Drought won’t quit, so Joseph’s brothers come back
- 1 Drought continued to suck the life out of Canaan.1
- 2 Jacob’s family eventually ate all the grain his sons bought in Egypt. So he told them, “Go back to Egypt and buy more food.”
- 3 Judah said, “We can’t do that. The governor sternly warned us about it. He said, ‘Unless you bring your brother with you, don’t expect to ever see my face again.’
- 4 We can go back to Egypt, but only if you let us take our brother along.
- 5 If you don’t send Benjamin with us, we won’t go. There would be no point. The governor told us, ‘Unless you bring your brother with you, don’t expect to ever see my face again.’”
- 6 Israel2 told his sons, “This is all your fault. Why did you do this to me? Why did you open your big mouth and tell that man you had another brother?”
- 7 They told their dad, “We were answering his specific questions. ‘Is your father still alive? Do you have another brother?’ All we did was answer him. How could anyone have known he was going to order us to bring our brother to see him?”
- 8 Judah told his father Israel, “Trust me with the boy and we’ll leave right now. We need to do this to survive. We don’t want to starve to death—me, you, and our little ones.
- 9 I’ve got this. You have my guarantee that I will personally take responsibility for the boy and for whatever happens to him. If I don’t bring him back home, you can lay all the blame on me.
- 10 If we hadn’t wasted all this time, we could have been there and back not once, but twice.”
- 11 Israel told his boys, “If we have to do this, let’s do it right. Take down some of the best produce we have and give it to the governor as presents. Be sure to take some healing balm cream, honey, fragrant dried sap, myrrh, pistachio nuts, and almonds.
- 12 Take double the money you’ll need so you can return the money you carried back in your grain sacks. Someone in Egypt may have left it there by mistake.
- 13 Go ahead and take your brother now. Go back and see the governor.
- 14 May God All-Powerful3 have mercy on you and make the governor treat you with compassion by releasing your other brother and sending Benjamin home. As for me, if no one comes home and I’m left with nothing but grief, then that’s the way it will be.”
- 15 The brothers packed up gifts for the governor. They took twice as much money as they needed to buy grain. Then they left for Egypt, with Benjamin. When they arrived, they went to see Joseph.
- 16 Joseph spotted Benjamin in the group. He told his personal assistant, “Bring the men inside. Butcher an animal and cook it. These men are going to eat with me at noon.”
- 17 The servant did as he was told. He brought the men into Joseph’s house.
- 18 This terrified the brothers, getting hauled into the governor’s house. They said, “They’re doing this to us because of that money someone stuffed in our grain sacks. They’re going to say we stole it. Then they’re going to take our donkeys and everything we own, and they’re going to sell us as slaves.”
- 19 The brothers went over to Joseph’s personal assistant, at the doorway into the house.
- 20 They said, “Please sir, we wanted you to know that we came down once before to buy food.
- 21 On our way back home when we stopped for the night and opened our sacks, we couldn’t believe our eyes. Each one of us found our money bag inside the grain sacks, sitting right at the top. We’ve brought that money back to you.
- 22 We also brought money to buy more food. We have no idea who put that money inside our grain sacks.”
- 23 “Relax,” the man said. “You’re not in trouble. Your God and the God of your father arranged it. He’s the reason you got your money back. I had your money; I know you paid.” Then he brought Simeon out to meet them.
- 24 Joseph’s personal assistant took the brothers inside, gave them water, and washed their feet. He fed their donkeys, too.
- 25 When the brothers found out they were going to eat with Joseph at noon, they got his presents ready to give him.
Joseph sees brother Benjamin, sobs
- 26 When Joseph came home, the brothers brought his presents into the house, carried them over to him, and bowed at his feet.
- 27 He asked them how they were doing. And he said, “How is your elderly father whom we talked about before? Is he still alive?”
- 28 “Yes,” they said. “Your servant, our father, is alive and well.” They bowed again in respect.
- 29 Joseph looked up and saw his young brother Benjamin, his mother’s only other son. He said, “Is this your youngest brother, the one we talked about earlier?” Joseph spoke directly to Benjamin: “May God be good to you, my son.”
- 30 Joseph rushed out of the room. He was overcome with emotion from seeing his little brother after all these years. He found an empty room and cried.
- 31 He washed the tears off his face, composed himself, and came back out to eat. “Go ahead and serve the food,” he said.
- 32 They served Joseph as he sat alone at his table. They served the brothers who sat together nearby. They served the other Egyptians who ate together at a separate table. Egyptians wouldn’t eat with Hebrews because Hebrews disgusted them.
- 33 Egyptians sat the brothers side-by-side in the order they were born. The brothers looked at each other, stunned at being seated in that order.
- 34 Joseph took food from his own table and served it to the brothers. He gave Benjamin five times more than he gave the others. This was a feast. Everyone ate and drank as much as they wanted.
Israel and Palestinian territories.
Jacob’s new name, given by God (Genesis 32:28).
El-Shaddai in Hebrew.
Simeon is in an Egyptian jail, being held hostage until his brothers bring Benjamin down to see Joseph. The Genesis writer does not say how long Simeon stays in jail. It could have been up to two years, since that’s how far they are into the drought when Joseph later frees Simeon (see 45:11). What kind of message does Jacob send to his sons when, during that stretch, he refuses to send Benjamin down to meet Joseph? And how could that affect the relationships among the brothers?
Jacob took several precautions to make sure Benjamin would get home safely. What do you think was the smartest thing he did?
When Joseph’s brothers arrived in Egypt and told Joseph’s assistant who greeted them about the money they found in their grain sacks when they got home, they got a surprising response—both in words and in actions. As they were talking among themselves, trying to make sense of this, what do you think some of the chatter sounded like?
When Joseph finally got to see his only full-blooded brother, Benjamin, he could not hold it together. “He found an empty room and cried” (43:30). What does it feel like to be reunited with a long-lost family member or friend? What are some of the feelings and questions that may have been overwhelming Joseph?
It might surprise many readers that Egyptians were prejudiced against the Hebrews. It’s a surprise partly because the Hebrews hadn’t yet grown beyond the 12 sons of Jacob along with their kids. But the Genesis writer reports that “Egyptians wouldn’t eat with Hebrews because Hebrews disgusted them” (43:32). So when Joseph arranged a meal for his brothers, they had to eat at one table and Joseph’s associates had to eat at a second table. What do you think the Egyptians had against the Hebrews? Or do you think they were suspicious of foreigners in general?
Why on earth would Joseph arrange for Benjamin to get more food than the others: “He gave Benjamin five times more than he gave the others” (43:34)? Hadn’t Joseph figured out the damage it causes when you show someone special treatment—like giving one son a fancy robe fit for a king and then giving all the other sons a robe fit for milking goats?
LIFE APPLICATION. Star Trek fans are familiar with this line spoken by Spock in the movie The Wrath of Khan: “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.” That is pretty much the reason Benjamin ended up in Egypt: “Judah told his father Israel, ‘Trust me with the boy and we’ll leave right now. We need to do this to survive. We don’t want to starve to death—me, you, and our little ones” (43:8). When have you seen the needs of one person voluntarily sacrificed for the needs of others?
LIFE APPLICATION. The segregation that we read about at the meal—Egyptians at one table, Hebrews at another—is not all that unfamiliar today. In any given church, for example, people of the same race tend to worship with each other. Why is that? Is it wrong? And if this segregation needs fixing, what’s the fix?