Daily Word

Standing around | Genesis 42:1-5

1 When Jacob learned that there was grain for sale in Egypt, he said to his sons, “Why do you look at one another?” 2 And he said, “Behold, I have heard that there is grain for sale in Egypt. Go down and buy grain for us there, that we may live and not die.” 3 So ten of Joseph’s brothers went down to buy grain in Egypt. 4 But Jacob did not send Benjamin, Joseph’s brother, with his brothers, for he feared that harm might happen to him. 5 Thus the sons of Israel came to buy among the others who came, for the famine was in the land of Canaan.

Genesis 42:1-5 (ESV)

Standing around

The 7 famine years struck. Word gets to Canaan that Egypt’s got grain. Jacob wonders why his sons have not taken action to go get grain. He exclaims, “Why are you standing around staring at each other?! Get off your butts and provide for the family!” Why hadn’t the brothers already taken this initiative? Some commentators think they were stymied by the memory of Joseph – that they had sold him to slavery and he was probably in Egypt. They feared their 20-year secret may be exposed. 

Other commentators only mention that the sons remembered Joseph. But why no action? Were they waiting for it to get worse? Did they expect God to miraculously end the famine? “God would not interpose miraculously when natural means of preservation were within reach.” (JFB commentary)

Protect Benjamin

Jacob commands them to fulfill their responsibility to save the family and head to Egypt to get grain. But he protects Benjamin from going. Why? Benjamin is not only his youngest son, but also the only (he thought) remaining son of his favorite wife, Rachel. He couldn’t bear losing him.

So ten of the 12 brothers (minus Joseph and Benjamin) went to Egypt to get grain.

In the new testament, Stephen, when he was being tried as a follower of The Way, gave his defense. He recounted the history of the Jews including this account of the famine in the land and reunification of the family – Acts 7:11-14. 


  • “Famine is not a good thing, but God used it. God can and does use material need and lack in our life to get us to do things we normally would never do. Normally, the brothers would never go to Egypt; but need drove them to Egypt.” (enduringword.com) Is there a desperate situation currently leading you to do something you don’t want to or, think you can’t, do? Seek the Lord. He may be moving you in this. If it requires faith to trust Him, it is likely Him working.
Loitering ladies. Image from irishtimes.com *

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