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'Except We Had Lingered'
The land of Israel experienced famines in ancient times. One of the most well-known, and most purposeful, was the famine that resulted in the Israelites eventually going to live in nearby Egypt (unknown to them at first, one of their own was not only already there, but was actually the Prime Minister of Egypt - see The Israelite Patriarchs - Joseph).
"42:1 Now when Jacob saw that there was corn [i.e. grain - see 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)
"For except we had lingered, surely now we had returned this second time"
So off they went on their journey that took a matter of a few weeks at the most.
"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 among those that came: for the famine was in the land of Canaan." (Genesis 42:3-5 KJV)
The sons of Israel returned home, again in a matter of just a few weeks at the most. When the food that they brought from Egypt ran out, they returned again, albeit despite Jacob's reluctance to send his sons there. Notice Reuben's statement, "except we had lingered, surely now we had returned this second time" in verse 10. In terms of the time required, it was a short journey.
"43:1 And the famine was sore in the land. 43:2 And it came to pass, when they had eaten up the corn which they had brought out of Egypt, their father said unto them, Go again, buy us a little food.
Jacob himself later made the short trip down to Egypt "in the wagons which Pharaoh had sent to carry him."
"46:4 I will go down with thee into Egypt; and I will also surely bring thee up again: and Joseph shall put his hand upon thine eyes. 46:5 And Jacob rose up from Beersheba: and the sons of Israel carried Jacob their father, and their little ones, and their wives, in the wagons which Pharaoh had sent to carry him." (Genesis 46:4-5 KJV)
Fact Finder: As shown in the verses quoted above, a journey between Egypt and the land of Israel required little time. Why did it later take the Exodus Israelites forty years to make the same journey?