Joseph took in the surplus grain during the seven fruitful years and stored it up for the seven years of famine to come. But the famine didn’t just affect Egypt. There was also famine in the land of Israel, and Joseph’s family was hungry.
“Now Jacob saw that there was grain in Egypt, and Jacob said to his sons, ‘Why are you staring at one another?’ And he said, ‘Behold, I have heard that there is grain in Egypt; go down there and buy some for us from that place, so that we may live and not die.’ Then ten brothers of Joseph went down to buy grain from Egypt. But Jacob did not send Joseph’s brother Benjamin with his brothers, for he said, ‘I am afraid that harm may befall him.'” ~ Genesis 42:1-4
The same ten brothers who had plotted death and harm for Joseph were now headed down to Egypt to buy grain from him. Wow. Twenty years had passed, and they did not recognize their brother, dressed as a ruler of Egypt. But he recognized them. And he wondered if their hearts had changed. So he put them to a test.
“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.’… So he put them all together in prison for three days. Now Joseph said to them on the third day, ‘Do this and live, for I fear God; if you are honest men, let one of your brothers be confined in your prison; but as for the rest of you, go, carry grain for the famine of your households, and bring your youngest brother to me, so your words may be verified, and you will not die.’ And they did so.” ~ Genesis 42:9-13, 17-20
Can you imagine the panic and fear Joseph’s brothers must have felt, standing before the ruler of a foreign land and being accused of spying? On the third day, when Joseph offered them a “deal”, I’m sure they were only too glad to be leaving Egypt. But why did he ask them to bring Benjamin back to him?
Perhaps Joseph knew that as the youngest, Benjamin would have taken his place as their father’s favorite. And because of this, the ten oldest brothers might have done harm to him as well. Joseph was testing them, to see if their hearts had changed over the years, or if they were still jealous and treacherous men.
“Then they said to one another, ‘Truly we are guilty concerning our brother, because we saw the distress of his soul when he pleaded with us, yet we would not listen; therefore, this distress has come upon us.’ And Reuben answered them, saying, ‘Did I not tell you, ‘Do not sin against the boy’; and you would not listen? Now comes the reckoning for his blood.’ They did not know, however, that Joseph understood, for there was an interpreter between them. And he turned away from them and wept.” ~ Genesis 42:21-24a
What emotions must have flooded through Joseph when he heard his brothers talking about what they had done to him all those years ago, when he heard their remorse. When someone has wronged us, it can help our healing and forgiveness process when they admit they were wrong and regret what they have done. Sometimes that is all we need, an admission of guilt and regret. A repentant spirit.
That is what God wants to see in us- an admission of guilt by acknowledging our sin, remorse for our wrong actions, and a repentant heart.
Could the brothers have done anything to make up for what they had done to Joseph? Not really, no. Can we do anything to make up for what we have done to God by sinning? Nope. But Jesus covered our debt when He died on the cross in our place. All we have to do is admit we are sinners, regret that sin, repent, and accept Jesus’ free gift of life eternal with Him. He paid our price and forgives us when we ask. We are covered by His blood, according to His rich mercy and grace! Hallelujah!