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Genesis 43-45    Listen Podcast


Hey! Has anyone seen Simeon lately? (Genesis 43:1-15)

1 Now the famine was severe in the land.
2 And it came to pass, when they had eaten up the grain which they had brought from Egypt, that their father said to them, “Go back, buy us a little food.”
3 ¶ But Judah spoke to him, saying, “The man solemnly warned us, saying, ‘You shall not see my face unless your brother is with you.’
4 If you send our brother with us, we will go down and buy you food.
5 But if you will not send him, we will not go down; for the man said to us, “You shall not see my face unless your brother is with you.’ ”
6 ¶ And Israel said, “Why did you deal so wrongfully with me as to tell the man whether you had still another brother?”
7 ¶ But they said, “The man asked us pointedly about ourselves and our family, saying, “Is your father still alive? Have you another brother?’ And we told him according to these words. Could we possibly have known that he would say, ‘Bring your brother down’?”
8 ¶ Then Judah said to Israel his father, “Send the lad with me, and we will arise and go, that we may live and not die, both we and you and also our little ones.
9 I myself will be surety for him; from my hand you shall require him. If I do not bring him back to you and set him before you, then let me bear the blame forever.
10 For if we had not lingered, surely by now we would have returned this second time.”
11 ¶ And their father Israel said to them, “If it must be so, then do this: Take some of the best fruits of the land in your vessels and carry down a present for the man—a little balm and a little honey, spices and myrrh, pistachio nuts and almonds.
12 Take double money in your hand, and take back in your hand the money that was returned in the mouth of your sacks; perhaps it was an oversight.
13 Take your brother also, and arise, go back to the man.
14 And may God Almighty give you mercy before the man, that he may release your other brother and Benjamin. If I am bereaved, I am bereaved!”
15 ¶ So the men took that present and Benjamin, and they took double money in their hand, and arose and went down to Egypt; and they stood before Joseph.

Actually, Simeon's not even mentioned in these verses. You remember Simeon; they left him in an Egyptian prison awaiting their return with Benjamin back in Genesis 42 (see notes). Jacob didn't want them to go back with Benjamin, so they just let Simeon stay in jail...and may have never gone back had they not run low on food again. Jacob commissions them to make the 300-mile journey again for food, but there's a problem...or should we say...problems. First problem: can't go back without Benjamin; second problem: there may be an all-points bulletin out on them in Egypt because of the money that was returned in their bags back in chapter 42. Jacob blames the brothers in verse 6 for even mentioning that they had a brother back home. You don't suppose Jacob would have wanted them to lie about that, do you? Judah pledges to Jacob Benjamin's safety and points out that the trip could be a little more treacherous because they have delayed returning as they were commanded by Joseph to do. So they pack up to go - extra money, a nice gift basket and Benjamin in tow. Here we see that it is Judah, not the oldest son Reuben, who takes charge.

Incidentally, whoever the spokesman is in verse 7, he tells Jacob a lie about Joseph's interrogation back in Genesis 42:9-13 (see notes). He states that Joseph had asked, "Have you another brother?" In fact, we see that the brothers actually volunteered the information about Benjamin without being directly asked by Joseph. Oh, well...when you've got a closet full of lies already, I guess another lie might just seem harmless.

Could this be a death-row last meal? (Genesis 43:16-34)

16 When Joseph saw Benjamin with them, he said to the steward of his house, “Take these men to my home, and slaughter an animal and make ready; for these men will dine with me at noon.”
17 Then the man did as Joseph ordered, and the man brought the men into Joseph’s house.
18 ¶ Now the men were afraid because they were brought into Joseph’s house; and they said, “It is because of the money, which was returned in our sacks the first time, that we are brought in, so that he may make a case against us and seize us, to take us as slaves with our donkeys.”
19 ¶ When they drew near to the steward of Joseph’s house, they talked with him at the door of the house,
20 and said, “O sir, we indeed came down the first time to buy food;
21 but it happened, when we came to the encampment, that we opened our sacks, and there, each man’s money was in the mouth of his sack, our money in full weight; so we have brought it back in our hand.
22 And we have brought down other money in our hands to buy food. We do not know who put our money in our sacks.”
23 ¶ But he said, “Peace be with you, do not be afraid. Your God and the God of your father has given you treasure in your sacks; I had your money.” Then he brought Simeon out to them.
24 ¶ So the man brought the men into Joseph’s house and gave them water, and they washed their feet; and he gave their donkeys feed.
25 Then they made the present ready for Joseph’s coming at noon, for they heard that they would eat bread there.
26 ¶ And when Joseph came home, they brought him the present which was in their hand into the house, and bowed down before him to the earth.
27 Then he asked them about their well-being, and said, “Is your father well, the old man of whom you spoke? Is he still alive?”
28 ¶ And they answered, “Your servant our father is in good health; he is still alive.” And they bowed their heads down and prostrated themselves.
29 ¶ Then he lifted his eyes and saw his brother Benjamin, his mother’s son, and said, “Is this your younger brother of whom you spoke to me?” And he said, “God be gracious to you, my son.”
30 Now his heart yearned for his brother; so Joseph made haste and sought somewhere to weep. And he went into his chamber and wept there.
31 Then he washed his face and came out; and he restrained himself, and said, “Serve the bread.”
32 ¶ So they set him a place by himself, and them by themselves, and the Egyptians who ate with him by themselves; because the Egyptians could not eat food with the Hebrews, for that is an abomination to the Egyptians.
33 And they sat before him, the firstborn according to his birthright and the youngest according to his youth; and the men looked in astonishment at one another.
34 Then he took servings to them from before him, but Benjamin’s serving was five times as much as any of theirs. So they drank and were merry with him.

They immediately get a bit of a shock upon their arrival in Egypt; they are escorted to Joseph's house and reunited with Simeon. I'm guessing Simeon had some questions for, "Hey! Where have you guys been?" The brothers fear that this special treatment is a bad thing - must have something to do with being fugitives from justice in Egypt for thievery. The house steward reassures them. Then Joseph arrives home and sees his half brothers along with his only full-blooded brother Benjamin. Joseph is overcome with emotion. Okay, okay, it's time to stop this charade and tell them who he is, right? Wrong! A big meal is prepared, and Joseph treats them as honored guests, but does not reveal his identity. The seating arrangement seems a little awkward in verse 32, but that was the Egyptian way; Egyptians did not sit at the same table with Hebrews. Nonetheless, verse 34 indicates that the night was enjoyed by all - especially Benjamin who received special-honor status.

Two questions here: Why did Joseph continue to hide his identity, and why did Benjamin get such preferential treatment at the meal? Could it be that Joseph was testing his half brothers to see if they were jealous of Rachel's only other son?

Hey guys; this time look in your sacks before you leave! (Genesis 44:1-17)

1 And he commanded the steward of his house, saying, “Fill the men’s sacks with food, as much as they can carry, and put each man’s money in the mouth of his sack.
2 Also put my cup, the silver cup, in the mouth of the sack of the youngest, and his grain money.” So he did according to the word that Joseph had spoken.
3 As soon as the morning dawned, the men were sent away, they and their donkeys.
4 When they had gone out of the city, and were not yet far off, Joseph said to his steward, “Get up, follow the men; and when you overtake them, say to them, ‘Why have you repaid evil for good?
5 Is not this the one from which my lord drinks, and with which he indeed practices divination? You have done evil in so doing.’ ”
6 ¶ So he overtook them, and he spoke to them these same words.
7 And they said to him, “Why does my lord say these words? Far be it from us that your servants should do such a thing.
8 Look, we brought back to you from the land of Canaan the money which we found in the mouth of our sacks. How then could we steal silver or gold from your lord’s house?
9 With whomever of your servants it is found, let him die, and we also will be my lord’s slaves.”
10 ¶ And he said, “Now also let it be according to your words; he with whom it is found shall be my slave, and you shall be blameless.”
11 Then each man speedily let down his sack to the ground, and each opened his sack.
12 So he searched. He began with the oldest and left off with the youngest; and the cup was found in Benjamin’s sack.
13 Then they tore their clothes, and each man loaded his donkey and returned to the city.
14 ¶ So Judah and his brothers came to Joseph’s house, and he was still there; and they fell before him on the ground.
15 And Joseph said to them, “What deed is this you have done? Did you not know that such a man as I can certainly practice divination?”
16 ¶ Then Judah said, “What shall we say to my lord? What shall we speak? Or how shall we clear ourselves? God has found out the iniquity of your servants; here we are, my lord’s slaves, both we and he also with whom the cup was found.”
17 ¶ But he said, “Far be it from me that I should do so; the man in whose hand the cup was found, he shall be my slave. And as for you, go up in peace to your father.”

Do these brothers seem a little...I mean...slow to catch on? After the last fiasco, wouldn't you take a look into your sacks of grain before you leave Egypt? Well, they didn't. Has Joseph finished having a little fun with his brothers yet? Not yet! He has his steward put their money back into their sacks, and the royal cup into Benjamin's sack. Then he sends the steward after them to check their bags. The accusations of theft of the royal cup are just outrageous. They declare their innocence and challenge the steward to search their bags for the cup and put the man to death in whose bag the cup is discovered. Oh! No! Not Benjamin's bag! We see in verse 13 that they are grief stricken over the discovery. It's back to town where Joseph awaits their arrival. They confess their guilt and pledge themselves as Joseph's servants as reparation for their evil deed. He doesn't want them - only Benjamin. Joseph's rebuke to them in verse 15 is a bit amusing when he says in essence, "What were you guys thinking, trying to fool a fortune teller?" You will remember that Joseph's reputation as a prognosticator is what landed him this job in the first place.

Notice particularly Joseph's offer in verse 17 when he tells them that only the thief must stay in Egypt; all others may go back to their father. This appears to be another test of loyalty. Will they use this opportunity to rid themselves of the preferred child of Jacob, Rachel's only remaining son? Hey guys! You'd better be careful how you react to this offer.

Judah does his best plea bargain (Genesis 44:18-34)

18 ¶ Then Judah came near to him and said: “O my lord, please let your servant speak a word in my lord’s hearing, and do not let your anger burn against your servant; for you are even like Pharaoh.
19 My lord asked his servants, saying, “Have you a father or a brother?’
20 And we said to my lord, “We have a father, an old man, and a child of his old age, who is young; his brother is dead, and he alone is left of his mother’s children, and his father loves him.’
21 Then you said to your servants, “Bring him down to me, that I may set my eyes on him.’
22 And we said to my lord, “The lad cannot leave his father, for if he should leave his father, his father would die.’
23 But you said to your servants, “Unless your youngest brother comes down with you, you shall see my face no more.’
24 ¶ “So it was, when we went up to your servant my father, that we told him the words of my lord.
25 And our father said, “Go back and buy us a little food.’
26 But we said, “We cannot go down; if our youngest brother is with us, then we will go down; for we may not see the man’s face unless our youngest brother is with us.’
27 Then your servant my father said to us, “You know that my wife bore me two sons;
28 and the one went out from me, and I said, “Surely he is torn to pieces”; and I have not seen him since.
29 But if you take this one also from me, and calamity befalls him, you shall bring down my gray hair with sorrow to the grave.’
30 ¶ “Now therefore, when I come to your servant my father, and the lad is not with us, since his life is bound up in the lad’s life,
31 it will happen, when he sees that the lad is not with us, that he will die. So your servants will bring down the gray hair of your servant our father with sorrow to the grave.
32 For your servant became surety for the lad to my father, saying, “If I do not bring him back to you, then I shall bear the blame before my father forever.’
33 Now therefore, please let your servant remain instead of the lad as a slave to my lord, and let the lad go up with his brothers.
34 For how shall I go up to my father if the lad is not with me, lest perhaps I see the evil that would come upon my father?”

Recognizing the impact this is going to have on his father if Benjamin does not return with them, Judah (remember his pledge to Jacob in 43:9 - see above) makes an impassioned plea to Joseph for Benjamin's release: "This is going to kill our father; let me stay as your servant instead of Benjamin." Judah has come a long way hasn't he? This selfless act of sacrifice might just do the trick. Judah has passed the test! Now don't miss the BIG picture here. Though innocent, Judah offers to pay the penalty for his brother Benjamin. Isn't that exactly what Judah's descendant, Jesus Christ, would one day do on the cross?

The passage doesn't say whether or not Judah believed that Benjamin was innocent of that for which he was being accused. That's really a moot issue at this point. To proclaim Benjamin's innocence before Joseph would implicate Joseph or his servants. That doesn't sound like a competent defense. Naaaa...just throw yourself on the mercy of the court (so to speak).

Incidentally, it was Judah back in Genesis 37:26-27 (see notes) who had persuaded his brothers not to kill Joseph, but sell him as a slave to the Midianite traders instead. Although, he was in on the conspiracy, along with the other brothers, to fabricate Joseph's death when they returned to Jacob.

Finally...Joseph's test of his brothers is over (Genesis 45)

1 Then Joseph could not restrain himself before all those who stood by him, and he cried out, “Make everyone go out from me!” So no one stood with him while Joseph made himself known to his brothers.
2 And he wept aloud, and the Egyptians and the house of Pharaoh heard it.
3 ¶ Then Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph; does my father still live?” But his brothers could not answer him, for they were dismayed in his presence.
4 And Joseph said to his brothers, “Please come near to me.” So they came near. Then he said: “I am Joseph your brother, whom you sold into Egypt.
5 But now, do not therefore be grieved or angry with yourselves because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life.
6 For these two years the famine has been in the land, and there are still five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvesting.
7 And God sent me before you to preserve a posterity for you in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance.
8 So now it was not you who sent me here, but God; and He has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house, and a ruler throughout all the land of Egypt.
9 ¶ “Hurry and go up to my father, and say to him, “Thus says your son Joseph: ‘God has made me lord of all Egypt; come down to me, do not tarry.
10 You shall dwell in the land of Goshen, and you shall be near to me, you and your children, your children’s children, your flocks and your herds, and all that you have.
11 There I will provide for you, lest you and your household, and all that you have, come to poverty; for there are still five years of famine.” ’
12 ¶ “And behold, your eyes and the eyes of my brother Benjamin see that it is my mouth that speaks to you.
13 So you shall tell my father of all my glory in Egypt, and of all that you have seen; and you shall hurry and bring my father down here.”
14 ¶ Then he fell on his brother Benjamin’s neck and wept, and Benjamin wept on his neck.
15 Moreover he kissed all his brothers and wept over them, and after that his brothers talked with him.
16 ¶ Now the report of it was heard in Pharaoh’s house, saying, “Joseph’s brothers have come.” So it pleased Pharaoh and his servants well.
17 And Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Say to your brothers, ‘Do this: Load your animals and depart; go to the land of Canaan.
18 Bring your father and your households and come to me; I will give you the best of the land of Egypt, and you will eat the fat of the land.
19 Now you are commanded—do this: Take carts out of the land of Egypt for your little ones and your wives; bring your father and come.
20 Also do not be concerned about your goods, for the best of all the land of Egypt is yours.’ ”
21 ¶ Then the sons of Israel did so; and Joseph gave them carts, according to the command of Pharaoh, and he gave them provisions for the journey.
22 He gave to all of them, to each man, changes of garments; but to Benjamin he gave three hundred pieces of silver and five changes of garments.
23 And he sent to his father these things: ten donkeys loaded with the good things of Egypt, and ten female donkeys loaded with grain, bread, and food for his father for the journey.
24 So he sent his brothers away, and they departed; and he said to them, “See that you do not become troubled along the way.”
25 ¶ Then they went up out of Egypt, and came to the land of Canaan to Jacob their father.
26 And they told him, saying, “Joseph is still alive, and he is governor over all the land of Egypt.” And Jacob’s heart stood still, because he did not believe them.
27 But when they told him all the words which Joseph had said to them, and when he saw the carts which Joseph had sent to carry him, the spirit of Jacob their father revived.
28 Then Israel said, “It is enough. Joseph my son is still alive. I will go and see him before I die.”

You must admit that the brothers (except for Benjamin) had all of this coming after what they had done to Joseph back when he was 17 years old. However, when Judah talks about the adverse impact all of this is going to have on dear father, Joseph just breaks down with emotion. This is the chapter that perhaps makes this the most touching story in the Bible. It's good to know that Joseph is not bitter. He identifies himself to his brothers. Talk about speechless - notice verse 3, "Then Joseph said to his brothers, 'I am Joseph; does my father still live?' But his brothers could not answer him, for they were dismayed in his presence." Joseph takes them off the hook in verse 5, "But now, do not therefore be grieved or angry with yourselves because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life." What a declaration! He indicates that God had orchestrated their evil deed for the purpose of the future preservation of their lives. He goes on to say in verse 8, "So now it was not you who sent me here, but God." I'm certain they are happy to hear Joseph justify their actions as he did. It's a big ol' family reunion; bring Dad, and it's complete.

I wonder if any one of the brothers is remembering at this point their angry words to the 17-year old dreamer Joseph back in Genesis 37:8 (see notes), "And his brothers said to him, “Shall you indeed reign over us? Or shall you indeed have dominion over us?” So they hated him even more for his dreams and for his words." I'm quite certain, if they did, that nobody dares bring that up.

It should be noted, however, that the brothers remain skeptical of Joseph's forgiveness all the way down to the death of their father, Jacob. Let's look ahead for a moment to Genesis 50:15 (see notes) after Jacob had passed away, "When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, 'Perhaps Joseph will hate us, and may actually repay us for all the evil which we did to him.'"

Note: We can calculate Joseph's age here based upon Genesis 41:46 (see notes) and Genesis 45:11. He was 30 when he took charge followed by seven years of prosperity. Here we see that they are two years into the famine. That makes Joseph around 39 years old here. They had not seen him since he was 17. It's no wonder they did not recognize him, especially as the second most powerful man in Egypt.

Joseph emphasizes in verse 13, "Hey, be sure to tell Dad how well I've done!" I guess there was something to those teenage dreams he had which seemed to irritate his brothers as well as his father back then. When word gets to Pharaoh of the reunion, he's tickled as well. He instructs Joseph to provide for all their needs and bring the family back to live off of Egypt's prosperity. They load up an extravagant caravan and return to Canaan to fetch Jacob. Joseph's parting instructions to them in verse 24 are interesting when he says, "See that you do not become troubled along the way." In other words, "Don't y'all bicker and argue on the way back." That's like telling a dog not to bark or a bird not to chirp, isn't it?

I'll admit; I'm a little disappointed that the next scene is just three verses long. I mean, there's a lot of explaining that has to take place before Jacob; the 22-year cover up is over. I wonder which brother was designated to tell Jacob the whole story. How do you even introduce a story like that? "Hey Dad, we've been meaning to tell you that we faked Joseph's death 22 years ago, and he's really alive...and he's not bitter." Obviously, Jacob's initial reaction is one of disbelief. It takes the royal caravan parked outside his door to convince him that Joseph, his favorite son, is the big man in Egypt. It's off to Egypt we go!

We should give some attention to Genesis 45:10, "You shall dwell in the land of Goshen, and you shall be near to me, you and your children, your children’s children, your flocks and your herds, and all that you have." Joseph has a multi-generational plan that significantly deviates from that which had been given to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He fully intends for them to stay in Egypt rather than return to the land that God had promised. Of course, God had told Abraham back in Genesis 15:13-14 (see notes) that his descendants would spend 400 years in captivity; Joseph becomes the tool of that prophecy which brings it to pass.

In Genesis 46 (see notes), the whole family of Jacob packs up and heads for Egypt.