The famine, which God had warned of through Pharaoh’s dream, spread throughout the land. All the world came to Egypt to buy grain from Joseph, because the famine was severe everywhere.
There was famine in the land of Canaan also, so ten of Joseph’s brothers went down to buy grain from Egypt. But Israel, their father, did not send Benjamin, his youngest son, because he was afraid that harm might come to him.
Now Joseph was the governor, the person who sold grain to all the people during the draught. So when Joseph’s brothers arrived, they bowed down to him with their faces to the ground. As soon as Joseph saw his brothers, he recognized them, and he remembered his dreams about them–that someday they would bow down to him.
Although Joseph recognized his brothers, they did not recognize him. Joseph pretended to be a stranger and spoke harshly to them. “You are spies!” he said, “You have come to see where our land is unprotected.”
But they replied, “Your servants were twelve brothers, the sons of one man, who lives in the land of Canaan. The youngest is now with our father, and one is no more.”
Joseph pretended to not believe them and put them into prison. On the third day, Joseph said to them, “Do this and you will live, for I fear God: If you are honest men, let one of your brothers stay here in prison, while the rest of you go and take grain back for your starving households. But you must bring your youngest brother to me, so that your words may be verified and that you may not die.”
They said to one another (they did not realize that Joseph could understand them, since he was using an interpreter), “Surely we are being punished because of our brother, Joseph. We saw how distressed he was when he pleaded with us for his life, but we would not listen; that’s why this distress has come on us.”
After hearing their words, Joseph turned away from them and began to weep, but then came back and spoke to them again. He had Simeon taken from them and bound before their eyes.
Joseph’s brothers return home
Joseph’s brothers purchased the grain they needed and then returned to their father. At home when they opened the sacks of grain, they found the money that they had used to purchase the grain, and they were very worried. They told their father the story of their encounter with the ruler in Egypt, and explained that they had to return with Benjamin so that Simeon could be released.
Israel said, “You have deprived me of my children. Joseph is no more and Simeon is no more, and now you want to take Benjamin. My son will not go down there with you. If harm comes to him on the journey you are taking, you will bring my gray head down to the grave in sorrow.”
Now the famine was still severe in the land. So when they had eaten all the grain they had brought from Egypt, their father said to them, “Go back and buy us a little more food.”
But Judah said to him, “The man warned us solemnly, ‘You will not see my face again unless your brother is with you.’ Send the boy along with me and we will go at once, so that we and you and our children may live and not die.”
Then Israel said to them, “If it must be, then do this: Put some of the best products of the land in your bags and take them down to the man as a gift—a little balm and a little honey, some spices and myrrh, some pistachio nuts and almonds. Take double the amount of silver with you, for you must return the silver that was put into your sacks. Perhaps it was a mistake. Take your brother also and go back to the man at once. And may God Almighty grant you mercy before the man so that he will let your other brother and Benjamin come back with you. As for me, if I am bereaved, I am bereaved.”
Joseph’s brothers go back to Egypt
So the men took the gifts and double the amount of silver, and Benjamin also. They hurried down to Egypt and presented themselves to Joseph.
When Joseph saw Benjamin with them, he said to the steward of his house, “Take these men to my house, and prepare a meal; they are to eat with me at noon.”
Joseph’s brothers were frightened when they were taken to his house. They thought, “We were brought here because of the silver that was put back into our sacks the first time. He wants to attack us and overpower us and seize us as slaves and take our donkeys.”
They tried to explain about the mistake of the silver to the steward. “It’s all right,” he said. “Don’t be afraid. Your God, the God of your father, has given you treasure in your sacks; I received your silver.” Then he brought Simeon out to them.
When Joseph came home, they presented to him the gifts they had brought into the house, and they bowed down before him to the ground. He asked them how they were, and then he said, “How is your aged father you told me about? Is he still living?”
They replied, “Your servant our father is still alive and well.” And they bowed down, prostrating themselves before him.
As he looked about and saw his brother Benjamin, he asked, “Is this your youngest brother, the one you told me about?” And he said, “God be gracious to you, my son.” Deeply moved at the sight of his brother, Joseph hurried out and looked for a place to weep. He went into his private room and wept there.
After he had washed his face, he came out and, controlling himself, said, “Serve the food.”
They served Joseph by himself and his brothers by themselves. The men had been seated before him in the order of their ages, from the firstborn to the youngest; and they looked at each other in astonishment. When portions were served to them from Joseph’s table, Benjamin’s portion was five times as much as anyone else’s. So they feasted and drank freely with him.
A silver cup
Now Joseph gave these instructions to the steward of his house: “Fill the men’s sacks with as much food as they can carry, and put each man’s silver in the mouth of his sack. Then put my cup, the silver one, in the mouth of the youngest one’s sack, along with the silver for his grain.” And he did as Joseph said.
As morning dawned, the men were sent on their way with their donkeys. They had not gone far from the city when Joseph said to his steward, “Go after those men at once, and when you catch up with them, say to them, ‘Why have you repaid good with evil? Isn’t this my master’s cup? This is a wicked thing you have done.’”
When he caught up with them, he repeated these words to them. But they said to him, “Why does my lord say such things? Far be it from your servants to do anything like that! We even brought back to you from the land of Canaan the silver we found inside the mouths of our sacks. So why would we steal silver or gold from your master’s house? If any of your servants is found to have it, he will die; and the rest of us will become my lord’s slaves.”
“Very well, then,” he said, “let it be as you say. Whoever is found to have it will become my slave; the rest of you will be free from blame.”
Each of them quickly lowered his sack to the ground and opened it. Then the steward proceeded to search, beginning with the oldest and ending with the youngest. And the cup was found in Benjamin’s sack. At this, they tore their clothes. Then they all loaded their donkeys and returned to the city.
Joseph was still in the house when Judah and his brothers came in, and they threw themselves to the ground before him. Joseph said to them, “What is this you have done?”
“What can we say to my lord?” Judah replied. “What can we say? How can we prove our innocence? God has uncovered your servants’ guilt. We are now my lord’s slaves—we ourselves and the one who was found to have the cup.”
But Joseph said, “Far be it from me to do such a thing! Only the man who was found to have the cup will become my slave. The rest of you, go back to your father in peace.”
Then Judah went up to him and said: “Pardon your servant, my lord, let me speak a word to my lord. You asked that we bring our youngest brother when we returned, and we have done so. However if the boy is not with us when I go back to my father, and if my father, whose life is closely bound up with the boy’s life, sees that the boy isn’t there, he will die. Your servants will bring the gray head of our father down to the grave in sorrow. I guaranteed the boy’s safety to my father. “Now then, please let me remain here as my lord’s slave in place of the boy, and let the boy return with his brothers. How can I go back to my father if the boy is not with me? No! Do not let me see the misery that would come on my father.”
Joseph reveals himself to his brothers
Then Joseph could no longer control himself before all his attendants, and he cried out, “Have everyone leave my presence!” So there was no one with Joseph when he made himself known to his brothers. And he wept so loudly that the Egyptians heard him, and Pharaoh’s household heard about it.
Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph! Is my father still living?” But his brothers were not able to answer him, because they were terrified at his presence.
Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Come close to me.” When they had done so, he said, “I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt! And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you. For two years now there has been famine in the land, and for the next five years there will be no plowing and harvesting. But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance.”
And then Joseph told them, “Hurry back to my father and say to him, ‘This is what your son Joseph says: God has made me lord of all Egypt. Come down to me; don’t delay. You shall live in the region of Goshen and be near me—you, your children and grandchildren, your flocks and herds, and all you have. I will provide for you there, because five years of famine are still to come. Otherwise you and your household and all who belong to you will become destitute.”
“You can see for yourselves, and so can my brother Benjamin,” Joseph continued, “that it is really I who am speaking to you. Tell my father about all the honor accorded me in Egypt and about everything you have seen. And bring my father down here quickly.”
Then he threw his arms around his brother Benjamin and wept, and Benjamin embraced him, weeping. And he kissed all his brothers and wept over them.
Excerpts and edited verses from Genesis 40-45:15