Ten Hebrew men traveled along a dusty road between Canaan and Egypt. All around them, the land was desolate. The men were hungry, thirsty, and exhausted from their long journey.
"Is there any food left in the sacks?" Zebulun asked.
"No, we ate the last of it earlier," Naphtali replied. "Remember, we are in a famine. That means-"
"No food, yeah, we get it," Dan interrupted.
"Would you knock it off?" Reuben shouted. "Let's just get to Egypt. Remember? There's food there."
After many more hours of travel, the men were swept into the busy streets of Egypt. The land looked as desolate as Canaan, but the Hebrews didn't let it fool them. They searched Egypt until they found the governor. He was an Egyptian man, not much taller than themselves. His interpreter stood nearby, and guards followed him too. He had a gold chain around his neck, a ring on his finger, and clean clothes of fine linen.
The dusty Hebrew men bowed down before this lord of Egypt.
The man shouted roughly at them, and the interpreter translated. "Where do you come from?"
Reuben spoke up. "From Canaan, sir," he said. "We have come to buy food."
"No," the man replied, "you lie. You are spies; you have come to see the nakedness of the land."
"No, my lord," Reuben said, "We have come to buy food. We are all brothers, sons of one man. And were are honest men-not spies!"
But the Egyptian was insistent. "You have come to see the nakedness of the land!" He shouted.
Reuben replied, "No, I tell you, we are twelve brothers, the sons of one man in Canaan."
Dan spoke up. "Our youngest brother is in Canaan with our father, and the other one, well, he is no more."
The governor said, "It is as I said. You are spies! The whole lot of you! But by this I will test you. As Pharaoh lives, you will not leave until your youngest brother has come down to Egypt! One of you, go, get your brother and bring him to me. The rest of you, stay here. If you do not bring back your brother, you are surely all spies! Any volunteers?"
The brothers looked at one another. No one volunteered to go back and convince their father to let his favorite son go down to Egypt.
"Fine then!" The Egyptian roared. "You will all be held captive until you decide what you want to do."
And so, the men were thrown into an Egyptian prison. And just like they always did, they argued and talked and blame shifted and argued some more.
"Why did you have to tell him that Benjamin was in Canaan with Dad?" Reuben shouted at Dan.
"If you hadn't mentioned that there were twelve of us, we would have been fine," Dan retorted.
The men continued their pointless banter in this way for quite some time- three days in fact.
At the end of three days, the Egyptian governor came to the prison with a new proposal. "Do this and you will live," he said, "for I fear Elohim; let one of you stay in custody here, while the rest of you bring your youngest brother back."
The brothers looked at one another. This man fears Elohim? The God of the Hebrews?
The Egyptian continued. "Those of you who go will carry grain back with you. If you bring your youngest brother back to me, your words will be verified, and I will believe that you are honest men."
The brothers discussed the offer.
"Do you ever feel guilty about what we did to Joseph?" Levi asked.
"Yes, I do," Simeon replied. "Right now is one of those times."
"Well," Dan said, "We are guilty concerning our brother. We saw his distress as he begged us for mercy, but we ignored him. That is why God is allowing this to happen to us."
"Didn't I tell you not to harm the boy? And did you listen? No! So now there is a reckoning for his blood," Reuben exclaimed.
"Would you stop being such a smarty pants!" Judah retorted.
The men turned at the sound of the Egyptian suddenly leaving the prison. His interpreter went with him. Assuming he had other business to attend to, they returned to their conversation.
"Who wants to stay here in custody?" Issachar asked.
"I volunteer you," Gad replied.
"No, leave Zebulun," Judah said. "He is the next youngest."
"I'm not staying!" Zebulun retorted.
The Egyptian returned. He spoke to them through his translator again. "Have you decided? Who will stay?" He asked.
The men looked at one another and shrugged.
"I choose...you!" The man announced, pointing at Simeon. All the other men breathed a sigh of relief-until they remembered that they had to go convince Dad to let Benjamin come down to Egypt with them.
"Come back for me soon!" Simeon reminded them as he was taken and bound.
The other nine men walked out free, but their hearts carried a great burden. They found their donkeys, loaded up sacks of grain, and set off for Canaan.
That night, they Hebrews stopped at a lodging place. Asher opened up his sack to feed his donkey some grain and cried out. "My money has been put back! Here it is in the mouth of my sack." They looked at each other, their faces pale with fear. "What is this that God has done to us?" Naphtali cried.
The next morning, they continued on their journey, their hearts heavy. When they finally arrived back home in Canaan, they all approached their father.
"Dad," Levi said, "the Egyptian governor in charge of the grain spoke harshly to us. He accused us of being spies. We told him that we are honest men and not spies. We told him that we are the sons of one man and that one of us is no more and the other was at home. But he didn't believe us! So he told us to leave one of our brothers, Simeon, in Egypt, and return to you. But the next time we go back, we have to bring Benjamin with us or else we won't see his face...or Simeon. That is the only way he will believe that we are not spies!"
Each of the brothers emptied their sacks of grain. When they did, they all found money in the mouth of their sacks. They turned pale and their eyes grew wide with fear. When their father saw it, he too was afraid. He lashed out at his sons and said, "You have taken my children away! Joseph is no more, Simeon is no more, and now you would take Benjamin too! The whole world is against me!"
Reuben stepped up and said, "Kill my sons if I do not bring Benjamin back to you. If you entrust him to me, I will return him."
Their father said, "No, my son Benjamin will not go to Egypt with you, his brother is dead and he is all I have left! If harm should come to him, it would kill me!"
(Based on Genesis 42)