Monday, August 28, 2006

Genesis 44

Genesis 44: Joseph plays more games with his brothers


Before you read this, if you haven’t already, you should probably read the entries for Genesis 42 and Genesis 43.

At the end of the last chapter, Joseph’s brothers were thoroughly confused. They’d gone back to Egypt, not knowing what to expect, and ended up at a feast. They may not have known what to expect, but I’m sure that a feast wouldn’t have been near the top of their list! But now Joseph decides to play with the brothers’ heads again.

As they are getting ready to return home to Jacob/Israel, Joseph commands his servants to put their silver back in their sacks, along with the food. But, in addition to that, he also commands his servant to put his personal cup in Benjamin’s bag. He lets the brothers get a bit of a head start, and then he commands his servant to go after them, and accuse them of stealing the cup!

So this is what happens. The steward catches up with the brothers, and accuses them of stealing the cup. The brothers are indignant—of course they didn’t steal the cup! So they strike a deal: the steward will look in all of their bags, and if any of the brothers has the cup, that brother will become the steward’s servant. So he looks in the bags, and of course the cup is in Benjamin’s bag, which absolutely floors the brothers. What the heck is going on here?!? So they all head back to Joseph.

Joseph was still in the house when Judah and his brothers came in, and they threw themselves to the ground before him. Joseph said to them, “What is this you have done? Don’t you know that a man like me can find things out by divination?”

“What can we say to my lord?” Judah replied. “What can we say? How can we prove our innocence? God has uncovered your servants’ guilt. We are now my lord’s slaves—we ourselves and the one who was found to have the cup.”

(verses 14–16)

But then—and I have a mix of emotions, ranging from humor to frustration to anger to bewilderment, every time I read this—Joseph tells the brothers he couldn’t possibly be that cruel to them:
But Joseph said, “Far be it from me to do such a thing! Only the man who was found to have the cup will become my slave. The rest of you, go back to your father in peace.” (verse 17)
Judah isn’t giving up, though. He told his father that he would be responsible for Benjamin, and he’s going to do his best to live up to that promise. The chapter ends with Judah entreating Joseph to take Judah as his servant, rather than Benjamin, so that Benjamin can return to his father.


Interestingly, Judah just seems to assume that Benjamin did steal the cup. (After all, how else could it have gotten there?) Either that, or he believes his innocence, but doesn’t believe he’d be able to convince Joseph of Benjamin’s innocence, and simply resigns himself to his fate.

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