Genesis 42

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1 And Jacob saw that there was grain in Egypt, and Jacob said to his sons, Why do ye look one upon another?

2 And he said, Behold, I have heard that there is grain in Egypt; go down thither and buy [grain] for us from thence, in order that we may live, and not die.

3 And Joseph's ten brethren went down to buy [grain] out of Egypt.

4 But Benjamin, Joseph's brother, Jacob sent not with his brethren; for he said, Lest mischief may befall him.

5 So the sons of Israel came to buy [grain] among those that came; for the famine was in the land of Canaan.

6 And Joseph, he was the governor over the land -- he it was that sold [the corn] to all the people of the land. And Joseph's brethren came and bowed down to him, the face to the earth.

7 And Joseph saw his brethren, and knew them; but he made himself strange to them, and spoke roughly to them, and said to them, Whence come ye? And they said, From the land of Canaan, to buy food.

8 And Joseph knew his brethren, but they did not know him.

9 And Joseph remembered the dreams that he had dreamt of them; and he said to them, Ye are spies: to see the exposed places of the land ye are come.

10 And they said to him, No, my lord; but to buy food are thy servants come.

11 We are all one man's sons; we are honest: thy servants are not spies.

12 And he said to them, No; but to see the exposed places of the land are ye come.

13 And they said, Thy servants were twelve brethren, sons of one man, in the land of Canaan; and behold, the youngest is this day with our father, and one is not.

14 And Joseph said to them, That is it that I have spoken to you, saying, Ye are spies.

15 By this ye shall be put to the proof: as Pharaoh lives, ye shall not go forth hence, unless your youngest brother come hither!

16 Send one of you, that he may fetch your brother, but ye shall be imprisoned, and your words shall be put to the proof, whether the truth is in you; and if not, as Pharaoh lives, ye are spies.

17 And he put them in custody three days.

18 And Joseph said to them the third day, This do, that ye may live: I fear God.

19 If ye are honest, let one of your brethren remain bound in the house of your prison, but go ye, carry grain for the hunger of your households;

20 and bring your youngest brother to me, in order that your words be verified, and that ye may not die. And they did so.

21 Then they said one to another, We are indeed guilty concerning our brother, whose anguish of soul we saw when he besought us, and we did not hearken; therefore this distress is come upon us.

22 And Reuben answered them, saying, Did I not speak to you, saying, Do not sin against the lad? But ye did not hearken; and now behold, his blood also is required.

23 And they did not know that Joseph understood, for the interpreter was between them.

24 And he turned away from them, and wept. And he returned to them, and spoke to them, and took Simeon from among them, and bound him before their eyes.

25 And Joseph gave orders to fill their vessels with corn, and to restore every man's money into his sack, and to give them provision for the way. And thus did they to them.

26 And they loaded their asses with their grain, and departed thence.

27 And one of them opened his sack to give his ass food in the inn, and saw his money, and behold, it was in the mouth of his sack.

28 And he said to his brethren, My money is returned [to me], and behold, it is even in my sack. And their heart failed [them], and they were afraid, saying one to another, What is this [that] God has done to us?

29 And they came into the land of Canaan, to Jacob their father, and told him all that had befallen them, saying,

30 The man, the lord of the land, spoke roughly to us, and treated us as spies of the land.

31 And we said to him, We are honest; we are not spies:

32 we are twelve brethren, sons of our father; one is not, and the youngest is this day with our father in the land of Canaan.

33 And the man, the lord of the land, said to us, Hereby shall I know that ye are honest: leave one of your brethren with me, and take [for] the hunger of your households, and go,

34 and bring your youngest brother to me, and I shall know that ye are not spies, but are honest. Your brother will I give up to you; and ye may trade in the land.

35 And it came to pass as they emptied their sacks, that behold, every man had his bundle of money in his sack; and they saw their bundles of money, they and their father, and were afraid.

36 And Jacob their father said to them, Ye have bereaved me of children: Joseph is not, and Simeon is not, and ye will take Benjamin! All these things are against me.

37 And Reuben spoke to his father, saying, Slay my two sons if I bring him not back to thee: give him into my hand, and I will bring him to thee again.

38 But he said, My son shall not go down with you, for his brother is dead, and he alone is left; and if mischief should befall him by the way in which ye go, then would ye bring down my grey hairs with sorrow to Sheol.

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Word/Phrase Explanations

Jacob
Jacob is told twice that his name will now be Israel. The first time is when he wrestles with an angel on his journey to...

saw
The symbolic meaning of "seeing" is "understanding," which is obvious enough that it has become part of common language (think about it; you might see...

Grain
Grain signifies inner goods and truths.

Egypt
In the Bible, Egypt means knowledge and the love of knowledge. In a good sense that means knowledge of truth from the Lord through the...

said
As with many common verbs, the meaning of “to say” in the Bible is highly dependent on context. Who is speaking? Who is hearing? What...

Sons
'Sons of Canaan,' as in Genesis 10, are people who kept external worship separate from internal.

Look
To look,' as in Genesis 18:22, signifies thinking, because seeing denotes understanding. Look not back behind thee,' as in Genesis 19:17, means that Lot, who...

one
A company might have executives setting policy and strategy, engineers designing products, line workers building them, managers handling personnel and others handling various functions. They...

upon
'Upon' or 'over' signifies being within.

heard
Thanks to modern science, we now understand that hearing actually happens in the brain, not the ears. The ears collect vibrations in the air and...

go
In the physical world, the places we inhabit and the distances between them are physical realities, and we have to get our physical bodies through...

go down
To go up and to go down: in the Word, mention is made of going up and going down when speaking of going from one...

down
"Down" is used many different ways in natural language, and its spiritual meaning in the Bible is highly dependent on context. Phrases like "bowing down,"...

Us
Because people are governed by angels and spirits, in Genesis 1:26 it says 'let us make man into our image.' But because the Lord alone...

die
'To perish,' or 'die,' relates to damnation, or the state in hell.

ten
Most places in Swedenborg identify “ten” as representing “all,” or in some cases “many” or “much.” The Ten Commandments represent all the guidance we get...

Brethren
Brethren (Gen. 27:29) signify the affections of good.

Benjamin
'The tribe of Zebulon' signifies the conjunction of people in the third heaven with the Lord, 'the tribe of Joseph,' the conjunction of people in...

Brother
There are two ways "brother" is used in the Bible, ways that are still reflected in modern language. One denotes an actual blood relationship; the...

Sent
'Being sent' everywhere signifies, in an internal sense, going forth, as in John 17:8. In similar manner, it is said of the holy of the...

Sons of Israel
'The camp of the sons of Israel' represents the church.

Israel
'Israel,' in Jeremiah 23:8, signifies the spiritual natural church. The children of Israel dispersed all the literal sense of the Word by falsities. 'The children...

came
As with common verbs in general, the meaning of “come” in the Bible is highly dependent on context – its meaning is determined largely by...

famine
The three words, sword, famine and pestilence, appear in a group in 26 different Bible verses. That's not an accident. Sword, famine and pestilence describe...

Land of Canaan
The land of Canaan' in the Word, means love, and consequently, the will of the celestial self.

Land
Land' in the Word, denotes the church, for the things which signify the church also signify the things relating to the church, for these constitute...

land of
'The land of Rameses,' as in Genesis 47:11, signifies the inmost of the spiritual principle in the natural mind.

Canaan
Canaan signifies a worship in things external without internals, which arose out of the internal church corrupted, called Ham. Thus it is that Ham is...

governor
"Rulers" or "governors" in the Bible represent the most basic, most essential true ideas that guide us in life, ideas that spring directly from the...

sold
'To sell,' as in Genesis 41:56, means transferring to another as their own, because what is sold becomes the property of the one who buys...

Corn
Corn,' as in Genesis 42:2, here stands for a word in the original language which means 'breaking,' and also for a similar word meaning to...

people
The Bible generally uses two different terms for large groups: “people” and “nation.” When it uses the term “nation,” it is talking about a group...

bowed down
To bow in prayer is common in most religious practices, so it's not surprising that “to bow” in the Bible represents humility and worship in...

face
“The eyes are the windows of the soul.” That’s a sentiment with roots somewhere in murky antiquity, but one that has become hopelessly cliché because...

earth
"Earth" in the Bible can mean a person or a group of like-minded people as in a church. But it refers specifically to the external...

knew
Like so many common verbs, the meaning of "know" in the Bible is varied and dependent on context. And in some cases – when it...

spoke
Like "say," the word "speak" refers to thoughts and feelings moving from our more internal spiritual levels to our more external ones – and ultimately...

food
To give food, as in Genesis 41:48, signifies to store up.

Spies
'Spies,' as in Genesis 42:9, denote people who learn the church's truth only for gain.

my lord
Characters in the Bible will often address others using the term “my lord,” and it seems to be no more than an expression of respect....

servants
“Servant” literally means “a person who serves another,"" and its meaning is similar in reference to the spiritual meaninngs of the Bible. Our lives in...

man
The relationship between men and women is deep and nuanced, and one entire book of the Writings – Conjugial Love or Love in Marriage –...

twelve
'Twelve' and 'twenty-four' signify everything, and refer to truths.

youngest
In general, birth order in the Bible reflects the progression of spiritual states, but the specifics of those states depends greatly on context: who the...

father
Father in the Word means what is most interior, and in those things that are following the Lord's order, it means what is good. In...

Put
'To put' has reference to order, arrangement, application, and influx.

Pharaoh
'Pharaoh' signifies scientific ideas, or the natural principle in general. 'Pharaoh' signifies false ideas infesting the truth of the church. Pharaoh,' in Genesis 40, represents...

Lives
'Lives' is used in the plural, because of the will and understanding, and because these two lives make one.

Go forth
To go forth, as in Genesis 19:14, signifies to recede from, or not to remain in [evil]. To go forth, as in Genesis 41:45, denotes...

Send
'To send' signifies revealing.

Words
'Words,' as in Exodus 34:28, signify everything pertaining to doctrine.

the truth
In John 14:6, 'the way is doctrine,' 'the truth' is every thing pertaining to doctrine, and 'the life' is the essential good which is the...

three
The Writings talk about many aspects of life using the philosophical terms "end," "cause" and "effect." The "end" is someone’s goal or purpose, the ultimate...

days
"Day" describes a state in which we are turned toward the Lord, and are receiving light (which is truth) and heat (which is a desire...

Third day
'The third day' signifies the end of a state of preparation for reception, and so an end of purification, as in Exodus 19:16. 'The third...

Third
'Three' denotes fullness, and 'a third,' not full.

Fear
Fear has various significations according to the thing which causes it. Fear signifies love. Fear, as in Gen 28:17, signifies a holy change.

God
The Lord is love itself, expressed in the form of wisdom itself. Love, then, is His essence, His inmost. Wisdom - the loving understanding of...

Bound
Being bound, as in Genesis 42:16, denotes to be separated, for he who is kept b. is separated, viz., from the spiritual good, which is...

Prison
'The house of the prison' denotes the vastation of falsity, and also falsity itself.

Hunger
'Hunger,' or 'famine,' signifies evils of life. 'Hunger,' or 'famine,' signifies desiring good from affection, because 'bread,' in the internal sense, is the good of...

bring
As with common verbs in general, the meaning of “bring” is highly dependent on context, but in general it represents an introduction to a new...

soul
The nature of the soul is a deep and complicated topic, but it can be summarized as "spiritual life," who we are in terms of...

Hearken
'To hearken to father and mother,' as mentioned in Genesis 28:7, signifies obedience from affection. 'To hearken,' as mentioned in Genesis 30:22, signifies providence. See...

Reuben
'Reuben,' in the highest sense, signifies omniscience. In a spiritual sense, he signifies wisdom, intelligence, science, and faith. In a natural sense, he signifies sight....

sin
In the Word three terms are used to mean bad things that are done. These three are transgression, iniquity, and sin, and they are here...

blood
The internal meaning of “blood” is a little tricky, because Swedenborg gives two meanings that seem quite different. In most cases, Swedenborg links blood with...

turned
Swedenborg says that the Lord is the sun of heaven, and like the natural sun of our world shines on everyone, good or evil. What...

wept
'Weeping with a loud voice' signifies the ultimate of grief.

Simeon
In Revelation 7, 'Simeon', in the highest sense, signifies providence, in a spiritual sense, love towards our neighbor, or charity, and in a natural sense,...

before
In most cases, the meaning of "before" is pretty straightforward, both as a way of assessing relative time, and in its use meaning "in someone's...

eyes
It’s common to say “I see” when we understand something. And indeed, “seeing” in the Bible represents grasping and understanding spiritual things. So it makes...

fill
There are two ways something can be filled: It can be filled with something bad against the wishes of its owner, or it can be...

Vessels
'Vessels,' in the internal sense, signify things serving as a receptacle, as scientific ideas and knowledges are to truths, and as truths themselves are to...

restore
Everyone knows the phrase "the natural order of things." It means that everything is in its proper place, occupying the niche it is meant to...

Money
'Money' relates to truth.

Sack
'A sack' in Genesis 42:25, means a receptacle, and here 'a receptacle' on the natural level, because it is a story about the truths and...

give
Like other common verbs, the meaning of "give" in the Bible is affected by context: who is giving what to whom? In general, though, giving...

provision
'Provision' or 'meat,' as in Genesis 42:25 and Psalm 78:25, signifies support from truth and good.

Inn
An inn' signifies a place of instruction. An inn' signifies the exterior natural level in general. This cannot be confirmed from parallel passages in the...

mouth
In most cases, "mouth" in the Bible represents thought and logic, especially the kind of active, concrete thought that is connected with speech. The reason...

heart
The heart means love. A good heart means love to the Lord and to the neighbor while a hard or stony heart means the love...

failed
For something to “fail” in the Bible means there is not enough understanding of truth and desire for good for someone to attain a higher...

the Lord
The Bible refers to the Lord in many different ways, which from the text seem indistinguishable and interchangeable. Understood in the internal sense, though, there...

sons of our father
'Sons of a father' denote truths derived from good, so from one origin.

Trade
'To trade' signifies acquiring knowledges for one’s self, and to communicate. This is because in heaven, where the Word is perceived according to the internal...

came to pass
The phrase “it came to pass,” often also translated as “it happened,” generally indicates the end of one spiritual state and the beginning of a...

Pass
'To pass,' as in Genesis 31:52, signifies flowing in. 'To pass the night,' as in Genesis 24:54, signifies having peace. 'To pass through,' as in...

Bundle
A bundle (Gen. 42:3) signifies orderly arrangement, because the truths ap­pertaining to man are disposed and arranged into series: those which are in the greatest...

afraid
Fear of the unknown and fear of change are both common ideas, and together cover a broad spectrum of the fears we tend to have...

children
A child is a young boy or girl in the care of parents, older than a suckling or an infant, but not yet an adolescent....

Slay
'To slay a man to his wounding,' means extinguishing faith, and 'to slay a young man to his hurt,' signifies extinguishing charity, as in Genesis...

two
The number "two" has two different meanings in the Bible. In most cases "two" indicates a joining together or unification. This is easy to see...

hand
In Genesis 27:22, 'voice' relates to truth, and 'hand,' to good.

Son
'A son,' as in Genesis 5:28, signifies the rise of a new church. 'Son,' as in Genesis 24:3, signifies the Lord’s rationality regarding good. 'A...

Dead
Dead (Gen. 23:8) signifies night, in respect to the goodnesses and truths of faith.

Sorrow
'The woman condemned to 'bring forth sons in sorrow' denotes the anxieties and combats in the production of truths.

Resources for parents and teachers

The items listed here are provided courtesy of our friends at the General Church of the New Jerusalem. You can search/browse their whole library by following this link.


 Dramatize the Story of Joseph Receiving His Brothers
Retell the story or read selected portions from the Word as the children dramatize the story of the brothers going to Egypt and being reunited with Joseph. 
Activity | Ages 4 - 10

 Food for the Soul
Spiritual tasks offer a reflection on a Biblical story and suggest a task for spiritual growth.
Activity | Ages over 18

 Good and Bad Times
Spiritual tasks offer a reflection on a Biblical story and suggest a task for spiritual growth.
Activity | Ages over 18

 Joseph's Brother Bow - Level A
Complete lesson with activity choices: act out the story of Joseph's brothers traveling to Egypt and appearing before Joseph, make a sack and show that it has both grain and money in it, scripted story discussion, coloring picture, and a memory verse.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 4 - 6

 Joseph's Brother Bow - Level B
Complete lesson with activity choices: act out a script of Joseph's brothers traveling to Egypt and appearing before Joseph, make a Lord's Prayer book (video demonstration), scripted story discussion, coloring picture, and a memory verse.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 7 - 10

 Joseph's Brother Bow - Level C
Complete lesson with activity choices: escape a maze blindfolded to show how we need the Lord to get to heaven, explore the differences between appearance and reality, read and reflect on a door handle sign about being an instrument of God, and a scripted story discussion.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 11 - 14

 Joseph's Brother Bow - Level D
Complete lesson with activity choices: escape a maze blindfolded to show how we need the Lord to get to heaven, explore the differences between civil, moral and spiritual judgments in "You Are Spies!", read and reflect on a door handle sign about being an instrument of God, and a scripted story discussion.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 15 - 17

 Joseph Welcomes His Family
Lesson outline provides teaching ideas with questions for discussion, projects, and activities.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 7 - 10

 Overview of Joseph a Man of Integrity Levels A B C D for Ages 3-18
Overview of the Youth Journey Program "Joseph: a man of integrity", Levels A, B, C, and D for ages 3-18.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 3 - 18

 Sacks of Grain from Egypt
This project involves either letting the children make small sacks out of felt or making the sacks ahead of time and then using them to dramatize the story.
Project | Ages 4 - 10


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