Joseph's Brethren Come to Buy Corn
Joseph was now thirty years old and there was no man in all Egypt greater than he except King Pharaoh. He went through all the land of Egypt in the seven years of plenty that the earth brought forth the crops in great abundance, and gathered all the surplus food and laid it up in the cities. There was then much food stored in Egypt because Joseph knew that the seven years of famine were coming.
When the seven years of plenty had passed the famine began for no crops grew at all in all the lands. Only in the land of Egypt, where the wisdom of Joseph had stored food, was there plenty. Joseph opened his store-houses and sold corn to the people to buy and even from far countries men came into Egypt to buy corn from Joseph.
Up in the land of Canaan Jacob and all of his family began to suffer for lack of corn. Jacob said to his sons: "I have heard that there is corn in Egypt. Go down there and buy for us that we may live and not die." And Jacob sent ten of his sons, who were brothers of Joseph, into Egypt to buy corn. But Jacob kept Benjamin, his youngest son, with him because he did not want any harm to befall him.
The ten sons of Jacob came into Egypt to buy corn, though they did not know that Joseph, the governor over all the land, was their brother. When they came to Joseph they bowed their faces to the earth, and Joseph knew his brothers but they did not know him. Joseph spoke roughly to his brothers and said to them: "Where do you come from?" and they replied: "We came from the land of Canaan to buy food."
Then Joseph again spoke roughly to his brothers, and said: "You are spies and have come to see the nakedness of the land."
"No, my lord, we are come to buy food," replied the men. We are all sons of one man, and we are true men and are not spies. There are twelve of us and our father lives in the land of Canaan. With him is the youngest, and there is one who is dead."
"I shall not let you go until you prove to me the truth of your story," Joseph said to his brothers. "Send one of your number back and let him bring your youngest brother, and the others shall be kept in prison, that the truth of your words may be proved, for I believe you are spies." Then he put them all together in prison for three days.
At the end of three days Joseph changed his mind about his brothers and released them all from prison and agreed to let them go, except one of them who should remain bound in prison while the rest carried corn back to the land of Canaan.
Then the brothers began to talk in their own tongue, not knowing that Joseph could understand them. Though Joseph had learned to speak the language of Egypt he had not forgotten the language of the land of his birth. As his brothers spoke together they talked of the harm that they had done their brother Joseph when he was a child and began to accuse one another of their wickedness:
"This is the consequence of what we did to our brother Joseph when he was but a child," said they.
Joseph understood what they were saying, though his brethren did not know that he understood them. Then Joseph turned himself from them and wept because his heart yearned towards his brothers, even though he had spoken roughly to them. He then took Simeon, one of the brothers, and bound him, to keep him as a pledge that the others would return with their younger brother Benjamin.
Joseph then commanded his servants to fill his brothers' sacks with corn and to put every man's money back into his sack, and to give them plenty of provisions for their journey. They loaded their asses with the corn and started on their homeward way.
As soon as they were on their way one of them opened his sack to give his animal food, and then he saw the money in the mouth of his sack. He told the others of what he had found and they were surprised and alarmed.
After a while they came back to Jacob, their father, into the land of Canaan, and told him all that had happened to them, saying that the governor of Egypt had spoken roughly to them and had accused them of being spies and had bound Simeon, one of their number, and had kept him as a pledge that they should bring back their younger brother Benjamin with them, to prove that they were not spies. Then the brothers untied their sacks, and behold, every man's money was in his sack, and when they saw this they were all afraid.
Jacob then said to his sons: "I am indeed bereft of my children. Joseph is not and Simeon is not and you will take Benjamin away. All these things are against me."
Reuben spoke up and said to his father: "You may slay my own two sons if I bring not Benjamin again into your hands. Give him to me and I will take him to Egypt, and I will bring him back safely." But Jacob was not willing that Benjamin should go.
The famine was sore in the land of Canaan and before long they had eaten up all the corn which they had brought out of the land of Egypt, and Jacob said to his sons: "Go again into Egypt and buy us a little food."
"There is no use to go into Egypt to buy unless we take Benjamin with us. The man said that we should not see his face nor buy any food until we bring our younger brother," said Judah, one of the sons.
After a while Jacob agreed that Benjamin should go, for they were in great need of corn and the brothers dared not go back into Egypt without taking young Benjamin with them. Jacob, therefore, allowed them to depart but told them to take double money and some presents and fine honey and spices and other things,' that they might please the man in Egypt who had spoken so roughly to them and strangely enough had returned them the money that they had carried to him the first time that they went into Egypt. Then the brothers started on their second journey to Egypt, taking double money and the young Benjamin.