Genesis 43:31
And he washed his face, and went out, and refrained himself, and said, Set on bread.
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(31) He washed his face.—This was done to remove all traces of his tears.

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.They are now entertained by Joseph. They brought the present, and made a lowly obeisance before him. "They bent the head." See Genesis 24:26. "God be gracious unto thee, my son." His kind treatment of Benjamin, on whose presence he had so much insisted, was calculated to reassure the brothers. The latter was born in his thirteenth year, and therefore, he was entitled to assume the paternal style in regard to him. Joseph still appeals with a natural and unconstrained reverence to his own God. "And Joseph hastened away." The little touch of tenderness he had involuntarily thrown into his address to Benjamin, is too much for his feelings, which yearn toward his brother, and he is obliged to retreat to his chamber to conceal his tears and compose his countenance. "They set for him by himself." As the governor, or as connected by affinity with the priestly caste, Joseph does not eat with the other Egyptians. The Egyptians cannot eat with the Hebrews. "That is an abomination to the Mizrites." For the Hebrews partook of the flesh of kine, both male and female.

But Herodotus informs us (ii. 41), that "male kine, if clean, are used by the Egyptians, but the females they are not allowed to sacrifice, since they are sacred to Isis." And he adds that "a native of Egypt will not kiss a Greek, use his knife, his spit, or his cauldron, or taste the flesh cut with a Greek knife." They considered all foreigners unclean, and therefore, refused to eat with them (see Rawlinson's Herodotus on p. q.). They sat in his presence; arranged according to the order of their birth, to their great amazement. Egypt was to them a land of wonders, and Egypt's sultan a man of wonder. "Benjamin's mess." The honored guest was distinguished by a larger or daintier portion of the fare (1 Samuel 9:23-24; Homer, ii. 7,321). A double portion was assigned to the Spartan kings. The fivefold division was prominent in Egyptian affairs Genesis 41:34; Genesis 45:22; Genesis 47:2, Genesis 47:24, Genesis 47:26. "And were merry." They drank freely, so as to be exhilarated, because their cares were dissipated by the kindness they were receiving, the presence of Simon, and the attention paid to Benjamin.

- The Ten Brothers Were Tested

Joseph has had the satisfaction of seeing his brother Benjamin safe and well. He has heard his brothers acknowledging their guilt concerning himself. He resolves to put their attachment to Benjamin, and the genuineness of their change of disposition, to a test that will at the same time expose Benjamin to no hazard.

Ge 43:31-34. The Dinner.

31. Joseph said, Set on bread—equivalent to having dinner served, "bread" being a term inclusive of all victuals. The table was a small stool, most probably the usual round form, "since persons might even then be seated according to their rank or seniority, and the modern Egyptian table is not without its post of honor and a fixed gradation of place" [Wilkinson]. Two or at most three persons were seated at one table. But the host being the highest in rank of the company had a table to himself; while it was so arranged that an Egyptian was not placed nor obliged to eat from the same dish as a Hebrew.

No text from Poole on this verse.

And he washed his face,.... From the tears on it, that it might not be discerned that he had been weeping:

and went out; of his chamber into the room again, where his brethren were:

and refrained himself; from weeping, or showing any excess of passion, love, joy, &c.

and said, set on bread; gave orders to his servants to bring in dinner, and set it upon the table; bread, as before, being put for all kind of food.

And he washed his face, and went out, and refrained himself, and said, Set on bread.
31. he refrained himself] Joseph’s effort of self-constraint broke down in Genesis 45:1.

Set on bread] As we should say, “serve up dinner.”

Verse 31. - And he washed his face (an indication of the violence of his weeping), and went out (from his chamber), and refrained himself (keeping his tears in check), and said, Set on bread - an expression used at the present day in Egypt for bringing dinner (Wilkinson, 'Ancient Egyptians,' vol. 2. p. 41, ed. 1878). Genesis 43:31And "his (Joseph's) bowels did yearn" (נכמרוּ lit., were compressed, from the force of love to his brother), so that he was obliged to seek (a place) as quickly as possible to weep, and went into the chamber, that he might give vent to his feelings in tears; after which, he washed his face and came out again, and, putting constraint upon himself, ordered the dinner to be brought in.
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