Genesis 42:18
And Joseph said unto them the third day, This do, and live; for I fear God:
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(18) I fear God (Elohim).—By the use of the name Elohim they would understand that he worshipped the same God as they did. For though he may himself have used the Egyptian word for the supreme Deity, yet doubtless he would take care that the interpreter used the word Elohim.

Genesis 42:18. For I fear God — This was a very encouraging word unto them. It is as if he had said, You may assure yourselves I will do you no wrong; I dare not, for I know that, as high as I am, there is one higher than I. With those that fear God we have reason to expect fair dealing: the fear of God will be a check upon those that are in power, to restrain them from abusing their power to oppression and tyranny.

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.After three days, Joseph reverses the numbers, allowing nine to return home, and retaining one. "This do and live." Joseph, notwithstanding the arbitrary power which his office enabled him to exercise, proves himself to be free from caprice and unnecessary severity. He affords them a fair opportunity of proving their words true, before putting them to death on suspicion of espionage. "The God do I fear." A singular sentence from the lord paramount of Egypt! It implies that the true God was not yet unknown in Egypt. We have heard the confession of this great truth already from the lips of Pharaoh Genesis 41:38-39. But it intimates to the brothers the astonishing and hopeful fact that the grand vizier serves the same great Being whom they and their fathers have known and worshipped; and gives them a plain hint that they will be dealt with according to the just law of heaven.

"Carry grain for your houses." The governor then is touched with some feeling for their famishing households. The brothers, though honoring their aged father as the patriarch of their race, had now their separate establishments. Twelve households had to be supplied with bread. The journey to Egypt was not to be undertaken more than once a year if possible, as the distance from Hebron was upwards of two hundred miles. Hence, the ten brothers had with them all their available beasts of burden, with the needful retinue of servants. We need not be surprised that these are not especially enumerated, as it is the manner of Scripture to leave the secondary matters to the intelligence and experience of the reader, unless, as in the case of Abraham's three hundred and eighteen trained servants, they happen to be of essential moment in the process of events. "Your youngest brother." Joseph longs to see his full brother alive, whom he left at home a child of four summers. "Verily guilty are we concerning our brother."

Their affliction is beginning to bear the fruit of repentance. "Because we saw the distress of his soul when he besought us, and we would not hear." How vividly is the scene of Joseph's sale here brought before us. It now appears that he besought them to spare him, and they would not hear! "This distress." Retribution has come at last. "His blood is required." Reuben justly upbraids them with their hardness of heart. Their brother's blood is required; for murder was intended, and when he was sold his death was pretended. "The interpreter was betwixt them." The dragoman was employed in holding conversation with them. But Joseph heard the spontaneous expressions of remorse, coming unprompted from their lips. The fountain of affection is deeply stirred. He cannot repress the rising tear. He has to retire for a time to recover his composure. He now takes, not Reuben, who was not to blame, but Simon, the next oldest, and binds him before them: a speaking act. He then gives orders to supply them with corn (grain), deposit their money in their sacks without their knowledge, and furnish them with provision for the way. Joseph feels, perhaps, that he cannot take money from his father. He will pay for the corn out of his own funds. But he cannot openly return the money to his brothers without more explanation than he wishes at present to give.

17-24. put them … into ward three days—Their confinement had been designed to bring them to salutary reflection. And this object was attained, for they looked upon the retributive justice of God as now pursuing them in that foreign land. The drift of their conversation is one of the most striking instances on record of the power of conscience [Ge 42:21, 22]. I will spare your lives, and not punish you with death as spies, and you shall carry provisions, that your family also may live;

for I fear God, and therefore will not be cruel to you, nor to your brother whom you shall leave with me. This might have raised some suspicion concerning Joseph, but that they knew there were divers among the heathens who did own the true God, though they worshipped idols with him.

And Joseph said unto them the third day,.... His heart yearning towards them, though he put on such an appearance; finding they could not come to an agreement among themselves who should go on the errand, he thought fit to recede from his former order, and to give them another:

this do, and live: meaning what he was about to say to them, which if they punctually observed and performed, it would be the means of saving their lives:

for I fear God; and therefore would not do either an unjust or cruel thing. This might have given them an him who he was: but there being among the Gentiles, in all nations, some few that feared God, they took no further notice of it than this, that they might expect just and equitable dealings by him; since, though he was in such an high place, he knew and owned there was one higher than he, to whom he was accountable.

And Joseph said unto them the third day, This do, and live; for I {e} fear God:

(e) And therefore am true and just.

18–26. The second Interview

18. for I fear God] See notes on Genesis 20:3; Genesis 20:11, Genesis 22:12, Genesis 39:9. Cf. Leviticus 25:43; Nehemiah 5:15. Joseph reassures his brethren by representing to them that the potentate of Egypt is one who recognizes the universal Divine law of right and wrong. He fears God, who protects the stranger and the defenceless. Perhaps there is a reference to his brothers’ disregard of this fear of God in their former treatment of himself. He, in his treatment of them, has before his eyes the fear of God.

Verses 18-20. - And Joseph (whose bowels of mercy were already yearning towards them) said unto them the third day, This do, and live; - i.e. this do that ye may live (vide Gesenius, 'Grammar,' 130, 2; Ewald's 'Hebrew Syntax,' 348b) - for I fear God - literally, the Elohim I fear; the term Elohim being employed, since to have said Jehovah would have been to divulge, if not his Hebrew origin, at least his acquaintance with the Hebrew faith (Hengstenberg). At the same time its use would arrest them more than the preceding adjuration, By the life of Pharaoh! and, whether or not it implied that the true God was not yet unknown in Egypt (Murphy), was clearly designed to show that he was a religious and conscientious person, who would on no account condemn them on mere suspicion (Lange). If ye be true men, let one of your brethren be bound in the house of your prison. Joseph's first proposal, that one should go for Benjamin while nine remained as hostages for their good faith, is now reversed, and only one is required to be detained while the other nine return. If the severity of the first proposal filled them with consternation, the singular clemency of the second could not fail to impress them. Not only were the nine to be released, but their original demand for grain to carry home to Palestine was to be complied with, the grand vizier adding, to their undoubted amazement, As for the rest of you, go ye, carry corn for the famine of your houses. "How differently had they acted towards their brother, whom they had intended to leave in the pit to starve" (Keil). The Egyptian governor feels compassion for their famishing households, only he will not abandon his proposition that they must return with Benjamin. But bring your youngest brother unto me - or, more emphatically, and your brother, the little one, ye shall cause to come to me. That Joseph should have insisted on this stipulation, which he must have known would cause his aged father much anxiety and deep distress, is not to be explained as "almost designed" by Joseph as a chastisement on Jacob for his undue predilection in favor of Benjamin (Kalisch), but must be ascribed either to the intensity of his longing to see his brother (Murphy), or to a desire on his part to ascertain how his brethren were affected towards Benjamin (Lawson), or to a secret belief that the best mode of persuading his father to go down to him in Egypt was to bring Benjamin thither ('Speaker's Commentary'), or to an inward conviction that the temporary concern which Benjamin's absence might inflict on Jacob would be more than compensated for by the ultimate good which would thereby be secured to the whole family (Kurtz), or to the fact that God, under whose guidance throughout he acted, was unconsciously leading him in such a way as to secure the fulfillment of his dreams, which required the presence of both Benjamin and Jacob in Egypt (Wordsworth, ' Speaker's Commentary). The reason which Joseph himself gave to his brethren was that Benjamin's presence was indispensable as a corroboration of their veracity. So (literally, and) shall your words be verified, and ye shall not die (the death due to spies): And they did so - i.e. they consented to Joseph's proposal. Genesis 42:18On the third day Joseph modified his severity. "This do and live," i.e., then ye shall live: "I fear God." One shall remain in prison, but let the rest of you take home "corn for the famine of your families," and fetch your youngest brother, that your words may be verified, and ye may not die, i.e., may not suffer the death that spies deserve. That he might not present the appearance of despotic caprice and tyranny by too great severity, and so render his brethren obdurate, Joseph stated as the reason for his new decision, that he feared God. From the fear of God, he, the lord of Egypt, would not punish or slay these strangers upon mere suspicion, but would judge them justly. How differently had they acted towards their brother! The ruler of all Egypt had compassion on their families who were in Canaan suffering from hunger; but they had intended to leave their brother in the pit to starve! These and similar thoughts could hardly fail to pass involuntarily through their minds at Joseph's words, and to lead them to a penitential acknowledgement of their sin and unrighteousness. The notion that Joseph altered his first intention merely from regard to his much afflicted father, appears improbable, for the simple reason, that he can only have given utterance to the threat that he should keep them all in prison till one of them had gone and fetched Benjamin, for the purpose of giving the greater force to his accusation, that they were spies. But as he was not serious in making this charge, he could not for a moment have thought of actually carrying out the threat. "And they did so:" in these words the writer anticipates the result of the colloquy which ensued, and which is more fully narrated afterwards. Joseph's intention was fulfilled. The brothers now saw in what had happened to them a divine retribution: "Surely we atone because of our brother, whose anguish of soul we saw, when he entreated us and we would not hear; therefore is this distress come upon us." And Reuben reminded them how he had warned them to no purpose, not to sin against the boy - "and even his blood...behold it is required" (cf. Genesis 9:5); i.e., not merely the sin of casting him into the pit and then selling him, but his death also, of which we have been guilty through that sale. Thus they accused themselves in Joseph's presence, not knowing that he could understand; "for the interpreter was between them." Joseph had conversed with them through an interpreter, as an Egyptian who was ignorant of their language. "The interpreter," viz., the one appointed for that purpose; בּינות like Genesis 26:28. But Joseph understood their words, and "turned away and wept" (Genesis 42:24), with inward emotion at the wonderful leadings of divine grace, and at the change in his brothers' feelings. He then turned to them again, and, continuing the conversation with them, had Simeon bound before their eyes, to be detained as a hostage (not Reuben, who had dissuaded them from killing Joseph, and had taken no part in the sale, but Simeon, the next in age). He then ordered his men to fill their sacks with corn, to give every one (אישׁ as in Genesis 15:10) his money back in his sack, and to provide them with food for the journey.
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