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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). So, 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 that 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. He pledged himself as surety should he fail to return (43:8-9) and complained that they should have already departed for Egypt (43:10).
Reluctantly, Israel (Jacob) accepted Judah’s plea 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). Then, 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 to Joseph’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 story’s outcome helps us enjoy the humor of the moment when Joseph’s brothers 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). When he entered the house, they “bowed themselves to him to the earth” (a fulfillment of Joseph’s dream from his youth, 43:26). Through an interpreter Joseph asked concerning his father’s welfare. Again, they bowed to him (43:27-28).
The dreams and visions of Joseph’s youth were being fulfilled as the LORD promised (37:5-11). So then, when Joseph “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. Instead, he had continued to speak to them through an interpreter and maintained the conduct and manner of an Egyptian ruler.)
Joseph then returned to his brothers and commanded that lunch be served. Now, knowing “the Egyptians might not eat bread with the Hebrews; for that is an abomination unto the Egyptians” (43:32), Joseph was careful to dine at a table apart from his guests. He then commanded his brothers to sit at the meal according to their birth order. Perplexed and amazed, they “marveled one at another” (43:33) as Joseph directed that Benjamin’s meal would be five times as much as their own (43:34).
Genesis 44 – A Crisis and a Confession
When the meal ended, Joseph commanded his servants to fill his brother’s sacks with grain. Once again, he commanded “every man’s money in his sack’s mouth” (44:1). Then, Joseph covertly made an additional request: that his silver cup should be placed in Benjamin’s grain sack (44:2).
The brothers set out on their journey and were soon 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). Then, overwhelmed by 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).
To this point, Joseph continued to speak through an interpreter and 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.
Judah approached Joseph humbly and pled for him to consider the grief his father would suffer should Benjamin not return. He reminded the Egyptian ruler (Joseph) that their father had lost one son whom he presumed was dead (referring to Joseph, 44:18-28).
Then, in a dramatic moment of contrition, Judah begged to become Joseph’s servant in Benjamin’s stead. He explained that he desired to spare his father a sorrow that might send him to his grave (44:30-34).
Closing thoughts – Our study of Joseph’s life and God’s providences will continue in our next devotional (Genesis 45). For today, however, I encourage you to remember that 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).
Questions to Consider: Fearing prison themselves, Joseph’s brothers dared not return to Egypt without Benjamin, their youngest brother. (43:3)
- Why was Israel (i.e., Jacob) reluctant to allow Benjamin to accompany his brothers to Egypt? (Genesis 42:38)
- How did Joseph’s brothers respond when they found their money in their sacks and Joseph’s cup in Benjamin’s? (44:11-13).
- What did Judah fear would become of his father if he returned to his father’s house without Benjamin? (Genesis 44:31)
Copyright © 2023 – Travis D. Smith
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