Notes for Gen 42:1LEB



"Jacob." Here the proper name has been replaced by the pronoun ("he") in the translation for stylistic reasons.


Why are you looking at each other? The point of Jacob’s question is that his sons should be going to get grain rather than sitting around doing nothing. Jacob, as the patriarch, still makes the decisions for the whole clan.


Notes for Gen 42:2LEB

"and buy for us from there." The word "grain," the direct object of "buy," has been supplied for clarity, and the words "from there" have been omitted in the translation for stylistic reasons.


Following the imperatives, the prefixed verbal form with prefixed vav expresses purpose of result.


The imperfect tense continues the nuance of the verb before it.


Notes for Gen 42:4LEB

"But Benjamin, the brother of Joseph, Jacob did not send with his brothers." The disjunctive clause highlights the contrast between Benjamin and the other ten.


The Hebrew verb


אָמַר (’amar, "to say") could also be translated "thought" (i.e., "he said to himself") here, giving Jacob’s reasoning rather than spoken words.


The Hebrew noun


אָסוֹן (’ason) is a rare word meaning "accident, harm." Apart from its use in these passages it occurs in Exodus 21:22–23LEB of an accident to a pregnant woman. The term is a rather general one, but Jacob was no doubt thinking of his loss of Joseph.




Notes for Gen 42:5LEB

"in the midst of the coming ones."


Notes for Gen 42:6LEB

The disjunctive clause either introduces a new episode in the unfolding drama or provides the reader with supplemental information necessary to understanding the story.


Joseph’s brothers came and bowed down before him. Here is the beginning of the fulfillment of Joseph’s dreams (see Gen 37). But it is not the complete fulfillment, since all his brothers and his parents must come. The point of the dream, of course, was not simply to get the family to bow to Joseph, but that Joseph would be placed in a position of rule and authority to save the family and the world (Gen 41:57LEB).


The word "faces" is an adverbial accusative, so the preposition has been supplied in the translation.


Notes for Gen 42:7LEB

But pretended to be a stranger. Joseph intends to test his brothers to see if they have changed and have the integrity to be patriarchs of the tribes of Israel. He will do this by putting them in the same situations that they and he were in before. The first test will be to awaken their conscience.




The verb is denominative, meaning "to buy grain"; the word "food" could simply be the direct object, but may also be an adverbial accusative.


Notes for Gen 42:9LEB

You are spies. Joseph wanted to see how his brothers would react if they were accused of spying.


"to see the nakedness of the land you have come."


Notes for Gen 42:10LEB

"and they said to him." In context this is best understood as an exclamation.


Notes for Gen 42:12LEB

"and he said, ‘No, for the nakedness of the land you have come to see.’" The order of the introductory clause and the direct discourse has been rearranged in the translation for clarity.


Notes for Gen 42:13LEB

"twelve [were] your servants, brothers [are] we."




"and the one is not."


Notes for Gen 42:14LEB

"to you, saying."


Notes for Gen 42:15LEB

"[By] the life of Pharaoh."


As surely as Pharaoh lives

. Joseph uses an oath formula to let the brothers know the certainty of what he said. There is some discussion in the commentaries on swearing by the life of Pharaoh, but since the formulation here reflects the Hebrew practice, it would be hard to connect the ideas exactly to Egyptian practices. Joseph did this to make the point in a way that his Hebrew brothers would understand. See M. R. Lehmann, "Biblical Oaths," ZAW 81 (1969): 74-92.


Notes for Gen 42:16LEB

"send from you one and let him take." After the imperative, the prefixed verbal form with prefixed vav (

ו) indicates purpose.


The disjunctive clause is here circumstantial-temporal.




The words "to see" have been supplied in the translation for stylistic reasons.


"the truth [is] with you."


Notes for Gen 42:17LEB

The same Hebrew word is used for Joseph’s imprisonment in Gen 40:3-7LEB. There is some mirroring going on in the narrative. The Hebrew word used here (

אָסַף, ’asaf, "to gather") is not normally used in a context like this (for placing someone in prison), but it forms a wordplay on the name Joseph (יוֹסֵף, yosoef) and keeps the comparison working.


Notes for Gen 42:18LEB

"Do this."


After the preceding imperative, the imperative with vav (

ו) can, as here, indicate logical sequence.


For I fear Yahweh

. Joseph brings Yahweh into the picture to awaken his brothers’ consciences. The godly person cares about the welfare of people, whether they live or die. So he will send grain back, but keep one of them in Egypt. This action contrasts with their crime of selling their brother into slavery.


Notes for Gen 42:19LEB

"bound in the house of your prison."


The disjunctive clause is circumstantial-temporal.


"[for] the hunger of your households."


Notes for Gen 42:20LEB

The imperfect here has an injunctive force.


After the injunctive imperfect, this imperfect with vav indicates purpose or result.


The Niphal form of the verb has the sense of "to be faithful; to be sure; to be reliable." Joseph will test his brothers to see if their words are true.


"and they did so."


Notes for Gen 42:21LEB

"a man to his neighbor."


Or "we are guilty"; the Hebrew word can also refer to the effect of being guilty, i.e., "we are being punished for guilt."


"the distress of his soul."


The repetition of the Hebrew noun translated distress draws attention to the fact that they regard their present distress as appropriate punishment for their refusal to ignore their brother when he was in distress.


Notes for Gen 42:22LEB

"and also his blood, look, it is required." Yahweh requires compensation, as it were, from those who shed innocent blood (see Gen 9:6LEB). In other words, Yahweh exacts punishment for the crime of murder.


Notes for Gen 42:23LEB

The disjunctive clause provides supplemental information that is important to the story.


"was listening." The brothers were not aware that Joseph could understand them as they spoke the preceding words in their native language.


"for [there was] an interpreter between them." On the meaning of the word here translated "interpreter" see HALOT 590 s.v.

מֵלִיץ and M. A. Canney, "The Hebrew melis (Prov IX 12; Gen XLII 2–3)," AJSL 40 (1923/24): 135-37.


Notes for Gen 42:24LEB

"and he turned to them and spoke to them."


"took Simeon." This was probably done at Joseph’s command, however; the grand vizier of Egypt would not have personally seized a prisoner.


"and he bound him." See the note on the preceding verb "taken."


Notes for Gen 42:25LEB

"and they filled." The clause appears to be elliptical; one expects "Joseph gave orders to fill…and they filled." See GKC 386 §120.f.


"and he did for them so." Joseph would appear to be the subject of the singular verb. If the text is retained, the statement seems to be a summary of the preceding, more detailed statement. However, some read the verb as plural, "and they did for them so." In this case the statement indicates that Joseph’s subordinates carried out his orders. Another alternative is to read the singular verb as passive (with unspecified subject), "and this was done for them so" (cf. NEB, NIV, NRSV).


Notes for Gen 42:26LEB

"and they went from there."


Notes for Gen 42:27LEB

"and the one." The article indicates that the individual is vivid in the mind of the narrator, yet it is not important to identify him by name.


"at the lodging place."


"and look, it [was] in the mouth of his sack." By the use of the particle

הִנֵּה (hinneh, "look"), the narrator invites the reader to look through the eyes of the character and thereby draws attention to the money.


Notes for Gen 42:28LEB

"and their heart went out." Since this expression is used only here, the exact meaning is unclear. The following statement suggests that it may refer to a sudden loss of emotional strength, so "They were dismayed" adequately conveys the meaning (cf. NRSV); NIV has "Their hearts sank."


"and they trembled, a man to his neighbor."


"What is this Yahweh has done to us?" The demonstrative pronoun ("this") adds emphasis to the question.


Notes for Gen 42:30LEB

"made us."



The words "if we were" have been supplied in the translation for stylistic reasons.


Notes for Gen 42:32LEB

"twelve [were] we, brothers, sons of our father [are] we."


"the one is not."




Notes for Gen 42:33LEB

The word "grain" is not in the Hebrew text, but has been supplied in the translation for stylistic reasons.


Notes for Gen 42:34LEB

After the imperative, the cohortative with prefixed vav indicates purpose/result.


"that you are not spies, that you are honest men."


Joseph’s brothers soften the news considerably, making it sound like Simeon was a guest of Joseph (Leave one of your brothers with me) instead of being bound in prison. They do not mention the threat of death and do not at this time speak of the money in the one sack.


Notes for Gen 42:36LEB

"is not."


"is not."


The nuance of the imperfect verbal form is desiderative here.


Notes for Gen 42:37LEB

The nuance of the imperfect verbal form is permissive here.


"my hand."


Notes for Gen 42:38LEB

"he"; the referent (Jacob) has been specified in the translation for clarity.


The expression he alone is left meant that (so far as Jacob knew) Benjamin was the only surviving child of his mother Rachel.


The expression bring down my gray hair is figurative, using a part for the whole – they would put Jacob in the grave. But the gray head signifies a long life of worry and trouble.


"to Sheol," the dwelling place of the dead.