You Have Bereaved Me of My Children (Genesis 42:36)

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After the brothers return from their first trip to Egypt, they break the news to Jacob about their accusation as spies and Simeon’s imprisonment. The only way they can get Simeon back, the brothers tell Jacob, is if they take Benjamin with them on their second trip.

The response from Jacob is swift and sorrowful: “You have bereaved me of my children.”

It’s hard not to feel for Jacob in this instance. Ever since he left his parents’ house after stealing the birthright from his brother, his life has been one big tragedy after tragedy. The deception by Laban. Tension with Esau. Dinah’s rape. Simeon and Levi’s massacre. Rachel’s death in childbirth. Joseph’s death.

What a life he’s lived – and not in a good way. Nobody would expect him to be the picture of optimism; in fact, it’s hard to argue that any Bible character has encountered more tragedy than him (outside of Job).

Now, with the prospect of losing yet another son – since it appears he assumed Simeon is already dead – he is done with it all. He flatly refuses to let Benjamin leave. If something were to happen to him, then they would “bring [his] gray hair down to Sheol in sorrow” (Genesis 42:38).

It’s only fitting that Reuben, once again, speaks up. In an exceptional case of bravery, he offers his only two children as collateral or bringing Benjamin back to Jacob. If something were to happen to Benjamin, Jacob is free to kill Reuben’s children as a punishment. It’s doubtful he would, but in that day and that culture, it’s certainly possible.

Jacob holds this stubborn position twice. In fact, it’s only at the insistence of Judah – who made the same offer as Reuben – and the intensity of the famine, that Jacob relents (Genesis 43:1-15). 

And so, all ten remaining brothers leave for Egypt. The only difference between this trip and the previous one is the inclusion of Benjamin and the exclusion of Simeon, who remains locked away in Egypt. 

It must’ve been hard for Jacob to watch his boys walk off towards Egypt, not sure if he would see any of them again. But he trusts in God, who has been with him at every part of his life, and puts their safety squarely in His mercy.

The only thing he can do now is wait.