Genesis 44:5
Is not this it in which my lord drinks, and whereby indeed he divines? you have done evil in so doing.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
Genesis 44:5. Whereby indeed he divineth — The original word may be rendered, For which he would search thoroughly, or, Concerning which he would certainly divine, or make trial and discovery. As if he had said, Did you think that you could deceive my master? Did you not know that he could divine and discover secret things, whence he hath both his name and preferment? And this cup being much prized and used by him, you might easily think that he would use his art to recover it. You have done evil — Very evil, have acted unjustly, unthankfully, and foolishly in so doing.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.5. Is not this it in which my lord drinketh—not only kept for the governor's personal use, but whereby he divines. Divination by cups, to ascertain the course of futurity, was one of the prevalent superstitions of ancient Egypt, as it is of Eastern countries still. It is not likely that Joseph, a pious believer in the true God, would have addicted himself to this superstitious practice. But he might have availed himself of that popular notion to carry out the successful execution of his stratagem for the last decisive trial of his brethren. Amongst the several kinds of divination in use among the Egyptians and other heathens, this was one, to do it by a cup or bason, which they filled with water, and put in them plates of silver, or precious stones, in which certain characters were engraven, by which, and some words they used, they called upon the devil, who gave them answer. Joseph did not use this course, nor was a diviner, but the people thought him such a one, and the steward might represent him as such, for the better covering or carrying on his design. But this sense agrees not with Genesis 44:15, Wot you not, & c. Which words show that he speaks of something which they all might easily know; but they did not know that Joseph was a diviner, much less that he divined by that cup, whereas that kind of divination was generally performed by a glass, not by a cup. Others observe, that the Hebrew word ofttimes signifies not to divine, but only to observe and discover a thing, as Genesis 30:27 1 Kings 20:33, and render the place thus, whereby he will certainly observe or discover, to wit, what you are and do. But this also seems not to consist with Genesis 44:15, and the supplement is too large and remote. The true sense then is this, the Hebrew bo is not to be rendered by which, but concerning which, as the particle beth is oft used, and it notes not the instrument whereby, but the object about which, he did divine, and the words must be rendered, concerning which he can or would certainly divine. And this agrees well with Genesis 44:15: q.d. Did you think you could deceive my master? Did not you and all others know that he could divine, and discover secret things, whence he had both his name and preferment? And this cup being much prized and used by him, you might easily judge that he would use his art to recover it.

Ye have done evil, i.e. very evil, unjustly, unthankfully, and foolishly. Is not this it, in which my lord drinketh,.... Which was for his own particular use, and so the more ungrateful in them to take it:

and whereby indeed he divineth? according to our version and others, Joseph is here represented by his steward as a diviner or soothsayer, and so he might be thought to be by the Egyptians, from being such an exact interpreter of dreams, foretelling things to come, and that he made his divinations by the silver cup; and we are told that the Assyrians, Chaldeans, and Egyptians, used to fill basins with water, in which they put plates of silver and precious stones, marked with certain characters, and pronouncing certain words, called to the devil, who uttered a voice in the water like an hissing, and returned answers to the things inquired about (i): a like practice is used by the Africans now (k); which method Andronicus took to know who would be his successor, but was reckoned among the most infamous and scandalous parts of the magic art (l) wherefore, as Joseph never practised any thing of this kind, so neither would he dissemble, or make as if he did; though it must be owned that the Arabs (m) in Egypt at this day pretend to consult with the cup and divine by it: but the words will bear another version and sense, for it may signify to tempt, to try, to make an experiment, and by experience to know a thing, as in Genesis 30:27; and so the Arabic version, "and indeed he hath tried you by it": so Aben Ezra interprets it of his trying of them by it, whether they were thieves or not, whether they were a parcel of light fingered filching fellows: the cup, he pretends, was set before them, and he turned himself another way, either Joseph or the steward, and they took the opportunity of carrying it off; or else, as others think, he tried them by drinking in it very freely and liberally, what sort of men they were, how they would behave themselves in their cups, when truth is commonly spoke, the wit being out when the wine is in: but of these two senses the former is to be preferred; though it seems best of all to understand this not of the cup as the instrument by which he tried, searched, and inquired into things, but as the object searched after and inquired of; for the word signifies to inquire, and make a strict observation of things, and thereby make shrewd guesses and conjectures, as in 1 Kings 20:33; and so the sense is, either according to R. Jonah (n), that his master would diligently inquire of the soothsayers concerning it, in order to find out who took it away, and so Ben Melech; for the words may be rendered, "for which he certainly makes", or has made, or will make "divination", which agrees with Genesis 44:15; for if the cup was gone, how could he make divination with it? it must be for it; or indeed they might well conclude themselves, that as such a thing would soon be missed, diligent inquiry would be made after it, and it would be at once conjectured that it was taken away, not by any of the household, but by those strangers that had dined with Joseph; and a man of his sagacity and penetration would soon find it out, and therefore it was madness and folly to do such an action, and think to get off clear:

ye have done evil in so doing: both a mad and foolish action, and a base, wicked, and ungrateful one, as well as what was infamous and scandalous; for nothing was reckoned more so than for a guest at a prince's table to carry away a cup, or anything of that kind, with him: so Claudius the Roman emperor, a guest of his, the day before, having taken away a golden cup, as was supposed, ordered an earthen one to be put in its place (o), which was a putting him to public shame and reproach: Dioxippus the Athenian, being at table with Alexander the great, a golden cup was taken away privately, by some that envied him; and the hint being given as if he had done it, all eyes were turned on him as the thief, which he could not bear, but went out, and wrote a letter to the king, and then killed himself (p).

(i) Julius Serenus de fato, l. 9. c. 18. apud Rivet. Exercit. 165. p. 808. (k) R. Leo. African. Descriptio Africae, l. 3. p. 335. (l) Nic. Choniates in Andronico, l. 2.((m) Norden's Travels in Egypt, vol. 2. p. 150. (n) Apud Aben Ezram in loc. (o) Suetonius in Vita Claudii, c. 32. (p) Curtii Hist. l. 9. c. 7.

Is not this it in which my lord drinketh, and {b} whereby indeed he divineth? ye have done evil in so doing.

(b) Because the people thought he could divine, he attributes to himself that knowledge: or else he pretends that he consults with soothsayers: which deceit is worthy to be reproved.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
5. whereby he indeed divineth] “Divineth,” Heb. naḥash: see Genesis 30:27; Deuteronomy 18:10, “useth divination”; 1 Kings 20:33 marg. The word shews that the silver cup was a sacred one, by means of which Joseph sought and obtained oracles. Some have inferred that he must have been admitted into the priests’ guild, in order to be able to practise divination. It appears that water having been poured into a vessel or cup, gold or silver or precious stones were thrown into it, and the oracle or divination was derived from the rings, ripples, or sparkles, which appeared. The name given to this class of magic was “hydromancy,” ὑδρομαντεία, or κυλικομαντεία (Jamblichus, De Myst. iii. 14; Varro in August., De Civ. Dei, vii. 35). LXX renders αὐτὸς δὲ οἰωνισμῷ οἰωνίζεται ἐν αὐτῷ.

Driver quotes from the Travels of Norden (circ. 1750 a.d.) a passage in which a Nubian Sheikh says: “I have consulted my cup, and I find that you are Franks in disguise, who have come to spy out the land.”The brothers sat in front of Joseph, "the first-born according to his birthright, and the smallest (youngest) according to his smallness (youth);" i.e., the places were arranged for them according to their ages, so that they looked at one another with astonishment, since this arrangement necessarily impressed them with the idea that this great man had been supernaturally enlightened as to their family affairs. To do them honour, they brought (ישּׂא, Ges. 137, 3) them dishes from Joseph, i.e., from his table; and to show especial honour to Benjamin, his portion was five times larger than that of any of the others (ידות lit., hands, grasps, as in Genesis 47:24; 2 Kings 11:7). The custom is met with elsewhere of showing respect to distinguished guests by giving them the largest and best pieces (1 Samuel 9:23-24; Homer, Il. 7, 321; 8, 162, etc.), by double portions (e.g., the kings among the Spartans, Herod. 6, 57), and even by fourfold portions in the case of the Archons among the Cretans (Heraclid. polit., 3). But among the Egyptians the number 5 appears to have been preferred to any other (cf. Genesis 41:34; Genesis 45:22; Genesis 47:2, Genesis 47:24; Isaiah 19:18). By this partiality Joseph intended, with a view to his further plans, to draw out his brethren to show their real feelings towards Benjamin, that he might see whether they would envy and hate him on account of this distinction, as they had formerly envied him his long coat with sleeves, and hated him because he was his father's favourite (Genesis 37:3-4). This honourable treatment and entertainment banished all their anxiety and fear. "They drank, and drank largely with him," i.e., they were perfectly satisfied with what they ate and drank; not, they were intoxicated (cf. Haggai 1:9).
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