The Plan of God in the Book of Genesis—Part 29

Benjamin Goes to Egypt


VERSES 1-14  “And the famine was sore in the land.
“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.
“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.
“If thou wilt send our brother with us, we will go down and buy thee food:
“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.
“And Israel said, Wherefore dealt ye so ill with me, as to tell the man whether ye had yet a brother?
“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?
“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.
“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:
“For except we had lingered, surely now we had returned this second time.
“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:
“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:
“Take also your brother, and arise, go again unto the man:
“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.”

Time was against Jacob’s decision not to let Benjamin be taken to Egypt. The famine continued. The supply of corn which had been brought back from Egypt by his sons was rapidly dwindling and something had to be done, so he again asked them to make another trip into the land of the Pharaohs. In reply Judah was the spokesman, and he reminded his father that it simply could not be done unless they were permitted to take Benjamin with them. ‘If thou wilt not send him, we will not go,’ he said to his father.

Jacob was like most of us when faced with a difficult decision, for he was inclined to blame others. He asked his sons why they had dealt ‘so ill’ with him by revealing to Egypt’s food administrator that they had a younger brother at home, who had stayed behind with his father. But Joseph had put his brothers in a difficult position by accusing them of being spies, and they had been quite ready to tell the whole truth in order to clear themselves. They could not be blamed for telling the truth concerning their family. As they explained to their father, they were not aware of what the result would be. Jacob doubtless realized this, and after Judah offered himself as surety for the safe return of Benjamin, he yielded to the inevitable.

According to the custom of the time, he instructed that a present should be taken to the ‘man’ with whom they would have to deal in Egypt—‘a little balm, and a little honey, spices, and myrrh, nuts, and almonds.’ This evidently was ‘fruit’ which had been stored before the famine, and possibly would be a rare treat in Egypt.

His instructions to take a double portion of money—that is, the amount that had been returned to them on the occasion of their first journey, and a supply sufficient to make the second purchase—is another evidence of Jacob’s caution. He explained concerning the returned money, ‘Perhaps it was an oversight.’ They were to be prepared as far as possible for any emergency that might arise.

After using his best judgment in his instructions to his sons, Jacob fell back on his sure tower of strength, saying, ‘God Almighty give you mercy before the man, that he may send away your other brother, and Benjamin.’ Having thus committed the whole expedition into the Lord’s care, Jacob became resigned to whatever the Divine will might be in the matter. ‘If I be bereaved of my children, I am bereaved,’ he said. This should not be construed as a fatalistic attitude, but, as we have suggested, a humble resignation to whatever the Lord’s will might be in the matter. How little he realized then what a wonderful blessing the Lord had in store for him and for the entire family.

VERSES 15-25  “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.
“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.
“And the man did as Joseph bade; and the man brought the men into Joseph’s house.
“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.
“And they came near to the steward of Joseph’s house, and they communed with him at the door of the house,
“And said, O sir, we came indeed down at the first time to buy food:
“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.
“And other money have we brought down in our hands to buy food: we cannot tell who put our money in our sacks.
“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.
“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.
“And they made ready the present against Joseph came at noon: for they heard that they should eat bread there.”

Jacob’s sons carried out his instructions, and when they arrived in Egypt they ‘stood before Joseph.’ When Joseph saw Benjamin with them he gave instructions to the ‘ruler’ of his house to take them into his home and to prepare dinner, explaining that he would be home to dine with them.

Again they became fearful, and little wonder. They had complied with the condition of bringing Benjamin back with them, and now the only thing they could think of to worry about was the money they had found in their sacks on the occasion of their former visit. Wishing to make sure that this would not be held against them, they made an opportunity to explain the situation to the steward of the house, hoping this would pave the way for a more favorable hearing in the matter.

They must have been greatly relieved when the steward said to them, ‘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.’ Then he returned Simeon to them. Now they would know that they were not to be accused of stealing the money, that it had been put in their sacks because Joseph had ordered it so. But why he had done so remained unanswered.

The steward’s reference to their God and to the God of their father, indicates that Joseph must have been ‘witnessing’ to his servants, and that this one, at least, had come to have a measure of faith in the God of Jacob. He had put the money in the sacks at the behest of Joseph, yet he explained that ‘their God’ had given them the treasure. This would indicate that Joseph had let it be known that Jacob’s God was also his God, and that his action in this was on account of their worshiping the same God. He could make this point clear without telling his servants that Jacob was his father.

It was not a simple matter in those days to entertain a group of travelers, and yet when guests were welcome, they were taken care of well. The statement in verse 24 reminds us of how Abraham treated the three angels who appeared to him as he sat in the tent door on the plains of Mamre. See Genesis 18:4. It is also similar to the account given in Genesis 19:2 and 24:32. Providing water for feet washing, and feeding beasts of burden was evidently considered essential to proper entertainment of guests.

Joseph was a busy man. After granting his brethren a brief audience in the morning, he continued with his duties at the food administration headquarters, having arranged to meet them in his home for lunch. This gave them a little time. Being assured by the steward that the money incident would not be held against them, they then unpacked their ‘present,’ and prepared to give it to Joseph when he came in. They were leaving no stone unturned in their efforts to make a favorable impression on the one who literally held their lives in his hands.

VERSES 26-34  “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.
“And he asked them of their welfare, and said, Is your father well, the old man of whom ye spake? Is he yet alive?
“And they answered, Thy servant our father is in good health, he is yet alive. And they bowed down their heads, and made obeisance.
“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.
“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.
“And he washed his face, and went out, and refrained himself, and said, Set on bread.
“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.
“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.
“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.”

When Joseph came home, they gave him the present, and bowed down before him. Little did they realize that in doing this they were fulfilling the dreams of Joseph which led to their jealousy of him and their determination to get rid of the ‘daydreamer’ lest he one day attempt to carry out his dream. Doubtless Joseph recalled his dreams, yet the realization of how they were being fulfilled did not arouse any feeling except sympathy and love for his brethren. Now he had an opportunity to serve his brethren, and like Jesus, of whom he was a type, he believed that the greatest among brethren should be the servant of all.

He inquired concerning the health of their father, and when he saw Benjamin he said, ‘God be gracious unto thee, my son.’ Suddenly he was overcome with emotion, and not wishing as yet to reveal his identity, he asked to be excused, and went off by himself to weep tears of joy in the realization that he was to be reunited with his family.

Joseph’s conduct, however, was becoming more and more strange to his brethren; and no wonder! Why should they be treated so royally? When Joseph arranged them at the table, it was according to their ages. How did he know their ages? In apportioning the food, Benjamin was especially favored. Why? No wonder they ‘marvelled one at another.’ Nevertheless, they did not permit the strangeness of the situation to keep them from being properly friendly with their host. While they did not know what was behind this unusual treatment, they entered into the spirit of the occasion, evidently following the lead of Joseph and ‘were merry with him.’

Perhaps by now, Joseph’s brethren may have begun to think that this time they would procure a supply of food and return to Canaan without being placed in embarrassing circumstances. But God had further lessons for them to learn, as we shall see in our next study.

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