Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Joseph Accuses His Brothers Of Espionage - Genesis 42:8-13

But Joseph had recognized his brothers, although they did not recognize him.  And Joseph remembered the dreams which he had about them, and said to them, “You are spies; you have come to look at the undefended parts of our land.”  Then they said to him, “No, my lord, but your servants have come to buy food.  We are all sons of one man; we are honest men, your servants are not spies.”  Yet he said to them, “No, but you have come to look at the undefended parts of our land!”  But they said, “Your servants are twelve brothers in all, the sons of one man in the land of Canaan; and behold, the youngest is with our father today, and one is no more.”

“You’ve come a long way, baby!” is the old expression that comes to mind as I read this section of Scripture.  Much has changed in the life of Joseph since he last saw his brothers.  They had put him in a pit and later sold him to traders to in turn be sold as a slave in Egypt.  Now that pesky little brother was not only the second-in-command ruler of Egypt, but held his brothers’ survival in his hands.

The text again takes care to point out that the recognition of each other was one-way, that is, only Joseph recognized his brothers.  Can you envisage the images that recognition conjured up in Joseph’s mind?  Of course, he replayed the dream he had had about his brothers.  It is quite likely he saw that that dream was now being played out in real life.  Perhaps it was that sense of being in charge both in the dream and now in fact, that caused Joseph to do whatever he could to keep that sense of lording it over his brothers alive for a while longer.

So, he accuses them of being spies.  Wow.  What happens to spies when they get caught in the land they spy in?  Prison, of course, and if so, the tables will have turned 180 degrees.  The brothers reply to the false accusation by stating they were ‘honest men’; something they likely would not have claimed had they really known whom they were speaking to.  Joseph rejects their plea and re-accuses them once more, this time with a louder, harsher voice.  If you look carefully at the text, you will note that the first time he did so, the statement ended with the usual period.  But this time, it ends with an “exclamation mark”.  Clearly the author wanted the reader to know Joseph was either ticked or wanted his brothers think he was.

This of course causes the brothers to scramble for more answers that would convince their accuser of their real intent.  Calling themselves ‘servants’, they proceed to tell Joseph about their family, including their father, their younger brother, and the brother that they no longer had.  Can you fathom the emotions that such an account stirred up in Joseph?  The joy of knowing his father and younger brother were still alive; the anger that their accounting for his own life was simply accounted for “being no more”.

Joseph was able to get all the information he needed or wanted easily.  The question remains “what was he going to do with it?”   I think therein lies the lesson for us in this passage.  If you are at all like me, you have probably had times in your life where you received certain information that was very detrimental to others.  What do we do with such information?  How do we handle it?  How do we handle the people that it can hurt?  How much grace do we exhibit and in what circumstances?  These are the questions I challenge us to ask and then by God’s grace, do the right thing.  There are times to expose and there are times to simply keep “these things in our own heart”.

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