And their father Israel said to 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:
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)The best fruits.—Heb., the song, that is, whatever in the land is most celebrated in song.
In your vessels.—The word used in Genesis 42:25, where see Note. Concerning this present two remarks must be made; the first, that it proves that though there was not rain enough in Palestine to bring the corn to perfection, yet that there was some small supply, sufficient to maintain a certain amount of vegetation; and but for this Jacob could not have kept his cattle alive (Genesis 47:1). And next, the smallness of the present does not so much show that Jacob had very simple ideas respecting the greatness of the king of Egypt, as that there was a scarcity even of these fruits. Probably the trade in them had ceased, and therefore even a moderate quantity ‘would be welcome. For the words rendered balm, spices and myrrh really balsam, gum-tragacanth and ladanum), see Note on Genesis 37:25.
Honey.—As both the honey made by bees and date honey were common in Egypt, many suppose that this was grape-honey, prepared by boiling down the juice of ripe grapes to a third of its original quantity. Hebron is famous for its preparation, and even in modern times three hundred camel loads used to be exported thence annually into Egypt. Diluted with water it forms a very grateful drink, and it is also largely eaten with bread, as we eat butter.
Nuts.—That is, pistachio nuts, the fruit of the pistachio, vera. As the tree delights in dry, rocky situations, it will not grow in Egypt. It has an oily kernel, both palatable in itself and also much used for making savoury meats. These and the almonds, which also do not grow well in Egypt, would be acceptable gifts.Genesis 43:11. If it must be so now, take your brother — If no corn can be had but upon those terms, as good expose him to the perils of the journey, as suffer ourselves and families, and Benjamin among the rest, to perish for want of bread: it is no fault, but our wisdom and duty, to alter our resolutions, when there is a good reason for so doing: constancy is a virtue, but obstinacy is not: it is God’s prerogative to make unchangeable resolves.Genesis 37:25. "Other silver;" not double silver, but a second sum for the new purchase. "God Almighty" - the Great Spirit, who can dispose the hearts of men as he pleases. Jacob looks up to heaven for a blessing, while he uses the means. "If I am bereaved, I am bereaved." This is the expression of acquiescence in whatever may be the will of Providence. "Double silver," - what was returned and what was to pay for a second supply of corn.
honey—which some think was dibs, a syrup made from ripe dates [Bochart]; but others, the honey of Hebron, which is still valued as far superior to that of Egypt;
nuts—pistachio nuts, of which Syria grows the best in the world;
almonds—which were most abundant in Palestine.Genesis 37:25. The
nuts were of that kind which we call pistaches, as some Hebrew and other expositors render the word; for that was both an excellent fruit, and peculiar to Judea and Syria, and well agreeing with the
almonds which here follow.
if it must be so now, do this; if nothing else will do but Benjamin must go, which after all he was reluctant to, then he advises them to do as follows:
take of the best fruits in the land in your vessels; such as were the peculiar produce of the land of Canaan, and the best of it; for which it was most famous, and praised, as the word used signifies; these Jacob advises to take and put into their sacks they carried to bring back their corn in:
and carry down the man a present; the great man and governor of Egypt, whose name was not known, little thinking it was his son Joseph; this he proposed to be done, in order to procure his friendship, that he might carry it kindly and respectfully to them, release Simeon, and send back Benjamin with them. The present consisted of the following things:
a little balm: or rosin, of which there was great quantity in and about Gilead; See Gill on Jeremiah 8:22,
and a little honey; the land of Canaan in general is called a land flowing with milk and honey; and some parts of it were famous for it, as the, parts about Ziph, called from thence the honey of Ziphim (i): this is the first time mention is made of "honey" in Scripture. Some say (k) Bacchus was the inventor of it. Justin (l) makes a very ancient king of a people in the country, now called Spain, to whom he gives the name of Gorgoris, to be the first that found out the way of gathering honey; but by this it appears to be of a more early date. Dr. Shaw (m) thinks, that not honey, properly so called, is meant, but a kind of "rob" made of the juice of grapes, called by the Arabs "dibsa", a word near in sound with, and from the same root as this. And who further observes, that Hebron alone (the place were Jacob now was) sends every year to Egypt three hundred camel loads, i.e. near two thousand quintals of this rob: and Leo Africanus says (n), there is but little honey to be found in Egypt, wherefore it made this part of the present the more acceptable:
spices; of various sorts, a collection of them; though it is thought, by Bochart and others, that the "storax" is particularly meant; the best of that sort being, as Pliny (o) says in Judea. The Targum and Jarchi take it to be "wax", as do also other Jewish writers:
and myrrh; the liquor called "stacte", that drops from the myrrh tree. Some will have this "lot", as the word is, the same with "ladanum"; one should rather think that it should be the lotus or lote tree, the fruit of which, Pliny (p) says, is the size of a bean, and of a saffron colour, and Herodotus (q) says, it is sweet like a date; but that it was frequent in Egypt, and needed not be carried there. The Targum renders it "chestnuts", and so Ben Melech, as it does what follows:
nuts, and almonds, the oil of nuts, and the oil of almonds: the former design not common, but the pistachio nuts, as Jarchi observes from R. Machir; and these, as Pliny (r) says, were well known in Syria, and were good for food and drink, and against the bites of serpents; and, as Bochart (s) observes, are frequently mentioned by naturalists along with almonds, and as like unto them.
(i) Misn. Machshirin, c. 5. sect. 9. (k) "Et a Baccho mella reperta ferunt", Ovid. Fast. l. 3.((l) E Trogo, l. 44. c. 4. (m) Travels, p. 339. No. 6. Ed. 2.((n) Descriptio Africae, l. 8. p. 682. (o) Nat. Hist. l. 12. c. 25. (p) Ib. l. 13. c. 17. (q) Melpomene, sive, l. 4. c. 177. Vid. Euterpe, sive, l. 2. c. 92. (r) Nat. Hist. l. 13. c. 5. (s) Canaan, l. 1. c. 10. col. 389.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:
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)11. do this] Jacob yields, but, true to the character of a shrewd man of the world, he advises that the formidable Grand Vizier should be propitiated with a suitable present.
choice fruits] The Hebrew word, zimrah, occurs only in this passage in the Pent. (cf. Amos 5:23): LXX καρποί = “fruits”; Lat. optimi fructus. The meaning is probable, though only conjectural. Some think that it may be from the Hebrew root zmr, “to make melody,” cf. mizmôr, “a psalm”: hence Targ. Onkelos, “What is praiseworthy in the land.” It has been suggested that “the melody of the land” would mean “the produce of the land celebrated in song.” Cf. Jeremiah 51:41.
vessels] i.e. baggage, receptacles of various kinds, e.g. “sacks” (Genesis 42:25); cf. 1 Samuel 9:7.
balm] See Genesis 37:25.
honey] Possibly the material known in Syria and Palestine as dibs, which is the Arabian word for “grape juice boiled down to a syrup.” The Hebrew word d’bash, however, means real “honey,” and it is natural to suppose that a gift of real honey from the country would be a more acceptable offering to the Egyptian ruler. Cf. 1 Kings 14:3.
spicery and myrrh] See Genesis 37:25.
nuts] That is, pistachio nuts. The fruit of the pistacia vera, a rare tree in Palestine, regarded as a delicacy.Verse 11. - And their father Israel said unto them, If it must be so now (literally, if so now), do this; take of the best fruits in the land (literally, of the song of the land, i.e. of its choicest and most praised productions) in your vessels, and carry down the man a present. That Jacob could propose to send a handsome present of rich fruits to the Egyptian viceroy has been regarded as inconsistent with the prevalence of a famine in the land of Canaan for over two or three years (Bohlen); but
(1) the failure of the cereal crops does not necessarily imply a like absence of fruit, and
(2) it does not follow that, though Jacob selected the under-mentioned articles for his gift, they existed in abundance, while
(3) if the fruit harvest was small, an offering such as is here described would only be all the more luxuriant and valuable on that account (Kurtz, Kalisch). A little balm, - balsam (vide Genesis 37:25) - and a little honey, - דְּבַשׁ, grape honey, called by the Arabians dibs, and the Persians dushab, was prepared by boiling down must or new wine to a third or half; hence called by the Greeks ἕψημα, and by the Romans sapa, defrutum. It is still imported into Egypt from the district of Hebron. That it was not the honey of bees, μέλι, (LXX.), meg (Vulgate), is rendered probable by the circumstance that Egypt abounds in this excellent production of nature (vide Michaelis, Suppl., p. 391) - spices, and myrrh (wide Genesis 27:25), nuts, - בָּטְנִים, an oblong species of nut, so called from its being fiat on one side and bellying out on the other (the pistacia vera of Linnaeus), having an oily kernel which is most palatable to Orientals (vide Kalisch in loco) - and almonds. The שָׁקֵד or almond tree, so called because of all trees it is the first to arouse from the sleep of winter, the root being שָׁקָד, to be sleepless, (Gesenius), does not seem to have been indigenous in Egypt, while it flourishes in Syria and Palestine (Kalisch). Genesis 34).
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