Although Joseph recognized his brothers, they did not recognize him. Then he remembered his dreams about them and said to them, “You are spies! You have come to see where our land is unprotected.”
- Genesis 42:8-9
Joseph had the upper hand in every way. He recognized his brothers but they didn’t recognize him. He had the grain they needed to survive. He had an army at his back. The setting gave Joseph every opportunity for revenge.
What will he do?
The question hangs over the next several chapters of Genesis. Will Joseph seek vengeance or will he show mercy?
We find it interesting that the narrator mentions Joseph’s dreams at this point in the story. In his youth, Joseph had dreams that his brothers would bow to his leadership. In this moment, that old dream had come true. But that gave Joseph no satisfaction.
Did Joseph really believe that his brothers had come to Egypt to spy on the land? Not really … or, at least, not for long. In short order he will tour them around the palace and then let most of them return home.
What we see in Joseph in the moment he accuses his brothers of being spies is his instinctive self-protective response to a perceived threat. Flooded with emotion, Joseph chooses fight over flight, to the bewilderment of his kneeling brothers, who have no idea why he’s responding so strongly to them.
Our past experiences of trauma can trigger strong reactions in us. The brothers, the memory of the dreams, the bowing … it all jumbled together in the minefield of Joseph’s heart. Joseph may have been just as surprised as his brothers at the strength of his response.
Reflect back on the last month. What (if anything) triggered surprisingly strong emotions for you? Take that memory to the Lord in prayer and invite him to bring healing to the places in you that need healing. Ask him to help you navigate your surprisingly strong emotions in healthy ways.