The story of Joseph and his brothers is a curious one due to how Joseph responds when he sees his brothers after 22 years.

Although Joseph recognized his brothers, they did not recognize him. Then he remembered his dreams about them and said to them, “You are spies! You have come to see where our land is unprotected.”

Genesis 42:8-9 (NIV)

Joseph didn’t arbitrarily accuse his brothers of being spies. The accusation was founded in the political realm of the day when there were concerns about spying from Egypt’s neighbors. Although Joseph knew his brothers weren’t spies, the accusation established the foundation for what was to come. A test of their character.

To prove they aren’t spies, the brothers must do two things. First, they must leave one of their numbers behind; second, they must return with their youngest brother, Benjamin.

If you are honest men, let one of your brothers stay here in prison, while the rest of you go and take grain back for your starving households. But you must bring your youngest brother to me, so that your words may be verified and that you may not die.” This they proceeded to do.

Genesis 42:19-20 (NIV)

This was enough of a test. So one might think.

Sometimes we need to go through hard times to help us think. When everything is well, it’s easy to go with the flow, but when something terrible happens, we’re more likely to start taking stock of things. We see this in Joseph’s brothers from these verses.

They said to one another, “Surely we are being punished because of our brother. We saw how distressed he was when he pleaded with us for his life, but we would not listen; that’s why this distress has come on us.”

Reuben replied, “Didn’t I tell you not to sin against the boy? But you wouldn’t listen! Now we must give an accounting for his blood.”

Genesis 42:21-22 (NIV)

It’s been 22 years since Joseph was sold into slavery, yet the crime is brought up like it was yesterday.

Instead of revealing himself, Joseph adds another element to the test.

He turned away from them and began to weep, but then came back and spoke to them again. He had Simeon taken from them and bound before their eyes.

Joseph gave orders to fill their bags with grain, to put each man’s silver back in his sack, and to give them provisions for their journey. After this was done for them, they loaded their grain on their donkeys and left.

Genesis 42:24-26 (NIV)

After Joseph’s brothers returned to Egypt with Benjamin, one might think the testing was over. The brothers returned with their youngest and even returned the silver put into their sacks. However, Joseph still doesn’t reveal himself to them after seeing that Benjamin is alive and well.

Now Joseph gave these instructions to the steward of his house: “Fill the men’s sacks with as much food as they can carry, and put each man’s silver in the mouth of his sack. Then put my cup, the silver one, in the mouth of the youngest one’s sack, along with the silver for his grain.” And he did as Joseph said.

Genesis 44:1-2 (NIV)

At this point, it really looks like Joseph is tormenting his brothers. Yet, it doesn’t make sense to torment them all. Benjamin had nothing to do with what happened to Joseph, and Joseph dearly loved Benjamin. So, why this elaborate trick? Why put the silver cup into Benjamin’s sack?

Joseph needed to see how his brothers felt toward Benjamin, and he needed to know if they really had changed. The brothers could have brought Benjamin back out of self-interest. Simeon had been held hostage, and they needed the food. Now, Joseph would really see how much his brothers had changed. Would they allow Benjamin to be enslaved? Were they still the opportunists that sold him into slavery?

The final test comes with this verse.

But Joseph said, “Far be it from me to do such a thing! Only the man who was found to have the cup will become my slave. The rest of you, go back to your father in peace.”

Genesis 44:17 (NIV)

At this, Judah goes up to Joseph and earnestly pleads for Joseph to change his mind, relating the events that have happened since their first visit and what would happen to their father if Benjamin doesn’t return (Genesis 44:18-32). However, this statement from Judah finally reveals a change of heart from 22 years earlier.

“Now then, please let your servant remain here as my lord’s slave in place of the boy, and let the boy return with his brothers. How can I go back to my father if the boy is not with me? No! Do not let me see the misery that would come on my father.”

Genesis 44:33-34 (NIV)

Twenty-two years earlier, Reuben was the only one who seemed to care for Joseph, not wanting to kill him and wanting to rescue him from the cistern (cf. Genesis 37:21-22,29). We might say, ironically, that Reuben was the only brother who might have been thinking about the impact of Joseph’s death on their father. Indeed, instead of wanting to spare Joseph, Judah suggested they sell him into slavery instead of killing him since it wouldn’t profit them to just kill him. Therefore, Judah’s desire to not cause his father any more grief is revealed in Genesis 44:33-34.

Thus, after having been thoroughly tested, Joseph reveals himself to his brothers, who are shocked and terrified.

While it might seem like Joseph was seeking some sort of revenge by tormenting his brothers, he was, in fact, testing them to see if they had changed.

Sometimes we need to go through tests to not only see if we’ve changed but to see the changes God has done in and through us.

Do you know God? God knows you, and he loves you. He sees you as significant because you are. No one is insignificant to Him. He’s with you today, and he wants you to know him. Jesus died for your sins and mine so we could be free of guilt, freed from death, and live eternally with him. Eternal salvation is just a prayer away.

Pray this prayer with me to accept the gift of salvation:

Lord Jesus, forgive me for all my sins. I repent from my ways. Wash me in your blood and cleanse me from all unrighteousness. I believe that you died on the cross, were buried, and on the third day, God the Father raised you from the dead. Right now, Lord Jesus, I open the door to my heart and receive you into my heart as my Lord and personal Savior. Amen.

If you prayed that prayer, then congratulations! You are on the first step of a brand new life. Allow me to be the first to welcome you to my family, the family of God. There are abundant resources available online for new Christians. You can visit here for more information on what to do next. You can also leave me a comment, and I’ll do my best to help you on the next step of this incredible journey.