GENESIS CHAPTER 43.
The Second Journey to Egypt.
THE PREPARATIONS FOR THE JOURNEY. - V.1. And the famine was sore in the land. V.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. Since the land of Canaan had no relief in the next year, but the famine rather grew worse, the store of grain was soon consumed, and the necessity was thereby suggested of their making a second journey to Egypt for the purpose of purchasing food, something to eat, for their households. V.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. There was a reason for the solemn testifying of Joseph, since he was so anxious to see his full brother, the only other son of his mother Rachel. Judah here steps to the front, Reuben having already failed, and Levi having lost the confidence of his father on account of the affair at Shechem. Judah’s attitude is gentle, but firm, and shows an unselfish devotion. V.4. If thou wilt send our brother with us, we will go down and buy thee food; v.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. That was the alternative and the condition, and Judah was not in a position to change it. V.6. And Israel said, Wherefore dealt ye so ill with me as to tell the man whether ye had yet a brother? Some of the petulance of old age appears here, though it is by no means excluded that Jacob occasionally suspected his sons of knowing more about the disappearance of Joseph than they cared to tell. V.7. And they said, The man asked us straitly of our state, he asked again and again, he was very inquisitive and insistent, 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, they answered him as best they could and exactly. Could we certainly know that he would say, Bring your brother down? The account of the preceding chapter is thus supplemented. V.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. Judah follows up the somewhat timid apology of his brothers with a bold stroke, which was intended to overcome the objections of his father by its suddenness and daring v.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 forever. As his forefather did here, thus did the great descendant of Judah, our Lord Jesus Christ, become surety for us, by offering Himself for us into the very mouth of death. V.10. For except we had lingered, surely now we had returned this second time. The delay occasioned by the father’s stubborn hesitation was threatening them all with starvation. There was need for quick, energetic action, and only so could they expect a joyful and speedy return.
JACOB PERMITS BENJAMIN TO GO. - V.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, literally, the song of the country, that for which the country is known and praised everywhere, of this they were to take in their packs: and carry down the man a present, a little balm, and a little honey, spices, and myrrh, nuts, and almonds. The balm of Gilead, for which Canaan was famed, the honey of grapes, that is, must, boiled down, the white resinous tragacanth-gum, the nuts which at that time were obtained in Southern Canaan, and the fruits of the almond-tree made very acceptable presents. V.12. And take double money in your hand, second money in addition to that which they felt they still owed the Egyptian ruler; and the money that was brought again in the mouth of your sacks, carry it again in your hand; peradventure it was an oversight. The shrewdness of Jacob wanted to provide for every emergency. V.13. Take also your brother, and arise, go again unto the man; v.14. and God Almighty give you mercy before the man, that he may send away your other brother (Simeon) and Benjamin. He places the matter entirely into the hands of God, trusting, in simple confidence, that the Lord will stretch out over his sons the hand of His almighty protection and keep especially Benjamin from all harm. If I be bereaved of my children, I am bereaved, That was not a word of hopeless despair, but of trusting resignation: Jacob was willing to take also that upon himself, if the Lord willed it, that he would be childless. Thus the believers at all times commit their ways to the Lord and put their full trust in Him.
THE BROTHERS BEFORE JOSEPH. - V.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. The journey is thus again disposed of in just a few words. V.16. And when Joseph saw Benjamin with them, he said to the ruler of his house, to his chief steward, Bring these men home, and slay, and make ready; for these men shall dine with me at noon. The presence of Benjamin in the midst of his brothers was to Joseph proof positive that they had practiced no treachery upon him, and so the order that they should dine with him at noon was a special favor. V.17. And the man did as Joseph bade; and the man brought the men in to Joseph’s house. The strangers from Canaan were simply bidden to follow. V.18. And the men were afraid because they were brought in to Joseph’s house; their former treatment caused them to suspect that they might again be thrown into prison. And they said, Because of the money that was returned in our sacks at the first time are we brought in, the punishment of a thief, if he was unable to make good the loss, consisted in his being sold as a slave; that he may seek occasion against us, and fall upon us, suddenly surprise and overcome them, and take us for bondmen, and our asses. This they wanted to avoid, if possible, since in the matter of the money, at any rate, they felt guiltless. V.19. And they came near to the steward of Joseph’s house, and they communed with him at the door of the house, before they ever consented to enter, v.20. and said, O sir, we came indeed down at the first time to buy food; v.21. and it came to pass, when we came to the inn, to the place where they camped for the night, that we opened our sacks, and, behold, every man’s money was in the mouth of his sack, our money in full weight. They summarize the two discoveries at the opening of the sacks, and prevent any accusation by declaring that their silver, in rings or pieces, had been there in full weight; and we have brought it again in our hand. V.22. And other money have we brought down in our hands to buy food; we can not tell who put our money in our sacks. Thus the brothers, with hearts full of fear, protested their innocence. V.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. With all gentle kindliness the steward, who may have known the true God through the teaching of Joseph, calmed their fears and bade them not to worry, since their money had come to him in due payment. And he brought Simeon out unto them, thereby bringing about a happy reunion. V.24. And the man brought the men in to Joseph’s house, and gave them water, and they washed their feet; and he gave their asses provender. He showed them every attention that is given to honored guests. V.25. And they made ready the present against Joseph came at noon; for they heard that they should eat bread there. They laid out the various items that made up the present for the Egyptian lord that he might see them at once upon entering and thus be inclined to look upon them with favor.
THE MEAL IN JOSEPH’S HOUSE. - V.26. And when Joseph came home, they brought him the present which was in their hand in to the house, and bowed themselves to him to the earth, thus again fulfilling the dream which Joseph had told them about twenty-two years before, chap. 37, 7. 10. V.27. And he asked them of their welfare, literally, he inquired after their peace, and said, Is your father well, the old man of whom ye spake? Is he yet alive? It was a most kind and solicitous inquiry, intended to put them at their ease, while it satisfied the anxiety of Joseph himself. V.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, thus showing the proper courtesy to Joseph and true filial respect for their father. V.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? It was the first time in twenty-two years that he saw this brother, and the latter had been an infant of about one year when Joseph had been sold into Egypt. And he said, God be gracious unto thee, my son, an expression both of true kindness and of relationship. V.30. And Joseph made haste; for his bowels did yearn upon his brother, his love excited his feelings to such an extent that he could no longer control himself; and he sought where to weep; and he entered in to his chamber, and wept there. In the seclusion of his own room he could give free vent to his feelings. V.31. And he washed his face, and went out, and refrained himself, he forcibly kept his feelings under control, and said, set on bread; thereby ordering dinner to be served. V.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. Cp. Deut. 12, 17; 16, 5; 17, 15. Although they all ate in the same room, they were served at different tables, as the rules of the caste required. Joseph belonged to the priestly caste and could therefore not sit down at the same table with laymen, and the Egyptians would not eat at the same table with members of a nomad tribe. V.33. And they sat before him, their table was placed so that he had a full view of it, the first-born according to his birthright, and the youngest according to his youth; and the men marveled one at an other; they wondered where the Egyptians had gotten the information regarding their respective ages. V.34. And he took and sent messes unto them from before him, portions from his own table, which was a mark of special distinction; but Benjamin’s mess was five times so much as any of theirs. This, in a way, was again a test, to see whether the brothers were still prone to become jealous. And they drank, and were merry with him, their reserve melted under the influence of the wine, and Joseph had the best opportunity to study them as their fear of the Egyptian ruler gave way to a respectful confidence. Thus the Lord mingles kindness with severity, and lets us taste His favor in full measure after some grievous experience has filled our hearts with fear.