Benjamin Comes to Egypt
Genesis 43. This chapter we have the time when Benjamin comes to Egypt. We find the Lord working with Jacob, to bring him to the point where he is willing to let Benjamin go. Finally, Joseph meets Benjamin, and through Joseph’s hospitality, circumstances are recreated that test the brothers’ state. When Benjamin receives five times as much food as the others, the brothers demonstrate that they no longer harbor feelings of envy.
Jacob Brought to the Point of Letting Benjamin Go (43:1-14)
1 And the famine was grievous in the land. 2 And it came to pass, when they had finished eating the grain which they had brought from Egypt, that their father said to them, Go again, buy us a little food. 3 And Judah spoke to him, saying, The man did positively testify to us, saying, Ye shall not see my face, unless your brother be with you. 4 If thou wilt send our brother with us, we will go down and buy thee food; 5 but if thou do not send him, we will not go down, for the man said to us, Ye shall not see my face, unless your brother be with you. 6 And Israel said, Why did ye deal so ill with me as to tell the man whether ye had yet a brother? 7 And they said, The man asked very closely after us, and after our kindred, saying, Is your father yet alive? have ye a brother? And we told him according to the tenor of these words. Could we at all know that he would say, Bring your brother down? vv.1-7 The corn which the brothers had brought from Egypt began to run out. This is an example of how God can use famine or other circumstances to bring about a moral change that otherwise is impossible. Jacob asked the brothers to return to Egypt to buy corn, as if he had forgotten the stipulation that Benjamin go with them. Judah reminded his father of the governor’s requirement; “Ye shall not see my face, unless your brother be with you”. Jacob then tried to pin the blame for the circumstance on the brothers; “Why did ye deal so ill with me as to tell the man whether ye had yet a brother?” It was true, although Jacob could not have known, that the brothers were responsible in a secondary way, for Jacob’s predicament. But that was only a secondary cause. God was over the circumstances. To look for secondary causes and blame others for our circumstances, so as to avoid dealing with the fact that God is over all, is not right.
8 And Judah said to 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 our little ones. 9 I will be surety for him: of my hand shalt thou require him; if I bring him not to thee, and set him before thy face, then shall I be guilty toward thee for ever. 10 For had we not lingered, we should now certainly have returned already twice. vv.8-10 Judah had been a wicked, ungodly man, as we see from ch.37 and ch.38. Yet the Lord was doing a work in his heart. In ch.38 Judah refused to take responsibility for his actions. Perhaps in the end of ch.38 Judah learned something about owning his responsibility. Here Judah steps up, saying, “I’ll take all the blame if something happens to Benjamin”. But Judah pressed the necessity of returning to Egypt, because otherwise all of the children would die.
11 And their father Israel said to them, If it is then so, do this: take of the best fruits in the land in your vessels, and carry down the man a gift: a little balsam and a little honey, tragacanth and ladanum, pistacia-nuts and almonds. 12 And take other money in your hand, and the money that was returned to you in the mouth of your sacks, carry back in your hand: perhaps it is an oversight. 13 And take your brother, and arise, go again to the man. 14 And the Almighty GOD give you mercy before the man, that he may send away your other brother and Benjamin! And I, if I be bereaved of children, am bereaved. vv.11-14 Here we find Jacob coming down to rock bottom. All the balsam and honey in the world could not satisfy the governor of Egypt. All the money that Jacob had was nothing in light of the riches of Egypt. It was Benjamin that was required. He comes to the point where he is willing to let go. Jacob knew that the situation did not look good, He tried to comfort himself about the money; “perhaps it was an oversight”. But he knew that the only One who could deliver him from this situation was the Lord; “the Almighty GOD give you mercy before the man”. This was El Shaddai, the Almighty God who had appeared to him when Jacob returned from Syria (Gen. 35:11). He is brought to the point where he must leave the results with the Lord; “And I, if I be bereaved of children, am bereaved”.
The Brothers’ Second Trip to Egypt (43:15-34)
15 And the men took that gift, and took double money in their hand, and Benjamin, and rose up, and went down to Egypt, and came before Joseph. 16 And Joseph saw Benjamin with them, and said to the man who was over his house, Bring the men into the house, and slaughter cattle, and make ready; for the men shall eat with me at noon. 17 And the man did as Joseph had said; and the man brought the men into Joseph’s house. 18 And the men were afraid because they were brought into Joseph’s house, and said, Because of the money that was returned to us in our sacks at the beginning are we brought in, that he may turn against us, and fall upon us and take us for bondmen, and our asses. 19 And they came up to the man that was over Joseph’s house, and they spoke to him at the door of the house, 20 and said, Ah! my lord, we came indeed down at the first to buy food. 21 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 according to its weight; and we have brought it again in our hand. 22 And other money have we brought down in our hand to buy food. We do not know who put our money in our sacks. 23 And he said, Peace be to you, fear not: your God, and the God of your father, has given you treasure in your sacks; your money came to me. And he brought Simeon out to them. vv.15-23 When the brothers arrived in Egypt Joseph had them brought to his house, and had a meal prepared for them. This caused the brothers to be afraid of what Joseph’s intentions were. When they saw Joseph, they immediately began to talk about the money, and explain their innocence. Joseph assured them that he meant them no harm, and that they could thank their God for it. This must have seemed strange to them. Joseph then released Simeon to the brothers, as they had kept their word.
24 And the man brought the men into Joseph’s house, and gave water, and they washed their feet; and he gave their asses food. 25 And they made ready the gift for Joseph’s coming at noon; for they had heard that they should eat bread there. 26 When Joseph came home, they brought him the gift that was in their hand, into the house, and bowed themselves to him to the earth. 27 And he asked them of their welfare, and said, Is your father well — the old man of whom ye spoke? Is he yet alive? 28 And they said, Thy servant our father is well; he is yet alive. And they bowed, and made obeisance. vv.24-28 Joseph showed hospitality to the brothers, and even “asked them of their welfare”. It is interesting that Joseph never acknowledged their gift: the money, the honey, the balsam, etc. Joseph was to rich to sell the corn, and the brothers were too poor to buy his mercy. It demonstrates that God is a giving God. Joseph wouldn’t charge the brothers for an ounce of corn. Even in spite of all the brothers had done to him, Joseph would not let them pay for food! Once again, the brothers “bowed, and made obeisance” to Joseph, and again, the dreams of his childhood were fulfilled.
29 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 spoke to me? And he said, God be gracious to thee, my son! 30 And Joseph made haste, for his bowels burned for his brother; and he sought a place to weep, and he went into the chamber, and wept there. vv.29-30 What a moment it must have been when Joseph met Benjamin. He blessed Benjamin without hesitation. Joseph then had to go into another room to weep. Joseph wept not merely because he hadn’t seen Benjamin in years, but also because he knew what it had cost Jacob to let him go.
31 And he washed his face, and came out, and controlled himself, and said, Set on bread. 32 And they set on for him by himself, and for them by themselves, and for the Egyptians who ate with him by themselves; because the Egyptians might not eat bread with the Hebrews, for that is an abomination unto the Egyptians. 33 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. 34 And he had portions carried to them from before him. And Benjamin’s portion was five times greater than the portions of them all. And they drank, and made merry with him. vv.31-34 Joseph then put on a wonderful meal, a feast actually, for the brothers. He himself would not sit at their table because of the ethnic disparity between Hebrews and Egyptians. Nonetheless, Joseph was deeply interested in what was going on with his brothers. To their astonishment, the brothers were seated according to their birth order. Who could this person be who seemed to know a great deal about them? Joseph, looking to see repentance in the hearts of his brethren, recreated a very familiar scene. Remember Joseph’s coat of many colors? The brothers hated him becomes they envied him, so says Stephen in Acts 7:9; “And the patriarchs, moved with envy, sold Joseph into Egypt”. It reminds us of how Pilate “knew that for envy they had delivered him” (Matt. 27:18). By giving Benjamin five times as much, Joseph tested the hearts of his brethren. How happy he must have been to see that now there was no evidence of envy towards Benjamin.
Prophetic Application. As we have already noted, there is a prophetic meaning to the story of Joseph. At first the brothers are viewed as one, but later in the story two become very prominent: Judah and Benjamin. Judah took the lead in selling Joseph, and also takes the lead in repentance. Judah represents the Jews, the two tribes that were in the land when the Lord came the first time. In the tribulation, the Jews will be brought to the point of mourning for their Messiah whom their ancestors crucified, and will confess the sin of rejecting Him as their own (Zech. 12; Isa. 53). But there was one brother who was not with the rest when Joseph was cast into the pit, etc. Benjamin represents the other ten tribes, who were not in the land when Jesus came and was crucified. The Lord is able to reunite the house of Israel with the house of Judah (Ezek. 37:16-17), and this will happen after the Lord appears the second time. A great proof of the repentance of the two tribes will be a sympathy for the ten tribes; “the envy also of Ephraim shall depart, and the adversaries of Judah shall be cut off: Ephraim shall not envy Judah, and Judah shall not vex Ephraim” (Isa. 11:13; see also Jer. 31:16-17; Song. 8:8).