Genesis: The Beginning
The Brothers Return 2-8-16
Yesterday, we read about Joseph’s brothers coming from Canaan to buy grain in Egypt. Their trip was filled with drama and self-revelation (recognizing their sin against Joseph). They returned home, but were told not to come to Egypt again to buy provision without their youngest brother, Benjamin. Today, we will read about the brother’s second trip to Egypt with Benjamin.
Jacob’s clan is out of food; a trip back to Egypt is mandatory. Judah remembers taking Benjamin with them on this return is also mandatory, so he pledges Benjamin’s safety to Jacob; he offers his life as a guarantee. Judah is changing his selfish and arrogant ways; his life lessons have brought about a greater integrity of divine love. In looking back, Judah was the one who suggested Joseph be sold into slavery. Now, he is laying his life down for his brother, Benjamin!
Jacob instructs his sons to take gifts to the man—governor of Egypt. Balm, honey, myrrh, pistachio nuts and almonds are not available in Egypt, so even a small amount will be considered a gift of great value. Jacob prays for El Shaddai—the God of compassion, grace, and mercy—to go with his sons. They pack up gifts, double the money, and Benjamin on donkeys and travel to Egypt.
Fear always tries to enter in when we choose to trust God and do the right thing, and we read the brothers are afraid of the consequences of having the returned money in their sacs from their last visit (fear reflective of sinning against Joseph who could order them killed). Joseph’s manager assures them there is no need to fear (it was God who provided the money). The brothers bow down before Joseph, again. At this point, Joseph speaks a special blessing over his brother, Benjamin. Joseph is overcome with such emotion he has to leave the room. But, when he returns a real feast begins!
Egyptians believe eating with Hebrews is an abomination to the gods, so Joseph has his brothers seated at a separate table; he seats them in birth order which is a Hebrew custom. The brothers are intrigued by the seating chart. Benjamin’s meal portions are five times as plentiful as his brothers; normally a guest of honor receives a double portion and here we find honor…upon honor…upon honor…etc. This is an extravagant display of favor. It is reminiscent of how Jacob lavished favor on Joseph years before; the very thing that caused his brothers to hate Joseph. Maybe Joseph is watching to see if his brothers behave similarly. The brothers show no offense.
A silver cup belonging to the Egyptian household is secretly placed in Benjamin’s sack of provision before they begin the journey back to Canaan. The fact that this divination cup is described as being Joseph’s does not mean he believes in pagan practice; he is seen by the Egyptians, however, as a savior with the ability to connect with “god” and the cup was probably a gift to honor him. In divination, the Egyptians poured water into a silver cup and observed the pattern of ripples and bubbles to predict the future. Joseph is seen as Egyptian even by his brothers; he has not revealed his identity to his brothers at this time. The brothers expect to see pagan practice; the cup indicates it. Again, Joseph is messing with their understanding. The brothers are gone a short time and Joseph sends his manager to stop them; they are accused of stealing the cup. The men’s sacks are searched in birth order (What is going on here? Birth order is a big deal in a patriarchal culture). The cup is found in Benjamin’s sack; therefore he is confined to servanthood before Joseph. The brothers protest all of them are innocent of this crime, yet all of the brothers return to offer recompense for the offense. They do not sell out Benjamin to slavery—no betrayal and no speaking evil about him; rather, the brothers rally around Benjamin. Big change in the hearts of these men!
The brothers are taken back to stand before Joseph. Joseph continues to play the role of the man they think stands before them (an Egyptian governor). Judah confesses to Joseph that God is punishing his sin and the sins of his brothers; that is why things are happening to them. Joseph tells the brothers only Benjamin needs to stay; Judah petitions Joseph on Benjamin’s behalf (even under pressure Judah offers his life for the life of his brother). Wow, huge change in a heart! Judah has learned to put the interest and needs of others before himself.
God is teaching everyone involved spiritual life lessons. Jacob is learning to trust God with his family, the sons are learning to walk in integrity before God, Joseph is learning God is the one who brings things about with the purpose of changing hearts, and Benjamin is realizing even though he is at the end of the patriarchal food change as the youngest he is truly “beloved of the Lord!” God’s family grows in integrity, purpose, and love as we trust…let’s keep it up! Blessings for your day…