Why are You Staring at Each Other? (Genesis 42:1)

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As foreboding as Genesis 41 is near the end of the chapter, Genesis 42 opens up with a smirk. With the famine affecting even the areas in Canaan by this point, Jacob looks at his children and asks a simple question:

“Why are you staring at one another?”

I love this phrase for so many reasons besides the humorous thought of Jacob sitting around a tent staring at his eleven boys. 

I love it because his comment on their inaction contrasts so sharply with Joseph’s action. While Joseph is busy organizing the food relief for millions of people, his brothers are sitting around on their hands wondering when someone will hand them a snack. They are all so completely helpless, totally lost as to how to provide for themselves.

Thankfully, Jacob has an answer. He’s heard there’s grain in Egypt, so why not head down there and pick up some for the family? That way, you know, they “may live and not die” (Genesis 42:2).

It’s also ironic that the twelfth son, the one the brothers sold to Midianite traders all those years ago, will be the one that provides them the sustenance they need. The only reason those brothers will survive is because God was with Joseph when they were not.

Jacob’s wisdom shines through in a different way, though, as does his greatest fear. To stave off his entire family being wiped out by the perilous journey, he tells Benjamin to stay behind. The last thing he needs or wants is the other son of his beloved Rachel dying just like Joseph did.

It’s almost pathetic to think about the conversation that those brothers had on the way to Egypt. Did they know Joseph had been brought to Egypt? Did they even care? If so, then did they talk about it on the way?

Regardless of whether they chose to acknowledge their sin all those years ago, the reality of the situation is about to hit them right between the eyes. 

Pretty soon, they’ll be standing face to face with Joseph.