Devotional & Reflection

Week 3, November 2004

Gen 43 :
Spiritual Growth

By Pang Hee Hung, Katartizo Resources Ltd

Gen 42:1 When Jacob learned that there was grain in Egypt, he said to his sons,.... (43:8) Then Judah said to Israel his father, "Send the boy along with me and we will go at once, so that we and you and our children may live and not die.
(43:9) I myself will guarantee his safety; you can hold me personally responsible for him. If I do not bring him back to you and set him here before you, I will bear the blame before you all my life. (43:10) As it is, if we had not delayed, we could have gone and returned twice."
(43:11) Then their father Israel said to them, "If it must be, then do this: Put some of the best products of the land in your bags and take them down to the man as a gift--a little balm and a little honey, some spices and myrrh, some pistachio nuts and almonds. (43:12) Take double the amount of silver with you, for you must return the silver that was put back into the mouths of your sacks. Perhaps it was a mistake.
(43:13) Take your brother also and go back to the man at once. (43:14) And may God Almighty grant you mercy before the man so that he will let your other brother and Benjamin come back with you. As for me, if I am bereaved, I am bereaved."

As we read Genesis, have we wondered whether Jacob / Israel grew spiritually as he grew older? Remember ... he was the deceiver who schemed against his brother Esau and tricked his father, Isaac, to bless him instead (Gen 27). He had to flee from Esau after that. This usurper of Esau's birthright and blessings got a taste of his own medicine when Laban deceived him. Jacob had to work for seven years in order to marry Rachel but was given Leah instead. Hence, Jacob had to work for another seven years to marry the one whom he loved, Rachel (Gen 29:25-28).

Meanwhile, all this time, Jacob most probably lived in fear of possible retaliation from Esau. Besides fleeing from Esau, Jacob had to flee from Laban too after deceiving Laban (Gen 31:26-27). Imagine how stressful life would be if we lived in constant fear, fleeing from one person or another.

Nevertheless, Jacob obeyed the Lord's directive to return to Canaan where Esau was living (Gen 31:3). And something happened when God wrestled with Jacob in Gen 32. Jacob was reconciled with Esau (Gen 33).

Here in Gen 43, Jacob was no longer the deceiver. He remembered that the silver that was to be paid to the Egyptians for food purchases was somehow returned to them, perhaps by mistake (Gen 43:12). Jacob told his sons to take double the amount of silver to pay for the next food purchase and to return the other portion of silver for the earlier purchase. Jacob had changed.

In previous encounters of Jacob in chapters 32 and 33, Jacob relied on his own strategy to appease Esau – placing gifts ahead of him (Gen 32:13-15) and dividing his people into groups for ease of escape in case of an attack by Esau (Gen 32:7-8). He realised later that all this strategizing was not necessary because God had gone before him. In this Gen 43 passage, Jacob was more reliant on God as he surrendered the situation to God, pleading for God's mercy to return Simeon and Benjamin along with their brothers. And if he was bereaved, so be it (Gen 43:14). Indeed, Jacob had an eventful spiritual journey.

The other person mentioned in the Gen 43 passage is Judah. Judah did prevent Joseph from being murdered by suggesting that they sell Joseph to the Ishmaelites instead (Gen 37:26). However, he too was responsible along with his brothers for Joseph’s sufferings. Judah also did not arrange for his youngest son, Shelah, to fulfill his duty of producing an offspring for his deceased brother's childless widow, Tamar. When Tamar tricked Jacob into performing the duty after impersonating as a shrine prostitute, Jacob realized that she was more righteous than him (Gen 38:26).

In Gen 43, Judah had changed. He was also unlike his brother Reuben. In Gen 42:37, Reuben vowed that Jacob may put both his sons to death if he did not bring back Simeon and Benjamin. In the case of Judah, he was prepared to put his own life on the chopping block (Gen 43:9). It was probably Judah's sacrifice and servanthood that qualified him for the line of kingship that produced descendants like David and Jesus.

Another character mentioned in Gen 43 is Simeon. He was released from detention (Gen 43:23) after the brothers produced Benjamin to authenticate their claims that they were honest men. Simeon, together with Levi, were responsible for excessive revenge in the massacre of Shechemites after Shechem raped their sister Dinah (Gen 34:25). The Bible does not mention how long Simeon was detained. But he could have been detained for up to two years because the famine had gone on for two years (Gen 45:6) and Jacob's family had not gone to Egypt until they exhausted their supplies (Gen 43:1-2).

How would we have felt if we were Simeon, left in prison seemingly deserted or even betrayed by the brothers? Would my brothers do to me what we did to Joseph? Would we understand the predicament our brothers were in or would we lose faith in them? Was there still trust left?

1. How would you describe your spiritual journey?
2. What causes your spiritual growth?
3. How have circumstances, hardships or even sufferings shaped your spiritual growth? Is there a place for spiritual disciplines in your life?
4. What can we learn from the example of Jacob, Judah? How would you respond if you are Simeon??

A Journey Of A Thousand Miles
Begins With A Single Step

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