Lying is Tricky

There are too many things to keep track of.

Genesis 42:35-38 (ESV)

As they emptied their sacks, behold, every man's bundle of money was in his sack. And when they and their father saw their bundles of money, they were afraid. And Jacob their father said to them, “You have bereaved me of my children: Joseph is no more, and Simeon is no more, and now you would take Benjamin. All this has come against me.” Then Reuben said to his father, “Kill my two sons if I do not bring him back to you. Put him in my hands, and I will bring him back to you.” But he said, “My son shall not go down with you, for his brother is dead, and he is the only one left. If harm should happen to him on the journey that you are to make, you would bring down my gray hairs with sorrow to Sheol.”

Reuben makes a ridiculous proposal. He basically says to Jacob, “If I lose Benjamin, feel free to kill a couple of your grandsons to make up for it.” On what planet does that make sense?

Not surprisingly, Jacob rejects Reuben’s plan. But what inspired Reuben to say something that nutty in the first place? Ruben could have made an honest case, like:

“The Egyptian lord’s request to see Benjamin makes sense. We said that we had another brother and he said, ‘Prove it.’ His fear of military attack is reasonable too; Egypt has food and no one else does. And when he let us out of jail the Egyptian said that he fears Elohim – really!”

But Reuben doesn’t say any of these things. He’s too busy managing all the lies to keep track of the truth. He has to be careful to not mention that they think God is punishing them, since he can’t tell Jacob why. He also can’t blurt out the truth about their all being jailed or about the Egyptian’s death threats. Everything he says has to be checked against a “do not say” list.

This is like why many banjo players don’t sing; they’re too busy playing super-fast to do anything else. Reuben’s brain is maxed out just trying to manage all the lies. Add to that the stress of discovering the money in the sacks (and wondering what that means) and he’s totally befuddled.

So, Reuben comes up with a line that passes all his do-not-say tests but doesn’t pass a sanity check. He blurts that out, and Jacob wonders if his oldest son has lost it.

In a way, he has.


Speaking of people who are maxed out, always pray for your church leaders. They carry an amazing and unpredictable load. Would you want to face all the things that get dumped on them without warning?

On top of all that, Christian leaders often lack the support that everyone else has. Who can they confide in? Everyone expects them to be a rock.

Ever had a beer with your pastor, or even an elder? This doesn’t literally need to involve alcohol, but you see my point. They need koinonia just as much as everyone else.

Maybe more.


The weekly study guides, which include discussion questions, are available for download here:

https://www.ailbe.org/resources/itemlist/category/91-deep-studies

Mike Slay

As a mathematician, inventor, and ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America, Mike Slay brings an analytical, conversational, and even whimsical approach to the daily study of God's Word.

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