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Joseph's Brothers' First Journey To Egypt
When a famine became severe in the land of Israel, Jacob told his sons to go to Egypt because he heard that the land of Goshen was not only coping with the crisis, but had grain to sell (unknown to Jacob, Egypt was doing well because of Jacob's own son, Joseph - see Joseph, Prime Minister Of Egypt).
"42:1 Now when Jacob saw that there was corn in Egypt, Jacob said unto his sons, Why do ye look one upon another? 42:2 And he said, Behold, I have heard that there is corn in Egypt: get you down thither, and buy for us from thence; that we may live, and not die." (Genesis 42:1-2 KJV)
Interestingly, Jacob did not allow Benjamin, Joseph's younger brother, to accompany the other brothers, "Lest peradventure mischief befall him." It seems that, perhaps, Jacob was rightfully suspicious of what had really happened to Joseph (see Joseph's Coat Of Jealousy).
"42:3 And Joseph's ten brethren went down to buy corn in Egypt. 42:4 But Benjamin, Joseph's brother, Jacob sent not with his brethren; for he said, Lest peradventure mischief befall him. 42:5 And the sons of Israel came to buy corn [i.e. wheat - see Corn] among those that came: for the famine was in the land of Canaan." (Genesis 42:3-5 KJV)
"Joseph knew his brethren, but they knew not him"
Upon their arrival in Egypt, they met with the Prime Minister himself, their own brother Joseph, who they did not recognize. Joseph recognized them however - and at that point the very lives of his treacherous brothers were in his hands. Joseph could have had them thrown into prison for the rest of their lives, or sold into slavery as they had done to him, or even executed. But Joseph had compassion (see the Fact Finder question below) on them - along with a hard lesson.
"42:6 And Joseph was the governor over the land, and he it was that sold to all the people of the land: and Joseph's brethren came, and bowed down themselves before him with their faces to the earth. 42:7 And Joseph saw his brethren, and he knew them, but made himself strange unto them, and spake roughly unto them; and he said unto them, Whence come ye?
Knowing that his father Jacob and brother Benjamin were depending upon the return of the brothers with food, Joseph eventually allowed them to go. But not without more for them to wonder about on their return journey (Joseph expected that they would be back because he knew how long the famine would yet last and that the food that he sold to them would not last to the end of it).
"42:18 And Joseph said unto them the third day, This do, and live; for I fear God: 42:19 If ye be true men, let one of your brethren be bound in the house of your prison: go ye, carry corn for the famine of your houses: 42:20 But bring your youngest brother unto me; so shall your words be verified, and ye shall not die. And they did so.
Fact Finder: What is compassion?