7 ¶ And Joseph saw his brethren, and he knew them, but made himself strange unto them, and spake roughly unto them; and he said unto them, Whence come ye? And they said, From the land of Canaan to buy food. 8 And Joseph knew his brethren, but they knew not him. 9 And Joseph remembered the dreams which he dreamed of them, and said unto them, Ye are spies; to see the nakedness of the land ye are come. 10 And they said unto him, Nay, my lord, but to buy food are thy servants come. 11 We are all one man’s sons; we are true men, thy servants are no spies. 12 And he said unto them, Nay, but to see the nakedness of the land ye are come. 13 And they said, Thy servants are twelve brethren, the sons of one man in the land of Canaan; and, behold, the youngest is this day with our father, and one is not. 14 And Joseph said unto them, That is it that I spake unto you, saying, Ye are spies: 15 Hereby ye shall be proved: By the life of Pharaoh ye shall not go forth hence, except your youngest brother come hither. 16 Send one of you, and let him fetch your brother, and ye shall be kept in prison, that your words may be proved, whether there be any truth in you: or else by the life of Pharaoh surely ye are spies. 17 And he put them all together into ward three days. 18 And Joseph said unto them the third day, This do, and live; for I fear God: 19 If ye be true men, let one of your brethren be bound in the house of your prison: go ye, carry corn for the famine of your houses: 20 But bring your youngest brother unto me; so shall your words be verified, and ye shall not die. And they did so.
Joseph puts on a good show for his brothers. He probably has spoken to several envoys from suffering lands around him and has his speech set by repeated usage. “Where are you from?” is the first thing he wants to know. There are probably countries that Egypt would be concerned about possibly sending spies in preparation for an attempted invasion to seize Egypt’s supplies. Joseph probably was normally wary. But he knows his brothers. He is successful in keeping them from knowing who he is.
As he speaks roughly to them he remembers the dreams he had where his family all bow to him.
Genesis 37:5 ¶ And Joseph dreamed a dream, and he told it his brethren: and they hated him yet the more. 6 And he said unto them, Hear, I pray you, this dream which I have dreamed: 7 For, behold, we were binding sheaves in the field, and, lo, my sheaf arose, and also stood upright; and, behold, your sheaves stood round about, and made obeisance to my sheaf. 8 And his brethren said to him, Shalt thou indeed reign over us? or shalt thou indeed have dominion over us? And they hated him yet the more for his dreams, and for his words. 9 And he dreamed yet another dream, and told it his brethren, and said, Behold, I have dreamed a dream more; and, behold, the sun and the moon and the eleven stars made obeisance to me. 10 And he told it to his father, and to his brethren: and his father rebuked him, and said unto him, What is this dream that thou hast dreamed? Shall I and thy mother and thy brethren indeed come to bow down ourselves to thee to the earth? 11 And his brethren envied him; but his father observed the saying.
Joseph realizes the fulfillment of these prophetic dreams. Now, notice the prophetic similarity regarding the Jews and Christ at the end of human history in the following verse.
Revelation 12:1 ¶ And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars:
We can see how the Holy Spirit imparting wisdom to Moses to write this account of early history uses a metaphor to describe the tribes of Israel. We can then have a better understanding of prophetic verses in later parts of the Bible.
In this passage there is then an exchange where the brothers declare that they came to buy food but Joseph accuses them of being spies, come to check out the land. The brothers declare their innocence of this. When they admit that they have a brother that was left behind with their father Joseph demands that, to prove who that they are speaking the truth, they bring that brother to him. One of them is to go fetch Benjamin and the rest are to be hostages. He locks them up for three days, again symbolizing the bondage that death represents for God’s people until He releases them. Here, in this passage we see the synonymous comparison between ward and prison.
On the third day Joseph changes his order and demands that only one of them be a hostage and, in his mercy, the rest can take food back to their families. But, the younger brother must be brought to him. There are some interesting prophetic ideas here regarding Israel’s relationship with Christ, the Messiah whom they rejected and demanded that Rome murder. Who does Benjamin represent in this relationship? Whatever we think we must remember that this is regarding the Jews rather than Gentiles.
Joseph wants so badly to see his little brother.