Joseph's brothers return to Canaan
25Joseph gave orders for his brothers' grain sacks to be filled with grain and for their money to be put in their sacks. He also gave orders for them to be given food for their journey home. After this was done,26they each loaded the grain on their donkeys and left.
27When they stopped for the night, one of them opened his sack to get some grain for his donkey, and straight away he saw his money bag.28“Here's my money!” he told his brothers. “Right here in my sack.”
They were trembling with fear as they stared at one another and asked themselves, “What has God done to us?”
29When they returned to the land of Canaan, they told their father Jacob everything that had happened to them:
30The governor of Egypt was rude and treated us like spies.31But we told him, “We're honest men, not spies.32We come from a family of twelve brothers. The youngest is still with our father in Canaan, and the other is dead.”
33Then the governor of Egypt told us, “I'll find out if you really are honest. Leave one of your brothers here with me, while you take the grain to your starving families.34But bring your youngest brother to me, so I can be certain that you are honest men and not spies. After that, I'll let your other brother go free, and you can stay here and trade.”
35When the brothers started emptying their sacks of grain, they found their money bags in them. They were frightened, and so was their father Jacob,36who said, “You have already taken my sons Joseph and Simeon from me. And now you want to take away Benjamin! Everything is against me.”
37Reuben spoke up, “Father, if I don't bring Benjamin back, you can kill both of my sons. Trust me with him, and I will bring him back.”
38But Jacob said, “I won't let my son Benjamin go down to Egypt with the rest of you. His brother is already dead, and he is the only son I have left. I am an old man, and if anything happens to him on the way, I'll die from sorrow, and all of you will be to blame.”
Joseph gives his brothers back the money they paid for the grain and he gives them additional food for their journey home, but he still keeps one brother in prison. It is obvious that he doesn’t trust them to keep their promise to bring Benjamin, their youngest brother, to him.
These are not the same men who twenty-seven years earlier had jealousy, murder and hate in their hearts. Now they “tremble with fear” when they find the money in their sacks, and are frightened as they talk to their father about what this ruler of Egypt has demanded.
But although some things have changed; much is still the same: this family is still quite dysfunctional. Instead of pledging his own life, Reuben makes an extreme bargain, “Father, if I don’t bring Benjamin back, you can kill both of my sons.” And in Jacob’s response, we can see the cause of the sibling rivalry which brought about all the pain in Joseph’s life: Jacob says that “my son” (as if he only has one) cannot go with them. And Jacob adds that he (Benjamin) is the only “one” I have left. Jacob seems not to care at all about his older sons.
Joseph is correct in not trusting his brothers. We are commanded in the Bible to “love each other” (John 13:34), but nowhere are we told that we need to blindly trust those who have previously hurt us. Jesus told his disciples: “I am sending you like lambs into a pack of wolves. So be as wise as snakes and as innocent as doves (Matthew 10:16).
Heavenly Father, you who know everything that is in all of our hearts, we pray that you help us to be both loving and wise towards those who we meet each day. In Jesus’ name. Amen