Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 43:33-34

33 And they sat before him, the firstborn according to his birthright, and the youngest according to his youth: and the men marvelled one at another.

34 And he took and sent messes unto them from before him: but Benjamin’s mess was five times so much as any of theirs. And they drank, and were merry with him.

Joseph sends portions of food to his brothers, but the portion to Benjamin is vastly larger than what is given to all the other brothers. It is so much more that I feel it could not have gone overlooked. What did Benjamin and the others think by this clear display of favoritism?

And for Joseph’s part, was this really just favoritism towards his blood brother, or was he conducting a calculated experiment on his older brothers? Showing preference towards a son of Rachel may have been meant as a callback to the preference Jacob had had for Joseph. Would the other brothers be made jealous of Benjamin just as they had been of Joseph? And when Joseph moved into the next part of his plan, in which there would be an opportunity for the other brothers to get rid of this “golden child,” would they happily take it?

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 43:31-32

31 And he washed his face, and went out, and refrained himself, and said, Set on bread.

32 And they set on for him by himself, and for them by themselves, and for the Egyptians, which did eat with him, by themselves: because the Egyptians might not eat bread with the Hebrews; for that is an abomination unto the Egyptians.

The Egyptians viewed eating at the same table with the Hebrews as an abomination. According to Herodotus, the Egyptians also refused to mingle their cuisine with the Greeks, so this was not an exclusive rejection to only the Hebrews. The word “abomination” suggests that there is more at play here than simple prejudice, it makes it seem that this was a matter of religious principle.

In a few chapters we will also learn that the chief occupation of Abraham’s descendants, sheep-herding, was also considered an abomination to the Egyptians. This may be a clue to what the central concern was. The Hebrews may have been raising, killing, and eating animals that were deemed sacred by the Egyptians.

This makes me wonder about Joseph’s relationship to the Egyptians on the matter. He’s making a point of eating apart from his brothers, but also it sounds as if he is apart from the Egyptian servants in his own household. Does this mean that despite all the customs and manners that Joseph had adopted, and even though he was a ruler among them, that he was still an abomination at their table? Perhaps the status of being unclean was baked into his blood, no matter how he conducted himself now. Of course, he wouldn’t eat with his brothers either, because that would reveal that he wasn’t the bona fide Egyptian that he appeared to be. So he dines alone, a man caught between two worlds, an imperfect fit for both.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 43:27-30

27 And he asked them of their welfare, and said, Is your father well, the old man of whom ye spake? Is he yet alive?

28 And they answered, Thy servant our father is in good health, he is yet alive. And they bowed down their heads, and made obeisance.

29 And he lifted up his eyes, and saw his brother Benjamin, his mother’s son, and said, Is this your younger brother, of whom ye spake unto me? And he said, God be gracious unto thee, my son.

30 And Joseph made haste; for his bowels did yearn upon his brother: and he sought where to weep; and he entered into his chamber, and wept there.

For a third time the brothers bow themselves to Joseph. God has made good on His promises and then some!

Joseph is able to inquire whether his father is still alive under the guise of general politeness. But then his pretended formalities are tested when he sees Benjamin before him. Up to this point Joseph has had multiple interactions with his brothers, but only the ones who betrayed him. This is now the first time that he is seeing someone from his old life with whom he had a positive relationship. He had already been reunited to the worst parts of his past, but now here is the best!

Is it any wonder then that he finally loses it? At least he is able to hold back the tears long enough to retreat to a private room. For all we know, Joseph might have always intended to eventually reveal who he was to his brothers, but I would imagine that at this point he has to do so. He is so close to being a brother to Benjamin again, but only if he reveals his true identity. He doesn’t take that step just yet, but I assume that he expected to do so soon.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 43:24-26

24 And the man brought the men into Joseph’s house, and gave them water, and they washed their feet; and he gave their asses provender.

25 And they made ready the present against Joseph came at noon: for they heard that they should eat bread there.

26 And when Joseph came home, they brought him the present which was in their hand into the house, and bowed themselves to him to the earth.

The brothers have some time to prepare for Joseph. Their animals are fed, their feet are washed, and they get out their gift of fruits and spices. Then they carry the gift in their hands and bow themselves before Joseph once more.

Once they had scoffed at the idea that he would ever be greater them, but twice he dreamed of his brothers making obeisance to him and twice now they have done it. And not because they were compelled to, it was their own decision, based on the fact that they saw him as being…well…greater than they.

Not only this, but they also take the greatest of their fruits, and removed them from themselves, to offer them as a gift to Joseph. He literally is taking their best, and once again by their own will. God had elevated Joseph above others first, but now his brothers are elevating him above themselves as well.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 43:19-23

19 And they came near to the steward of Joseph’s house, and they communed with him at the door of the house,

20 And said, O sir, we came indeed down at the first time to buy food:

21 And it came to pass, when we came to the inn, that we opened our sacks, and, behold, every man’s money was in the mouth of his sack, our money in full weight: and we have brought it again in our hand.

22 And other money have we brought down in our hands to buy food: we cannot tell who put our money in our sacks.

23 And he said, 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. And he brought Simeon out unto them.

Jacob’s sons were so afraid to enter Joseph’s home, that they wouldn’t cross the threshold until they had made their case to his steward. There has been no insinuation or accusation brought against them, but they take the initiative and admit in advance that their money was somehow returned to their sacks of grain last time, and they now offer it all back again. Perhaps this forthrightness is driven more by fear than integrity, but it still shows them in a better light than if they had tried to conceal things.

As for the steward, he must have been let in on some of Joseph’s plot beforehand. He claims that there was no money missing on their end, it must have been some miraculous blessing that provided the extra treasure in their sacks. Then, to further show the brothers that all is well, the steward fetches Simeon from the prison and family is finally reunited.

Thus begins an experience that will be totally opposite to the brothers’ visit to Egypt. Whereas everything seemed to go wrong for them beforehand everything is now going right!

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 43:15-18

15 And the men took that present, and they took double money in their hand, and Benjamin; and rose up, and went down to Egypt, and stood before Joseph.

16 And 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.

17 And the man did as Joseph bade; and the man brought the men into Joseph’s house.

18 And the men were afraid, because they were brought into Joseph’s house; and they said, Because of the money that was returned in our sacks at the first time are we brought in; that he may seek occasion against us, and fall upon us, and take us for bondmen, and our asses.

Jacob’s sons set out as instructed, bringing with them the present, the double-money, and their youngest brother. Once again they come to Egypt, and once again they find themselves dealing directly with the great Egyptian ruler Zaphnath-paaneah, who is in reality Joseph. And so, at last, Joseph sees Benjamin, and he is moved. Shortly he will show an abundance of tender and caring feeling towards him.

Rather than conduct his business with his brothers right away, Joseph makes ready for the second stage of his test. He is going to play the part of gracious host and treat them kindly, presumably to set his brothers at ease.

But Joseph’s brothers do not receive the invitation to his house with any enthusiasm! Thus far Zaphnath-paaneah, has seemed extremely paranoid towards them, and they immediately assume that this is all a trap. What would stop him from doing whatever mischief he desired to them, just as soon as the doors to the outside world were closed?

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 43:11-14

11 And their father Israel said unto them, If it must be so now, do this; take of the best fruits in the land in your vessels, and carry down the man a present, a little balm, and a little honey, spices, and myrrh, nuts, and almonds:

12 And take double money in your hand; and the money that was brought again in the mouth of your sacks, carry it again in your hand; peradventure it was an oversight:

13 Take also your brother, and arise, go again unto the man:

14 And God Almighty give you mercy before the man, that he may send away your other brother, and Benjamin. If I be bereaved of my children, I am bereaved.

At last Jacob relents, allowing his sons to take Benjamin with them to Egypt. I see in this a foreshadowing of God the Father entrusting his only begotten son to Joseph, the husband of Mary, who would also have to go down to Egypt to save a life.

Jacob also has the good idea to send his sons with a gift. I would imagine “the best fruits in the land” would be even more valuable than usual, given the ongoing famine. Also it is wise to carry double money so they can get ahead of any accusation of thievery, proving their innocence by bringing the misplaced money back.

And so Jacob surrenders Benjamin to God, hoping that by His mercy the son will be brought back, and even Simeon as well. In this trial Jacob is much like his grandfather Abraham, committing his son to the Almighty and trusting only in grace.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 43:6-10

6 And Israel said, Wherefore dealt ye so ill with me, as to tell the man whether ye had yet a brother?

7 And they said, The man asked us straitly of our state, and of our kindred, saying, Is your father yet alive? have ye another brother? and we told him according to the tenor of these words: could we certainly know that he would say, Bring your brother down?

8 And Judah said unto Israel his father, Send the lad with me, and we will arise and go; that we may live, and not die, both we, and thou, and also our little ones.

9 I will be surety for him; of my hand shalt thou require him: if I bring him not unto thee, and set him before thee, then let me bear the blame for ever:

10 For except we had lingered, surely now we had returned this second time.

Jacob complains that they ever told the Egyptians about Benjamin. It seems a strange thing to have disclosed, but the sons maintain that the line of inquiry had driven directly to that matter. Very bad luck it might seem to Jacob, but really there was no luck involved in it at all. Joseph knew exactly what he was getting at and intentionally directed the conversation there.

At this point Jacob’s complaints might simply be an attempt postpone the inevitable. I imagine he already knows that he is sending Benjamin with them, but he wants to express his frustration a bit more before doing so.

Now Judah turns to impassioned promises, much like Reuben did earlier. He will be responsible for the lad, and he will answer for anything bad that happens to him. The very same as Reuben has already pledged.

Judah and Reuben. The eldest and youngest of Leah, two blood brothers of Simeon, who still languishes in the Egyptian prison. Reuben who diverted his brothers’ intention to kill Joseph, and Judah who I have suspicions did the same. Thus, both of these men seem to have a track record of brotherly protection, the ones that Jacob could trust most to make good on their promise. And here, in this moment, their brotherly care is twofold. They are pledging protection of one brother, in order that they might rescue a second.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 43:1-5

1 And the famine was sore in the land.

2 And it came to pass, when they had eaten up the corn which they had brought out of Egypt, their father said unto them, Go again, buy us a little food.

3 And Judah spake unto him, saying, The man did solemnly protest unto us, saying, Ye shall not see my face, except your brother be with you.

4 If thou wilt send our brother with us, we will go down and buy thee food:

5 But if thou wilt not send him, we will not go down: for the man said unto us, Ye shall not see my face, except your brother be with you.

We don’t know how much corn the brothers bought the first time, nor how long it lasted, but it wasn’t enough. Once again, they found themselves unable to preserve their own lives, and needing outside help. I wonder whether this could have been by design on Joseph’s part. He had the benefit of knowing exactly how long this famine was going to last, and so he might have known that the amount of corn the brothers bought would not be enough to get all the way through. They would have to come back whether they wanted to or not.

Which is exactly the same conclusion that Jacob comes to. The sons must go back to Egypt and must buy more grain. But in his request, he leaves out any mention of Benjamin, and whether the boy will be allowed to go with the rest of his brothers.

Earlier Reuben had made impassioned promises to try and get his father to send Benjamin and it hadn’t worked. Now Judah uses a different tactic. He does not open with pleading or solemn oaths, Judah point-blank refuses the old man’s request unless he consents to send the boy. Jacob must choose between risking Benjamin’s life and risking everyone’s life…including Benjamin’s. No further argument is necessary, the correct choice is obvious.