42:1 look one upon another. Jacob’s sons probably realized they might eventually have to get grain in Egypt, but they also knew that was where they had dispatched Joseph. Their furtive glances at this time suggest that they had already discussed this situation among themselves.
42:6 bowed down themselves. When his brothers bowed before Joseph, they were fulfilling the prophecy of his dream, as he had reported it to them some twenty-one or more years earlier (Genesis 37:5-10).
42:7 saw his brethren. It seems very likely that Joseph knew that his brothers would eventually have to come to him to buy grain, and had planned how he would handle the situation when they would finally appear–no doubt after much thought and prayer. He was most concerned that God’s promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob be fulfilled in the descendants of Israel, but this would first require full reconciliation of all the family members to each other. He was not seeking revenge but restoration, and this would necessarily require recognition of their sin by his brothers, followed by forgiveness by himself. Accordingly, the several stages of his plan to bring this about were set in motion at this time.
42:16 fetch your brother. It was important for Joseph to learn whether the ten older brothers resented Benjamin, as they had him, since he and Benjamin were the only sons of Jacob’s beloved Rachel.
42:21 verily guilty. For the first time, Joseph knew that his brothers had recognized, and were confessing their sin. This was what he wanted to hear.
42:23 an interpreter. Since Babel, it had been necessary to develop a profession of linguists, who could translate one language into another. This explains the frequent accounts of Abraham and others being able to communicate with people of other nations.
42:24 Simeon. Joseph longed to be reconciled to his family, but first had to learn their attitude to him, to their father and to his younger brother Benjamin. Therefore, he subjected them to a number of tests. After hearing them express regret for what they had done to him (Genesis 42:21-22), Joseph took Simeon hostage while he sent the older brothers back for Benjamin, since Simeon had taken the lead part in their action against Joseph. This was calculated to further stir their consciences.
42:27 provender. An old synonym for “animal fodder.”
42:37 slay my two sons. Poor Reuben, out of favor with Jacob because of his incest with Bilhah, desperately sought his father’s favor by this absurd offer. What possible satisfaction did he think Jacob would derive from the death of two of his grandsons!