We are studying Genesis 42:6-25 for Sunday, September 20. This is the episode in the story of Joseph and his brothers when the brothers arrive in Egypt to buy grain, which is not exactly a family reunion. [Some notes on the text are here.] Here are some questions we might want to consider or discuss as we think about what this text means for us:
At this point in the story, would we say Joseph has been harmed, or blessed, or both, or what? Why do we say this?
What about his brothers? Would we say they have been harmed, or blessed, or both, or what? Why do we say this?
How would we describe Joseph’s response or actions towards his brothers? For instance – restrained? Punitive? Cautious? Educational? Just? Unjust? Why do we say that?
In particular, can we think about how our perception of whether Joseph is “just” or “unjust” in this part of the story depends on how much of the story we take as the context for Joseph’s behavior? That is: if we think about the story from the beginning to now as the context, do we have a different idea of Joseph’s justness or unjustness than if we take the immediate situation as the context for that behavior? Why is that?
What does our interpretation of Joseph’s behavior tell us about ourselves?
What do the brothers accuse themselves of?
Do they seem to us to show remorse? Why do we say this? What do we look for as a sign or signs of remorse?
How important is it to us to perceive remorse on the part of people who have done something wrong? Why?
How would we behave in Joseph’s position, do we think? Why?
How do we ourselves use our authority, especially when it can benefit or harm people who have benefited or harmed us?
How would we behave in the brothers’ position, do we think? Why?
How have we, ourselves, responded to arbitrary demands by authorities on whom we depend? Why was that? Or has something like this ever happened to us?
Overall, it might be worth thinking about what kind of human relationships and what aspects of human character are being depicted in this part of the story. What does this story tell us about the way human beings are, or can be? Does it give us any warnings? Any grounds for hope? What are they?