Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
And the famine was sore in the land.
Ge 43:1-14. Preparations for a Second Journey to Egypt.
And it came to pass, when they had eaten up the corn which they had brought out of Egypt, their father said unto them, Go again, buy us a little food.
2. their father said, … Go again, buy us a little food—It was no easy matter to bring Jacob to agree to the only conditions on which his sons could return to Egypt (Ge 42:15). The necessity of immediately procuring fresh supplies for the maintenance of themselves and their families overcame every other consideration and extorted his consent to Benjamin joining in a journey, which his sons entered on with mingled feelings of hope and anxiety—of hope, because having now complied with the governor's demand to bring down their youngest brother, they flattered themselves that the alleged ground of suspecting them would be removed; and of apprehension that some ill designs were meditated against them.
And Judah spake unto him, saying, The man did solemnly protest unto us, saying, Ye shall not see my face, except your brother be with you.
If thou wilt send our brother with us, we will go down and buy thee food:
But if thou wilt not send him, we will not go down: for the man said unto us, Ye shall not see my face, except your brother be with you.
And Israel said, Wherefore dealt ye so ill with me, as to tell the man whether ye had yet a brother?
And they said, The man asked us straitly of our state, and of our kindred, saying, Is your father yet alive? have ye another brother? and we told him according to the tenor of these words: could we certainly know that he would say, Bring your brother down?
And Judah said unto Israel his father, Send the lad with me, and we will arise and go; that we may live, and not die, both we, and thou, and also our little ones.
I will be surety for him; of my hand shalt thou require him: if I bring him not unto thee, and set him before thee, then let me bear the blame for ever:
For except we had lingered, surely now we had returned this second time.
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:
11. take of the best fruits … a present—It is an Oriental practice never to approach a man of power without a present, and Jacob might remember how he pacified his brother (Pr 21:14)—balm, spices, and myrrh (see on Ge 37:25),
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.
And take double money in your hand; and the money that was brought again in the mouth of your sacks, carry it again in your hand; peradventure it was an oversight:
12. take double money—the first sum to be returned, and another sum for a new supply. The restored money in the sacks' mouth was a perplexing circumstance. But it might have been done inadvertently by one of the servants—so Jacob persuaded himself—and happy it was for his own peace and the encouragement of the travellers that he took this view. Besides the duty of restoring it, honesty in their case was clearly the best, the safest policy.
Take also your brother, and arise, go again unto the man:
And God Almighty give you mercy before the man, that he may send away your other brother, and Benjamin. If I be bereaved of my children, I am bereaved.
14. God Almighty give you mercy before the man—Jacob is here committing them all to the care of God and, resigned to what appears a heavy trial, prays that it may be overruled for good.
And the men took that present, and they took double money in their hand, and Benjamin; and rose up, and went down to Egypt, and stood before Joseph.
Ge 43:15-30. Arrival in Egypt.
15. stood before Joseph—We may easily imagine the delight with which, amid the crowd of other applicants, the eye of Joseph would fix on his brethren and Benjamin. But occupied with his public duties, he consigned them to the care of a confidential servant till he should have finished the business of the day.
And when Joseph saw Benjamin with them, he said to the ruler of his house, Bring these men home, and slay, and make ready; for these men shall dine with me at noon.
16. ruler of his house—In the houses of wealthy Egyptians one upper man servant was intrusted with the management of the house (compare Ge 39:5).
slay, and make ready—Hebrew, "kill a killing"—implying preparations for a grand entertainment (compare Ge 31:54; 1Sa 25:11; Pr 9:2; Mt 22:4). The animals have to be killed as well as prepared at home. The heat of the climate requires that the cook should take the joints directly from the hands of the flesher, and the Oriental taste is, from habit, fond of newly killed meat. A great profusion of viands, with an inexhaustible supply of vegetables, was provided for the repasts, to which strangers were invited, the pride of Egyptian people consisting rather in the quantity and variety than in the choice or delicacy of the dishes at their table.
dine … at noon—The hour of dinner was at midday.
And the man did as Joseph bade; and the man brought the men into Joseph's house.
And the men were afraid, because they were brought into Joseph's house; and they said, Because of the money that was returned in our sacks at the first time are we brought in; that he may seek occasion against us, and fall upon us, and take us for bondmen, and our asses.
18. the men were afraid—Their feelings of awe on entering the stately mansion, unaccustomed as they were to houses at all, their anxiety at the reasons of their being taken there, their solicitude about the restored money, their honest simplicity in communicating their distress to the steward and his assurances of having received their money in "full weight," the offering of their fruit present, which would, as usual, be done with some parade, and the Oriental salutations that passed between their host and them—are all described in a graphic and animated manner.
And they came near to the steward of Joseph's house, and they communed with him at the door of the house,
And said, O sir, we came indeed down at the first time to buy food:
And it came to pass, when we came to the inn, that we opened our sacks, and, behold, every man's money was in the mouth of his sack, our money in full weight: and we have brought it again in our hand.
And other money have we brought down in our hands to buy food: we cannot tell who put our money in our sacks.
And he said, Peace be to you, fear not: your God, and the God of your father, hath given you treasure in your sacks: I had your money. And he brought Simeon out unto them.
And the man brought the men into Joseph's house, and gave them water, and they washed their feet; and he gave their asses provender.
And they made ready the present against Joseph came at noon: for they heard that they should eat bread there.
And when Joseph came home, they brought him the present which was in their hand into the house, and bowed themselves to him to the earth.
And he asked them of their welfare, and said, Is your father well, the old man of whom ye spake? Is he yet alive?
And they answered, Thy servant our father is in good health, he is yet alive. And they bowed down their heads, and made obeisance.
And he lifted up his eyes, and saw his brother Benjamin, his mother's son, and said, Is this your younger brother, of whom ye spake unto me? And he said, God be gracious unto thee, my son.
And Joseph made haste; for his bowels did yearn upon his brother: and he sought where to weep; and he entered into his chamber, and wept there.
And he washed his face, and went out, and refrained himself, and said, Set on bread.
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.
And they set on for him by himself, and for them by themselves, and for the Egyptians, which did eat with him, by themselves: because the Egyptians might not eat bread with the Hebrews; for that is an abomination unto the Egyptians.
32. Egyptians might not eat bread with the Hebrews; for that is an abomination—The prejudice probably arose from the detestation in which, from the oppressions of the shepherd-kings, the nation held all of that occupation.
And they sat before him, the firstborn according to his birthright, and the youngest according to his youth: and the men marvelled one at another.
And he took and sent messes unto them from before him: but Benjamin's mess was five times so much as any of theirs. And they drank, and were merry with him.
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.