Rejection and Repentance

 •  3 min. read  •  grade level: 8
Genesis 42:1-241Now when Jacob saw that there was corn in Egypt, Jacob said unto his sons, Why do ye look one upon another? 2And he said, Behold, I have heard that there is corn in Egypt: get you down thither, and buy for us from thence; that we may live, and not die. 3And Joseph's ten brethren went down to buy corn in Egypt. 4But Benjamin, Joseph's brother, Jacob sent not with his brethren; for he said, Lest peradventure mischief befall him. 5And the sons of Israel came to buy corn among those that came: for the famine was in the land of Canaan. 6And 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. 7And Joseph saw his brethren, and he knew them, but made himself strange unto them, and spake roughly unto them; and he said unto them, Whence come ye? And they said, From the land of Canaan to buy food. 8And Joseph knew his brethren, but they knew not him. 9And Joseph remembered the dreams which he dreamed of them, and said unto them, Ye are spies; to see the nakedness of the land ye are come. 10And they said unto him, Nay, my lord, but to buy food are thy servants come. 11We are all one man's sons; we are true men, thy servants are no spies. 12And he said unto them, Nay, but to see the nakedness of the land ye are come. 13And they said, Thy servants are twelve brethren, the sons of one man in the land of Canaan; and, behold, the youngest is this day with our father, and one is not. 14And Joseph said unto them, That is it that I spake unto you, saying, Ye are spies: 15Hereby ye shall be proved: By the life of Pharaoh ye shall not go forth hence, except your youngest brother come hither. 16Send one of you, and let him fetch your brother, and ye shall be kept in prison, that your words may be proved, whether there be any truth in you: or else by the life of Pharaoh surely ye are spies. 17And he put them all together into ward three days. 18And Joseph said unto them the third day, This do, and live; for I fear God: 19If ye be true men, let one of your brethren be bound in the house of your prison: go ye, carry corn for the famine of your houses: 20But bring your youngest brother unto me; so shall your words be verified, and ye shall not die. And they did so. 21And they said one to another, We are verily guilty concerning our brother, in that we saw the anguish of his soul, when he besought us, and we would not hear; therefore is this distress come upon us. 22And Reuben answered them, saying, Spake I not unto you, saying, Do not sin against the child; and ye would not hear? therefore, behold, also his blood is required. 23And they knew not that Joseph understood them; for he spake unto them by an interpreter. 24And he turned himself about from them, and wept; and returned to them again, and communed with them, and took from them Simeon, and bound him before their eyes. (Genesis 42:1‑24)
Far away in the land of Canaan there was a starving family, and the message reached them that there was corn in Egypt. Jacob their father then sent his sons down to buy some food, and after a long, tiresome journey they arrived in the land. They went to Joseph, who was then the governor, and bowed down to him with their faces to the earth. They did not, however, know that it was Joseph their brother, for he did not make himself known to them. He talked to them in the Egyptian language and began at once to question them as to where they came from, and about their father, their brother, and other things. We know that in a similar way, when the Lord Jesus returns to Jerusalem to put down His enemies, the Jews will not know Him, and they will ask, “What are these wounds in thine hands?” (Zechariah 13:66And one shall say unto him, What are these wounds in thine hands? Then he shall answer, Those with which I was wounded in the house of my friends. (Zechariah 13:6)). He will then reveal Himself to them, as Joseph did to his brothers a little later, and they will mourn in repentance because of their great sin in rejecting and crucifying Him.
Tribulation Before Confession
Joseph was trying on this occasion to bring his brothers to repentance, and he spoke roughly to them, and so we know that the Jews will have to pass through a terrible time of tribulation before they finally confess their sin. The Lord will indeed have to “deal roughly” with them during those seven years of Jacob’s trouble (Jeremiah 30:77Alas! for that day is great, so that none is like it: it is even the time of Jacob's trouble; but he shall be saved out of it. (Jeremiah 30:7)).
Joseph accused them of being spies, and said they had come to see the barrenness of the land. They replied saying that they were true men. We know, however, that they were not true men, for they had lied to their father when they sold Joseph. He then put them all in prison for three days. After that he said that he would keep one of them, their brother Simeon, and let the rest go back home to their father with the necessary corn which they had come to buy. The next time they came they were to bring their younger brother Benjamin, and in this way Joseph said he would prove the truth of their story. Since Joseph was speaking to them through an interpreter, they did not know he could understand what they were saying as they talked among themselves about their guilt in having sold Joseph to the Ishmaelites long ago. It is always well to remember that God hears everything we say and knows all about us. Think of the many years during which Joseph’s brothers had carried a bad conscience and how un­happy it made them. A bad conscience is a miserable companion, isn’t it?
Repentance and Blessing
In spite of all their sin, Joseph loved his brothers and wept secretly for them. How this reminds us of the Lord Jesus weeping over Jerusalem (Luke 19:4141And when he was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it, (Luke 19:41)). He longed to bless those sinful people, but they would not have Him. If you are unsaved, dear reader, God is grieved over your rejection of Christ and waits to save you. Just as Joseph bound Simeon and kept him in prison to make sure that his brothers would all return, so the Lord often brings sor­row into people’s lives in order to make them turn to Him in true repent­ance. When Simeon’s brothers did come back, how wonderfully Joseph blessed them, and when a sinner turns to the Lord in repentance, He blesses him abundantly too, both for time and eternity. “The gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:2323For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 6:23)).
Further Meditation
1. Did Joseph’s brothers recognize him when they came down to Egypt?
2. The Lord doesn’t willingly make the lives of His people difficult. However He does allow pain when He needs to in order to help us grow. How did Job respond to the difficulties in his life at first? How did his response change over the course of the book of Job?
3. You might find extra help on this portion by reading the pamphlet Joseph and His Brethren: How He Won and Why He Wounded Them by F. T. Heath.