Lesson 37: Genesis 42–43
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“Lesson 37: Genesis 42–43,” Old Testament Seminary Teacher Manual (2014)

“Lesson 37,” Old Testament Seminary Teacher Manual

Lesson 37

Genesis 42–43


Because of widespread famine, Jacob sent 10 of his sons to Egypt to purchase grain. There they met but did not recognize their brother Joseph. Joseph accused them of being spies, imprisoned Simeon, and sent the others back to Canaan with a charge to return with their brother Benjamin. Because the family needed more grain, Jacob reluctantly agreed to send Benjamin with his brothers to travel back to Egypt.

Suggestions for Teaching

Genesis 42:1–20

Joseph’s brothers travel to Egypt to buy grain

Write the following question on the board, and invite students to ponder it:

How often are God’s words or prophecies fulfilled?

As students study Genesis 42:1–20, invite them to look for how God’s word was fulfilled in Joseph’s life.

To help students understand the context of Genesis 42–43, remind them that in Genesis 41 they learned that Pharaoh had appointed Joseph to gather and store grain for seven years in preparation for a famine. After the famine began, Joseph sold grain to the people of Egypt and other nations.

Invite a student to read Genesis 42:1–5 aloud. Ask the class to follow along and look for what Jacob told his sons to do in order to survive the famine. Ask students to report what they find.

Invite a student to read Genesis 42:6–8 aloud. Ask the class to identify who Jacob’s sons encountered in Egypt.

  • Who did Jacob’s sons encounter? Why do you think they did not recognize him?

  • What had happened the last time Joseph was with his brothers?

  • What feelings might you have had if you were Joseph and you saw your brothers for the first time in over 20 years?

Read Genesis 42:9 aloud, and ask the class to look for what Joseph remembered when he saw his brothers bowing before him.

  • What dreams did Joseph remember? (You might want to review Genesis 37:6–7, 9–10 with the class. Remind them that obeisance is an expression of deep respect or courtesy before a superior, often made by bowing.)

  • Based on Joseph’s experience, what truth can we learn about the prophecies the Lord gives through His servants? (Students may identify a truth such as the following: God’s words or prophecies given through His servants are fulfilled according to His will.)

  • How have you seen God’s words fulfilled in your life or the life of someone you know?

Summarize Genesis 42:10–18 by explaining that after Joseph accused his brothers of being spies, he put them in prison for three days.

Ask a student to read Genesis 42:19–20 aloud. Invite the class to follow along and look for what Joseph instructed his brothers to do to prove they were telling the truth. Ask students to report what they find.

  • Why do you think Joseph’s brothers may have been worried in this situation? (In order to prove their innocence, they needed to bring Benjamin to Egypt. However, their father Jacob had already indicated that he did not want Benjamin to go to Egypt.)

Genesis 42:21–38

Joseph sends his brothers home to retrieve Benjamin

Write the following questions on the board, and invite students to respond.

Do you think feeling guilty is good or bad? What is the purpose of guilt? When might feeling guilt be a blessing?

For variety, you may want to invite students to discuss these questions in pairs. After students have had sufficient time to discuss these questions, invite a few of them to explain their responses to the class.

Invite a student to read Genesis 42:21–23 aloud. Ask the class to follow along and look for what Joseph’s brothers began to think about as they experienced this difficult situation in Egypt.

Who is the brother they were referring to in these verses? (Joseph.)

  • What evidence do you see in verses 21–23 that Joseph’s brothers were still suffering for what they had done more than 20 years previously when they sold Joseph into slavery and then lied to their father about it? (After students respond, you may want to suggest that they mark the phrase “we are verily guilty concerning our brother” in verse 21.)

  • Why do you think Joseph’s brothers would have felt guilt about what they had done to Joseph so many years earlier? (They had not fully repented, so their guilt remained.)

Explain that the phrase “his blood is required” in verse 22 suggests that Joseph’s brother Reuben realized they would be held accountable for what they had done to Joseph.

  • From verses 21–22 and the ideas we have discussed, what truths can we learn about guilt? (Truths students identify may include the following: Guilt accompanies sin. Guilt can cause us to regret our sins. Consider writing these truths on the board.)

To help students further understand some of the purposes of guilt, invite a student to read aloud the following statement by Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:

Bednar, David A.

“All of us have experienced the pain associated with a physical injury or wound. When we are in pain, we typically seek relief and are grateful for the medication and treatments that help to alleviate our suffering. Consider sin as a spiritual wound that causes guilt. … Guilt is to our spirit what pain is to our body—a warning of danger and a protection from additional damage” (“We Believe in Being Chaste,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2013, 44).

  • According to Elder Bednar, what are some purposes of feeling guilt?

  • How does guilt protect us from additional damage? (Guilt protects us from further spiritual damage by alerting us when we have done something wrong. Guilt can also motivate us to make changes that will help us avoid future mistakes.)

Consider writing another truth on the board: Guilt can motivate us to repent, seek forgiveness, and avoid future sin.

Invite a student to read aloud another statement by Elder Bednar. Ask students to listen for what happens when we repent of our sins.

Bednar, David A.

“The Savior is often referred to as the Great Physician, and this title has both symbolic and literal significance. … From the Atonement of the Savior flows the soothing salve that can heal our spiritual wounds and remove guilt. However, this salve can only be applied through the principles of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, repentance, and consistent obedience. The results of sincere repentance are peace of conscience, comfort, and spiritual healing and renewal” (“We Believe in Being Chaste,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2013, 44).

  • What counsel did Elder Bednar give to those who are suffering guilt because of their sins?

  • What is the promise to all who sincerely repent?

Invite students to follow Elder Bednar’s counsel to seek peace and spiritual healing by exercising faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and repenting of their sins. You may also want to testify of the principles the class has just discussed.

Invite a student to read Genesis 42:24 aloud. Ask the class to look for Joseph’s reaction to seeing and hearing his brothers’ expressions of guilt and regret. Ask students to report what they find.

Summarize Genesis 42:25–35 by explaining that after Joseph imprisoned Simeon, he sent the other brothers home with grain. But before they left, he commanded his servants to hide the money they used to purchase the grain in the brothers’ sacks of grain. When they later discovered the money in their sacks, they were afraid.

Invite a student to read Genesis 42:36–38 aloud. Ask the class to follow along and look for how Jacob initially responded to his sons’ request to take Benjamin back to Egypt with them. (You may want to explain that the word bereaved in verse 36 means to lose or be deprived of something or someone.) Invite them to report what they find.

Genesis 43:1–15

Jacob’s sons repeat their request to return to Egypt with Benjamin

Invite students to ponder some of the trials in Jacob’s life by asking the following question:

  • By this point in Jacob’s life, which of his loved ones had he lost?

You may need to remind students that Jacob worked for Laban for 14 years to be able to marry Rachel, whom he loved dearly. After Rachel was not able to have children for many years, she bore Joseph and then later died while giving birth to Benjamin. Jacob believed that Joseph was dead.

  • Why do you think Jacob was reluctant to send Benjamin to Egypt with his brothers? (You may want to point out that Benjamin was Jacob’s only remaining son from his beloved wife Rachel [see Genesis 44:27–29].)

Invite several students to take turns reading aloud from Genesis 43:1–15. Invite the class to follow along and look for what persuaded Jacob to allow his sons to return to Egypt with Benjamin. Ask students to report what they find.

  • According to verses 8–10, what did Judah promise his father?

  • How did Jacob respond?

Genesis 43:16–34

Joseph’s brothers return to Egypt and dine with him

Summarize Genesis 43:16–25 by explaining that Jacob’s sons returned to Egypt. When Joseph saw that they had brought Benjamin with them, he instructed his servant to bring them to his house. The brothers feared that Joseph would put them in bonds because of the money that had been returned to their sacks of grain during their previous visit.

Remind students that this was the first time Joseph had seen Benjamin in many years. Invite several students to take turns reading aloud from Genesis 43:26–34. Consider stopping periodically to ask students what they think Joseph and his brothers might have been feeling.

Explain that in the next lesson students will learn how and when Joseph revealed his identity to his brothers.

Commentary and Background Information

Genesis 42:21–22. Guilt accompanies sin

Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught about the necessity of personal suffering in the repentance process:

“President Spencer W. Kimball, who gave such comprehensive teachings on repentance and forgiveness, said that personal suffering ‘is a very important part of repentance. One has not begun to repent until he has suffered intensely for his sins. … If a person hasn’t suffered, he hasn’t repented.’ [The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball (1982), 88, 99.] …

“… We must endure personal suffering in the process of repentance—and for serious transgressions, that suffering can be severe and prolonged” (“Sin and Suffering,” Ensign, July 1992, 72, 73).

Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught the following about sin and suffering:

“Sin will always, always, result in suffering. It may come sooner, or it may come later, but it will come” (“Purity Precedes Power,” Ensign, Nov. 1990, 36).