Genesis 42:6
And Joseph was the governor over the land, and he it was that sold to all the people of the land: and Joseph's brothers came, and bowed down themselves before him with their faces to the earth.
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(6) Joseph’s brethren came and bowed down themselves before him.—Throughout the land of Egypt Joseph would sell by deputy, and only give general directions; but the arrival of so large a party as Joseph’s ten brethren, each probably with several attendants, would be reported to the governor in person, as certainly was the case with Abraham when he went into Egypt (Genesis 12:14-15). Such visits would happen only occasionally, and the arrival of foreigners was always a matter looked upon with suspicion, especially upon the Arabian frontier.

Genesis 42:6. Joseph’s brethren came and bowed themselves before him — Some have inferred from this that the names of all the strangers that came to buy corn in Egypt were brought to Joseph and registered; and such persons or families as were any way remarkable, were brought before him. Thus his brethren would of course be introduced to him: but, in general, he undoubtedly sold the corn by deputies. With their faces to the earth — The common method of salutation in the eastern nations. Thus Joseph’s first dream was already fulfilled; their sheaves bowed to his sheaf.42:1-6 Jacob saw the corn his neighbours had bought in Egypt, and brought home. It is a spur to exertion to see others supplied. Shall others get food for their souls, and shall we starve while it is to be had? Having discovered where help is to be had, we should apply for it without delay, without shrinking from labour, or grudging expense, especially as regards our never-dying souls. There is provision in Christ; but we must come to him, and seek it from him.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.

6. Joseph was the governor—in the zenith of his power and influence.

he it was that sold—that is, directed the sales; for it is impossible that he could give attendance in every place. It is probable, however, that he may have personally superintended the storehouses near the border of Canaan, both because that was the most exposed part of the country and because he must have anticipated the arrival of some messengers from his father's house.

Joseph's brethren came, and bowed down themselves before him—His prophetic dreams [Ge 37:5-11] were in the course of being fulfilled, and the atrocious barbarity of his brethren had been the means of bringing about the very issue they had planned to prevent (Isa 60:14; Re 3:9, last clause).

He sold to the people; either,

1. By his ministers and commissioners appointed to that end, as men in Scripture and in all authors are said to do that which others do by their authority and command. Or,

2. He himself immediately contracted with the buyers, or at least with such as were foreigners; which he did upon prudential reasons; both because he would not have them to pry into the state of Egypt, Genesis 42:12, and because he would by that opportunity understand the state of other lands, and improve that knowledge for his master’s service.

Joseph’s brethren bowed down themselves before him; thus unwittingly fulfilling Joseph’s dream, Genesis 37:7. And Joseph was the governor over the land,.... Not the land of Canaan last mentioned, but the land of Egypt; under Pharaoh, he had the chief and sole authority, and especially in the affair of the corn, and the disposal of that:

and he it was that sold to all the people of the land: of Egypt, and also to all that came out of other lands; not that he in person could do all this, but by those that acted under him:

and Joseph's brethren came; to Joseph to buy corn of him:

and bowed down themselves before him, with their faces to the earth; not only bowed the knee as the Egyptians did, but prostrated their whole bodies, stretching out their hands and feet, and touching the ground with their faces, as was the manner of the eastern countries, at least some of them; and so of Canaan; and thus did they submit themselves to him in the most humble manner, and thereby, though without their knowledge, fulfilled his dream of their sheaves making obeisance to his sheaf, Genesis 37:7.

And Joseph was the governor over the land, and he it was that sold to all the people of the land: and Joseph's brethren came, and bowed down themselves before him with their faces to the earth.
6–17. The first Interview with Joseph

6. governor] The late, and not very common, word here used in the Hebrew (shâlît) denotes the position of “Grand Vizier1[59]

[59]    On the “Grand Vizier” of Egypt, see Appendix E, The name of one of the Hyksos kings, Salatis, presents a resemblance to shâlît, which has been remarked upon (Budge, Hist. Eg. iii. 146, note 1).

,” “the T’ate,” or chief officer of state: see note on Genesis 41:42. It is akin to our word “Sultan,” and rendered “ruler” in Ecclesiastes 7:19; Ecclesiastes 10:5.

he it was that sold] We need not suppose that Joseph in person always conducted the business transactions; but a group of foreign purchasers would be brought into his presence to be interrogated.

bowed down themselves] Cf. Genesis 42:9. Joseph’s dreams are fulfilled: see Genesis 37:7; Genesis 37:9-10.Verse 6. - And Joseph was the governor over the land. The word שָׁלִּיט from שָׁלַט, to rule, describes one invested with despotic authority, or a sultan (Gesenius), in which character the early Shemites appear to have regarded Joseph (Keil). It is probably the same idea which recurs in the name Salatis, which, according to Manetho, belonged to the first of the shepherd kings (Josephus, 'Contra Apionem,' 1:14). Occurring nowhere else in the Pentateuch, it reappears in the later writings of Ecclesiastes (Ecclesiastes 7:10; 10:5), Ezra (Ezra 4:20; 7:24), Daniel (Daniel 2:15; 5:29), which, however, need not suggest an exilian or post-exilian authorship, but may be explained by the fact that the root is found equally in the Arabic and Aramaean dialects (Keil). And he it was that sold to all the people of the land. Not conducted the retail corn trade (Tuch, Oort, Kuenen), which was assigned to subordinates (ver. 25; Genesis 44:1), but presided over the general market of the kingdom (Murphy), probably fixing the price at which the grain should be sold, determining the quantities to be allowed to purchasers, and examining the companies of foreigners who came to buy (Rosenmüller, Havernick, Lange, Gerlach). And Joseph's brethren came, and bowed down themselves before him with their faces to the earth. And so fulfilled his early dream in Shechem (Genesis 37:7, 8). When the years of scarcity commenced, at the close of the years of plenty, the famine spread over all (the neighbouring) lands; only in Egypt was there bread. As the famine increased in the land, and the people cried to Pharaoh for bread, he directed them to Joseph, who "opened all in which was" (bread), i.e., all the granaries, and sold corn (שׁבר, denom. from שׁבר, signifies to trade in corn, to buy and sell corn) to the Egyptians, and (as the writer adds, with a view to what follows) to all the world (כּל־הארץ, Genesis 41:57), that came thither to buy corn, because the famine was great on every hand. - Years of famine have frequently fallen, like this one, upon Egypt, and the neighbouring countries to the north. The cause of this is to be seen in the fact, that the overflowing of the Nile, to which Egypt is indebted for its fertility, is produced by torrents of rain falling in the alpine regions of Abyssinia, which proceed from clouds formed in the Mediterranean and carried thither by the wind; consequently it has a common origin with the rains of Palestine (see the proofs in Hengst. pp. 37ff.).
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