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Deeper Commentary

Gen 43:1 The famine was severe in the land- As explained on :8, Jacob's sons were facing death by starvation. And yet they had been threatened with death in Egypt if they returned and were not totally truthful about their family situation (Gen. 42:18,20 "Bring your youngest brother to me; so will your words be verified, and you won’t die"). The same word for "severe" is used in the interpretation of Pharaoh's dreams in Gen. 41:31; the prophetic word came absolutely true. And Joseph would have been encouraged that likewise his dreams would come true.

Gen 43:2 It happened, when they had eaten up the grain which they had brought out of Egypt, their father said to them, Go again, buy us a little more food- "A little" perhaps hints at their poverty; they were now facing death and their resources were nearly spent. See on :8. We note that they could only afford "a little" food as presents for Joseph (see on :11). They 'ate up' the grain just as the evil cows ate up the fat ones; this is who they were being likened to. Their actions against Joseph 22 years before were not forgotten by God. We can easily assume that time works a kind of pseudo atonement for sins of youth. But God is outside of our concept of time and has no fading memory; He is more sensitive to sin than that, and works so that we might recognize the impact of our actions and come to repentance even many years later. The Hebrew phrase for "eaten up" occurs again in Am. 7:2,3: "It happened that when they made an end of eating [up] the grass of the land, then I said, Lord Yahweh, forgive, I beseech You! How could Jacob stand? For he is so small. Yahweh relented concerning this. It shall not be, says Yahweh". Jacob and his sons had indeed been brought down very small, to the point of death by starvation; and were saved only by God's grace manifested through the amazing grace and forgiveness of Joseph.

Gen 43:3 Judah spoke to him, saying, The man solemnly warned us, saying, ‘You shall not see my face, unless your brother is with you’- Joseph didn't actually say these words. So again we see that the movement of the brothers towards honesty is a case of three steps back and two forwards. Our own spiritual path is likewise never smoothly incremental. It's a jagged graph.

The Hebrew idea of solemn warning is used so often in the Pentateuch and later Old Testament, with the implication of Divine judgment. Am. 3:13 uses the same word concerning God's solemn testimony to "the house of Jacob", the family of Jacob, concerning the visiting of their past sins upon them; and always, judgment is in view. Joseph wanted them to think about the implications of having their brother with them. He referred not only to Benjamin but to himself. The same word is used in Gen. 37:2 of how Joseph had been "with" his brothers, and because of this he had seen their sins and reported to Jacob about them; and of how finally Joseph was "with" his brothers (Gen. 45:1,15). They would later have reflected how his demand was met- by his revelation of himself to them.

For months, and all the way back from Egypt to Canaan, the brothers would have mulled over every word of Joseph. "Your brother" must be with them before they saw his face... which of their two missing brothers did he mean? Surely Benjamin? But they would have wondered whether in fact he referred to Joseph, whom they claimed was dead, but he insisted they were lying about that. How could they find Joseph in Egypt and present him to this vizier? The ambiguity was intended, in order to exercise their consciences about whether Joseph really was dead, and what their chances were of meeting him in Egypt.


Gen 43:4 If you’ll send our brother with us, we’ll go down and buy you food- They preferred death by starvation rather than being dishonest before Joseph. They were responding, slowly, to the nudges towards honesty. And yet we still never find a total confession of sin before Jacob nor Joseph. The brothers must have discussed how they could get over the problem of Jacob not agreeing to let Benjamin go with them. They would have discussed every option. The easiest way out of their problem would have been to return to Joseph without Benjamin and tell him that Benjamin had died and therefore couldn't come with them. But they resisted that temptation to do as they had done previously over Joseph; to create a lie about the death of their brother. And their truthfulness was doubtless elicited by a strange sense that Joseph knew all about them.  The omniscience of God should have the same effect upon us. 

Gen 43:5 But if you’ll not send him, we’ll not go down, for the man said to us, ‘You shall not see my face, unless your brother is with you’- Seeing Joseph's face is paralleled with buying food and avoiding death by starvation (:4). The threat that they could not see Joseph's face without their brother with them clearly stuck in their minds (Gen. 43:3,5; 44:23,26). To see a person's face meant to be accepted by them; to not see their face meant rejection and the ending of relationship (Ex. 10:29; 2 Sam. 3:13; 14:24,28; Jer. 18:17). Everything was structured by Joseph so that they could not avoid this; for he would not delegate the work to others. Likewise personal encounter with the Lord Jesus and acceptance by Him, seeing His face, is the end point for each believing life. But it requires the absolute honesty without which repentance is impossible.

Gen 43:6 Israel said, Why did you treat me so badly, telling the man that you had another brother?- "Badly" is literally "evil". The brothers would have felt this was a false and unreasonable accusation; for since when was being honest 'doing evil'... The same word is used of the false accusation that they had 'done evil' in stealing Joseph's cup, which they had not done (Gen. 44:5). Joseph was the master psychologist. He knew that false accusation is likely to elicit in people a realization of their actual sins; for as we clamour to protest 'That's untrue! You're unreasonable in saying that!', there will arise an awareness that 'Although that is untrue, I am not innocent in other areas'. I have had exactly that experience and have seen others pass through it; this then is one of the reasons why God allows false accusation, misunderstanding and slander.

Gen 43:7 They said, The man asked directly concerning ourselves, and concerning our relatives, saying, ‘Is your father still alive? Have you another brother?’ We just answered his questions. Is there any way we could know that he would say, ‘Bring your brother down?’- They insisted that they had honestly answered the questions about their family and other brothers. But they had not done so, because they had lied about Joseph. But they still can't admit that. "We just answered his questions" is AV "We told him according to the tenor of these words". The exact phrase is used in Ex. 34:27: "After the tenor of these words" God made a covenant with Israel, and "solemnly testified" it, as Joseph had done (:3). This language of covenant relationship offered not only judgment if they were being dishonest; but also ongoing relationship if they were honest, such as "trading in the land". This offer of covenant relationship ought to have again made them wonder who exactly this man was with whom they had to deal. Joseph asked them to 'bring their brother down' to Egypt to remind them that this is what they had done to him, selling him to merchants who 'brought him down' to Egypt (Gen. 37:25; 39:1 s.w.). And the Lord likewise persistently works in our lives to restimulate memories of past issues, that we might repent and move further.

Gen 43:8 Judah said to Israel, his father, Send the boy with me, and we’ll get up and go, so that we may live, and not die, both we, and you, and also our little ones- "And not die" shows they were facing death unless they went to Egypt. And yet Joseph had threatened them with death if they returned and were not completely honest with him about their family situation (see on Gen. 42:18,20). This choice of death or death was to make them be completely honest about their family situation, which meant admitting what they had done to Joseph. All men in fact face this choice- and the logic of choosing repentance is so strong. Hence John the Baptist put before people the choice of fire or fire- unless they repented.

"The boy" means just that; but Benjamin was about 26, and already had ten sons and presumably daughters too (Gen. 46:21). Perhaps "the boy", 'kiddo', was the term he was known by. But he was even so smothered by his father; maybe his prolific fruitfulness had been because of multiple relationships, or a desire to prove himself independent from his father. Maybe Joseph guessed the psychological damage that Jacob's doting favouritism would have on a young man, and therefore wanted Benjamin to separate from Jacob for a while and to pass through some brief time of testing so that he might spiritually mature. For Joseph had been the spoilt child, and had matured only through being taken away from that whole scene.

Gen 43:9 I’ll be collateral for him. From my hand will you require him. If I don’t bring him to you, and set him before you, then let me bear the blame forever- "Blame" is literally 'the sin'. Judah was saying that if he did not let his younger brother return to Jacob, then this would be sin upon him forever. But the same word is used of how the brothers realized they had 'sinned' in this way regarding Joseph (Gen. 42:22). Judah was being brought to realize that what he and his brothers had done to Joseph was indeed sin; for they had not allowed him to return to Jacob. And that sin was upon him "forever"; only by God's utter grace could it be reversed. And it was.

"Collateral" means a pledge. Judah gives a pledge in Gen. 38:17 in connection with his immorality. It cannot be incidental that he later offers his life as a pledge to his father to guarantee the return of Benjamin (Gen. 43:8-10). We are surely meant to detect Judah's spiritual growth between these two "pledge" incidents. We note Judah offers to "bear the blame / sin" if Benjamin doesn't return. He has matured from seeking to hide his blame / sin in his behaviour with Tamar. Likewise the Judah who had caused his father so much grief over the loss of Joseph, becomes the Judah who is so careful to avoid causing his father such grief over Benjamin.

Gen 43:10 For if we hadn’t delayed, surely we would have returned a second time by now-  The brothers delay in their return, doubtless because of the struggle with their conscience; never spoken of together, but operating on each man individually. Will there be a 'delay' in Israel's latter day repentance, and therefore in the full manifestation of Christ? Every Jew in the last days will go through the silent struggle of conscience about Christ.

Gen 43:11 Their father, Israel, said to them, If it must be so, then do this. Take from the choice fruits of the land in your bags, and carry down a present for the man, a little balm, a little honey, spices and myrrh, nuts, and almonds- "A little..." hints at their absolute poverty as they faced death by starvation. See on :2. "Balm" was what the merchants had been carrying, when they took Joseph into Egypt (Gen. 37:25). It was made from fragrant gum trees which grew in Canaan, called ladanum. The brothers were intended by the hand of providence to reflect that in going to Egypt with such gum balm, they were retracing the steps of Joseph and those merchants.

The Lord Jesus likewise works in our lives so that we share something of His sufferings, which were required by our sins.

They took their humble presents in the sacks [s.w. "bags"]; and it was there that Joseph had placed their money, and where Joseph's cup would be placed. The paucity of what they could give was purposefully dwarfed by Joseph's generosity, in the same place- their sacks. It was to emphasize this that finally Joseph tells them to all come and live in Egypt and leave their sacks behind in Canaan (AV "your stuff", Gen. 45:20, s.w. "bags" here and "sacks" in Gen. 42:25). At every turn, we see grace poured out.

Gen 43:12 And take double money in your hand, and take back the money that was returned in the mouth of your sacks. Perhaps it was an oversight- "And take back..." suggests that the "double money" was not simply money for their grain and then the same again returned which had been placed in their sacks. The idea was that if things got tough for them, they could offer money for their release. But again, they were being taught that money and wealth cannot atone for sin against a brother; atonement is from God alone, by grace, in response to human repentance. Their money had been returned in their sacks; yet they failed to learn the lesson, that Joseph [cp. the Lord Jesus] doesn't need money, nor can silver [Heb.] achieve redemption from the abuse of our brethren. They thought they were being of integrity by returning the silver; but they were to learn that their supposed integrity was just on a far lower plane than what was required of them- a complete rejection of their own wealth and low level integrity, and rather a genuine repentance and acceptance of God's grace through Joseph's forgiveness. They were missing the point by thinking that the great grace in returning their money was simply "an oversight", a technical error. It obviously wasn't. They had bought enough food to feed ten large families for an extended period, probably taking many donkeys with them to carry it all. The sum returned was significant. But they would rather imagine a technical error than accept Divine grace.

Effectively, Joseph became the firstborn of the family in a spiritual sense. The coat of many colours was the coat of the firstborn, and it was jealousy about this which had led the brothers to want to murder him. Dt. 21:15-17 says that firstborn was to receive the double portion; so perhaps the brothers would later reflect that providence had led them to accept Joseph as the firstborn by giving him the double money.

Gen 43:13 Take your brother also, get up, and return to the man- "Get up" may suggest a similar hesitancy as noted on Gen. 42:1. It was not that they were lazy; rather again so we see the hints of bad conscience paralyzing their action. They were to specifically "return to the man", not simply 'to Egypt'. And shub, "return", often carries the idea of repentance, a turning back. 

Gen 43:14 May God Almighty give you mercy before the man, that he may release to you your other brother and Benjamin- Jacob's perception of God was as very powerful, God Almighty, One who can give undeserved grace to men like Jacob's sinful sons. He uses a term he has not previously used: El-Shaddai, the Almighty El. Using new terms for God reveals a deepening of understanding of Him. We likewise will grow in our knowledge of Him through the trials of life. He felt that God's mightiness would be revealed through the mercy shown to them by Joseph; and indeed that came to pass. "Mercy" is effectively the same idea as grace, but the Hebrew word is the same used for "womb". The idea is the mercy and love which comes from being family. Jacob's prayer was wonderfully answered; for "the man" was their loving brother Joseph.

If I am bereaved of my children, I am bereaved- The word is the usual one for miscarriage, as if Jacob felt that it was possible that God's plan of giving him a numerous seed was now likely to misfire and be aborted. This all sounds more like depressive fatalism than firm faith in the promises that his seed would eternally fill the earth. In Gen. 35:11 God encourages Jacob, fearful he would lose all his family to attacks from neighbouring tribes, to “be fruitful and multiply; a nation… shall be of thee, and kings shall come out of thy loins”. If he played his part, the promises would be fulfilled. But at this time it seems Jacob's depression had led him to a fatalism which is not of faith. "Bereaved" is the word used by Jacob's mother in Gen. 27:45, when thanks to Jacob's deceit she was too feared bereavement from the loss of both her sons- Jacob at Esau's hand, and Esau at the hands of the avengers of blood. Her feelings were Jacob's fault; and now years later he was being made to see how she felt, to fear her fears. Such bereavement of children was seen as a Divine curse for disobedience (s.w. Ex. 23:26; Lev. 26:22; Dt. 32:25; Jer. 15:7). Yet faced with this, Jacob seems prepared to just accept it, rather than be moved to repentance for his deceit.

Gen 43:15 The men took that present, and they took double money in their hand, and Benjamin; and got up, went down to Egypt- As noted on :12, no amount of money or presents could resolve this. The "double money" was not a reference to returning the silver placed in their sacks (see on :12). Jacob ought to have learnt this from his attempt to placate the advancing Esau with presents; he had been saved by God's grace alone, and not by his gifts.

And stood before Joseph- We rather expect to read of them bowing before him. But they are recorded as standing. They probably did bow, but that is not mentioned. Perhaps the idea is that they had still not really bowed themselves before him as they needed to.

Gen 43:16 When Joseph saw Benjamin with them, he said to the steward of his house, Bring the men into the house, and slay an animal, and make ready; for the men will dine with me at noon- Joseph celebrates their repentance with a meal together, at which they sit in their proper places, looking forward to the marriage supper of the lamb, with each in his proper place (Lk. 14:10; 22:30; Rev. 19:9). "Slay and make ready" is the basis of the prodigal son parable (Gen. 45:14,15 = Lk. 15:20); the father = Christ; the prodigal = repentant Jews, wanting to be servants and nothing else. Only the upper classes in Egypt ate meat; and there was a severe famine at the time. Grace was being lavished upon these men, dirty and exhausted after the grueling desert journey from Canaan. But the brothers had not repented in so many words; yet their feeble heart stirrings of repentance were treated by Joseph as if they had. And this is one of the lessons of the story.

Gen 43:17 The man did as Joseph commanded, and the man brought the men to Joseph’s house- "House" is really his personal home. He had a steward over it, just as he had been for Potiphar. To invite strangers into his personal home was really tantamount to saying that he treated them as family. It was yet another attempt to get them to join the dots and recognize him. It was only their lack of repentance that closed their eyes to perceiving him.

Gen 43:18 The men were afraid, because they were brought to Joseph’s house; and they said, Because of the money that was returned in our sacks at the first time, we’re brought in; that he may seek occasion against us, attack us, and seize us as slaves, along with our donkeys- The invitation into Joseph's personal home was a sign of loving acceptance; but they feared that expression of grace. If indeed Joseph was going to accuse them of theft, he would hardly invite them into his private home. But they were still thinking in material terms; hence "along with our donkeys", which were probably their last dimension of material wealth which remained to them. Constantly, their fears were that Joseph was against them. Those fears surely reflect how we quite rightly fear the just condemnation which we deserve; and yet the whole story comes to a glorious close with the utter triumph of Joseph's love and grace, on behalf of God, which clinches their salvation and eternal wellbeing.

Gen 43:19 They came near to the steward of Joseph’s house, and they spoke to him at the door of the house- They spoke apparently without an interpreter. Perhaps he too was from their extended family, another Hebrew slave whom Joseph had bought / redeemed and exalted just as he had been, in reflection of the grace shown him. They felt the need for a mediator between them and Joseph, and the story reflects how they still struggled to come close to him directly. This all speaks of our weakness of faith in the Lord's grace. They were unwilling to immediately accept Joseph's gracious invitation into his home, and paused at the door. This is so similar to our reticence to believe in the Lord's gracious welcome.

Gen 43:20 And said, Oh my lord, we indeed came down the first time to buy food- They are careful to recite the story truthfully and with attention to absolute accuracy. They were being prepared for the greatest truthfulness to themselves- the admission that they had cruelly abused their brother.

Gen 43:21 When we came to the lodging place, we opened our sacks, and behold, each man’s money was in the mouth of his sack, our money in full weight. We have brought it back in our hand- Full weight- The whole experience succeeded in eliciting hyper honesty from the brothers, which is what Joseph intended. They for some reason were dishonest with Jacob about this when they first returned to him; for they made out that only one of them opened his sack in the lodging, and that Jacob and the rest of them were seeing their money in their sacks for the first time when they returned to him (Gen. 42:27,35). But now as their repentance deepens and they are brought closer to being totally truthful, which is what repentance is about, they admit that each of them opened their sacks in the lodging and found their money. It was anyway psychologically unlikely that one of them would open his sack and find his money, and the other brothers wouldn't even bother checking their sacks.

They emphasize their technical, legal integrity- "full weight". This was to fade into insignificance when they were faced with the enormity of their sin and of Joseph's utter grace toward them.

Gen 43:22 We have brought down other money in our hand to buy food. We don’t know who put our money in our sacks- They did know- it was someone acting on behalf of God. But they couldn't bring themselves to admit that. Joseph therefore verbalizes for them the answer they had unspoken in their consciences: "God" (:23). In fact it was God working through Joseph; if the steward received the money from Joseph but the money was returned to their sacks, then it must have been money from Joseph.

We can infer that Joseph asked them: "Who put the money in your sacks?", and the brothers say they don't know, and  Joseph tells them that it was God working through him. But they had remarked about the money in Gen. 42:28 "What is this that God has done to us?". The God they privately sensed but would not openly accept was being revealed to them- through Joseph. God put the money in their sacks, but Joseph put the money in their sacks. That was the point Joseph was trying to make, the realization he was seeking to elicit in them. He was trying to get them to admit what subconsciously they knew all along- that Joseph was alive in Egypt, God knew their sin, was working with them, and was leading them to repentance. In all this we see how God works- never forcing us, but strongly nudging us towards self realization, repentance and salvation. And all that involves accepting the truth of what we already subconsciously knew was true all along. Here we see them admitting that "God" had put the money in their sacks; but before Joseph they say they don't know who put the money in their sacks. And so Joseph then tries to join the dots for them- he tells them that it was God, through him, who put the money in their sacks.

Gen 43:23 He said, Peace be to you. Don’t be afraid- "Peace" has connotations of the peace which comes from forgiveness. He was again trying to show to them that he alone of all human beings was in a possession to give them assurance of peace, with God and himself, and therefore freedom from fear; because he was Joseph, and had chosen to forgive them. But still they failed to join the dots. We recall how the brothers so hated Joseph that they could not speak shalom  to him (Gen. 37:4). They were being assured of shalom, and the very Hebrew word was used which they had refused to use to Joseph. They would surely have reflected that they had not shown shalom to Joseph, but now they were having shalom spoken to them by grace. Again, this was a nudge towards recognizing they were dealing with Joseph, and would receive God's grace, as undeserved favour.

Your God, and the God of your father, has given you treasure in your sacks. I received your money- Joseph through his steward graciously recognizes that they have a relationship with God ["your God"] and that they were not simply living out the religion of their faith; "and the God of your father" highlights the separation. They were each personally responsible before their God. If Joseph had received / taken their payment and yet the money had appeared again in their sacks- then that, the steward reasoned, must have only been from their God. As noted on :22, it would have been Joseph personally who paid this money. In Gen. 43:22 Joseph asked them "Who put the money in your sacks?", the brothers say they don't know, and now Joseph tells them that it was God working through him. But they had remarked about the money in Gen. 42:28 "What is this that God has done to us?". The God they privately sensed but would not openly accept was being revealed to them- through Joseph. That was the point Joseph was trying to make, the realization he was seeking to elicit in them. He was trying to get them to admit what subconsciously they knew all along- that Joseph was alive in Egypt, God knew their sin, and was leading them to repentance. In all this we see how God works- never forcing us, but strongly nudging us towards self realization, repentance and salvation.

He brought Simeon out to them-  If they had loved their brother [Simeon], they would have returned sooner. The experience was to teach them to love their brother, a characteristic lacking in them- for the fate of Simeon never seems to enter their reasoning.

Gen 43:24 The man brought the men into Joseph’s house, and gave them water, and they washed their feet. He gave their donkeys fodder- These were all signs of acceptance into a family; we recall the actions of Laban to Abraham's servant when he first arrived.

Gen 43:25 They prepared the present for Joseph’s coming at noon, for they heard that they should eat bread there- "For Joseph's coming" is literally as AV "against". Their paltry present, of just "a little" (see on :11), is set "against" Joseph's coming to them with a huge meal and then great grace, unspeakable in its largesse. All this speaks of the dwarfing of all human strength and attempts to atone, compared to the total grace of the Father and Son.

Gen 43:26 When Joseph came home- The scene is so reminiscent of Potiphar's house; there is a steward, and a nervous waiting for the master of the house to return and consider a false accusation and throw Joseph to death or imprisonment. Perhaps Joseph wanted them to know how he had felt; for that is also why he had put them in prison for three days, so that they could come to know all the experiences which they had been responsible for. We could of course reason that it was not their fault that Joseph was cast into prison; the fault was with Potiphar's wife. But they are being taught, as we are, the various long term dimensions of our sins. We may do wrong against a person in our youth, a girl may unkindly jilt a boy or vice versa, which leads them to addictions and a life of suffering. The misfortunes and sufferings are in a sense the fault of others; but the path was set by the person who first forced them to it. Only God judges righteously, perceiving the implications and corollaries of human actions. But in this case, it seems Joseph on God's behalf wanted the brothers to perceive that Joseph's time in prison and his nervous wait for Potiphar's return home... was all stuff brought upon Joseph by the brothers' actions. They would have internally justified it all, by saying they hadn't killed him, it was the group, the others, "not me", it was hard to not go along the path chosen by the group... And yet clearly God through Joseph accepted none of that. They were "verily guilty" as they confessed in prison. Although to blame them for Joseph's time in prison and suffering due to Potiphar's wife might seem extreme- the grace and mercy shown to them was extraordinary.


They brought him the present which was in their hand into the house, and bowed themselves down to him to the earth- This was a primary fulfilment of Joseph's dream, where in the field they bowed to the earth, the soil- even though they were inside a house. They as tent dwellers would have been in awe of a house such as Joseph had. They were starving to death, and their present of "a little" of the few nuts and bits of gum they could extract from their scorched vegetation must have seemed so paltry compared to the opulence of Joseph. "Present" is a word used for offering; their bloodless sacrifice is compared to Joseph slaying an animal for them (:16). The situation of Cain and Abel is recalled; Cain murdered Abel and brought a bloodless sacrifice.

Gen 43:27 He asked them of their welfare, and said, Is your father well, the old man of whom you spoke? Is he yet alive?- "Well" and "welfare" are both shalom, "peace", continue the assurance of :23; that Joseph wished them peace, with God and himself.

Gen 43:28 They said, Your servant, our father, is well. He is still alive. They bowed down humbly- This may have been to represent Jacob bowing to Joseph, with Jacob here called Joseph's servant. The double bowing (cp. :26) was a primary fulfilment of the double dreams Joseph had revealed, of their bowing to him. "Bowed down humbly" is literally 'bowed down to the earth / soil / ground', not to the 'floor'. It was as if they were on soil; whereas they were inside an opulent Egyptian home. This further emphasizes the similarity with Joseph's dream of his brothers in a field, on soil, bowing before him. But Rachel was not present; which is why I insist that this was but a primary fulfilment of the dream, which spoke ultimately of the resurrection and the Kingdom age.


Gen 43:29 He lifted up his eyes, and saw Benjamin, his brother, his mother’s son, and said, Is this your youngest brother, of whom you spoke to me? He said, God be gracious to you, my son- The reference to one God was again a prod; an encouragement to perceive that he and they worshipped the same one God. And again the concept of grace is introduced, which was so strange for the brothers to accept.

Gen 43:30 Joseph hurried- He didn't want to reveal himself yet, and he knew that his tears would mean they recognized him. He wanted them to make the recognition, rather than him having to tell them. They never got there; but still he accepted them by grace. There is in fact no record of their repentance, no statement made. Joseph left that as unspoken; and we likewise may long for those who abused us to express regret in words, but it sometimes doesn't come. All we can hope is that they will accept our forgiveness of them, as Joseph did; and if we can persuade them of that, then the relationship is restored.

For his heart yearned over his brother; and he sought a place to weep. He entered into his room, and wept there- The evil heart of mankind troubled the heart of God (Gen. 6:5,6). This "heart to heart" between God and man is amazing. As Joseph's heart was 'warm' for his younger brother Benjamin, so the same word is used about how the heart of God is 'warm' in yearning for His ungrateful people (Hos. 11:8). Kneel down and pray; pray long and / or hard enough till you 'get the feeling' of heart to heart contact with God Almighty. Exactly because God is God and not man, He will not punish His people according to what He had said He would do. His “repentings were kindled together” (Hos. 11:8 AV), alluding through the same Hebrew words to how Joseph’s innermost being “ yearned over his brother”, in prophecy of how God would accept Israel in the last days.

We wonder why Joseph so yearned for his brother. Benjamin had been only four years old when Joseph disappeared, and Joseph was now 39 or 40. Ask a 40 year old if they have passionate feelings about their kid brother who they last saw when he was only four years old... and you won't get many who have such strong emotions as the Hebrew text here suggests. The fact Joseph felt like this indicates a love for his brothers and his family; when most men who suffered as he did would have forgotten about them and moved on, developing their own family. So Joseph's passion for Benjamin is reflective of his passionate love for those who had so hurt and damaged him. It is a huge example to us, as well as a most encouraging window onto the love of the Lord Jesus for us.

Gen 43:31 He washed his face, and came out. He controlled himself, and said, Serve the meal- He "refrained himself" (AV). Both God and the Lord Jesus only delay, so that they might be the more gracious (Is. 30:18). Their passionate desire is to save and accept us anyway, without our expression of repentance; they only try to elicit it from us for our sakes, not because it satisfies their own personal desire for apology an the humiliation of those who did them wrong. For from the example of Joseph, it seems they have nothing of these things. The desire for repentance to be elicited and verbalized is purely for our eternal good and not to satisfy any need of theirs. Finally Joseph could not 'control himself' any longer (Gen. 45:1 s.w.). His desire to simply save them overrode his desire for their specific, verbalized repentance. And this should be our pattern; yet all too often, repentance is demanded before any love, care or forgiveness can be shown.

We clearly sense that Joseph wanted to just end the charade and reveal himself. He only brought about the further trial for the brothers because he wanted their spiritual growth. Or it could be that as with Esther's losing her nerve when she was supposed to ask the king for mercy towards the Jews, so with Joseph. In the sense that he, like Esther, had no very clearly defined game plan, and his emotions and humanity got in the way. And yet as with Esther, this was used by God to the advancement of His purpose, which was finally the repentance of the brothers. We may well enquire whether Joseph's intention was in fact achieved. Did they repent? There is never a word of formal repentance from them. We are left to conclude that surely they did get there, but deep within their hearts and perhaps only as they themselves faced their graveplanks. And this becomes helpful to us, in not as it were waiting for formal repentance from others.

Gen 43:32 They served him by himself, and them by themselves, and the Egyptians, that ate with him, by themselves, because the Egyptians don’t eat bread with the Hebrews, for that is an abomination to the Egyptians- Joseph was showing that that he was not an Egyptian, but he was also somehow separate from them his brethren. It was another enigma which he used to try to get them to join the dots and see him for who he was. Gen. 39:6 notes that Potiphar, who is specifically called an Egyptian, only concerned himself with his own food. This confirms what we later learn here, that Egyptians would not eat with Hebrews. The Biblical record meshes together perfectly.

The "abomination" of the Hebrews was that they were shepherds; "for all shepherds are an abomination to Egyptians" (Gen. 46:34) because of their association with the Hyksos / shepherd kings who had overrun Egypt a generation before. And this was why Joseph could not eat together with Hebrews, because they were an abomination to the Egyptians (Gen. 43:32). We find this confirmed in Ex. 8:22, where Moses tells Pharaoh that the Hebrews cannot do as he says and sacrifice in Egypt, because they would be attacked by the Egyptians when they saw the Hebrews offering bulls and calves to Yahweh. For these were symbols of Egyptian gods, and people who ate them were an abomination to them."Abomination" is a word which also means 'idols'. They ate abominations / idols, in that the animals they ate and sacrificed were seen as the gods of Egypt. For the Jacob family to be accepted into the best land of Egypt was therefore grace indeed. Just as is our salvation into God's Kingdom, brought about by Joseph-Jesus. For with reputation as cattle herders ["shepherds"] and bull sacrificers, the Jacob family were going to be last on the list for getting food, let alone being allowed to emigrate to Egypt, let alone to be given land in Goshen, the favoured area. It was all of grace, as it is with us, all the way through.

We note that the Egyptian abomination of Hebrew shepherds is alluded to in the command to Israel: "You should not abhor [treaat as an abomination] an Egyptian, for you were a stranger in his land" (Dt. 23:8). It is normal between peoples and individual persons that they treat each other as they were treated by that person or people. Here Yahweh is teaching that His people were to break that cycle. To not abhor those who abhor you. And this is really what the spirit of the Lord Jesus is about, breaking the cycles of human dysfunction and misbehaviour.

Joseph is such a detailed type of the Lord that one wonders whether his eating together with the brothers looks ahead to the breaking of bread meeting. The distance between Joseph and the brothers was on one hand, huge. The cultural differences, differing perceptions of food, social caste, ethnicity. There is the obvious distance between the Lord and us, a distance as great as that between Heaven and earth. But He looks across that at us, with a heart bursting with love, even if we don't quite perceive it. And He knows us, to our great surprise and wonder, just as He showed the brothers that He knew them by seating them in their birth order.

Joseph appeared neither Egyptian nor Hebrew. Just as the Lord appears to us. But His heart was clearly with the Hebrews and in the moment of glorious revelation, he revealed himself as totally their brother.  The same will be at the Lord's return.  

Benjamin was 16 years younger than Joseph. According to Genesis 46, he had ten sons when the family moved to Egypt. If by 23, he had 10 sons, he likely had had 10 daughters as well. They would have been from a number of women. So we get the impression that he, the favoured spoilt son of the favourite wife Rachel, with a very wealthy father, became a playboy from a young age. Joseph knew this, or guessed it. For he too had once held the same status with Jacob. What he did to Benjamin was therefore to lead that young man to spiritual maturity. And yet Joseph did it whilst having assured him of his special love, giving him five times larger portions of food. And Benjamin was open to this leading. The names of his ten sons often reflect his obsession with his absent older brother,  whom Jacob had clearly described to him in heroic terms. The rabbis offer the following definitions of their names in Gen. 46:21: Ahi, he was my brother; Bela, the one who disappeared,  Rosh, my elder or leader; Becher, the firstborn of his mother (as Joseph was); Ashbel, sent by God to captivity; Gera, dweller in a foreign land; Ard, he went down amongst the nations. 


Gen 43:33 They sat before him, the firstborn according to his birthright- Reuben had had the birthright removed from him even before Joseph left Canaan; but perhaps Joseph didn't recognize that, as he didn't consider birthrights to be significant. Or it could be read the other way; Judah, or whoever had been given the birthright, was placed by Joseph as the firstborn. Whatever, Joseph was seeking to demonstrate that although he ate with them at a distance, as the Lord does from us at His table, He is all the same very much with us and knows our situations intimately, both collectively and intimately. And in the case of Reuben's sin that led to losing the birthright, he as it were forgave it.


And the youngest according to his youth, and the men marvelled one with another- The Hebrew for "marvelled" is only ever used of people 'marvelling' in response to God's rebuke or judgment of them (Job 26:11; Ps. 48:5; Is. 13:8; 29:9; Jer. 4:9; Hab. 1:5). But they had not received Divine judgment, but the grace of being accepted at Joseph's table. It was this grace poured out which functioned in the same way as Divine rebuke or judgment. And this has so often been observed; that showing grace to an offender reforms them in a similar but more profound way than rebuke or judgment would. Hence Paul says that coming to Corinth with a rod of punishment in his hand was the same as coming to them with a gentle, forgiving spirit of grace  (see on 1 Cor. 4:21). This marvelling one with another recalls how in Gen. 42:1 they silently looked at each other rather than risk going to Egypt; and how when imprisoned the first time in Egypt, they all spoke to each other at the same time, confessing guilt over Joseph.

Gen 43:34 He sent portions to them from before him, but Benjamin’s portion was five times as much as any of theirs. They drank, and were merry with him- The desperate desire of Joseph for them to relax with him and accept his forgiveness led him to make them drunk so as to ease their relationship (43:34 AVmg.). This otherwise unethical act reveals the earnestness of his desire for them to be relaxed with him and open themselves to him. The Lord will have the same basic desire with us at the judgment. It was usual for the host or master of the house to have portions five times those of the guests; even if he didn't eat all the food, it was a sign of his superiority. Joseph therefore wished to demonstrate that the youngest was as the master; he wanted them to realize that he had radically inverted all values.

One reason Joseph did this to the brothers may have been in order to test whether they would get jealous about a daughter of Rachel getting more blessing than them. And they apparently got through that test. All Joseph did to the brothers was to test and teach them and lead them to repentance.