When Joseph was made the second in charge of Egypt, he collected up and stored all the extra crops during the seven years when there was plenty. Then the famine came, and it was so bad that the people were starving.The famine even covered lands outside of Egypt, and in the country of Canaan the people were urgently in need of some food.
Now the land of Canaan was where Joseph’s family all lived. One day their father Jacob said to his sons that they would have to go to Egypt to buy some food for them, as they had heard that there was plenty there. So ten of the sons set out on the long journey to Egypt on donkeys, but Jacob insisted that they left behind the eleventh son who was Benjamin, the only full brother of Joseph, just in case something might happen to him.
When they reached Egypt, they went to the ruler of Egypt to ask to buy corn. What a surprise it must have been for Joseph, because he recognised them; but they didn’t recognise him, never expecting that it was Joseph who was the ruler. He didn’t let on though, and talked to them through an interpreter (who is a person who can understand and speak another language), because the brothers spoke Hebrew and he spoke Egyptian. Joseph accused them of being spies, but that was really how he found out about them because they told him all about their father and their young brother they had had to leave behind. Then he told them that one of them should go back to Canaan and bring his young brother, because he was longing to see Benjamin.
The brothers were quite upset about Joseph’s request, and not knowing that Joseph could understand them, they said to each other that they were being punished for what they had done to Joseph so many years ago. What they said upset Joseph, and he had to go away because he was crying. Then he went back and he took one of the older brothers, Simeon, and tied him up and put him in prison; then he gave the others the sacks full of corn and they started to return to Canaan.
But the first time they opened a sack for food on the way, there was their money that they had paid, in the top of the sack! They became very frightened and they decided that God was punishing them for what they did to Joseph.
They were very worried, but continued on to Canaan, and told their story to their father. Then when they opened the other sacks, each sack had their money in the top of it. Jacob was very sad because they had had to leave Simeon behind, Joseph had died (as he thought) and now they had to take Benjamin back with them before they could buy any more food.
Finally the food they had bought, ran out. So the brothers returned to Egypt. This time they had to take Benjamin with them, and they took presents for the ruler, too, as well as all the money. As they reached the place in Egypt where they would get the food, they became very worried. They spoke to one of Joseph’s men in charge, and said about the money they had found in their sacks. But the man said, “Don’t worry, I had your money.” But still they didn’t understand! Then he brought Simeon back to them.
After that things started to get surprising to them all – they were taken to Joseph’s own house where they were going to be given a meal! At the house they were able to wash, and their donkeys were fed. Then Joseph arrived, and they gave him the present they had brought, and they bowed down to him, right down to the ground. Do you remember the dreams Joseph had had years before?
Straight away, Joseph asked them if their father was well, then he saw Benjamin and asked if he was their young brother they had talked about before. When they said that yes, he was, Joseph just had to go away from them and cry, because Benjamin meant so much to him.
When Joseph returned, he set them places at a table, and he even put them in the right order from the oldest to the youngest, with Benjamin getting a much bigger meal than the others. This completely amazed the brothers, but still they didn’t suspect anything. Joseph sat at another table, because he was the ruler, and the Egyptians with Joseph sat at a third table.
When they had finished their feast, the servants got ready the new sacks of corn for the brothers to take him with them. But Joseph again played a trick on them. Once again, all their money was put back in the sacks, but in Benjamin’s sack they put Joseph’s own silver cup. The brothers didn’t know and started on their journey, but very soon Joseph’s servants were sent to catch up with them. The servants accused them of stealing the cup, and beginning at the sack of the oldest and working through to the youngest, Benjamin, they checked every sack. Of course, when they got to Bejamin’s sack they found the cup. The brothers were very worried, and they all returned to Joseph’s house. When they got there, once again they all bowed down to him. But Joseph, tricking them again, said that the man in whose sack the cup was would have to remain behind as his servant! The brothers were horrified, because they knew how upset their father would be if Benjamin didn’t return to Canaan. They told Joseph their father would die.
Then Joseph couldn’t carry on pretending any longer. So he told everyone except the brothers to leave the room, and this time speaking to the brothers in Hebrew, he told them that he was Joseph their brother! They were so astonished that they couldn’t answer him. Joseph told them not to worry, because everything that had happened, God had arranged. When they put him in the pit then sold him to be a slave, it was so that they would all be cared for. They all wept for joy.
When the brothers returned to Canaan, Joseph sent chariots with them to bring his father and all the families of his brothers, to live in Egypt where they would have plenty to eat and would be given the best food that there was.
When they arrived in Canaan and told their father everything that had happened, he could hardly believe that his son Joseph was still alive, and even more than that, he was the ruler of Egypt. That was so amazing.
So they all went to Egypt, with all their animals too, and they lived in the land of Goshen in northern Egypt where there was plenty of grass for the animals.
You can read this story for yourself in Genesis chapters 43, 44, and 45.
See if you can answer these questions:
1. Why did the brothers go to Egypt?
2. Were the men really spies?
3. How did Joseph know what the men were saying?
4. Was Joseph angry with them for selling him to be a slave?