1 ¶ Now when Jacob saw that there was corn in Egypt, Jacob said unto his sons, Why do ye look one upon another? 2 And he said, Behold, I have heard that there is corn in Egypt: get you down thither, and buy for us from thence; that we may live, and not die. 3 And Joseph’s ten brethren went down to buy corn in Egypt. 4 But Benjamin, Joseph’s brother, Jacob sent not with his brethren; for he said, Lest peradventure mischief befall him. 5 And the sons of Israel came to buy corn among those that came: for the famine was in the land of Canaan. 6 And Joseph was the governor over the land, and he it was that sold to all the people of the land: and Joseph’s brethren came, and bowed down themselves before him with their faces to the earth.
Here is an interesting idiomatic expression. “What are you looking at each other for? Get down to Egypt and get some grain!” I remember someone down in Georgia saying to me when they wanted me to do something right away, “Don’t look at me like a cow looks at a new gate! Get moving.” Or, if you’re more uppity and want to quote Shakespeare you might respond to a blank stare with, “There is a tide,” from Julius Caesar, to stop someone from spinning their wheels, to take action.
Jacob wants his sons to take action so they don’t just sit there and starve to death. All of them except for Jacob’s favorite, his baby boy Benjamin, go down to Egypt to buy grain. Just in case something bad happens Benjamin will be safe. This doesn’t say much for Jacob’s concern for the rest, does it.
Bowing oneself to the earth is one of the postures of reverence and worship.
Sometimes people bow their head to worship God.
Genesis 24:26 And the man bowed down his head, and worshipped the LORD.
Sometimes to the earth.
Genesis 24:52 And it came to pass, that, when Abraham’s servant heard their words, he worshipped the LORD, bowing himself to the earth.
Even falling down and grabbing the feet of the person worshipped.
Matthew 28:9 And as they went to tell his disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, All hail. And they came and held him by the feet, and worshipped him.
Sometimes they kneeled.
Psalm 95:6 O come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the LORD our maker.
So, it is that there are different postures of acknowledging someone as superior. We Americans are taught to bow to no one as superior so we have a hard time acknowledging God’s power over our lives in a real, tangible way. Americans lack the awe for anything other than something like a fireworks display or a huge bomb going off. Our shallowness of culture does get in the way of our understanding of who God is and of His power over our lives. The weakness of other cultures was that for centuries they acknowledged a king, tsar, or emperor as being God’s agent on earth and were in fear and awe of him but still not seeing, because of the propaganda their government controlled them with, that it was God who controlled every heartbeat and breath and God, not their king, who could save or destroy in an instant. Only God is worthy of our awe and reverence, our worship.
Psalm 33:8 Let all the earth fear the LORD: let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him.
Hebrews 12:28 Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear:
The brothers come to this Egyptian official, mightiest in the land under the Pharaoh himself, to plead for food to buy. They are showing their inferior position and his power over their lives. This is a beautiful image of how we should come to Christ. Let Him lift us up.
James 4:10 Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.
1Peter 5:6 Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: 7 Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.