Even though Joseph had arrived at a place spiritually where he is now capable of extending forgiveness to his brothers, he’s still not sure about his brothers.
Had their hearts softened over the years?
Had God prepared them as He had prepared Joseph?
Some testing was needed.
So Joseph pretending not to recognize his brothers starts interrogating them.
He begins by saying, “You’re spies who’ve come to search out our country’s weaknesses!“
The brothers baffled at the accusation respond, “No, my lord, your servants have come to buy food. We’re all the sons of one man, we’re upright men; your servants aren’t spies.”
“Yeah right. You liars!”-Joseph is probably thinking.
Joseph is looking for an opening to where he can possibly bring them to a place of repentance.
He’s trying to bring them to the place where they’ll start connecting the dots and realize they’re suffering the consequences of their sin.
If he had suddenly revealed his identity to his brothers before putting them through the ordeal he had planned for them, I think it would have thwarted the work God wanted to do in their hearts.
So Joseph keeps up the accusations.
And the brothers continue to maintain they’re innocence claiming they’re the 12 sons of one man, explaining that the youngest is with the father, and then in referring to Joseph, they claim “the other is no more”.
Keep in mind, another reason Joseph is questioning them is because he wants to know how is father and little brother are doing.
It’s been over 20 years since he last saw them.
“Did my brothers do to Benjamin as they did to me?” was most likely Joseph’s primary concern since both he and Benjamin were born from Rachel.
He would have had no way of knowing and he so dearly loves his brother Benjamin.
Finally, Joseph tells them their youngest brother must be brought to him from Canaan to prove they’re not lying.
He also tells them that one of them will be kept in prison as a hostage while they make the journey back home.
Understand that during this whole exchange Joseph is speaking through an interpreter even though he doesn’t need an interpreter.
He’s a native Hebrew speaker and he understood everything the brothers were saying to each other.
Well, finally, Joseph hears his brothers utter the words his heart was so aching to hear.
“We are in fact guilty concerning our brother.
He was in distress and pleaded with us;
we saw it and wouldn’t listen.
That’s why this distress has come upon us now.”
Isn’t this just like the conviction of the Holy Spirit on a man who has denied his sin for too long?
Their confession also seems to indicate they’ve been living with this guilt for the last 20 years.
The next verse reveals all concerning how Joseph felt upon hearing these words of repentance.
“Joseph turned away from them and wept.”
Honestly, I don’t know how Joseph even had enough time to turn away from his brothers before the flood of tears broke forth from his eyes.
I might have crumbled to the floor and been unable to pick myself up.
Afterwards, when Joseph returns to speak with his brothers, on one level he is now a changed man and wanting so much to fully reconcile with them.
But before that happens, he must see Benjamin.