וַיַּרְא יַעֲקֹב כִּי יֶשׁ־שֶׁבֶר בְּמִצְרָיִם וַיֹּאמֶר יַעֲקֹב לְבָנָיו לָמָּה תִּתְרָאוּ 42:1
Gene. 42:1 Now Jacob saw that there was grain in Egypt, and Jacob said to his sons, “Why should you look at one other?”
An interesting side note: Normally a verse such as this one would say “Now Jacob [or anyone else] heard that ….” This verse says that Jacob saw. I ask myself, how did Jacob see? The strong implication here is that Jacob somehow knew. As I have suspected for some time, Jacob may have had an intimate relationship with God and could “see” in his mind what God was communicating to him. That would explain many of the mysterious events that Jacob had experienced in the past. However, see the next verse. Does it contradict what I have written here? I believe not. What else would he say to his sons? That he had seen? Consider also that Jacob was quite old at this time, and probably didn’t get out much. So how would he have heard?
וַיֹּאמֶר הִנֵּה שָׁמַעְתִּי כִּי יֶשׁ־שֶׁבֶר בְּמִצְרָיִם רְדוּ־שָׁמָּה וְשִׁבְרוּ־לָנוּ מִשָּׁם וְנִחְיֶה וְלֹא נָמוּת 42:2
Gene. 42:2 And he said, “Behold, I have heard that there is grain in Egypt. Go down there and buy it for us from there that we may live and not die.
The word וְנִחְיֶה, translated as that we may live, contains a non-inverting vav. The verb is first-person imperfect.
וַיֵּרְדוּ אֲחֵי־יֹוסֵף עֲשָׂרָה לִשְׁבֹּר בָּר מִמִּצְרָיִם 42:3
Gene. 42:3 So the ten of the brothers of Joseph went down to buy grain from Egypt.
וְאֶת־בִּנְיָמִין אֲחִי יֹוסֵף לֹא־שָׁלַח יַעֲקֹב אֶת־אֶחָיו כִּי אָמַר פֶּן־יִקְרָאֶנּוּ אָסֹון 42:4
Gene. 42:4 But Jacob did not send Benjamin, brother of Joseph, with his brothers, for he said, “Lest he encounter harm.”
At this time Benjamin must have been not much older than Joseph had been when he disappeared. It makes sense that Jacob would be concerned for his welfare. Also, Benjamin was Rachel’s only other child.
וַיָּבֹאוּ בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל לִשְׁבֹּר בְּתֹוךְ הַבָּאִים כִּי־הָיָה הָרָעָב בְּאֶרֶץ כְּנָעַן 42:5
Gene. 42:5 And the sons of Israel came to buy grain among those coming, for the famine was in the land of Canaan.
וְיֹוסֵף הוּא* הַשַּׁלִּיט עַל־הָאָרֶץ הוּא הַמַּשְׁבִּיר לְכָל־עַם הָאָרֶץ וַיָּבֹאוּ אֲחֵי יֹוסֵף וַיִּשְׁתַּחֲווּ־לֹו אַפַּיִם 42:6
Gene. 42:6 And it was Joseph who was governor over the land; he was the seller of grain to all the people of the land. And the brothers of Joseph came and bowed down to him, faces to the earth.
וַיַּרְא יֹוסֵף אֶת־אֶחָיו וַיַּכִּרֵם וַיִּתְנַכֵּר אֲלֵיהֶם וַיְדַבֵּר אִתָּם קָשֹׁות וַיֹּאמֶר אֲלֵהֶם מֵאַיִן בָּאתֶם וַיֹּאמְרוּ 42:7
מֵאֶרֶץ כְּנַעַן לִשְׁבָּר־אֹכֶל
Gene. 42:7 And Joseph saw his brothers and he recognized them, but he acted as a stranger to them, and he spoke to them roughly and said to them, “From where do you come?” And they said, “From the land of Canaan, to buy food.”
וַיַּכֵּר יֹוסֵף אֶת־אֶחָיו וְהֵם לֹא הִכִּרֻהוּ 42:8
Gene. 42:8 So Joseph knew his brothers but they did not know him.
וַיִּזְכֹּר יֹוסֵף אֵת הַחֲלֹמֹות אֲשֶׁר חָלַם לָהֶם וַיֹּאמֶר אֲלֵהֶם מְרַגְּלִים אַתֶּם לִרְאֹות אֶת־עֶרְוַת הָאָרֶץ 42:9
Gene. 42:9 Now Joseph remembered the dreams that he dreamed of them, and he said to them, “You are spies; you have come to view the nakedness of the land.”
וַיֹּאמְרוּ אֵלָיו לֹא אֲדֹנִי וַעֲבָדֶיךָ בָּאוּ לִשְׁבָּר־אֹכֶל 42:10
Gene. 42:10 And they said to him, “No, my lord, your servants have come to buy food.”
כֻּלָּנוּ בְּנֵי אִישׁ־אֶחָד נָחְנוּ כֵּנִים אֲנַחְנוּ לֹא־הָיוּ עֲבָדֶיךָ מְרַגְּלִים 42:11
Gene. 42:11 “We are all of us the sons of one man; we are upright men; your servants are not spies.”
וַיֹּאמֶר אֲלֵהֶם לֹא כִּי־עֶרְוַת הָאָרֶץ בָּאתֶם לִרְאֹות 42:12
Gene. 42:12 And he said to them, “No, you have come only to view the nakedness of the land.”
וַיֹּאמְרוּ שְׁנֵים עָשָׂר עֲבָדֶיךָ אַחִים אֲנַחְנוּ בְּנֵי אִישׁ־אֶחָד בְּאֶרֶץ כְּנָעַן וְהִנֵּה הַקָּטֹן אֶת־אָבִינוּ הַיֹּום 42:13
Gene. 42:13 And they said, “We are twelve brothers, your servants, sons of one man in the land of Canaan, and behold, the youngest is with our father this day, and the other is not.”
וַיֹּאמֶר אֲלֵהֶם יֹוסֵף הוּא אֲשֶׁר דִּבַּרְתִּי אֲלֵכֶם לֵאמֹר מְרַגְּלִים אַתֶּם 42:14
Gene. 42:14 And Joseph said to them, “It is what I spoke to you saying, ‘You are spies.’”
בְּזֹאת תִּבָּחֵנוּ חֵי פַרְעֹה אִם־תֵּצְאוּ מִזֶּה כִּי אִם־בְּבֹוא אֲחִיכֶם הַקָּטֹן הֵנָּה 42:15
Gene. 42:15 He shall be proof in this. As Pharoah lives, if you are to go forth from here, it will be only by bringing your youngest brother here.”
Very intriguing that Joseph swears by Pharoah and not by the Lord! Perhaps he thinks he would tip his hand if he didn’t act like an Egyptian. He resorts to the oath again in the next verse.
שִׁלְחוּ םִכֶּם אֶחָד וְיִקַּח אֶת־אֲחִיכֶם וְאַתֶּם הֵאָסְרוּ וְיִבָּחֲנוּ דִּבְרֵיכֶם הַאֱמֶת אִתְּכֶם וְאִם־לֹא חֵי פַרְעֹה 42:16
כִּי מְרַגְּלִים אַתֶּם
Gene. 42:16 “Send one of you and he will fetch your brother, and you will be held, so he proves your words, that there is truth with you. And if there is not, as Pharoah lives, surely you are spies.”
וַיֶּאֱסֹף אֹתָם אֶל־מִשְׁמָר שְׁלֹשֶׁת יָמִים 42:17
Gene. 42:17 And he took them away to prison for three days.
וַיֹּאמֶר אֲלֵהֶם יֹוסֵף בַּיֹּום הַשְּׁלִישִׁי זֹאת עֲשׂוּ וִחְיוּ אֶת־הָאֱלֹהִים אֲנִי יָרֵא 42:18
Gene. 42:18 And Joseph said to them in the third day, “Do this and live. I fear He Who is God.”
Why do you suppose Joseph said he fears God? Was he reassuring his brothers that his word was good? Or was he being slyly sarcastic, contrasting himself to them? Either option is certainly possible, but I am willing to hazard a guess that his reason was the latter. It’s consistent with his implied attitude, and, more explicitly, his toying with them and hiding his identity. I can almost hear the emphasis in his voice on the first word as he confesses ”I fear God.”
In this instance, I translate the last word in the verse, יָרֵא, as to fear rather than to revere (see my discussion of this translation in the Preface to the Torah), as the commandment to love the Lord with all your heart, might, and soul had not yet been given. Mind you, I’m not suggesting that Joseph didn’t love and revere the Lord. But I believe he wouldn’t have said to his brothers, “I revere God.”
אִם־כֵּנִים אַתֶּם אֲחִיכֶם אֶחָד יֵאָסֵר בְּבֵית מִשְׁמַרְכֶם וְאַתֶּם לְכוּ הָבִיאוּ שֶׁבֶר רַעֲבֹון בָּתֵּיכֶם 42:19
Gene. 42:19 “If you are upright, let one of your brothers be held in your prison, and you go; take grain for the famine in your households.”
Use of the term in your prison suggests that Joseph came to the prison to talk to the brothers.
וְאֶת־אֲחִיכֶם הַקָּטֹן תָּבִיאוּ אֵלַי וְיֵאָמְנוּ דִבְרֵיכֶם וְלֹא תָמוּתוּ וַיַּעֲשׂוּ־כֵן 42:20
Gene. 42:20 “And you shall bring your youngest brother to me, so that your words are confirmed, and you will not die.” And so they did.
וַיֹּאמְרוּ אִישׁ אֶל־אָחִיו אֲבָל אֲשֵׁמִים אֲנַחְנוּ עַל־אָחִינוּ אֲשֶׁר רָאִינוּ צָרַת נַפְשֹׁו בְּהִתְחַנְנֹו אֵלֵינוּ וְלֹא 42:21
שָׁמָעְנוּ עַל־כֵּן בָּאָה אֵלֵינוּ הַצָּרָה הַזֹּאת
Gene. 42:21 And they said to each other, “Indeed we are guilty over our brother that we saw the distress of his soul when he was pleading to us and we did not hear. Therefore this trouble has come to us.”
Once more we learn that something had been left out of the earlier narrative regarding Joseph’s captivity by his brothers. He pleaded for his life and they ignored him. But it’s even more enlightening to notice that they felt guilty over their ignoring him in the pit, but not his sale to the Ishmaelites, or the damage they did to their father. Wonderful brothers, these!
וַיַּעַן רְאוּבֵן אֹתָם לֵאמֹר הֲלֹוא אָמַרְתִּי אֲלֵיכֶם לֵאמֹר אַל־תֶּחֶטְאוּ בַיֶּלֶד וְלֹא שְׁמַעְתֶּם וְגַם־דָּמֹו הִנֵּה 42:22
Gene. 42:22 And Reuben answered them saying, “Did I not speak to you saying, ‘You must not sin with the boy, and you did not hear? So, behold, also his blood is being sought.”
וְהֵם לֹא יָדְעוּ כִּי שֹׁמֵעַ יֹוסֵף כִּי הַמֵּלִיץ בֵּינֹתָם 42:23
Gene. 42:23 And they did not know that Joseph was listening, for the interpreter had been between them.
This addresses a concern that some readers may have had in mind. Whenever an Isrealite spoke to a foreigner, how did they understand one another? Until now we would have to have assumed that somehow they were speaking the same language. Here we discover an intimation that they probably had interpreters. The scribe must have assumed that it was not necessary to mention this point until it mattered, as it does now.
וַיִּסֹּב מֵעֲלֵיהֶם וַיֵּבְךְּ וַיָּשָׁב אֲלֵהֶם וַיְדַבֵּר אֲלֵהֶם וַיִּקַּח מֵאִתָּם אֶת־שִׁמְעֹון וַיֶּאֱסֹר אֹתֹו לְעֵינֵיהֶם 42:24
Gene. 42:24 And he turned away from them and wept. Then he turned back to them and spoke to them, and he took Simeon from them and bound him before their eyes.
וַיְצַו יֹוסֵף וַיְמַלְאוּ אֶת־כְּלֵיהֶם בָּר וּלְהָשִׁיב כַּסְפֵּיהֶם אִישׁ אֶל־שַׂקֹּו וְלָתֵת לָהֶם צֵדָה לַדָּרֶךְ וַיַּעַשׂ 42:25
Gene. 42:25 Then Joseph commanded that their vessels be filled of grain and to return their money, each to his bag, so as to make provision for them along the way. And it was done for them so.
וַיִּשְׂאוּ אֶת־שִׁבְרָם עַל־חֲמֹרֵיהֶם וַיֵּלְכוּ מִשָּׁם 42:26
Gene. 42:26 So they loaded their grain on their asses and left from there.
וַיִּפְתַּח הָאֶחָד אֶת־שַׂקֹּו לָתֵת מִסְפֹּוא לַחֲמֹרֹו בַּמָּלֹון וַיַּרְא אֶת־כַּסְפֹּו וְהִנֵּה־הוּא בְּפִי אַמְתַּחְתֹּו 42:27
Gene. 42:27 And one of them opened his bag to give feed to his ass in the lodging place and saw his money as, behold, it was in the mouth of his bag.
וַיֹּאמֶר אֶל־אֶחָיו הוּשַׁב כַּסְפִּי וְגַם הִנֵּה בְאַמְתַּחְתִּי וַיֵּצֵא לִבָּם וַיֶּחֶרְדוּ אִישׁ אֶל־אָחִיו לֵאמֹר מַה־ 42:28
זֹּאת עָשָׂה אֱלֹהִים לָנוּ
Gene. 42:28 And he said to his brothers, “My money has been restored. And behold, it is even in my bag.” And their heart failed and they feared for each other saying, “What is this God has done to us?”
וַיָּבֹאוּ אֶל־יַעֲקֹב אֲבִיהֶם אַרְצָה כְּנָעַן וַיַּגִּידוּ לֹו אֵת כָּל־הַקֹּרֹת אֹתָם לֵאמֹר 42:29
Gene. 42:29 And they came to Jacob, their father, to the land of Canaan, and reported to him all that had befallen them saying,
דִּבֶּר הָאִישׁ אֲדֹנֵי הָאָרֶץ אִתָּנוּ קָשֹׁות וַיִּתֵּן אֹתָנוּ כִּמְרַגְּלִים אֶת־הָאָרֶץ 42:30
Gene. 42:30 “The man, lord of the land, spoke with us roughly and put upon us as spying the country.”
וַנֹּאמֶר אֵלָיו כֵּנִים אֲנָחְנוּ לֹא הָיִינוּ מְרַגְּלִים 42:31
Gene. 42:31 And we had to say to him, “We are upright; we are not spies.”
שְׁנֵים־עָשָׂר אֲנַחְנוּ אַחִים בְּנֵי אָבִינוּ הָאֶחָד אֵינֶנּוּ וְהַקָּטֹן הַיֹּום אֶת־אָבִינוּ בְּאֶרֶץ כְּנָעַן 42:32
Gene. 42:32 “We are twelve brothers, sons of our father; one is not with us, and the youngest is this day with our father in the land of Canaan.”
וַיֹּאמֶר אֵלֵינוּ הָאִישׁ אֲדֹנֵי הָאָרֶץ בְּזֹאת אֵדַע כִּי כֵנִים אַתֶּם אֲחִיכֶם הָאֶחָד הַנִּיחוּ אִתִּי וְאֶת־רַעֲבֹון 42:33
בָּתֵּיכֶם קְחוּ וָלֵכוּ
Gene. 42:33 And the man, the lord of the land, said to us, “By this will I know if you are upright: Leave one of your brothers with me, and you take the famine food of your houses, and be gone.”
וְהָבִיאוּ אֶת־אֲחִיכֶם הַקָּטֹן אֵלַי וְאֵדְעָה כִּי לֹא מְרַגְּלִים אַתֶּם כִּי כֵנִים אַתֶּם אֶת־אֲחִיכֶם אֶתֵּן לָכֶם 42:34
Gene. 42:34 “And bring your youngest brother to me. Then will I know that you are not spies, but you are upright men. I will give over Your brother to you and you may travel about the land.”
The word translated as then will I know, וְאֵדְעָה, the sixth word, has a non-inverting vav prefix. The verb is first-person imperfect.
וַיְהִי הֵם מְרִיקִים שַׂקֵּיהֶם וְהִנֵּה־אִישׁ צְרֹור־כַּסְפֹּו בְּשַׂקֹּו וַיִּרְאוּ אֶת־צְרֹרֹות כַּסְפֵּיהֶם הֵמָּה וַאֲבִיהֶם 42:35
Gene. 42:35 And it happened they were emptying their bags and behold, each bundle of his money was in his bag. When they and their father saw the bundles of their money, then they were afraid.
וַיֹּאמֶר אֲלֵהֶם יַעֲקֹב אֲבִיהֶם אֹתִי שִׁכַּלְתֶּם יֹוסֵף אֵינֶנּוּ וְשִׁמְעֹון אֵינֶנּוּ וְאֶת־בִּנְיָמִן תִּקָּחוּ עָלַי הָיוּ 42:36
Gene. 42:36 And Jacob, their father, said to them, “You bereave me! Joseph is no longer and Simeon is no longer, and you would take Benjamin away! On me come all these things!”
וַיֹּאמֶר רְאוּבֵן אֶל־אָבִיו לֵאמֹר אֶת־שְׁנֵי בָנַי תָּמִית אִם־לֹא אֲבִיאֶנּוּ אֵלֶיךָ תְּנָה אֹתֹו עַל־יָדִי וַאֲנִי 42:37
Gene. 42:37 And Reuben spoke to his father saying, “You may slay my two sons if I can not bring him back. Deliver him into my hand and I will return him to you.”
וַיֹּאמֶר לֹא־יֵרֵד בְּנִי עִםָּכֶם כִּי־אָחִיו מֵת וְהוּא לְבַדֹּו נִשְׁאָר וּקְרָאָהוּ אָסֹון בַּדֶּרֶךְ אֲשֶׁר תֵּלְכוּ־בָהּ 42:38
וְהֹורַדְתֶּם אֶת־שֵׂיבָתִי בְּיָגֹון שְׁאֹולָה
Gene. 42:38 And he said, “My son will not go down with you, for his brother is dead and he alone is left. If harm were to befall him in the way on which you will go, then you will bring down my gray hair to the grave in sorrow.”
The three instances of the pronoun you in this verse are all plural, so Jacob is not talking to Reuben alone. He is addressing his nine sons, and is showing his distrust of them all. Can you blame him?
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