|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
43:26-34 Observe the great respect Joseph's brethren paid to him. Thus were Joseph's dreams more and more fulfilled. Joseph showed great kindness to them. He treated them nobly; but see here the early distance between Jews and gentiles. In a day of famine, it is enough to be fed; but they were feasted. Their cares and fears were now over, and they ate their bread with joy, reckoning they were upon good terms with the lord of the land. If God accept our works, our present, we have reason to be cheerful. Joseph showed special regard for Benjamin, that he might try whether his brethren would envy him. It must be our rule, to be content with what we have, and not to grieve at what others have. Thus Jesus shows those whom he loves, more and more of their need. He makes them see that he is their only refuge from destruction. He overcomes their unwillingness, and brings them to himself. Then, as he sees good, he gives them some taste of his love, and welcomes them to the provisions of his house, as an earnest of what he further intends for them.
Verse 34. - And he took and sent (literally, and he sent) messes - maseoth, from nasa, to take or lift up, i.e. things taken or lifted up, hence portions or gifts (2 Samuel 11:8) - unto them from before him (cf. 1 Samuel 9:23). The practice of thus honoring guests was also observed among other nations (vide 'Iliad,' 7:321). But Benjamin's mess (or portion) was five times so much as any of theirs - literally, exceeded the portions of all of them five hands, i.e. five times. Herodotus (6:57) mentions that among the Spartans the king received a double portion. The unusually large portion assigned to Benjamin was designed as an expression of his strong fraternal affection, and perhaps also as a test of his brethren to ascertain if they were now free from that spirit of envy which had prompted their former cruelty to him. And they drank, and were merry with him - literally, and drank largely with him. Though the verb שָׁכַר sometimes signifies to drink to the full (Haggai 1:6; Song of Solomon 5:1), and though intoxication was not unusual at Egyptian entertainments, there is no reason to suppose that either Joseph or his brethren were inebriated (Vulgate, Alford), or that more is meant than simply that their hearts became exhilarated "because their cares were dissipated by the kindness they were receiving, the presence of Simeon, and the attention paid to Benjamin" (Murphy).
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
And he took and sent messes unto there from before him,.... The several dishes were brought before him, who cut them up, and sent to everyone their part and portion, as was usual in those times and countries, and afterwards elsewhere (e), for the master of the family or feast to divide the food into parts, and to give to every guest his part; and these were called, from their being sent, "missus", and from whence seems to be our English word "messes", here used:
but Benjamin's mess was five times so much as any of theirs; which was done out of his great affection to him, being his own brother both by father and mother's side; and, as some think, to try his brethren, how they stood affected to Benjamin, and observe if this did not raise their envy to him, as his father's particular respect to him had raised it in them against himself; and that, if it should, he might provide for his safety, lest they should use him in like manner as they had used him. This undoubtedly was designed as a peculiar favour, and a mark of special honour and respect, it being usual for princes to send messes from their tables to such as they favoured; and particularly it was usual with the Egyptians for their kings to have double messes more than the rest, in honour of them, as Herodotus (f) relates: Benjamin's mess consisted either of five parts, or it was five times bigger than what was sent to the rest; not but that they had all what was sufficient; there was no want to any, but great plenty of everything for them all; nor was this designed Benjamin, that he should eat the larger quantity, only to show him distinguishing respect:
and they drank, and were merry with him; after dinner they drank wine liberally and plentifully, but not to excess and intemperance, yet so as to be cheerful and in good spirits; their fears being all dissipated by this generous entertainment they met with.
(e) Athenaei Deipnosophist. l. 1.((f) Erato, sive, l. 6. c. 57.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
34. took and sent messes … Benjamin's mess was five times—In Egypt, as in other Oriental countries, there were, and are, two modes of paying attention to a guest whom the host wishes to honor—either by giving a choice piece from his own hand, or ordering it to be taken to the stranger. The degree of respect shown consists in the quantity, and while the ordinary rule of distinction is a double mess, it must have appeared a very distinguished mark of favor bestowed on Benjamin to have no less than five times any of his brethren.
they drank, and were merry with him—Hebrew, "drank freely" (same as So 5:1; Joh 2:10). In all these cases the idea of intemperance is excluded. The painful anxieties and cares of Joseph's brethren were dispelled, and they were at ease.
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