Joseph Tests His Brothers (Genesis 42:3)

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In my opinion, Genesis 42 is one of the most interesting parts of the entire book. And not because it has some deep theological meanings or indications of some future prophetic development, either.

No, no. I love the story of Joseph and his brothers in Genesis 42 because I’m a little brother myself. And, as the little brother, I’ve found Joseph’s three-chapter treatment of his older siblings with a profound sense of…justice.

As you know, way back in Genesis 37, Joseph’s brothers sell him to Midianite traders for a measly 20 shekels of silver. That’s the going price for a slave in those days; who cares if that slave happens to also be your brother?

Now, thirteen years later, Joseph has the ultimate “little brother’s” chance at revenge. He’s the second-in-command over an entire nation, and, just as important, he’s in charge of the food distribution during a major famine. He has them over a barrel in every way you possibly could.

How does he use that power? By sending them on a three chapter goose hunt, making them go back and forth to Canaan, holding Benjamin hostage, and “hiding” his identity from them.

But did Joseph sin in doing so? As a little brother, I saw it as poetic justice for what they did to him. But now, with a few more gray hairs and a smidge more maturity, it seems to me like the entire thing was a test.

Think about it. The last time Joseph saw his brothers, they were willing to sell him off as a slave and lie about his death to their father.

This time around, they’re willing to stay behind in Egypt as a slave to protect their youngest brother, Benjamin (Genesis 44:33-34).

The brothers that Joseph meets with starting in Genesis 42 have changed, but Joseph doesn’t know that. Before revealing himself to them, he needs to know what they’re all about. These “tests” in Genesis 42-44 help with that.

But, as a little brother, I can’t pretend I didn’t enjoy reading it.