21 ¶ And they said one to another, We are verily guilty concerning our brother, in that we saw the anguish of his soul, when he besought us, and we would not hear; therefore is this distress come upon us. 22 And Reuben answered them, saying, Spake I not unto you, saying, Do not sin against the child; and ye would not hear? therefore, behold, also his blood is required. 23 And they knew not that Joseph understood them; for he spake unto them by an interpreter. 24 And he turned himself about from them, and wept; and returned to them again, and communed with them, and took from them Simeon, and bound him before their eyes. 25 Then Joseph commanded to fill their sacks with corn, and to restore every man’s money into his sack, and to give them provision for the way: and thus did he unto them. 26 And they laded their asses with the corn, and departed thence. 27 And as one of them opened his sack to give his ass provender in the inn, he espied his money; for, behold, it was in his sack’s mouth. 28 And he said unto his brethren, My money is restored; and, lo, it is even in my sack: and their heart failed them, and they were afraid, saying one to another, What is this that God hath done unto us?
The brothers’ guilt in regard to Joseph is brought before their minds. They believe that they are in trouble now, forced to pay, for what they did to him. Reuben reminded them that he had pleaded with them to do no harm to Joseph. He views this as cosmic justice for what they did to Joseph. It was acknowledged by preachers such as Jonathan Edwards in his sermon entitled Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God that sin carries with it the burden of justice. We do awful things and awful things come back on us. Heathens understand this in the Hindu concept of Karma and mostly in its popular Western application of getting what you have coming to you. God has His ways of dealing with people, sometimes slowly, and nations, sometimes slowly, in regard to their wickedness and evil treatment of others but God repeatedly warns people;
Genesis 4:10 And he said, What hast thou done? the voice of thy brother’s blood crieth unto me from the ground.
Numbers 32:23 But if ye will not do so, behold, ye have sinned against the LORD: and be sure your sin will find you out.
You cannot escape the evil that you do to others. Do you beat-up your wife or children? It will come back to you. Are you cruel to other people or to animals? God sees all that you do. The fact that some people seem to get away with much evil is no guarantee that you can walk in your wickedness with impunity. Bible figures lamented what seemed like a lack of needed judgment at times.
Jeremiah 12:1 Righteous art thou, O LORD, when I plead with thee: yet let me talk with thee of thy judgments: Wherefore doth the way of the wicked prosper? wherefore are all they happy that deal very treacherously?
But, judgment does come and God does visit those who act wickedly. The brothers see this situation they are in as just payment for their mistreatment of Joseph.
Joseph hears, of course, what they are saying but since Joseph feigned to be Egyptian he spoke through an interpreter so they didn’t know he spoke their language. We use the word interpreter today for a person who translates languages, for instance, at the UN.
Joseph can’t help but cry but he doesn’t want them to see him. He then bound Simeon and sent the rest of them away filled with food and provisions for the journey home but he also ordered their money to be returned to them.
When they realize that they have their money back they are terrified and ask What is this that God hath done unto us? Clearly, they believe that they are going to be in deep trouble with this Egyptian government official. They have no idea that it is Joseph or what he is up to.
This is important to add to the long list of things that indicate the Bible is telling us that there is no such thing as blind chance, that God works through our reality, through people and events, to accomplish something which we may have no understanding of in our finite minds. Moderns would do well to ask this question when things go awry or seem unexplainable. What is this that God hath done unto us?