Genesis 42:12
And he said to them, No, but to see the nakedness of the land you are come.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
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.The ten brothers meet with a rough reception from the lord of the land. "The governor" - the sultan. This, we see, is a title of great antiquity in Egypt or Arabia. Joseph presided over the cornmarket of the kingdom. "Bowed down to him with their faces to the earth." Well might Joseph think of those never-to-be-forgotten dreams in which the sheaves and stars bowed down to him. "And knew them." How could he fail to remember the ten full-grown men of his early days, when they came before him with all their peculiarities of feature, attitude, and mother tongue. "And he made himself strange unto them." All that we know of Joseph's character heretofore, and throughout this whole affair, goes to prove that his object in all his seemingly harsh treatment was to get at their hearts, to test their affection toward Benjamin, and to bring them to repent of their unkindness to himself.

"They knew not him." Twenty years make a great change in a youth of seventeen. And besides, with his beard and head shaven, his Egyptian attire, his foreign tongue, and his exalted position, who could have recognized the stripling whom, twenty years ago, they had sold as a slave? "Spies are ye." This was to put a color of justice on their detention. To see the nakedness of the land, not its unfortified frontier, which is a more recent idea, but its present impoverishment from the famine. "Sons of one man are we." It was not likely that ten sons of one man would be sent on the hazardous duty of spies. "And behold the youngest is with our father this day." It is intensely interesting to Joseph to hear that his father and full brother are still living. "And one is not." Time has assuaged all their bitter feelings, both of exasperation against Joseph and of remorse for their unbrotherly conduct. This little sentence, however, cannot be uttered by them, or heard by Joseph, without emotion. "By the life of Pharaoh." Joseph speaks in character, and uses an Egyptian asseveration. "Send one of you." This proposal is enough to strike terror into their hearts. The return of one would be a heavy, perhaps a fatal blow to their father. And how can one brave the perils of the way? They cannot bring themselves to concur in this plan. Sooner will they all go to prison, as accordingly they do. Joseph is not without a strong conviction of incumbent duty in all this. He knows he has been put in the position of lord over his brethren in the foreordination of God, and he feels bound to make this authority a reality for their moral good.

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. No text from Poole on this verse. And he said unto them, nay,.... This argument will not do, I am not to be put off with such words as these; if you can produce no better proof of your being honest men than this, or give no better account of yourselves, I must abide by it, that:

to see the nakedness of the land ye are come; this he urged in order to get a further account from them of their family and the state of it, which he was anxious to know.

And he said unto them, Nay, but to see the nakedness of the land ye are come.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
With the words "Why do ye look at one another!" viz., in such a helpless and undecided manner. Jacob exhorted his sons to fetch corn from Egypt, to preserve his family from starvation. Joseph's ten brothers went, as their aged father would not allow his youngest son Benjamin to go with them, for fear that some calamity might befall him (קרא equals קרה, Genesis 44:29 as in Genesis 42:38 and Genesis 49:1); and they came "in the midst of the comers," i.e., among others who came from the same necessity, and bowed down before Joseph with their faces to the earth. For he was "the ruler over the land," and had the supreme control of the sale of the corn, so that they were obliged to apply to him. השּׁלּיט seems to have been the standing title which the Shemites gave to Joseph as ruler in Egypt; and from this the later legend of Σάλατις the first king of the Hyksos arose (Josephus c. Ap. i. 14). The only other passages in which the word occurs in the Old Testament are in writings of the captivity or a still later date, and there it is taken from the Chaldee; it belongs, however, not merely to the Aramaean thesaurus, but to the Arabic also, from which it was introduced into the passage before us.
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