|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
42:7-20 Joseph was hard upon his brethren, not from a spirit of revenge, but to bring them to repentance. Not seeing his brother Benjamin, he suspected that they had made away with him, and he gave them occasion to speak of their father and brother. God, in his providence, sometimes seems harsh with those he loves, and speaks roughly to those for whom yet he has great mercy in store. Joseph settled at last, that one of them should be left, and the rest go home and fetch Benjamin. It was a very encouraging word he said to them, I fear God; as if he had said, You may be assured I will do you no wrong; I dare not, for I know there is one higher than I. With those that fear God, we may expect fair dealing.
Verse 9. - And Joseph remembered (i.e. the sight of his brethren prostrating themselves before him recalled to his mind) the dreams which he dreamed (or had dreamed) of them (vide Genesis 37:5) and said unto them, Ye are spies (literally, ye are spying, or going about, so as to find out, the verb רָגַל signifying to move the feet); to see the nakedness of the land - not its present impoverishment from the famine (Murphy), but is unprotected and unfortified state (Keil). Cf. urbs nuda praesidio (Cic., 'Att.,' 7:13); taurus nudatus defensoribus (Caes., 'Bell. Gall.,' 2:6); τεῖχος ἐυμνώθη (Homer, 'Iliad,' 12:399) - ye are come. The Egyptians were characteristically distrustful of strangers, - AEgyptii prae aliis gentibus diffi-dere solebant peregrinis (Rosenmüller), - whom they prevented, when possible, from penetrating into the interior of their country (Wilkinson's 'Ancient Egyptians,' vol 1.p. 328, ed. 1878). In particular Joseph's suspicion of his Canaanitish brethren was perfectly natural, since Egypt was peculiarly open to attacks from Palestine (Herodotus, 3:5). Verss. 10-12. - And they said unto him. Nay, my lord, but to buy food are thy servants come. "They were not filled with resentment at the imputation" cast upon them by Joseph; "or, ff they were angry, their pride was swallowed up by fear" (Lawson). We are all one man's sons; we are true men, i.e. upright, honest, viri bonae fidei (Rosenmüller), rather than εἰρηνικοὶ (LXX.), pacifici (Vulgate) - thy servants are no spies. It was altogether improbable that one man should send ten sons at the same time and to the same place on the perilous business of a spy, hence the simple mention of the fact that they were ten brethren was sufficient to establish their sincerity. Yet Joseph affected still to doubt them. And he said unto them, Nay, but to see the nakedness of the land ye are come - assuming a harsh and almost violent demeanor hot out of heartless cruelty (Kalisch), but in order to hide the growing weakness of his heart (Candlish).
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
And Joseph remembered the dreams which he dreamed of them,.... Their bowing and prostrating themselves before him brought to his remembrance his dreams of their sheaves making obeisance to his, and of the sun, moon, and eleven stars, doing the same to him, Genesis 37:7,
and said unto them, ye are spies; not believing they were, nor absolutely asserting that they were such; but this he said to try them, and what they would say for themselves, and in order to lead on to further discourse with them, and to get knowledge of his father and brother Benjamin, whether living or not: he dealt with them as a judge on the bench, when examining persons, whose charges have the nature of an interrogation, as this has: "ye are spies"; are ye not? surely ye must be, and unless you give a better account of yourselves, I must take you up as such:
to see the nakedness of the land ye are come: what parts of it are weakest, most defenceless, and less fortified, and most easy to break in at, and invade the land; and it was not without reason that the Egyptians might suspect the neighbouring nations round about them, being in distress, and hearing of corn in Egypt, of forming a design of coming upon them and taking away their corn by force, and might be the reason why foreigners that came to buy corn were brought before Joseph and examined by him.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
9-14. Ye are spies—This is a suspicion entertained regarding strangers in all Eastern countries down to the present day. Joseph, however, who was well aware that his brethren were not spies, has been charged with cruel dissimulation, with a deliberate violation of what he knew to be the truth, in imputing to them such a character. But it must be remembered that he was sustaining the part of a ruler; and, in fact, acting on the very principle sanctioned by many of the sacred writers, and our Lord Himself, who spoke parables (fictitious stories) to promote a good end.
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