Genesis 44:4
And when they were gone out of the city, and not yet far off, Joseph said unto his steward, Up, follow after the men; and when thou dost overtake them, say unto them, Wherefore have ye rewarded evil for good?
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44:1-17 Joseph tried how his brethren felt towards Benjamin. Had they envied and hated the other son of Rachel as they had hated him, and if they had the same want of feeling towards their father Jacob as heretofore, they would now have shown it. When the cup was found upon Benjamin, they would have a pretext for leaving him to be a slave. But we cannot judge what men are now, by what they have been formerly; nor what they will do, by what they have done. The steward charged them with being ungrateful, rewarding evil for good; with folly, in taking away the cup of daily use, which would soon be missed, and diligent search made for it; for so it may be read, Is not this it in which my lord drinketh, as having a particular fondness for it, and for which he would search thoroughly? Or, By which, leaving it carelessly at your table, he would make trial whether you were honest men or not? They throw themselves upon Joseph's mercy, and acknowledge the righteousness of God, perhaps thinking of the injury they had formerly done to Joseph, for which they thought God was now reckoning with them. Even in afflictions wherein we believe ourselves wronged by men, we must own that God is righteous, and finds out our sin.And my cup. - Besides returning each man's money as before, a silver cup of Joseph's is put in Benjamin's bag, after which, when daylight comes, they are dismissed. They are scarcely out of the town when Joseph's steward is ordered to overtake them, and charge them with stealing the cup. "And whereby indeed he divineth." Divining by cups, we learn from this, was a common custom in Egypt (Herodotus ii. 83). It is here mentioned to enhance the value of the cup. Whether Joseph really practised any sort of divination cannot be determined from this passage.4. When they were gone out of the city … Joseph said unto his steward—They were brought to a sudden halt by the stunning intelligence that an article of rare value was missing from the governor's house. It was a silver cup; so strong suspicions were entertained against them that a special messenger was despatched to search them. No text from Poole on this verse.

And when they were gone out of the city, and not yet far off,.... Which perhaps was Tanis, the Zoan of the Scriptures; see Ezekiel 30:14, margin:

Joseph said unto his steward, up, follow after the men; who no doubt was ready provided with men and horses, to go out and pursue when Joseph should give the orders, he being privy to Joseph's intentions, and with whom the scheme was concerted, and the secret was. Joseph appears to have been up very early this morning, and had observed the exact time of his brethren's departure, and guessed whereabouts they might be when he sent his steward, and others after them; for it can hardly be thought he was sent alone after eleven men, and to charge them with a theft, and bring them back again:

and when thou dost overtake them, say unto them, wherefore have ye rewarded evil for good? in taking away the silver cup, when they had been so kindly and bountifully entertained. This he was to represent as base ingratitude, as it would have appeared, had it been fact. In much such manner was Esop used by the inhabitants of Delphos; they, being displeased with him, put a sacred cup or vial into his bags, which he, being ignorant of, went on his way towards Phocis; and they ran after him, and seized him, and charged him with sacrilege (h).

(h) Scholia ad Vespes Aristophanis, p. 534. Ed. Genev. 1607.

And when they were gone out of the city, and not yet far off, Joseph said unto his steward, Up, follow after the men; and when thou dost overtake them, say unto them, Wherefore have ye rewarded evil for good?
4. the city] The name of the city is most unfortunately not given. Memphis would be suitable: cf. Genesis 45:10. The moment of the men’s arrest is well timed. Everything had gone off well. They had got their corn; they had been acquitted of any complicity in the return of the money; they had been hospitably treated by the “lord”; they were well on their way homeward.

Wherefore have ye rewarded] The guilt of Joseph’s brethren is presented in an ascending scale of enormity: (1) it was theft; (2) by guests from their host’s table; (3) of an article of special sanctity. The LXX, in order to supply the connexion between Genesis 44:4-5, inserts at the end of Genesis 44:4, Ἵνα τί ἐκλέψατέ μου τὸ κόνδυ τὸ ἀργυροῦν; = “Wherefore have ye stolen my silver cup?”

Genesis 44:4Then as soon as it was light (אור, 3rd pers. perf. in o: Ges. 72, 1), they were sent away with their asses. But they were hardly outside the town, "not far off," when he directed his steward to follow the men, and as soon as he overtook them, to say, "Wherefore have ye rewarded evil for good? Is it not this from which my lord drinketh, and he is accustomed to prophesy from it? Ye have done an evil deed!" By these words they were accused of theft; the thing was taken for granted as well known to them all, and the goblet purloined was simply described as a very valuable possession of Joseph's. נחשׁ: lit., to whisper, to mumble out formularies, incantations, then to prophesy, divinare. According to this, the Egyptians at that time practised λεκανοσκοπίη or λεκανομαντεία and ὑδρομαντεία, the plate and water incantations, of which Jamblichus speaks (de myst. iii. 14), and which consisted in pouring clean water into a goblet, and then looking into the water for representations of future events; or in pouring water into a goblet or dish, dropping in pieces of gold and silver, also precious stones, and then observing and interpreting the appearances in the water (cf. Varro apud August. civ. Dei 7, 35; Plin. h. n. 37, 73; Strabo, xvi. p. 762). Traces of this have been continued even to our own day (see Norden's Journey through Egypt and Nubia). But we cannot infer with certainty from this, that Joseph actually adopted this superstitious practice. The intention of the statement may simply have been to represent the goblet as a sacred vessel, and Joseph as acquainted with the most secret things (Genesis 44:15).
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