As the famine spreads through the land, the family of Jacob is faced with starvation if the brothers do not go down to Egypt to get grain for the family and the livestock. Problems in the family still abound as evidenced by Jacob’s fear to send Benjamin (now an adult) with his elder brothers. Is it possible that he has always suspected foul play? Either way, there is still disharmony in the family.
When Joseph sees his brothers, his dream from years before is brought to mind. This informs all the follows in Joseph’s dealings with his brothers who do not yet recognize him. He is not seeking revenge in his rough treatment of them but has a discipling goal in mind that unpacks as the story proceeds. He needs to ensure that his brothers do not still harbor a bitter spirit toward the children of Rachel and even has a restorative goal for the entire family. Thrown into prison as spies, Joseph’s rough treatment of his brothers is a picture of our discipline under the Lord’s gracious Hand. What seems rough treatment brings to mind sin committed years before by the brothers. He allows them to return except for Simeon as a pledge that they will return with Benjamin.
Jacob’s response is self-centered and faithless. He refuses to send Benjamin back with them until it is apparent they will all perish if Benjamin does not return with the brothers. Judah, in a foreshadow of a greater Descendant, offers his life as pledge that Benjamin will return. Historically, Benjamin’s share in the land of Canaan fell by lot with the tribe of Judah and what follows is a beautiful display of the kind of spiritual growth this prince among brothers has undergone.