Jewish leaders who believed in Christ, and who were opposed to His death. After the rapture of the Church, a hundred- and-forty-four thousand Jews will be converted, and will be the first witnesses for God during the post-Rapture, and Tribulation years. Reuben may also be the symbol or representative of those converts, in which case his words to his brethren are symbolic of the Gospel that will be preached, not only to Israel, but to the world after the rapture of the Church. As the brethren were told that Joseph’s blood was required, so will Christ’s “brethren” learn that His blood is also required.
42:23. “And they knew not that Joseph understood them, for he spake unto them by an interpreter.”
Their ignorance of Joseph’s identity portrays the blindness that will characterize Israel until the Tribulation judgments shall have removed the scales from their eyes.
The interpreter may represent the Holy Spirit (He is frequently represented in Scripture by a nameless man), Who through the New Testament as well as the Old, will convey the words of Christ to Israel in a coming day.
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.”
In spite of the “rough speaking” Joseph loved them, as Christ does Israel. The Tribulation judgments are the last resort of a love that has been rejected when offered under every other condition.
“... and communed with them.” As the guilty, but convicted brethren listened to Joseph, so will a guilty and convicted Israel in a soon-coming day, listen to Christ.
Simeon means hearkening. Israel’s “hearkening” must be “bound” by the heavenly “Joseph” before there can be blessing, that is, Israel’s ear must be made to hear and obey the voice of Christ.
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.”
It is significant that the binding of Simeon was followed immediately by their sacks being filled with corn. Since this binding of Simeon represents Israel’s future obedience to the words of Christ, and the corn represents the Word of God, the truth being declared symbolically is that the moment we are willing to listen to the words of Christ, He will “fill our sacks” with that Word. In other words, as soon as we are willing to listen to it, that is, obey it, the Word becomes that which will nourish us.
It is significant also that each man’s returned money was placed on top of the corn in each man’s sack. One of the first truths Israel (and all men) must learn is that the life which the corn represents (as corn is essential for physical life, so is the Word essential for spiritual life) can’t be bought. It must be accepted as God’s gift.
The “provision for the way” was evidently in addition to the corn, and it may represent simply God’s gracious provision of the daily necessities of life. That same provision will bring the remnant through the Tribulation into the enjoyment of millennial blessing. That provision, however, isn’t limited only to Israel. The same gracious provision is bestowed to meet the daily needs of all men, though for the most part they ignore Him because they don’t know Him.
42:26. “And they laded their asses with the corn, and departed thence.”
It is “eating” (believing) the Word that gives life. They hadn’t yet eaten the corn. It was in the sacks on the backs of their asses. Typically, it speaks of an intellectual rather than a spiritual apprehension of the Word by an Israel not yet converted.
We have noted in earlier studies that the wild ass represents the body as the agent for the gratification of every fleshly lust without any moral restraint, while the domesticated ass represents the body of the man who has imposed at least some measure of restraint on those same lusts. That restraint, however, may be nothing more than the restraint of mere morality apart from conversion. It is typical, in fact, of the morality of unbelieving Israel in the days of Christ, and here again the corn (the Word) on the ass speaks of the Word employed merely as a moral agent by an Israel not yet converted.
“And departed thence.” Since Joseph represents Christ, their departure represents Israel’s going away from Christ in the Tribulation. It was only a temporary departure, however, and not all went: Simeon remained. The typical picture is of an Israel in the process of being saved. Their ear had been opened; they were listening to Christ’s voice. This is portrayed in Simeon’s remaining behind as a prisoner, while the others carried away the corn given them by Joseph. This speaks of Israel’s receiving the Word, first intellectually (on the back of the ass), but in the end, spiritually, believingly (the corn eaten).
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.”
This is the typical demonstration of how many misuse the Word. He was using the corn to feed the ass rather than himself. There are many who know no better use for the Word. It is something to be used only superficially in times of bereavement, sickness, trouble; at weddings and christenings; for moral guidance, and a host of other natural necessities, but as spiritual food to sustain spiritual life it is completely unknown. Such has been Israel’s use of it in the past, and such will her use of it continue to be until her blinded eyes are opened by the Tribulation judgments.
In passing we might note that there are countless true believers who also never rise to a higher comprehension of the Word than as something having practical use only. They never learn any better use for it than what has been mentioned above. But the Bible is more than a thing to minister only to practical need, or to provide moral guidance. It is the revelation and presentation of the Lord Jesus Christ. God wants us to see Christ, and as our eyes become filled with Him we will be able to view our troubles in the context of eternity, knowing that “All things work together for good to them that love God” (Ro 8:28), and be able to say with Paul, “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Co 4:17-18).
Certainly “the ass” needs food. The Bible is practical, but by far the larger and better part of it is spiritual, and he who doesn’t seek to know its spiritual content robs himself and God, for obedience can only be according to our knowledge of the Word, and it is by our obedience that God is glorified, and we ourselves blessed.
As food for the ass, the corn would be eaten raw and unprocessed. As food for man it would be ground, kneaded, and baked or boiled (as was the manna). The corn, unprocessed, eaten by the ass represents the mere practical use of the Word; its being baked or boiled, represents the spiritual understanding and use of it. The baking and boiling require the use of water and fire, reminding us that any part the Word must be understood in the context of the whole Bible represented by the water; while the fire (symbol of the Holy Spirit) assures us that it can’t be understood apart from the revelation which He gives to the obedient believer.
Returning to the original application of this section, however, the picture continues to be of Israel in the Tribulation. Since the inn is the Biblical symbol of a local congregation of believers, (in the present context, probably a Jewish synagogue) we may conclude that there will be such assemblies in the Tribulation, and that they will study the Scriptures. As has been noted already, the returned money declares that salvation can’t be bought by law-keeping or anything else. This lesson Israel will yet learn in the Tribulation.
Its being emphasized that the returned money was “in his sack’s mouth,” not buried under the corn, reminds us that one of the first things the unsaved must learn is that salvation is a gift.
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?”
The fear resulting from the discovery of the returned money portrays the fear that will yet come to Israel upon discovering that her attempt to buy salvation by law-keeping is futile. Well might she fear when that hope that has sustained her for all these centuries is taken away. It leaves her without hope. But as that fear was a necessary part of the process that led eventually to the reconciliation of Joseph and his brethren, so will it be in the reconciliation of Christ and Israel: the false hope of salvation through law-keeping must be removed. It is only by the removal of that worthless hope that she will be made to cry out, “What must I do to be saved?” Then will come the assurance that fell upon the ears of the Philippian Jailor, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved” (Ac 16:30-31).
“What is this that God hath done unto us?” They recognized that God was dealing with them, and so will the remnant in a quickly approaching day.
42:29. “And they came unto Jacob their father into the land of Canaan, and told him all that befell unto them.”
It is significant that in recording their return, the Holy Spirit describes their father as Jacob (the name that implies a natural, earthy state), rather than as Israel (the name that speaks of a renewed spiritual state). They had not yet been reconciled to Joseph. This stage of their experience foreshadows that of Israel in the Tribulation, when they will have begun to realize that God is dealing with them, but before they will have been converted.
This return appears to represent the return of the Jews to Palestine, but I regret being unable to see clearly the spiritual significance of their returning with the corn, which is a type of the Word. The fact that it was Egyptian corn may indicate that it represents the Word as it is accepted by the Gentiles, that is, the New Testament as well as the Old, and not just the Old Testament Scriptures accepted by the Jews.
42:30. “The man who is Lord of the land, spake roughly to us, and took us for spies of the country.”
42:31. “And we said unto him, We are true men; we are no spies:”
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.”
Since these verses simply repeat what has already been discussed, there is no need to repeat that discussion.
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.”
This verse adds a detail not mentioned in verse twenty, “Ye shall traffick in the land.” Not only would the presentation of Benjamin save their lives: it would also make it possible for them to “go about: trade” in the land. This points to the truth that the remnant will not only save themselves in the Tribulation by trusting in Christ, but they will enter the millennial kingdom to enjoy the abundance of an earth basking in the sunshine of the reign of Christ.
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.”
We have already noted that the returned money represents the truth that eternal life can’t be bought. Verse twenty-eight records their fear upon discovering that one man’s money had been returned, but their fear was rekindled upon discovering that every man’s money has been returned, and in addition, Jacob was also made to fear. This may denote the consternation of Israel when they learn that salvation can’t be bought with law-keeping or anything else.
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.”
In that it was Jacob, and not Israel, who spoke, we see that this is the language of an Israel still unconverted. An Israel undergoing Tribulation judgments will also lament the loss of her children, and will, in addition, bewail the prospect of having to give up also her hope of blessing through a mighty conquering Messiah, pictured in Benjamin. Nothing but the Tribulation judgments will open her blinded eyes to see that while the millennial kingdom will be ruled by Him Who is the Lion of Judah, the way into that kingdom is through Him Who is the Lamb of God, “Wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities” (Isa 53:5. Until that truth is learned she will echo Jacob’s cry, “All these things are against me.”
The lesson, however, isn’t limited to Israel. Man’s response to God’s chastenings are, “All these things are against me.” Few discern that these chastenings are designed to lead men to repentance.
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.”
Reuben’s language was very close to being the expression of faith. Such was his confidence in Joseph’s word that he was prepared to stake the lives of his two sons upon it. We noted in our study of Ge 37:20 that there Reuben seemed to be the representative of the Jewish leaders who were believers, and who refused to consent to Christ’s death, and as we have noted in our present study, he may also represent the first of the Jews who will be converted after the Rapture. That believing remnant of two thousand years ago could have been the nucleus of a converted nation, but because the Jewish leaders as a whole refused to believe in Christ, that remnant became instead the beginning of the Church. But the first of the believing remnant will appear again as the hundred-and- forty-four thousand of Israel first converted after the Rapture. Reuben may be the representative, not only of that believing remnant of two thousand years ago, but also of the first believers of that remnant that will be saved after the Rapture. This would be at least one explanation of his trust in Joseph’s word, and his confidence that he would bring Benjamin back to Jacob.
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.”
Jacob’s refusal to relinquish Benjamin, of course, is but the foreshadowing of Israel’s refusal to relinquish faith in a Messiah Who is the Lion of Judah, but not the Lamb of God. And as his refusal only prolonged their days of hunger, so has Israel’s refusal to believe in Christ, prolonged the days of her “famine.” Two thousand years ago she could have had her millennial kingdom, but like Jacob, she has refused to give up “Benjamin,” with the result that she starves spiritually in spite of the fact that “Joseph” is waiting for her to bring “Benjamin” to Him, so that He can bestow upon her blessing beyond her highest expectations. Multitudes of men are guilty of the same error.
What Jacob didn’t know was that by giving up Benjamin for a little while he would not only receive him back again, but in addition, also the Joseph he had mourned as dead for so many years. Nor did he know that by giving up Benjamin for a little while, he would be able to exchange the poverty of famine-stricken Canaan for the abundance of Goshen.
It is a principle with God that we must first be willing to give up the worthless things that we, in our folly, count as treasure, but it is only that He might fill those empty hands with eternal treasure.