When the grain they had brought from Egypt was almost gone, Jacob said to his sons, “Go again and buy us a little food.” But Judah said, “The man wasn’t joking when he warned that we couldn’t see him again unless Benjamin came along.” — Genesis 43:2-3
In the turbulent 1960s people talked about the “generation gap.” Of course, differences between generations is a much older problem, but during the 1960s it was given a new name and a lot of attention. Young people decided not only to take issue with their elders, but to reject what those wielding authority said. The result was a standoff between those who held the power and those who resented it being used to their perceived detriment.
Even as far back as Jacob’s time, the gap between the generations was clearly in evidence. Jacob had long been in control of his family. He was used to telling his sons what to do and expecting them to obey. But as the days and weeks of the famine wore on, and the food supply diminished, it was obvious that there was going to be a showdown between the old man and his sons.
Jacob wanted his boys to return to Egypt to buy more food (Genesis 43:2). Judah, the spokesman for the younger generation, said, “The man wasn’t joking when he warned that we couldn’t see him again unless Benjamin came along” (43:3). He then added forcefully, “If you don’t let Benjamin go, we may as well stay at home” (43:5).
For understandable reasons, Jacob was not prepared to listen to his son’s explanation. Jacob said that Benjamin was not going, and Judah said, in effect, that if Benjamin didn’t go, no one was going, with the probable result that they would all die.
Sensing that he was between a rock and a hard place, Jacob “moaned” about his own pain and grumbled about the brothers even mentioning their other brother to the Egyptian ruler. With startling self-centeredness, Jacob asked, “Why did you have to treat me with such cruelty?” (43:6).
Judah, showing a lot of good sense, reasoned further with his father, gave personal guarantees, and reminded him that if they had acted when they ought to have, they could have made the journey several times over. Finally Jacob relented and yielded control to the younger men. He then gave them wise instructions for their journey, but Jacob’s decision was hardly with great grace. “If it can’t be avoided” set the tone of his surrender (43:11). “If I must bear the anguish of their deaths, so be it” dominated his thinking (43:14).
This is not to suggest that the sons were always right and their father always wrong. Jacob understandably was having a bad day. Fortunately, his sons were doing better.
There comes a time for the older men to allow the younger generation to take the lead. If they hand over the reins with joy, they may watch with delight as the young men succeed. If they don’t, they widen the generation gap into a gulf that becomes the grave for promising endeavors.
For further study: Genesis 43:1-14
Content taken from The One Year Book of Devotions for Men by Stuart Briscoe. Copyright ©2000. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers. All rights reserved.