Scripture reading – Genesis 43-44
The famine had continued in Egypt, and neighboring countries, and Israel (once named Jacob) realized the grain his sons had carried from Egypt would soon be depleted (43:1-2). Telling his sons, “Go again, buy us a little food” (43:2b), Judah, the fourth born son, reminded his father, saying, “The man [Joseph] did solemnly protest [warned sternly] unto us, saying, Ye shall not see my face, except your [youngest] brother be with you” (43:3).
Judah stated plainly, he would return to Egypt, only if Benjamin traveled there with them (43:4-5). Jacob, frustrated with his sons, impugned them for revealing to the Egyptian ruler (Joseph) that they had a younger brother (43:6). Of course, had they failed to answer Joseph’s questions honestly, the circumstances in Egypt would probably have gone badly for them (43:7). Judah entreated his father for Benjamin, and pledged himself as surety should he fail to return (43:8-9), complaining they should have already departed for Egypt (43:10).
Reluctantly, Israel (Jacob) accepted Judah’s plead, and ordered his sons to bear gifts, and double the money, supposing their money having been returned to them on their first journey was “an oversight” (43:11-12). With Benjamin in their company, Israel (Jacob) blessed them and resigned himself to the LORD, saying, “God Almighty give you mercy before the man, that he may send away your other brother [Simeon], and Benjamin. If I be bereaved of my children, I am bereaved” (43:14).
Arriving in Egypt, the brothers “stood before Joseph.16And when Joseph saw Benjamin with them, he said to the ruler of his house, Bring these men home, and slay, and make ready; for these men shall dine with me at noon” (43:15b-16).
What thoughts and emotions must have swirled through the brother’s hearts when they were taken from the granaries, where they came to purchase grain, to the ruler’s house? (43:17) The answer is made known to us when we read, “And the men were afraid, because they were brought into Joseph’s house” (43:18).
Knowing the outcome of the story helps us enjoy the humor of the moment when Joseph’s brother approached his steward to plead their case (43:19-23). The steward’s response suggested the influence of Joseph’s testimony in his home, for his servant answered, “Peace be to you, fear not: your God, and the God of your father, hath given you treasure in your sacks: I had your money” (43:23). The steward’s assurance was immediately followed by a family reunion when “he brought Simeon out unto them” (43:23). How baffling it must have been for Joseph’s brothers when they, and their animals were given the “royal treatment” (43:24)!
Anticipating the arrival of the Egyptian ruler, Joseph’s brothers made ready their presents (43:25), and when he entered the house, “they brought him the present which was in their hand into the house, and bowed themselves to him to the earth” (43:26). Through an interpreter he asked of his father’s welfare, and they bowed again to Joseph (43:27-28).
The dreams and visions of Joseph’s youth, were being fulfilled as God had promised (37:5-11). When “he lifted up his eyes, and saw his brother Benjamin, his mother’s son” (43:29a), he asked, “Is this your younger brother, of whom ye spake unto me? And he said, God be gracious unto thee, my son” (43:29b).
No longer able to contain his emotions, Joseph rushed from the room, and “entered his chamber, and wept there” (43:30). Remember, Joseph had not yet made himself known to his brothers, and had continued to maintain the conduct and manner of an Egyptian ruler.
Returning to his brothers, he commanded lunch be served, though Joseph was careful to dine at a table separate from his guests: “because the Egyptians might not eat bread with the Hebrews; for that is an abomination unto the Egyptians” (43:32).
Genesis 44 – A Crisis, and a Confession
The meal being ended, Joseph commanded his servants to fill his brother’s sacks with grain, and once again putting “every man’s money in his sack’s mouth” (44:1). Joseph made an additional request: that his personal silver cup was to be placed in Benjamin’s sack of grain (44:2).
Setting out on their journey, the brothers were overtaken by Joseph’s steward who accused them saying, “Wherefore have ye rewarded evil for good?” (44:4)
The brothers protested their innocence (44:5-8), and vowed, “9With whomsoever of thy servants it be found, both let him die, and we also will be my lord’s bondmen” (44:9). A search was made, beginning with the eldest, until coming to Benjamin’s sack where the silver cup was found (44:10-12). Overwhelmed by their emotions, the brothers “rent their clothes, and laded every man his ass, and returned to the city” (44:13), and fell on the ground before Joseph (44:14).
Joseph had continued to speak through an interpreter to this point, and he confronted his brothers as such, demanding, “What deed is this that ye have done? wot ye not that such a man as I can certainly divine?” (44:15)
Remembering how Judah had taken responsibility for his youngest brother’s care, true to his word, he confessed his brother’s sin saying, “God hath found out the iniquity of thy servants: behold, we are my lord’s servants, both we, and he also with whom the cup is found” (44:16). Joseph prolonged his brothers’ agony, vowing that Benjamin would be his servant (44:17), and sending them away to their father.
Approaching Joseph humbly, Judah pled for him to consider the grief his father would suffer should Benjamin not return, for he had already lost one son whom he presumed was dead (referring to Joseph, 44:18-28).
In a dramatic moment of contrition, Judah begged to become Joseph’s servant in Benjamin’s stead, desiring to spare his father of the sorrow that might send him to his grave (44:30-34).
To be continued: The same LORD who worked through Joseph’s life, has promised “all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).
Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith