Friday, January 28, 2011

Food Runs Out And Another Trip To Egypt Is Required - Genesis 43:1-5

Now the famine was severe in the land.  So it came about when they had finished eating the grain which they had brought from Egypt that their father said to them, “Go back, buy us a little food.” Judah spoke to him, however, saying, “The man solemnly warned us, ‘You shall not see my face unless your brother is with you.’ If you send our brother with us, we will go down and buy you food.  But if you do not send him, we will not go down; for the man said to us, ‘You shall not see my face unless your brother is with you.’”

In the section preceding this passage, Jacob had made the decision not to allow his sons to take his youngest son, beloved Benjamin, back to Egypt.  They needed Benjamin in order to get more grain and retrieve their brother Simeon whom they had left as collateral with the Egyptian ruler.  The ruler, of course, was Joseph, their own brother whom they had not recognized and whom they had sold to traders to sell as a slave in Egypt many years ago.  But God has a way of dealing with unfinished business.

The famine in Canaan became very severe and all the grain the brothers had brought back from Egypt was now finished.  We do not know how long a period that was but I am confident that poor Simeon thought his brothers had forgotten him just as they all had forgotten Joseph. Jacob meanwhile realizes that the family had to get more grain from Egypt and tells his sons to go and buy some.

This time his fourth son, Judah, also from his first wife Leah, came to him and reminded him of what Joseph had said.  So far in this story we have heard from Reuben the eldest and Simeon, the second eldest, was required to stay behind in Egypt.  Levi, the third eldest has not yet been quoted in the story.  You will remember, it was Simeon and Levi that had committed the treachery against Hamor and his son Shechem and their entire city (see Genesis 34).  With Simeon, his partner in crime, being held in a prison in Egypt, Levi remained quiet.  He may well still have been suffering from losing his credibility with Jacob (Genesis 34:30).  In fact this may also well explain why Jacob was not too worried about retrieving Simeon from Egypt.

Judah is the one that tells him, perhaps in a somewhat stern matter, that, “no, we won’t go without Benjamin.”  The brothers were not prepared to face the Egyptian ruler without Benjamin as he had warned them the consequences would be severe.  The ball was now clearly thrown into Jacob’s hands.  He could live with the fact that if he remained stubborn, the blood of all his children, their wives, and his grandchildren would be on his hands, not that of the brothers.  What a place for a parent to be.

Have you been in such a place?  It is not easy.  How you react is what matters most to you, to those you are concerned about, and to the God that you serve.  We may not see that readily in the midst of the challenge, but if we can somehow learn that and prepare ourselves for it – psychologically, emotionally, and most importantly, spiritually, for it in advance, we have a much better chance to react well when the need to actually do so arrives.  I believe that is our lesson here.  Soon we’ll see how Jacob did react.  In the meantime, we must remember that those whose trust is in God must be prepared to live accordingly, or that trust amounts to nothing.

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