Friday, August 25, 2006

Genesis 43

Genesis 43: The brothers return to Egypt


From the last chapter: Joseph’s brothers have returned to Jacob, with the grain, and instructions to return to Egypt with Benjamin, if they want to see their brother Simeon alive. Jacob, however, would rather count Simeon as another lost son, rather than risk losing Benjamin.

So he doesn’t let his sons return to Egypt. However, the famine hasn’t stopped, so eventually the food they had brought back from Egypt runs out. Jacob tells the brothers to go back to Egypt for more grain, but of course they tell him that they can’t, unless they bring Benjamin with them:

So when they had eaten all the grain they had brought from Egypt, their father said to them, “Go back and buy us a little more food.”

But Judah said to him, “The man warned us solemnly, ‘You will not see my face again unless your brother is with you.’ If you will send our brother along with us, we will go down and buy food for you. But if you will not send him, we will not go down, because the man said to us, ‘You will not see my face again unless your brother is with you.’”

Israel asked, “Why did you bring this trouble on me by telling the man you had another brother?”

They replied, “The man questioned us closely about ourselves and our family. ‘Is your father still living?’ he asked us. ‘Do you have another brother?’ We simply answered his questions. How were we to know he would say, ‘Bring your brother down here’?”

Then Judah said to Israel his father, “Send the boy along with me and we will go at once, so that we and you and our children may live and not die. I myself will guarantee his safety; you can hold me personally responsible for him. If I do not bring him back to you and set him here before you, I will bear the blame before you all my life. As it is, if we had not delayed, we could have gone and returned twice.”

(verses 2–10)

So Jacob/Israel finally agrees, and sends the men on their way. He sends with them twice the amount of silver—for buying new food, as well as covering the silver they were supposed to pay the first time, just in case it was a mistake that they came home with their silver in the bags—and they set off, Benjamin in tow. Jacob also sends with them some local products, from the land; balm and honey, spices and myrrh, pistachio nuts, and almonds (verse 11). This is pretty smart, because the Egyptian is probably getting money from all over the place—lots of countries are going through the same famine—but these gifts would be special, because they would only be available in the land where Jacob and his family are living.

They arrive in Egypt, and present themselves before Joseph, who has them sent to his house, and also has his servants prepare a meal. Before they have their meal, the brothers approach Joseph’s steward, about the silver. They tell him that their silver was still in their bags, when they returned home, and ask him to take the silver they were supposed to pay the first time, along with additional silver for more food. But he tells them not to worry: “‘It’s all right,’ he said. ‘Don’t be afraid. Your God, the God of your father, has given you treasure in your sacks; I received your silver.’ Then he brought Simeon out to them.” (verse 23)

Before the meal is ready, Joseph asks about his father, and the brothers report to him that Jacob/Israel is fine. He also meets Benjamin. Joseph becomes so overcome by emotion that he has to go and find somewhere private to weep.

The meal is prepared, and they sit down to eat, in three groups: Joseph eats by himself, the brothers eat on their own, and everyone else eats in a third group, because “Egyptians could not eat with Hebrews, for that is detestable to Egyptians” (verse 32).


Again, the games are still going on between Joseph and his brothers.

I’m not sure if Joseph’s steward was told to tell the brothers that God put the silver in their sacks, or if he was just embellishing things a bit.

I always wonder, when I read about the Egyptians refusing to eat with the Hebrews, why Joseph ate by himself. Was it because he was in charge, and ate by himself much as a king or a Pharaoh would? Or is is that the Egyptians refuse to eat with him, even though he’s their ruler?

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