1. Over twenty years have come and gone since Joseph saw his brothers last. The lasting memory of his brothers was when they cast him into a pit, retrieved him, and sold him into slavery. If there was an occasion for bitterness to exist this was it. However, we do not read or get the impression that Joseph had bitterness in him (cf. 45:5). Though he may not have been bitter he did play rough (42:7)!
2. The two decade interval between seeing one another was able to prevent Joseph’s brothers from recognizing to whom they were speaking (42:8). There are good reasons for this; they expected to see Joseph no more, having sold him into slavery; in fact, they thought he was dead (42:22; 44:20). The man they saw could have resembled Joseph (for all they knew), but they surely did not expect a man of similar appearance (if they thought this) to be Joseph over Egypt! Third, if for some reason (inkling) they thought the resemblance of the man to be Joseph, the existence of an interpreter between the two parties would have eliminated the thought.
3. As Joseph interacts with them he placed within them fear, a fear they attributed to their guilt in how they handled the situation with the younger brother (42:22). Joseph was moved as he learned, for the first time, the role some his brothers played in the treachery. Even though Joseph “played” rough, he sends the men home with the necessary food and a reimbursement of the purchase price they paid. The fear/apprehension of the brothers is amplified when they learn that in the sacks of grain each had their purchase price inserted (42:28, 35). Explaining all this to their father, Jacob is grieved yet once more in the loss of another son (Simeon).
4. Application: Guilt is a mighty power feeling. Its power can be utilized toward that which is good or toward that which is debilitating. It can be good because if it motivates us toward godly fear/repentance then the guilt is removed (2 Corinthians 7:9-10). It is bad when we are so ridden with guilt that the oppressive weight prevents us from moving. There is a resignation of self to the consequences, hopelessness, and rejection. For over twenty years Joseph’s brothers lived with the guilt of their actions. If it were not for Joseph, they would have died with no opportunity (presumably) to get things right. Where can we find Joseph?