Joseph Reunites with Benjamin [Genesis 43:15-34 Study]

Jacob gives final instructions to his sons who return to Egypt with Benjamin. Joseph reunites with Benjamin, and Joseph hosts a celebratory feast.

Joseph Reunites with Benjamin [Genesis 43:15-34 Study]
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  • In our last episode, we remember Jacob had no choice but to send his sons for a return trip to Egypt to purchase more food.
  • Without food from Egypt, Jacob’s family will starve and perish.
  • It took Judah’s surety guarantee to convince Jacob to allow Benjamin to go to Egypt. And I had mentioned that we will delve deeper into this significance in Genesis 44.
  • I also highlighted that in Genesis 43, we see an important turning point in Jacob’s trust in God.
    • He entrusts his sons to God and gives the following benediction: “May God Almighty grant you mercy before the man, and may he send back your other brothers and Benjamin. And as for me, if I am bereaved, I am bereaved.”
    • Jacob places his complete confidence in the invisible hand of God’s providence.
  • Remember Jacob’s grandfather Abraham in Genesis 22. Even though God had promised that through Isaac would come the blessing of many descendants and many nations, God asks Abraham to take his beloved son Isaac to Mount Moriah to sacrifice him.
    • Abraham obeyed God, and when Isaac asked his father where was the lamb for the burnt offering, Abraham replied, “God will provide.”
    • Abraham didn’t know how God would provide, but he trusted God - even if it meant losing his son.
  • Job shared the same perspective when he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s mom, and naked shall I return. Yahweh gave, and Yahweh has taken away; blessed be the name of Yahweh.”
  • We touched that the apostle Paul learned this secret of Christian contentment.
  • So Jacob commanded his son to do three things: bring gifts to appease the prime minister, bring double the money to compensate for the food that was received without payment, and bring Benjamin.

Let’s read the first of two passages that we’ll cover in this episode beginning in verse 15.

Gen. 43:15   So the men took this present, and they took double the money with them, and Benjamin. They arose and went down to Egypt and stood before Joseph. 16 When Joseph saw Benjamin with them, he said to the steward of his house, “Bring the men into the house, and slaughter an animal and make ready, for the men are to dine with me at noon.” 17 The man did as Joseph told him and brought the men to Joseph’s house. 18 And the men were afraid because they were brought to Joseph’s house, and they said, “It is because of the money, which was replaced in our sacks the first time, that we are brought in, so that he may assault us and fall upon us to make us servants and seize our donkeys.” 19 So they went up to the steward of Joseph’s house and spoke with him at the door of the house, 20 and said, “Oh, my lord, we came down the first time to buy food. 21 And when we came to the lodging place we opened our sacks, and there was each man’s money in the mouth of his sack, our money in full weight. So we have brought it again with us, 22 and we have brought other money down with us to buy food. We do not know who put our money in our sacks.” 23 He replied, “Peace to you, do not be afraid. Your God and the God of your father has put treasure in your sacks for you. I received your money.” Then he brought Simeon out to them. 24 And when the man had brought the men into Joseph’s house and given them water, and they had washed their feet, and when he had given their donkeys fodder, 25 they prepared the present for Joseph’s coming at noon, for they heard that they should eat bread there.

  • Jacob’s sons did exactly as their father had instructed. They took gifts, double money, and Benjamin.
  • Now Joseph was astute. He knew exactly how much food was given to his brothers. He knew when they would likely run out of food, and so he waits his brothers’ return. And as expected, Joseph’s brother return. And they return with Benjamin.
  • What happens next reminds me of Luke 15 and the picture Jesus painted with His parable of the prodigal son.
    • What happened when the father sees his lost son. The father orders his servants to bring the fattened calf, kill it, and prepare a feast of celebration.
    • Similarly, we see Joseph call the steward of his house to bring his brothers into his house, slaughter an animal, and prepare a feast of celebration.
  • I should briefly note that God did not give his dietary laws to his people until more than 400 years later, so this meal obviously would not be kosher.
  • So Joseph’s servant obeys and brings Joseph’s brothers to the house of Joseph.
  • Now remember Joseph’s brothers are petrified. Since their return back to Canaan, along with their father, Joseph’s brothers had feared the worst.
    • They feared that Simeon was likely punished for their perceived thief.
    • They feared additional retribution from the prime minister.
    • So when they learned they were being led to the prime minister’s house - they knew this was not typical protocol.
    • Their fears were not unwarranted. Remember in 2 Samuel 13 when Absalom had plotted to kill Ammon. He commanded his servants to kill Ammon while he Ammon was merry with wine.
    • So we get the third person omniscient narrator revealing the brother’s fear. “It’s because of the money that we are brought in, so he may assault us and make us slaves and seize our donkeys.”
  • So Joseph’s brothers bring a preliminary apology and defense to Joseph’s steward at the front door.
    • They explained that they had not intentionally taken the money, and they had returned double the money. They reported no knowledge on how the money had been returned into their sacks on their first trip.
  • Notice the steward’s response
    • He begins with Shalom = “Peace to you”
      • The brothers are gripped with fear from retaliation, but instead of receiving any retribution, the steward replies, “Shalom. Do not be afraid.”
    • He acknowledges that your God, the God of Jacob, has put this treasure of money in your sacks. I received your money.
      • The books are balanced. You do not own any more money.
      • The money that you discovered in your sacks was a divine gift from God Almighty.
      • I can’t imagine this response being something spontaneous from this steward. He was likely instructed from his master Joseph that should these men bring up the incident of the food and money, this is how you are to respond.
      • And we see the irony that the Egyptian steward had more trust in God than Joseph’s brothers had.
    • To prove his word, the steward brings out Simeon, unscathed and unharmed.
      • I think it’s interesting that there is no description of any response made by the brothers or Simeon. Not that the brothers were indifference, but I’m assuming if there was a great emotional response, something would have been recorded or mentioned by the narrator.
      • Notice also that we don’t see Simeon elated either. He was probably so well treated that he was not that excited to see his brothers and the threat of disrupting his life of comfort.
    • Next, we read that the steward performs three acts of hospitality.
      • The brothers are given water.
      • The brothers then have their feet washed.
      • Finally, their donkeys were given fodder.
    • The brother were then told to prepare to dine at noon when Joseph will arrive.
  • What could the brothers be thinking? Could the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob have shown them mercy. Not only were their lives spared from death or enslavement, Simeon was in perfect health. And they receive this unexpected warm welcome.

Let’s read on beginning in verse 26.

Gen. 43:26   When Joseph came home, they brought into the house to him the present that they had with them and bowed down to him to the ground. 27 And he inquired about their welfare and said, “Is your father well, the old man of whom you spoke? Is he still alive?” 28 They said, “Your servant our father is well; he is still alive.” And they bowed their heads and prostrated themselves. 29 And he lifted up his eyes and saw his brother Benjamin, his mother’s son, and said, “Is this your youngest brother, of whom you spoke to me? God be gracious to you, my son!” 30 Then Joseph hurried out, for his compassion grew warm for his brother, and he sought a place to weep. And he entered his chamber and wept there. 31 Then he washed his face and came out. And controlling himself he said, “Serve the food.” 32 They served him by himself, and them by themselves, and the Egyptians who ate with him by themselves, because the Egyptians could not eat 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 at one another in amazement. 34 Portions were taken to them from Joseph’s table, but Benjamin’s portion was five times as much as any of theirs. And they drank and were merry with him.

  • Joseph finally arrives, and the brothers had prepared their gifts for presentation. And they bow down to Joseph a second time. Remember, the first time was during their first meeting in Genesis 42.
  • Joseph inquires about the welfare of his father Jacob, and notice that the brothers said, “Your servant our father is well.”
    • After explaining their father, Joseph’s servant, is alive, the brothers bowed their heads again and prostrated themselves.
    • By proxy, Jacob through his sons, is bowing and paying homage to the prime minister Joseph.
    • The Hebrew verbs translated “bowed down” and “prostrated” are generally referred to the act of paying homage to God, but occasionally they are used to show reverence for royalty.
    • Here again the fulfillment of Joseph’s two dreams back in Genesis 37.
  • Joseph now lifted up his eyes, presumably as the brothers finished prostrating themselves. And after more than 20 years, Joseph sees his mother’s son, his full brother, Benjamin.
    • He tries to keep his composure by saying “is this your youngest brother?” But he quickly excuses himself to find a place to weep.
    • Again, Joseph has experienced so much pain, so much hardship. We never see him break down until his reunion with his brothers.
    • He must have wept for some time, for he needed to wash his face before returning.
  • Regaining his composure, Joseph gives the orders, “Serve the food.”
  • Now I need to make a few comments about this meal. First, let’s examine how the attendees were arranged in this meal.
    • Notice the separation of the people.
      • Joseph ate by himself
      • The brothers ate by themselves.
      • And the Egyptians ate by themselves.
    • We are given additional explanation that the Egyptians did not ate with foreigners, especially the Hebrews who were shepherds. Succinctly put, to eat with Hebrews “was an abomination.”
      • In other words, for the Egyptians to eat with the Hebrews was detestable, morally repugnant. This foreshadows the preparation of the Hebrews settling in the area of Goshen.
    • We are given further detail that the 11 brothers were given a seating chart at their table, and they were assigned by birth order.
      • If my math is correct, there are over 3 million different permutations that you could arrange the 10 older brothers, assuming that the Egyptians knew that Benjamin was the youngest brother. Even if they sat on a circular table, the odds of arranging the 10 brothers in birth order would be less than 1 in 360,000.
      • No wonder the brothers looked at each other in amazement.
      • The brothers must be realizing that all that they see is orchestrated by the invisible hand of God.
        • The money in their sacks.
        • The steward telling the brothers God had put it there.
        • They are now invited to a meal at the home of Egypt’s prime minister.
        • They are seated according to birth order.
    • One more important cultural tidbit we need to understand.
      • Unlike some cultures, in Ancient Egypt, people did not have meals family style. That is you did not have food placed at the center of the table for everyone to eat without restriction.
      • Rather, food was served individually. Furthermore, due to the severity of the famine, I would have expected the portions to be somewhat limited.
      • So the brothers would sit down, and like a sit down restaurant, your food would be brought to you on an individual plate. The food on your plate was yours alone, and it was courtesy to finish the food on your plate.
    • And on purpose, we see that the 10 older brothers were given equal portions of food, yet Benjamin was given not just twice as much food but five times as much.
      • So we see the favoritism that is shown to Benjamin over his brothers. And remember, Joseph understood fully the results of his calamity when his father Jacob showed him favoritism over his older brothers. But again, this is a minor test that precedes the greater test in the next chapter.
      • One more side note. The provision of food in this meal was from Joseph’s personal portion. This was not funded by the government. This was provided from Joseph’s personal resources, and it foreshadows Joseph being the source for his family’s future survival.
    • Now let me read the final sentence to the chapter again: “And they drank and were merry with him.”
  • There was no sign of envy. No jealousy or questioning. Only joy and merriment. Why?
    • All the fears that had been stored up over the recent months were completely expelled with this gesture of peace, hospitality, and celebration.
    • Simeon is still alive. Benjamin is honored. Their debt obligation has been cleared.
  • But remember Joseph’s master plan. His plan required the return of Benjamin.
    • Joseph has in a sense “softened his brothers’ defenses” with his welcome.
    • But now that Benjamin has returned to Egypt, Joseph gets to set in motion one final test to examine the true character of his older brothers. And we’ll see how this plan unfolds in our next episode in Genesis 44.

Bible Studies on the Story of Joseph

  1. Introduction to the Joseph Narrative in Genesis
  2. Joseph the Dreamer (Genesis 37:2–11)
  3. Joseph Sold to Slavery (Genesis 37:12–36)
  4. Judah and Tamar (Genesis 38)
  5. Joseph Tempted by Potiphar's Wife (Genesis 39)
  6. God Remembers Joseph in Prison (Genesis 40)
  7. Pharoah's Dreams Interpreted (Genesis 41:1–36)
  8. Joseph Made Prime Minister (Genesis 41:37–57)
  9. Jacob's Sons' First Trip to Egypt (Genesis 42)
  10. Jacob Accepts Judah's Guarantee (Genesis 43:1–14)
  11. Joseph Reunites with Benjamin (Genesis 43:15–34)
  12. Joseph Plants His Silver Cup (Genesis 44:1–17)
  13. Judah's Plea for Benjamin (Genesis 44:18–34)
  14. Judah Becomes Surety for Benjamin (Genesis 44)
  15. A Portrait of Forgiveness (Genesis 45:1–8)
  16. It Is Enough (Genesis 45:9–28)
  17. Prepared to Die (Genesis 46)
  18. God Rescues Egypt (Genesis 47:1–26)
  19. "God Will Be With You" (Genesis 47:27–48:22)
  20. Lion of Judah: When All Is Said and Done (Genesis 49)
  21. God Meant It For Good (Genesis 50)