The Word Made Fresh
1The famine continued as harsh as ever in the land of Canaan. 2When they had eaten all the grain they had brought back from Egypt, their father said, “Go back there and buy more grain for us.”
3Judah said, “The man clearly told us, ‘You will not see my face unless your brother is with you.’ 4If you will send our brother with us, we’ll go buy grain. 4If you refuse we will not go. The man clearly told us, ‘You will not see my face unless your brother is with you.’”
6Israel said, “Why did you put me in such a terrible position by telling the man that you had another brother?”
7They said, “The man grilled us about who we were and about our family. He asked us if our father was still alive and if we had another brother. All we did was answer his questions. How could we possibly have known that he would order us to bring our brother back there?”
8Then Judah said to his father Israel, “Send the boy with me so we can be on our way and so we might live and not die – you and us and our children as well. 9I will personally watch over him and you can hold me responsible for him. If I don’t bring him back and stand him right here in front of you, then I will bear the blame forever. 10If we hadn’t waited around we could be back twice by now.”
11Then Israel said to them, “If we have no choice, then do this: take some of our best produce and carry them in your sacks as a gift for the man. Take a little balm and honey, some gum and resin, and pistachio nuts and almonds. 12And take twice as much money with you. And take the money that you found in your sacks before. Maybe it was returned by mistake. 13Take your brother to the man and be on your way. 14May God Almighty see to it that the man receives you with favor so that he will send you back home with your other brother and Benjamin. If I must grieve the loss of my children, then I will grieve.”
15So, they took the gift and double the money, and Benjamin, and left for Egypt to stand before Joseph.
16When Joseph learned that Benjamin was with them he ordered his servant to usher them into his house. “And slaughter an animal and prepare it to serve for the noontime meal,” he said. “These men will dine with me.”
17The servant did as Joseph said and led the men to Joseph’s house. 18They were really anxious when he brought them there. They said, “They brought us here because of the money we found in our sacks after the first trip. He’ll take us all prisoner and make us slaves and steal our donkeys.”
19So, they approached Joseph’s servant at the entrance 20and said, “My lord, we came here once before to buy food, 21and when we returned home, we opened our sacks and the money each of us had paid was in the top of his sack. All of it! We brought it back with us, 22and we also brought additional funds with us with which to buy grain. We have no idea who replaced that money in our sacks.”
23The servant said, “Relax. Don’t worry about it. Your God and the God of your father must have done that for you. I got your money.” Then he brought Simeon out to them, 24and showed them all into Joseph’s house. He gave them water for washing their feet and while he was providing for their donkeys 25they prepared the gifts they had brought for Joseph, for they had been told he would dine with them at noon.
26When Joseph arrived they presented him with their gifts and bowed low before him. 27He asked how they were doing. “Is your father, the old man you told me about, in good health? Is he still alive?”
28They said, “Yes, he is alive and well.” And again, they bowed to him.
29Then he saw his brother Benjamin, the other son of his mother. He asked, “Is this your youngest brother you told me about? May God be good to you, my son.” 30Then he hurried out, overcome emotionally because of his love for his brother, and he nearly broke down in tears. He found a private room and wept there alone. 31Then he washed his face and returned to them. His voice under control now, he ordered his servants to serve the meal. 32Joseph was served alone, and the servants ate together, and the Egyptians who were with Joseph were at another separate table because Egyptians will not eat with Hebrews; that is against their custom. 33Joseph’s brothers were seated in his sight, arranged from the oldest to the youngest, and they looked at one another in surprise. 34Their food was brought to them from Joseph’s table, and Benjamin’s serving was five times what the others received, so they drank and were happy for him.
1-10: The famine’s severity increases, and Jacob once again wants to send them to Egypt to buy grain, but they remind him of the conditions laid out at their last visit; they must bring Benjamin with them. Note that in this paragraph their father is called both Jacob and Israel. This time Judah offers to go surety for Benjamin.
11-15: Israel finally relents. This time he sends gifts as well as money, enough money to repay the Egyptians for the first batch of grain.
16-25: Joseph prepares to receive his brothers in his house. The steward brings them there. They try to explain about the money left in their sacks the first trip, but he waves them off, saying their money was paid and God must have put money in their sacks. This is, first of all, an acknowledgment of the God of Israel/Jacob, but it is also a face-saving denial that the steward could possibly have made any mistake in the accounting. He gives them water with which to wash their feet, reunites Simeon to them, and feeds their animals. They wait anxiously for the Egyptian overlord to arrive, who of course is their own brother Joseph.
26-34: Joseph arrives. They give him the gifts from their father. He asks about their father’s health. He acknowledges Benjamin, but then has to leave to recover his emotions. He pulls himself together and returns to the dining hall and orders the meal to be served. They are seated in separate groups: Joseph alone, the Egyptian entourage together, and the Hebrews together. They are surprised when they are seated in their order of birth. They are served from Joseph’s table, and Benjamin is given a noticeably larger portion, but they all eat and drink and things seem to be going swimmingly.
As much as we enjoy the story, what Joseph is doing is deceitful, and the outcome will be the enslavement of the descendants of Jacob/Israel for more than four hundred years. Honesty really is the best policy.