35 “As they emptied their sacks, behold, every man’s bundle of money was in his sack. And when they and their father saw their bundles of money, they were afraid. 36 And Jacob their father said to them, “You have bereaved me of my children: Joseph is no more, and Simeon is no more, and now you would take Benjamin. All this has come against me.” 37 Then Reuben said to his father, “Kill my two sons if I do not bring him back to you. Put him in my hands, and I will bring him back to you.” 38 But he said, “My son shall not go down with you, for his brother is dead, and he is the only one left. If harm should happen to him on the journey that you are to make, you would bring down my gray hairs with sorrow to Sheol.” (Genesis 42:35–38 (ESV)
In Genesis 42:29-34, Jacob’s eldest sons, with the exception of Simeon, return from Egypt after buying grain. They related to their father the circumstances of why their brother Simeon did not return home with them. They also shared that for Simeon to be released, the elder brothers must return to Egypt with their youngest brother, Benjamin.
On the return trip to Canaan, one of the brothers discovered his money was in his sack (Gen. 42:26-28). When they all returned home, the remaining brothers discovered their own money in their respective sacks. Both they, and their father Jacob, were afraid. This was an ongoing fear and not just a momentary fright. Perhaps it was fear of the Egyptian governor, Joseph, or it may have been an even greater fear of the LORD.
Today’s text shares Jacob’s initial reaction to his sons regarding what he has just learned. “You have bereaved me of my children: Joseph is no more, and Simeon is no more, and now you would take Benjamin. All this has come against me.” Jacob’s reaction was apparently self-centered. All that seemed to matter was how these circumstances affected him alone. All that was lacking was the exclamation, “Woe is me.”
Dr. John MacArthur explains, “Jacob could not handle the prospect of losing another son, and didn’t trust the brothers who had already divested him of two sons by what he may have thought were their intrigues. The whole situation overwhelmed Jacob who complained against his sons (cf. 43:6) and would not release Benjamin (42:38).”
Reuben then made a solemn, if not an exaggerated pledge to his father. “Kill my two sons if I do not bring him back to you. Put him in my hands, and I will bring him back to you.” Perhaps Rueben should be excused for his hyperbole, but not for his sincerity. The brother who protected Joseph (Ge. 37:18-22, 29) now pledged to protect Benjamin.
However, Jacob would not have it so. “My son shall not go down with you, for his brother is dead, and he is the only one left. If harm should happen to him on the journey that you are to make, you would bring down my gray hairs with sorrow to Sheol.”
Jacob’s only concern seemed to be his youngest son Benjamin. He seemingly did not care what would happen to either Simeon or his other sons if, or when, they returned to Egypt. Jacob appeared to be only concerned for himself and how these circumstances would impact him. When we begin studying Genesis 43, we will see another possible reason for Jacob’s hesitancy.
Puritan Matthew Henry writes, “Jacob gives up Joseph for gone, and Simeon and Benjamin as being in danger; and he concludes, All these things are against me. It proved otherwise, that all these were for him, were working together for his good and the good of his family: yet here he thinks them all against him. Through our ignorance and mistake, and the weakness of our faith, we often apprehend that to be against us which is really for us. We are afflicted in body, estate, name, and relations; and we think all these things are against us, whereas these are really working for us the weight of glory.”
May the experiences of Jacob and his family, in real history and real time, impact our lives being lived in real time and history. Have a blessed day in the LORD.
Soli deo Gloria!