Then Joseph instructed his steward: "Fill the men's sacks with as much food as they can carry, and put each one's silver in the mouth of his bag.
I. The chief lesson of this chapter is the MINGLING TOGETHER OF THE PROVIDENTIAL GOVERNMENT OF GOD WITH HIS PURPOSE OF GRACE. It was part of the Divine plan that Jacob and his family should be settled for a long period in Egypt. It could only be brought about by the transference in some way of the point of attraction to Jacob's heart from Canaan to the strange land. Hence c, Jacob" is now "Israel," reminding us how the future is involved in all the events of this time. "Judah" is the chief agent in this matter. The very names are significant of Divine promises - "Judah," "Israel," "Joseph," "Benjamin." The conduct of Joseph cannot be explained except on the ground of his inspiration. He is not acting. He is not trifling with human feelings. He is not merely following the dictate of his own personal affections. He is, under Divine direction, planning for the removal of his father's house to Egypt that the people of God may pass through their season of trial in the house of bondage. Another point -
II. God's blessing on a TRUE HUMANITY THE THOROUGHLY HUMAN CHARACTER OF THE NARRATIVE. The tenderness, the pathos, the simplicity, the truthfulness, especially in the case of Joseph himself. How little he had been spoiled by prosperity! That is the criterion of real greatness. The Bible histories help us to keep in mind that real religion does not suppress the human, but preserves and develops all that is best and noblest in the man.
III. THE GRACIOUS WISDOM OF THE GOOD MAN IN HIS CONDUCT TOWARDS OTHERS. Joseph's dealing with his brethren gradually preparing their minds for the great announcement which was soon to be made. Both his kindness to them and his particular inquiries after Jacob, and affectionate salute of Benjamin, must have roused their curiosity and disarmed their terrors. As they "drank and were merry" with the great Egyptian ruler, and their youngest brother rejoiced in the special mark of favor, which was favor to all, they must have felt the bondage of their previous apprehensions slipping away from them, and have anticipated some good thing in preparation for them. Moreover, there may have been the intention working in Joseph's mind of accustoming the Egyptians to the sight of those Hebrew people, and so opening the way to their subsequent elevation when as his brethren he should settle them in Goshen. There was great wisdom in all this lingering in divulging the great secret.
IV. THE MARK OF FAITH IS A SINGLE EYE TO GOD'S GLORY. We should endeavor to blend the personal with the larger interests of God's kingdom, Family life should be based upon religious foundations. - R.
I. THY. TEST TO WHICH JOSEPH EXPOSED HIS BRETHREN. There is at first sight an apparent wantonness in the manner in which this was applied; but looking deeper we see some motives for such a mode of action.
I. THE SEVERITY OF THE TRIAL.
The cup was found in Benjamin's sack.I. That there is sorrow, and sorrow on a vast scale, is a great fact — a fact both too patent and too painful to be gainsaid. Joseph put the cup in the sack to try his brothers' faith, love, and loyalty to their father.
1. Sorrow was sent into the world as a preventive of greater sorrow.
2. Sorrow gives occasion for the exercise of many an else impossible virtue.
3. This would be a lame excuse indeed if it stood alone. But grief is our schoolmaster to bring us to Christ.
4. When we remember our sins, we wonder, not that life has had so many sorrows, but that it has had so few.
II. Why should sorrow so often smite us in the most sensitive place? or, to take up the parable of the text —
1. Why should the cup be in Benjamin's sack? Just because it is Benjamin's, we reply. The very thing that leads God to smite at all, leads Him to smite you here. God takes away earthly pleasure, and thus helps you to remember your sin and repent of it.
2. The cup was put there to bring them to a better mind ever after.
3. It was put there to give Joseph the opportunity of making himself known to his brethren.
4. It was put there to lead them out of the land of famine into the land of plenty. From this we may learn three lessons:(1) Learn to think more kindly of God and His dispensations, as you see how much reason you have to expect sorrow, how little right to look for joy;(2) Learn the lesson the lesser sorrows are meant to teach, lest you need the greater;(3) Take care lest you not only lose the joy, but lose the good the loss of joy was meant to give.
(J. B. Figgis.)
1. It was unexpected.
2. It exposed them to the agony of suspense between hope and fear.
3. They were conscious of innocence.
4. The trial touched them in the sorest place.
5. The bringing them into their present difficulty seemed to have the sanction of religion.
6. They regard their case as hopeless.
II. THE PURPOSE OF THE TRIAL.
1. To stir up their consciences to the depths.
2. To show whether they were capable of receiving forgiveness.
(T. H. Leale.)
1. Probably it was designed as a kind of penalty for their former deeds. Joseph had been basely treated. Though he forgave his injurers, yet it was good for them to see their crime and feel it. His was not mere maudlin compassion; he desired first to bring them to repentance, and then he was ready and willing to forgive. And in this he is a type of God; God is the infinitely Forgiving One, but the Just One besides.
2. And a second motive which may be assigned for Joseph's conduct is that perhaps it was to compel them to feel that their lives were in his power. They are humbled to the dust before him by the test. Now, in assigning to him such a natural motive, we are not showing his conduct as anything superhuman. It was magnanimous, but yet mixed with the human. Everything that man does has in it something of evil; even his best actions have in them something that will not bear the light of day.
3. Again, Joseph may have wished to test his brethren's capability of forgiveness.
II. THE CONDUCT OF JOSEPH'S BRETHREN UNDER THE TEST.
1. Judah cannot prove that his brother is not guilty, neither can he believe that he is guilty; he therefore leaves that question entirely aside. Instead of denying it, in modern language he showed cause why the law should not be put in force against him.
2. We next notice the pathos of that speech (ver. 20).
3. Let us learn, in conclusion, that even in the worst of mankind there is something good left. Judah was by no means an immaculate man; but from what a man was, you cannot be certain what he is now. Here were men virtually guilty of the sin of murder, really guilty of cupidity in selling their brother; but years after we find in them something tender still, love for their father and compassion for their brother. It is this spark of undestroyed good in man that the Spirit of Christ takes hold of; and he alone who is able to discover this in the hearts of the worst, he alone will be in this world successful in turning sinners to God.
(F. W. Robertson, M. A.)
2. We also see a striking analogy between Joseph's conduct towards his brethren, and that of the Lord towards us. In all he did, I suppose, it was his design to try them. His putting the cup into Benjamin's sack, and convicting him of the supposed guilt, would try their love to him, and to their aged father. Had they been of the same disposition as when they sold Joseph, they would not have cared for him. But, happily, they are now of another mind. God appears to have made use of this mysterious providence, and of Joseph's behaviour, amongst other things, to bring them to repentance. And the cup being found in Benjamin's sack, would give them occasion to manifest it. It must have afforded the most heartfelt satisfaction to Joseph, amidst all the pain which it cost him, to witness their concern for Benjamin, and for the life of their aged father. This of itself was sufficient to excite, on his part, the fullest forgiveness. Thus God is represented as looking upon a contrite spirit, and even overlooking heaven and earth for it (Isaiah 66:1, 2). Next to the gift of His Son, He accounts it the greatest blessing He can bestow upon a sinful creature. Now, that on which He set so high a value, He may be expected to produce, even though it may be at the expense of our present peace. Nor have we any cause of complaint, but the contrary. What were the suspense, the anxiety, and the distress of Joseph's brethren, in comparison of that which followed? And what is the suspense, the anxiety, or the distress of an awakened sinner, or a tried believer, in comparison of the joy of faith, or the grace that shall be revealed at the appearing of Jesus Christ? It will then be found that our light affliction, which was but for a moment, has been working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.
(A. Fuller.)I. THE PRIVATE COMPLAINT.
1. Its nature. All" the money to be returned, and the silver cup to be placed in the sack belonging to Benjamin. It may seem strange that the steward was to charge them with stealing a cup wherein Joseph divined (if indeed the cup was not used for that purpose, as we believe), knowing that Joseph was a servant of God. We may not, with the higher standard of morality of these Christian times, approve this pretence; but it is in keeping with the whole transaction, which is a feint throughout.
2. Motive. Doubtless to test the feeling of the rest towards Benjamin. Did they envy this favourite as they did the other? If so, it was very likely that on being overtaken they would abandon the man with whom the cup was found — Benjamin — to his fate. Make no effort to procure his release. Return home without him, as they had once gone without Joseph. Before he proceeded further in helping his family in the famine, he would see if they had improved morally all these years.
II. THY OBNOXIOUS CHARGE. The confidential servant having received the command, but most likely being ignorant of all his master's plans and of the relation of these guests, proceeds to put it in execution.
1. The brethren set off. Their journey. How unlike the last, when they were full of perplexity, and had left Simeon behind. Now they talk of their good treatment, and are accompanied by Simeon, and that Benjamin whom they had feared to lose.
2. They are pursued. Their astonishment at seeing the steward, who (Genesis 43:28) had not long before spoken assuring words, hastening after them.
3. The charge. The steward faithfully, but to their great amazement, repeats the command of his master.
4. Their indignant denial, Such conduct would be opposed to the will of God (ver. 7). The idea was inconsistent with their proved honesty (ver. 8). They are quite willing to abide by the results of search. And that the punishment should be greater than hinted.
III. THE APPALLING DISCOVERY.
1. The search commences. They are willing. The steward begins as far as possible from where he knows it is concealed. Thus they do not suspect him of any complicity, and their confidence increases as he proceeds.
2. They see Benjamin's sack opened, and there, shining in all its beauty, is the cup! What could they think, or say, or do? They did not suffer Benjamin to return alone. The test was successful. There was another discovery — an altered feeling towards the old man and his favourite son. This discovery Joseph made.
3. They could only regard it as a plot of some one — perhaps the Lord of Egypt — to find a pretext for keeping them in bondage. What would become now of their father, and their wives and little ones. Learn:
I. That our religion admits not of pretences.
II. The time of confidence may be the hour of peril.
(J. C. Gray.)
Moral and Religious Anecdotes.Frederick, King of Prussia, one day rung his bell, and nobody answering, he opened his door, and found his page fast asleep in an elbow chair. He advanced towards him and was going to awaken him, when he perceived part of a letter hanging out of his pocket. His curiosity prompting him to know what it was, he took it out and read it. It was a letter from this young man's mother, in which she thanked him for having sent her a part of his wages to relieve her misery; and finished with telling him that God would reward him for his dutiful affection. The king, after reading it, went back softly into his chamber, took a bag full of ducats, and slipped it with the letter into the page's pocket. Returning to the chamber, he rang the bell so loudly, that it awakened the page, who instantly made his appearance. "You have had a sound sleep," said the king. The page was at a loss how to excuse himself; and putting his hand into his pocket by chance, to his utter astonishment, he there found a purse of ducats. He took it out, turned pale, and looking at the king, shed a torrent of tears without being able to utter a single word. "What is that," said the king, "what is the matter?" "Ah, sire," said the young man, throwing himself on his knees, "somebody seeks my ruin! I know nothing of this money which I have just found in my pocket." "My young friend," replied Frederick, "God often does great things for us, even in our sleep. Send that to your mother; salute her on my part, and assure her that I will take care of both her and you."
(Moral and Religious Anecdotes.)
( T. Watson.)
(M. M. Kalisch, Ph. D.)
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