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Wednesday in the Word

Second Baptist Church

October 12, 2016

Genesis 43:16-44:13

  1. Verses 16-23. Joseph's brothers came with a plan of action previously outlined by their father. They would offer the Egyptian governor a gift of some of Canaan's best products (verse 11), and they would give back the money which had been returned in their sacks (verse 12). They arrive in Egypt. When Joseph looked out and beheld Benjamin with his older brothers, he set a plan in motion, apparently without talking to them. He instructed his servant to take these men into his house and to prepare a meal for them in a way that parallels the reception of the prodigal son in the New Testament (Luke 15:11-32). Unaware that they were being taken into Joseph’s home to partake of the noon meal, they thought it was they who were destined for slaughter. Their fears were largely due to being taken to his house (verse 18). We must remember that prisons were located in the homes of well-to-do political figures. Now what do you suppose was to be found at Joseph's house? These brothers were not so much concerned with being taken into this house as they were with being confined under it, in the dungeon. Perhaps this was the dungeon where Simeon was being detained. In desperation they took the steward aside to explain how they had found their money in their sacks and that they had brought it with them to repay it. The steward sought to calm their fears by assuring them that he had received the money for their grain. Indeed, he had, but he did not mention to them that it was he, under Joseph's orders, who also returned it. In keeping with later biblical instruction on giving (cf. Matthew 6:2-4), the steward informed these men that it was their God and the God of their father who had provided this money (verse 23). To further assure them, he brought out Simeon and returned him to them.

  2. Verses 24-25 Then the man brought the men into Joseph's house and gave them water, and they washed their feet; and he gave their donkeys fodder. So they prepared the present for Joseph’s coming at noon; for they had heard that they were to eat a meal there. By this time the men had learned that the reason for their being brought to Joseph's home was to partake in the noon meal with him (verse 25). Anticipating Joseph's arrival, they first were given water to drink and freshen up and fodder to feed their animals. After this, they set themselves to the task of preparing the gift which they would present to Joseph when he arrived (verse 25). They must have put a great deal of effort into the preparation and presentation of the gift. For one thing, it appeared that they had gained some favor in the eyes of Joseph, to be invited for a meal. What better time to follow up with their gift? Also, their efforts to give back the money found in their sacks had been brushed aside. It had seemingly not made the impression which they had hoped for. Everything seemed to ride on how they handled matters when they again met Joseph. l can imagine these men arranging their goods, first one way and then the other. How important this gift was going to be, they supposed.

  3. Verses 26-29. What a contrast we find between the fears of Jacob and his sons in the previous verses and the tears of Joseph in this last section. Joseph's deep love for his brothers is, of course, not yet evident to them, but it is made known to us. It makes the fears of previous verses look as foolish as they really are. When Joseph came home, they brought into the house to him the present which was in their hand and bowed to the ground before him. Then he asked them about their welfare, and said, “Is your old father well, of whom you spoke? Is he still alive?” And they said, “Your servant our father is well; he is still alive.” And they bowed down in homage. As he lifted his eyes and saw his brother Benjamin, his mother’s son, he said, “Is this your youngest brother, of whom you spoke to me?” And he said, “May God be gracious to you, my son.” And Joseph hurried out for he was deeply stirred over his brother; and he sought a place to weep; and he entered his chamber and wept there. Then he washed his face, and came out; and he controlled himself and said, “Serve the meal.” So they served him by himself, and them by themselves, and the Egyptians, who ate with him, by themselves; because the Egyptians could not eat bread with the Hebrews, for that is loathsome to the Egyptians. Now they were seated before him, the first-born according to his birthright and the youngest according to his youth, and the men looked at one another in astonishment. And he took portions to them from his own table; but Benjamin’s portion was five times as much as any of theirs. So they feasted and drank freely with him. To Joseph’s brothers nothing was more important than those pistachio nuts and almonds. These nuts, along with the other products of the land of Canaan, were expected to win Joseph's favor. He never gave them a glance. He did not ask how they were grown or what year they were produced. He didn't care. Joseph was only concerned with people, not pistachio nuts; he cared about his brother Benjamin, his father Jacob, and the rest of his brethren. His first utterance sought information on the health of his aged father (verse 27). Next he turned his attention to Benjamin, who he had not seen for over twenty years. Joseph pronounced upon Benjamin a blessing which should have sounded strange coming from an Egyptian (cf. Genesis 33:5,11; Numbers 6:25; Psalm 67:1).

  4. Verses 30-34. Seeing the only other son of his mother was too much for Joseph to contain. Quickly he left the presence of his brothers to weep and to regain control of his emotions (verse 30). After regaining his composure and washing his face, Joseph returned and ordered the meal to be served. In complete harmony with the Egyptian culture (and to continue concealing his identity), Joseph ate at one table, his Egyptian servants at another, and his brothers at still another table, somewhat separate, yet in front of him. A situation similar to that which existed between Jews and Gentiles in the New Testament period must have dictated this separation. Most puzzling of all, Joseph had arranged for his brothers to be seated in the order of their ages, from the oldest to the youngest. While all of his brothers were well fed, Benjamin received a portion that was five times greater than his brothers. The seating arrangement did not pass Joseph's brothers by without notice, and they were amazed at how this could be done. While it did not suggest to them that Joseph was their brother, it did convince them that this man had a knowledge and insight that was far from normal.

  5. Chapter 44:1-6. As he did on the first journey to Egypt, Joseph ordered his steward to place in their sacks the money they had given for their grain. In addition to this, the silver cup which belonged to Joseph was placed in the sack of Benjamin, thus setting the scene for the final test of his brothers. As soon as it was light, the men were sent away, they with their donkeys. They had just gone out of the city, and were not far off, when Joseph said to his house steward, “Up, follow the men; and when you overtake them, say to them, ‘Why have you repaid evil for good? Is not this the one from which my lord drinks, and which he indeed uses for divination? You have done wrong in doing this’” (Genesis 44:3-5). Joseph’s brothers must have spent the night at his house, for they were “sent off” at first light (verse 3). No more had they gotten out of sight than Joseph ordered his steward to pursue them, charging them with theft and bringing back Benjamin, in whose sack the silver cup was sure to be found. The instructions which Joseph gave are cited as a quotation, but surely more detailed orders were given, for what happens is much more complex than what Joseph commanded his steward. A serious difficulty arises with this silver cup that is hidden in Benjamin's sack. The servant described it as the cup which his master used for divination (verse 5). And in verse 15 Joseph claimed to have knowledge through divination. Joseph is using the divination claim to fool his brothers into still thinking he is an Egyptian.

  6. Verses 7-13. Joseph’s steward tells the brothers what Joseph had said that they must have stolen this favorite cup. The brothers assured the steward that they wouldn't steal and use the fact that they brought the money back that was found in their bags earlier as a reason to doubt their desire to steal anything. The brothers thinking no one has the cup, agree to show the steward their bags. Each man hastened to take down his sack and open it, for they were certain that their innocence would be proven. While nothing is said of the gold which was placed in each man's sack (verse 1), the discovery of this money in each of their sacks must have made their hearts sink just as it had before (42:28, 35). Their logic had been, “How could they think of stealing his silver cup if they would not take his money?” And yet for some unknown reason they did have his money. A growing sense of dread must have come over these men as each learned that his money had found its way back to his sack. The basis for their righteous indignation was gone. But the steward makes no mention of their money. All he wished to discover was the thief of the cup. From the oldest to the youngest, the steward made his way down the line until he reached Benjamin, the last. Their world came crashing in upon them all when the cup was discovered. Here was the first phase of the final test of Joseph’s brothers. While they had initially insisted that the thief die and the others remain as slaves, the steward set the penalty as slavery only for the culprit. The others could go on their way. And yet, all of the brothers tore their clothes as a sign of grief and mourning, and all of them returned to Joseph's house. Had they acted only in self-interest, they would have renounced Benjamin as a thief, deserted him, and fled from Egypt as quickly as possible. But something different was taking place. These were not the same men that had determined to do away with Joseph at Dothan (cf. Genesis 37:18ff.). More than twenty years had passed since they had sold Joseph into slavery, and yet it was as though they were reliving the event in the person of Benjamin. Before, they had resented the fact that Joseph had observed their misconduct and reported it to Jacob (37:2). Further, they resented the favoritism Jacob showed to Joseph (37:4) just as Jacob was now partial to Benjamin (cf. 44:27-31). Now they were faced with a most similar situation. Benjamin, Jacob's beloved, was in their care, far from Jacob’s protection. More than twenty years later, the same temptation faces these men. Will they evidence a change of heart, or will they act in self-interest? That is what Joseph must know. The moment of truth has arrived.

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