Life of Joseph – Part 28 – The Tables are Turned

Today we’re going to look at the second half of Genesis 42 (it’s below). This continues the part of the story where one of Joseph’s dreams from his early years finally comes true — his brothers bow down before him.

Instead of the situation making Joseph want to celebrate, he actually becomes very sad.

He’s reunited with his brothers (although they don’t know that yet), he knows now that his father and only full-brother are still alive, and he’s in a position to save his entire family from starvation. And during today’s passage, he is so overcome with the situation that he has to take a break and go weep and then come back to deal with his brothers.

Now I understand this is a very emotional time, but personally I think there may be something else going on.

In today’s passage, the brothers discuss among themselves — and in front of Joseph — why they think they’re in this situation . . . being accused of being spies and spending 3 days in prison and now having to leave one brother here in prison in order to go home and get Benjamin so they can come back and buy more grain.

They’re blaming their current situation on how they treated Joseph 20 years ago. And Joseph understood what they were saying. He was just pretending to need an interpreter.

I think Joseph broke down because he was reliving that horrible day when they threw him in the pit and then sold him as a slave. But I think there was another reason. I think Joseph realized that now his brothers are in the pit . . . not literally like he was years ago . . . but mentally and emotionally and spiritually. I think Joseph saw that the tables had been turned. His brothers had thrown him in a pit 20 years earlier. But now his brothers’ guilt over what they had done to him was keeping them in a pit.

They had lived 20 years with the guilt of how they had treated Joseph and how they had lied to their father. And it looks like now they view any bad thing that happens to them as God’s punishment for what they had done.

I think Joseph realizes how much better off he is than his brothers. How defeated and demoralized they are.

In fact, I think Joseph actually feels sorry for them. And I think that’s something he wasn’t expecting.

We see more of the brothers’ thought patterns when one of them finds his money in his feed sack on the journey back home. “What is this God has done to us?”

When they report back to their father, they sound like whiny little boys complaining about the neighborhood bully.

But they got it honest, didn’t they. Listen to how Jacob responds to the demand they take Benjamin back with them if they want to buy more grain. He rehearses all the bad things he’s lived through and then talks about the “what if” that has ruled his life for 20 years. Then he says, “All these things are against me!”

Reuben adds more drama by telling his father he can kill his two sons if Reuben doesn’t bring Benjamin back safe and sound.

But Jacob still refuses because if something were to happen to Benjamin, he believes he would die of grief.

There’s no perspective. Just drama. Because Jacob is ignoring the fact they’re all going to die of starvation anyway if they can’t go back to Egypt and buy more grain.


Here are a few truths I saw:

– Unforgiveness will keep us in a pit until it’s dealt with. Even when God forgives us, we still have to forgive ourselves.

– Other people’s lives are rarely what we imagine they are. If we heard some of their private conversations, we’d understand they have their own problems.

– Moving away from home gives us a different perspective. It can make us more sensitive to the real issues in our families.


Application Questions:

– Who do I need to forgive? What do I need to forgive myself for?

– When something bad happens to me, who/what do I blame it on? Why?

– Whose life am I envious of? Why?

– How has my perspective changed after living away from home?


Genesis 42:21-38 / Amplified Bible (AMP)

21 And they said one to another, We are truly guilty about our brother, for we saw the distress and anguish of his soul when he begged us [to let him go], and we would not hear. So this distress and difficulty has come upon us.22 Reuben answered them, Did I not tell you, Do not sin against the boy, and you would not hear? Therefore, behold, his blood is required [of us].23 But they did not know that Joseph understood them, for he spoke to them through an interpreter.24 And he turned away from them and wept; then he returned to them and talked with them, and took from them Simeon and bound him before their eyes.25 Then [privately] Joseph commanded that their sacks be filled with grain, every man’s money be restored to his sack, and provisions be given to them for the journey. And this was done for them.26 They loaded their donkeys with grain and left.27 And as one of them opened his sack to give his donkey fodder at the lodging place, he caught sight of his money; for behold, it was in his sack’s mouth.28 And he said to his brothers, My money is restored! Here it is in my sack! And their hearts failed them and they were afraid and turned trembling one to another, saying, What is this that God has done to us?29 When they came to Jacob their father in Canaan, they told him all that had befallen them, saying,30 The man who is the lord of the land spoke roughly to us and took us for spies of the country.

31 And we said to him, We are true men, not spies.

32 We are twelve brothers with the same father; one is no more, and the youngest is today with our father in the land of Canaan.

33 And the man, the lord of the country, said to us, By this test I will know whether or not you are honest men: leave one of your brothers here with me and take grain for your famishing households and be gone.

34 Bring your youngest brother to me; then I will know that you are not spies, but that you are honest men. And I will deliver to you your brother [whom I have kept bound in prison], and you may do business in the land.

35 When they emptied their sacks, behold, every man’s parcel of money was in his sack! When both they and their father saw the bundles of money, they were afraid.

36 And Jacob their father said to them, You have bereaved me! Joseph is not, and Simeon is not, and you would take Benjamin from me. All these things are against me!

37 And Reuben said to his father, Slay my two sons if I do not bring [Benjamin] back to you. Deliver him into my keeping, and I will bring him back to you.

38 But [Jacob] said, My son shall not go down with you, for his brother is dead and he alone is left [of his mother’s children]; if harm or accident should befall him on the journey you are to take, you would bring my hoary head down to Sheol (the place of the dead) with grief.

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