Tuesday, July 31, 2012

XXVI - Chapter 42 and 43 - Joseph Reunites With His Brothers

Only God could take the child of a Hebrew shepherd and place him as the second ruler of the most powerful country on earth.  As we saw in the last post, Joseph has gained the respect of all mankind whom he has dealt with.  And he has been rewarded.  He now stands with all his regalia, with all his power and authority, still giving his best effort in serving God and man.  He has also been blessed with two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim.  Joseph's life seems complete.  It would seem that Joseph is in want for nothing.  However, Joseph is still a Hebrew in a foreign land, without any of his family.  I'm certain this has left a void in Joseph's heart.

Chapter 42  -  As stated earlier, the famine was everywhere, including Canaan, where Jacob and his eleven sons lived.  Jacob had heard that there was grain for sale in Egypt.  Everyone in Canaan and everyplace else were running desparately short of food.  A famine is no small matter.  A famine is caused by drought, which means not only was there no food for men, women, and children, but there was hardly any food or water for the livestock either.  An estate even as large and as strong as Jacob's could collapse within three or four years of severe famine.  In verse one Jacob asked his sons, "What are you standing around looking at each other for?  Go down to Egypt and buy some grain or we will all die of starvation."   In vss 3-5, we see that Jacob sent all of his sons to Egypt except Benjamin.  (Here we go again with parental favoritism.)  Benjamin, as was Joseph, was born of Rachel, whom Jacob loved so much.   And Benjamin was Jacob's youngest son.

Vss 6 - The ten brothers arrived in Egypt to purchase grain and of course was brought to the only man with the authority to sell them any:  Their brother Joseph.  They did not recognize Joseph.  (Of course they wouldn't recognize him.  It has been at least fifteen years since they saw Joseph, and he was just a teenager at that time.  Also, Joseph had his head and face shaved and dressed as an Egyptian official.  Additionally, the brothers did not know that Joseph had been taken to Egypt by the Ishmaelite merchants.)   And when they were brought before Joseph, they all bowed down before him (remember Joseph's dream when he was a child?).  Joseph of course recognized all of them.  They were dressed in traditional Hebrew garments, and they would not have changed in appearance as much as Joseph did.  But Joseph acted like he did not recognized them and he spoke harshly to them.  He inquired as to their purpose and they told him they were there to purchase grain.  But Joseph acted like he didn't believe them and accused them of being spies.  Verses through 13 tell of the brothers trying to convince this man that all they came for was to buy food.  In vss 14-17 Joseph wants to see the other brother they spoke of (Benjamin) and will hold 10 of them hostage until one of them goes and brings Benjamin to him.  But then it seems Joseph wanted to rethink this a bit, so he cast them into custody for three days.  Vs 18 - Joseph gets them out of prison and proposes a test for them.  He would send all but one back to Canaan with the grain and would only release the remaining one to them if they brought back their youngest brother.  Vss 21,22 tells us that all the brothers had a guilty conscious about what they did to Joseph many years ago, and Reuben reminds them of it.  (Reuben was opposed to their evil plan from the beginning.)  Vs 23 tells of them talking among themselves in Joseph's presence.  They didn't realize Joseph could understand the Hebrew tongue because Joseph was using an interpreter when communicating with them.  In vs 24 it shows where Joseph was about to break down and weep over his brothers and had to leave from their presence to compose himself.

As their camels were being loaded with the grain that was purchased, Joseph arranged for the silver used for payment to be secretly put back into the sacks and would be taken back with the brothers.  It noted that the one brother kept in Egypt as ransom was Simeon.  (Not that it makes any differnence, but I would have guessed him to keep Judah, as Judah seemed to be the instigater of the whole plan to get rid of Joseph in the first place.)  Vss 27,28 - As they were travelling back to Canaan they discovered the silver was still in their possession.  Fear came upon all of them.  but instead of returning hastily to Egypt, they decided to continue on to their father.  When a person becomes extremely fearful, he will always seek the familiar.

When they finally got home to Jacob they gave him the full account of their journey (vss 29-34).  However, when Jacob heard all of this, he was distraught.  He lashed out at them in disappointment.  "Why did you tell them about Benjamin anyway?"  he scolded.  He went on to lament, "Joseph is dead, they will probably kill Simeon, and now you want to take Benjamin?  Absolutely not!"  At this time Reuben (Reuben was the oldest and always seemed to have more sense that the others) tells his father that he may kill both of Reuben's sons if Reuben fails to bring back both Simeon and Benjamin to him.  In verse 38 Jacob rejects Reuben's offer and refuses to allow Benjamin to go with them beause "he is the only one left", meaning the only one of Rachel's sons left.

Chapter 43 - I'm not sure how much time has passed from their arrival back home till now.  Vs 1 - The famine lingered on which only gets worse with each passing day that it lingers.  Jacob told his sons to go back to Egypt and get more food.  Judah spoke up and said they could not go back unless they brought Benjamin with them.  In vs 6 Jacob again scolds "Why did you tell the man that you had another brother?  What was the point in offering such information to a man who was already speaking harshly with you?"  They answered sheepishly to their father that they were just answering the man's questions, having no idea what it might lead to.  Then Judah spoke up and took the lead.  He told Jacob to let him take Benjamin and swore that he would bring him back alive and well.  If not, Jacob could blame Judah for the rest of his life.  Judah adds in vs 10 "if we hadn't spent so much time argueing about this we could have gone and gotten back by now".  (good point.  don't waste time argueing about something when all parties know what the inevitable is.)

Vss 11-14 show how Jacob wants to do everything he can to gain favor with the Egyptian official.  Has has them load up double the silver, some balm, honey, spices, myrrh, some pistachios and almonds.  That was the best that the land could offer.  He prays God's mercy on them and mentions Benjamin again.  (what about the safe return of Simeon and the ten others?)

This time when they got to Egypt, everything was different.  When Joseph saw that they had Benjamin with them, he had them taken to his house and instructed his servants to prepare a lavish mid-day meal for them.  They were all nervous and suspicious when they got to Joseph's house.  So before they entered the house they told the steward at the front door about the silver that was supposed to belong to Egypt, and in the spirit of honesty, they were bringing it back.  But the steward reassured them that everything was well, and it was actually him that put the silver back into their sacks, according to the orders given him by Joseph.  The steward proceeded to take them into the house and let them wash up for the meal.

When Joseph arrived home they presented to him all the gifts they brought and again bowed down before him.  He asked them about their father and was he still living.  They said Jacob was still alive and well, then they bowed prostrate before him.  (Bowing down prostrate is lieing face down on the floor with arms and legs spread out.  It signified the most humble of reverence.)  Joseph looked down and saw Benjamin, his only full blooded brother, "his own mothers son".  So moved was Joseph at the sight of all of his brothers, that he hurried out to a private place to weep.  When he returned after composing himself, he instructed the servants to serve the food.  Notice the manner in which the food was served in vss 32-33.  It was considered detestable for Egyptians to eat with Hebrews, Canaanites, or anyone else who was not an Egyptian.  (Egyptians considered themselves above everybody else.)  Now remember:  Joseph's brothers still did not know Joseph's true identity.  To them, he was a high ranking Egyptian who held their fate in his hands.  Notice how Joseph protected his secret during the serving of the meal.  Joseph was served first and separately.  Then his Hebrew brothers were served and they ate separately.  Then the Egyptians who were present were served separately and they ate by themselves.  So, in the eyes of every person in that house, the customs were being observed.  Joseph ate with neither the Hebrews nor the Egyptians.  (noone could make this stuff up.)  Also interesting to note that Joseph made sure Benjamin received a considerably larger portion of food than any of his brothers.

We'll continue on with this in Chapter 44 in the next post.

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